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Nintendo did it again. There’s no other video game company that can take people by surprise through good times and bad as the historic Japanese corporation which gave birth to Mario and Samus Aran (and a thousand of other memorable characters). Unexpected announcements concerning both economic decisions and gaming ideas have always been a kind of particularity of Nintendo, and also today it lives up to its name: 3DS price has been enormously cut and video gamers communities are literally exploding in several directions, from the unqualified pessimistic attitude which wants Nintendo to present a new handheld device next year to the huge upbeat wave ensuring much higher sales and changes in third parties strategies.

But let’s explain this in an orderly fashion. The news came out along the 2011 Q1 financial report released early this morning; at first, Japan was informed about the price decrease with a PR stating that Nintendo had decided to change the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the console starting from August 11, 2011: a cut of ¥10.000, down from ¥25.000 to ¥15.000, the price by which the original DS was released back in 2004; ¥15.000 means that from the next month 3DS will be one of the cheapest console on the market, below PSP (¥17.800), PS2 (¥16.000), Wii (¥20.000) and DSi XL (¥18.000) and on par with DSi. It’s also clear why Super Pokémon Scramble, original planned for today in Japan, has been moved on August 11.
Then North America got its reduction too; one day after the Japanese cut, 3DS will shift to $169.99, down from the original $249.99 price, for a $80 decrease, less than the other territory (¥10.000 are roughly $130) but still an important amount. Nintendo press tried to have a warm tone by citing the arrival of Super Mario Bros. 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 during the holiday season and the reward in terms of 20 free NES and Game Boy Advance games available on the console eShop for the early adopters.
As usual, PAL countries came at last; Australians will be able to buy a 3DS for AU$249.95 down from the previous AU$349.95 thanks to a consistent $110 decrease, while in Europe there is not an official recommended retail price yet. Nintendo of Europe has confirmed the initiative and the compensation program, but even if rumors want the new price around €169 (and £130 in UK), it’s still not possible to quantify the actual drop.

Hence, a question obviously arises: why do Nintendo decide for such an aggressive price in all of its territories just few months after the launch? This cut is unprecedented in some way; Sony adjusted PS3 price many times but always introducing a new model or new retail configurations (e.g Slim, 80GB) and Nintendo did as well, but later within the console life cycle or, following the other companies, by introducing new versions of the same console as occured with DS and its 3 revisions. It seems also that with this decision, Nintendo will make a loss on 3DS hardware as Bloomberg Japan as reported, which probably falls in a safe range to allow the company to have a leeway, since this is the first time that it undercuts a console.

As a matter of fact, many factors brought to astonishing price slash, but it’s important to think objectively about the matter without being affected by the negative feeling people appears to have in the last weeks; in particular I’m talking about the game cancellation affaire, exaggerated in many Internet communities since just few titles has been scrapped indeed, and not because the sales of the system but for other reasons: Mega Man Legends 3 has been adandoned because of the lack of fans participation (while someone would be willing to wager that it’s because Inafune-san has left the project) considering the fact it has never been greenlighting; Assassin’s Creed: Lost Legacy had never entered in production and some of its concepts were channeled into Revelations, the new episode for PS3 and 360; DJ Hero suffered the reassessment of the Hero brand due to Activision following the low sales of the last entries (on home consoles, not on DS, where Guitar Hero games have always sold quite well); Hudson titles, such as Omega Five and Kororinpa, instead, felt the acquisition of the company by Konami which now totally owns it. Read up is not costly nowadays, therefore ascribing this events to a presumed low performance by 3DS is specious, especially when people play delays off as oddities that never happened in the history of the video game industry: guys, wake up, this has always occured! Software houses might have many projects under active consideration, but not all of them see store shelves, in particular for young products.

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Within the video game sector, few surprises came out this generation outside Nintendo’s touch; in particular, looking at the Japanese games released in the West, the situation is a bit depressing: some brands have confirmed their popularity or grew a bit, such as Resident Evil and Final Fantasy, while others simply lost ground because of too old gameplays or production values put together in the wrong way. Anyway, it’s still possible to pick out some unexpected successful gem from Japan, and Demon’s Souls is clearly one of those.

