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I must admit, this generation of console is having an absolute weird behaviour: every region seems to have its own particular trends, and more units sold doesn’t mean having the great support from third parties anymore. Microsoft failed another time to reach the mainstream audience with its last home console in Japan, but attributable to the strange happenings of the past few years in the gaming industry, it’s possible to acknowledge some kind of success to Xbox 360. As a matter of fact, its installed base grew up slowly but steadily, and it already more than doubled the previous console result (1.437.244 against 700.000 units sold approximately); then, also thanks to the shared developers interest with PS3 and the good numbers put in the West, 360 is receiving a lot of Japanese titles which have helped to gain attention in the unfriendly land. But it’s not due to Lost Planet or Dead or Alive 4 if niche video gamers, to not called them otaku, arrived on the console in a constant flow during the last 5 years.
Exclusive jRPG from Microsoft itself (through Mistwalker anyway), Square Enix and Bandai Namco set the stage, and a high numbers of visual novels, 2D shoot’em ups and arcade porting addressed to a particular audience have permitted the console to build a strong and loyal userbase who also buy western games and allow some multiplatform games to not sink against the PS3 version.

The Idolm@ster is certainly the best example of the situations described above. Bandai Namco idol simulator where players assume the role of a music producer was initially developed for the arcades and two years later ported on 360; this version was immediately very well received and made Xbox Live sign-ups explode during the first weeks after the release.

As software houses know well, spanning a brand over different kind of formats is always a good strategy, and so Bandai Namco did with this series. An exclusive chapter, Live For You, more focused on concert coordination instead of the managerial aspects, had headed Microsoft console in 2008 while a porting of the original game was out on the PSP in early 2009 split into three versions each featuring different idols. Moreover, a Nintendo DS version of the game was released on the same year, under the name Dearly Stars, which has been talked about because one of the idol protagonists was actually a boy in disguise. An anime (i.e. Idolmaster: XENOGLOSSIA) was loosely ispired by the game, and obviously tons of merchandise of any kind dedicated to these teen idols invaded Japanese shops.
For a proper sequel, fans will have to wait until the end of February, when The Idolm@ster 2 is set for a release.  Meanwhile, let’s check how the game performed in every appearance:

The Idolm@ster (Xbox 360) 48.695
The Idolm@ster Platinum Collection (Xbox 360) 47.344
The Idolm@ster: Live for You! (Xbox 360) 75.272
The Idolm@ster: Twins (Xbox 360) 6.621

The Idolm@ster SP: Perfect Sun / Missing Moon / Wandering Star (PSP) 189.568

The Idolm@ster: Dearly Stars (DS) 50.170

(courtesy of Japan Game Charts)

According to these numbers, PSP was the most suitable choice for the series; indeed, on the Sony handheld console it’s possible to find a lot of similar games, such as Project Diva, and titles addressed to a kindred userbase, such as Tales of and Final Fantasy fan-services; it also recently got AKB 1/48, the eponymous game dedicated to the most famous idol band nowadays in Japan.
On 360, anyway, the game saw strong sales, while the DS version can ben considered the weakest entry in the series.

Given these data, The Idolm@star 2 should easily top the 50.000 mark, and it might sell in the range 75-100.000 units. But if I were Bandai Namco, I would port this new chapter to the PSP as soon as possible, and exploiting the live contents to earn more money and expanding the franchise while the new generation of consoles is on the pipeline.


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