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Catherine. Last February I tried to figure out the reason why Catherine had been so successful in Japan, the first Atlus HD title, far from the role-playing game genre thanks to which the company has built a solid reputation throughout the years. Last numbers from Japan say that the game went to sell 186.086 units on PS3 and 21.571 on 360, even if the latter are just data of the first week. Anyway, as expected, Catherine sold almost the entire LTD in the first period, because of its otaku-oriented nature (this target typically buys on day one). Time had passed soon and the game made its debut in North America reaching an important goal: it’s been Atlus USA biggest launch title ever, as IGN reported some days ago, surpassing the opening of titles as Demon’s Souls (150.000 copies during the first month), Trauma Center: Under the Knife and Trauma Center: Second Opinion (225.000 units sold for both as of January 2009) and Persona 4 (125.000 units sold in its first two months). Apparently, the weird puzzle-game featuring mature relationship with a hot chick who likes eating pizza has sold 200.000 copies in the first 7 days. To retailers, obviously. We’ll have the chance to see in the next NPD data how this number is effective. Sex sells, who knew?

The Idolm@ster 2. The raising simulation game developed by Namco Bandai was released on February 24, 2011 exclusively on 360, even if a PS3 porting has been announced to be on the way, coming in October (so I’ll have another chance to talk about the series). I put my sales expectations within the 50-100.000 range, since the brand had grown a lot and preorders were quite good at the time. Well, I was totally wrong: the idol game failed to surprise and debuted with just 34.621 copies in the Media Creat chart, slipping outside the top 30 the week after and then disappearing forever. It doesn’t appear in the top 100 of the first half of 2011 so it’s quite impossible it has topped the 100.000 mark. I’m sure that The Idolm@ster 2 will find more success on PS3, but I do still think that a PSP version could save the boat better…

Ni no Kuni. Level-5 x Studio Ghibli awesome goddess continued to sell quite well after the the 4th week which I reported along with the LTD until that time. Its last appearance in Media Create chart dates back to the end of March, weird for a role-playing game, even if a lot of price discounts were applied by retailers. Famitsu has recently reported that Ni no Kuni ends to sell 550.158 copies as of June 2011, close to the initial shipment of 600.000 units. Hence, it’s possible that the game has reached this mark so far. By the way, shops have been more reluctant to ask huge shipments from Level-5 when it came to big packages: Little Battlers Xperience, a new thin-mech jRPG targeted to a young audience released with a robot model, suffered shortages during the first weeks, but now it seems the demand has been matched and the game is on the way to reach the 300.000 copies sold. Good game Level-5!

999. I smelt the success of this very niche point-and-click adventure game in the United States more than 7 months ago, and recently Aksys confirmed my feeling. First, it had been almost impossible to find the Chunsoft title immediately after the release, so its price peaked absurd levels on Amazon and other websites, then the publisher overseas stated comforting fans who were worrying about it:

Haha, no, not discontinued, just sold out. We should be receiving our re-order any day now and retailers, such as Amazon, should receive their replenished copies sometime next week, if everything goes according to plan ;) Our online store will be restocked as well, so we’ll be offering the 999 bundle (game + watch) again on it :)

This clearly proves a good of performance of such a great game, praised by the critics and loved by videogamers.

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 Professional. Square Enix failed again to provide a fair shipment for one of its most important 2011  game (about which I was able to figure out a likely LTD), as what exactly happened with the first episode of this series on DS. Professional is just an expansion of the Joker 2, therefore the company didn’t believe in a great performance but the younger audience of the console has been happy to prove again the strength of own team of monsters, and the game went to sell almost 500.000 copies (again, Famitsu data of the first half of 2011, even if Media Create has the game at more than 550.000 copies as of the last track) starting from roughly 150.000 copies in the first week, and beahving particularly well during the Golden Week, even if some sold-outs were reported in April. The last effort of Square Enix on DS exceeds all expectations, now let’s how Rocket Slime 3 will perform on 3DS this Winter.

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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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