Exclusively developed by From Software for PS3, that drew a lot from its famous Playstation series King’s Field, Demon’s Souls was distributed by three different software house depending on the territory, and this immediately shows how the project had been underestimated at first: Sony had dealt in the Japanese version, which first came out on February 5, 2009; Atlus published the game in North America instead, some months later, while Europe had to wait until 2010 to see it on the shelves, thanks to Namco Bandai Games.

To begin with, let’s talk about the performance in Japan; Demon’s Souls is something that might be called “sleeper hit“, released on the back foot, with few copies available at the beginning and little advertisement, but over time it gained popularity thanks to word of mouth, online-based community and impressive quality. It started with just 36.794 units sold, but it seems Sony had not shipped enough copies to satisfy the demand, in fact sold-outs were reported in many stores. Anyway, after a normal 50%-drop in the second week, the game maintained its sales quite stable, while comments and responses on the Amazon page literally exploded. At the end of the year, it went to sell about 160.000 units (from Garaph, which has also sales on a weekly basis and a graph)… Almost 5 times the first week performance! Now, its LTD (i.e. Life Total Date) is 168.816 (from Japan Game Charts), not too bad considering all the facts. One year later, Demon’s Souls saw its budget release, and PS3 userbase allowed again the title to have a good result: about 50.000 units were sold in the first 4 months (from Garaph), and 68.000 at the end of 2010 (from 2010 Famitsu Top 1000). Adding this edition to the original one, From Software action-RPG sold more than 230.000 copies in Japan alone, one of the best result for a totally new IP on PS3, just behind White Knight Chronicles and similar to Valkyria Chronicles (which had also the same sales pattern).

Even if the game had shown a strong commercial appeal, Sony decided to deny an international release, leaving the honour to release it in North America to Atlus, which has always been a niche-focused company. Surprisingly, the game debuted just outside the Top 10 according to NPD surveys: 150.000 copies sold the first month, and expectations already doubled, since they were posed at 75.000, as an Atlus financial report states. More incredibly, thanks to the fact that the game was actually amazing (its average mark on Metacritics is currently 89 on 100), to receptive PS3 video gamers and to a Greatest Hits entry, Demon’s Souls went to sell 500.000 copies in the United States (from Escapist Magazine). This result is on par with a medium-size first-party project, as Infamous, to remain in range PS3.

Unfortunately, data for Europe are M.I.A. as usual. It’s possible to check that it had a fairly good debut in the UK Top 40 which is drawn up by Chart Track (7th position), but it felt out from the chart quite rapidly.

As a matter of fact, even if numbers in PAL countries were not decent, the performance worldwide can be considered satisfactory (at least 740.000 copies sold are reported by trackers!), especially for From Software, which had the desperate need to find a successful IP in recent times; the Japanese company is now developing an obvious, but highly awaited, sequel, named Dark Souls and out later this year; pre-orders are already particularly high in Japan, as Amazon shows, and with the gained popularity, it will have the chance to storm the charts since the beginning.

As is common knowledge, creativeness has not recently been Square Enix strong point; the abuse of its most popular brands has been quite aggressive while the efforts to develop something more fresh seems to be sadly inconclusive. So where did a flash of genius as The World Ends With You come from?

This wonderful game (no surprise the original name is すばらしきこのせかい, i.e. It’s a Wonderful World) was the first attempt of Kingdom Hearts team on the DS, and the desire to exploit every features of the console seems to be the common denominator which had supported the works of the creative unit, consisting of Tetsuya Nomura among others. The brilliant gameplay is just one of the characteristics that makes The World Ends With You innovative and memorable: the soundtrack is a great piece of art (buy it on iTunes!), while the scenario combines real locations with manga-style characters drawing its inspiration from metropolitan trends and underground culture.

By the way, without breaking any record, the game has been very well received by the video gamers all around the world; considering its niche nature and some supply problems in Europe, The World Ends With You went to sold at least 400.000 copies worldwide:

Japan: 192.955 (Famitsu data)
North America: 140.000 (as of September 30, 2008, Square Enix financial reports); 172.000 (as of January, 2009, NPD data)
Europe: 20.000 (as of September 30, 2008, Square Enix financial reports)

The poor result in PAL countries suggests a wrong strategy in promoting and distributing the game; the unoccured translation in other languages than the English, the low advertising and the little by little distribution had strongly affected The World Ends With You but a small and faithful group of fans supported this new IP by creating a lively community and keeping the interest up throughout the years. Considered a cult game by the critics, the waiting for a still not announced sequel is fitful; I’m sure the sales of The World Ends With You had been satisfying even though it deserved a lot more attention and the interesting battle mechanism tailored on the dual screen may be further exploited by Square Enix in some way in the future.

Nintendo financial results for the past 9 months have just been out and some interesting data are in. For me the most important number is the million mark reached by Dragon Quest IX in North America and Europe combined (1,02 million copies to be precise).
Few people betted such a great success for this game outside Japan (where it’s around 4,3 million units sold as Square Enix reported recently), because of the change of platform typology, the strange (to not say casual-oriented) userbase of the Nintendo DS, the assumed decline of the entire genre (even though I think the opposite for this deal), the piracy and so on.

Hence the game has gone to sell over 5,3 million copies worldwide, becoming the second best entry in Dragon Quest series in terms of sales in the West. The VIII chapter sold a lot more in foreign countries: 6,88 million units worldwide are reported on the Level-5 site; an odd number as a matter of fact, taking as granted the 433.000 units from the North American release and the approximately 3,6 million units sold in Japan (Famitsu data). Probably, they are referring to distributed copies, and they’ve added all the further versions came out in Japan like the one in the Ultimate Hits series.

For more information on Dragon Quest IX sales, check the article “Thanks Nintendo: Dragon Quest VI is coming!” on this blog!

A short break from video games sales: let’s talk about music album sales!
As many of you surely know, Daft Punk have recorded Tron Legacy soundtrack; their work is absolutely astonishing, easily the best thing about the movie: it is phenomenal both within the movie and as stand-alone album. Actually, Tron Legacy isn’t performing so well in the international box-office, but what about the soundtrack? MediaTraffic collects data about music sales on a weekly basis so we can compute how many copies the album has sold until the last week (the release date was December, 6th 2010):

1st week: 109.000
2nd week: 101.000
3rd week: 118.000
4th week: 87.000
5th week: 57.000
6th week: 42.000
7th week: 36.000
8th week: 30.000
9th week: 32.000
10th week: 29.000
11th week: 25.000
Total: 666.000

These numbers put the duo’s work quite above the standard for soundtracks, also considering the caliber of the Tron Legacy project, which has spanned over different levels of the entertainment industry thanks of Disney Pictures means. Moreover, this album is selling pretty steadily while usually soundtracks expire from the charts once the movie has been out for a month or so.

About the album itself, Daft Punk have created a great mixture of orchestral and electronic tracks: “End Titles” sounds like a fighting game theme (more like Tekken than Street Fighter anyway) while “Derezzed” seems a justification to their fans to have done a soundtrack and not a proper album after 5 years of break (i.e. 1.44 minutes of pure dance sound according to best Discovery compositions); “Adagio for TRON” is perfectly tailored on the movie, so epic and regal, while dance beats and fuzzy vibe gives us “Arena” and “The Game Has Changed“. One of the best tracks in my opinion is “Solar Sailer“, always synth-driven but more relaxing.

I’m very happy this masterful score is receiving a good confirmation in the market, in particular after the skepticism around the announcement of this strange collaboration;  then, Human After All, the last album of the French duo, had been pretty demolished by the critics (and fans as well) at the time of release and it didn’t sell well as the previous works did. So the Tron Legacy soundtrack has been an occasion to redeem themselves, now we’ll see whether a new proper album follows immediately or not.

PS: I will keep updated this post until this album won’t disappear from the chart so let’s take a look here sometimes!

Almost 2 years ago Atlus released a new title within Megami Ibunroku series (a Megami Tensei spin-off started on with the first Persona) for DS, Devil Survivor, in Japan; some months later the game arrived in North America under the Shin Megami Tensei name. The game was well received by both critics (currently it has 84% on Metacritic) and video gamers. And it’s a novelty its enhanced version for 3DS, Devil Survivor Over Clock, just announced by Atlus on the latest Famitsu; maybe it will be one of the launch titles because its completion is presently at 90% and the additions are supposed to be not so hard to implement: full voice acting, an extra chapter, more demons and partially renewed graphics.
Back to the original game for DS, let’s check it out how the game performed and try to understand whether the porting will be fairly big somewhere or not.

Japan: Devil Survivor debuted with 56.689 units sold on January 15th, 2009, ending with a LTD of 106.997 units (Famitsu data), which wasn’t bad at all considering that all major Atlus games were on Sony platforms (in particular PS2 and PSP at the time… Well, still now). The good result was confirmed by Atlus financial report: the game company had expected 100.000 units and the game easily sold more.

North America: June 2009 NPD leaked data tell us that the game debuted with 24.997 copies in the first month (the game was out on June 23rd, so actually this number refers to just a week) and the same financial report states that Devil Survivor ended to sell at least 40.000 units, over and above the 25.000 units expected.

In conclusion, the game sold quite well in every region where it was released; we can expect Devil Survivor has actually exceeded a bit this numbers, ending with 200.000 copies worldwide.
So does Devil Survivor Over Clock make sense commercially speaking? This game doesn’t show much effort from Atlus on the new Nintendo platform, but just a quick dealing to be a part of the big thing. But a lot of video gamers haven’t played the original one and they might be interested in this new version, also because the field will be free and no games of the same genre are planned so early for 3DS. I do think Over Clock will overcome the first one results: the answer is a matter of months.

It tooks more than one year (383 days to be precise) but finally one of the best episode in the acclaimed Yuji Horii’s series is arriving in the West! Dragon Quest VI, renamed Realms of Revelation for the occasion, will be out on February 14th, 2011 in North America, making the month very busy for the american jRPG fans (Tactics Ogre and Y’s I&II for PSP are coming just the day after).
Actually, the big news is not the arrival of the game itself (which was roughly announced by Square-Enix two years ago when the remakes were presented in a row for DS) but the publisher, that is Nintendo, as the press release on its website has announced.

This seems to strengthen the relationship between Nintendo and Square Enix after the successful Dragon Quest IX operation of the last summer; the latest entry in the series has indeed topped all the European charts: 5 weeks at number 1 in France, 5 weeks in the Top 10 in UK and Ireland, 4 weeks in the Top 5 in Germany (source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Exact data for the game are not known in PAL countries yet, but it’s reasonable to think that it performed better than Dragon Quest VIII which didn’t have such a constant presence in the charts and ended up with about 600.000 copies sold in these territories.
In North America, Dragon Quest IX behaved very good as well: it debuted with more than 133.000 copies in the first weeks (doubling the predecessor first month) and stayed in Top 20 the month after the release.
The results presented above show how Nintendo touch helped this jRPG in the West, where the other entries has never sold at par with Final Fantasy (always overcome by the former in Japan).

As follower of Dragon Quest saga, this news made me really happy; having Nintendo as publisher means a lot of advertisement and better places on the shelves so it will be more likely to reach a wide audience which Square Enix couldn’t obtain with Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen and Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (just 260.000 and 130.000 copies respectively outside Japan).

The reapproaching between Nintendo and Square Enix can explain the fact and may lead to future collaboration both in publication and development of games; Dragon Quest X has been set for a Wii release and 3DS has already this brand in its line-up; meanwhile, Dragon Quest VI appears to be quite waited from the fanbase grown on DS during the past months and it will surely show great sales than the other two remakes as it did in Japan (even though by a very small margin): 1.293.916 units sold compared to IV’s 1.214.610 units and V’s 1.190.404 units (source: Famitsu).

Here the debut trailer for the game:

A picture

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