Japanese Sales Charts: PlayStation Games Dominate the Top 10, Wind Waker HD Disappoints


Ignoring the fact that Monster Hunter 4 on the 3DS finished in first yet again, it was a pretty good week for PlayStation games with 7 titles in the top 10, including two for the PlayStation Vita. On the hardware side of things, the PS3 and PS Vita were up a bit at 11,382 and 6,031, respectively, while the PlayStation Portable dropped to 4,805.

Outside of PlayStation, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD disappointed with a debut of just over 30,000 and Armored Core: Verdict Day gave the Xbox 360 a rare game in the charts as it sold 5,088 copies.

Here’s the top 20 selling games in Japan between September 23rd – 29th, according to Media Create:

  1. Monster Hunter 4 (3DS) – 213,278
  2. The Legend of Heroes: Sen no Kiseki (PSV) – 81,622
  3. Warriors Orochi 3: Ultimate (PS3) – 80,398
  4. The Legends of Heroes: Sen no Kiseki (PS3) – 67,718
  5. Armored Core: Verdict Day (PS3) – 59,184
  6. My Little Sister Can’t be This Cute: Happy End (PS3) – 31,054
  7. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (Wii U) – 30,264
  8. Warriors Orochi 3: Ultimate (PSV) – 25,483
  9. Friend Collection: New Life (3DS) – 9,269
  10. Arcadias no Ikusahime (PS3) – 9,252
  11. Youkai Watch (3DS) – 8,578
  12. Disney Magic Castle: My Happy Life (3DS) – 7,575
  13. Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS) – 7,431
  14. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (3DS) – 7,361
  15. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PS3) – 6,866
  16. Starry Sky: After Winter Portable (PSP) – 6,074
  17. Meiji Toukyou Renka (PSP) – 5,963
  18. Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (3DS0 – 5,569
  19. Armored Core: Verdict Day (Xbox 360) – 5,088
  20. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS) – 5,007


[Source 1, 2]

Core games hit new heights, so why do they feel threatened?

GTA V and Monster Hunter 4 prove core games are thriving.

Fans of traditional, “core” games are often extremely hostile towards the new wave of casual and mobile titles, and even towards the people who play them. They’re keen to draw a line in the sand between these titles and “real” games and quick to portray players of Farmville, Candy Crush Saga or Puzzle & Dragons as mindless consumers of low-grade, repetitive entertainment that’s utterly disconnected from and disrespectful of gaming culture and the medium’s development as a form of art and entertainment.

There are good discussions to be had around those topics – not Internet flame-wars, but some interesting if slightly dry academic discussions defining the form and shape of “gaming” as a pastime, a medium and an artform. If we’re very lucky, some of those discussions could even avoid becoming tedious tug-of-war sessions between the “narrative has no place in games!” crowd and the rest of the world. None of them, however, will gain anything from employing “casuals” as a vicious epithet, or deciding to sideline millions of game players as insignificant because they’re “fake” gamers who play the wrong kinds of game.

Why does this kind of knee-jerk unpleasantness get so consistently applied to new, more casual audiences? There are uncharitable explanations which often point to uncomfortable truths – self-styled “gamers” have built something of a boys’ treehouse over the years, and dislike the invasion of new demographics which can include such unwelcome treehouse guests as women, homosexuals, trans people, ethnic and religious minorities, and even – gasp! – their own mothers and relatives. Is nothing sacred?! There’s also a broader sense in which this is not specific to games at all – there’s a more universal knee-jerk reaction which sees adherents of any niche pastime resenting and rejecting the arrival of a mass-market audience and products tailored to them. (“Ugh, you listen to chart music? Are your ears broken?” “You actually like JJ Abrams movies? What’s wrong with you?”)

“Why does this kind of knee-jerk unpleasantness get so consistently applied to new, more casual audiences?”

At the root of much of the dislike of casual games and their players, however, lies a more basic concern – a fear that the rise of this kind of game is going to replace and erase the sorts of games which existing gamers actually enjoy. Watching Clash of Clans or Candy Crush Saga roll in countless millions in cash is a deeply uncomfortable feeling for the kind of gamer who trekked for tens of hours across Skyrim, who can utterly lose themselves in the flooded corridors of Rapture or the dingy streets of Dunwall, or whose adrenaline pours out when they’re ambushed by the Covenant or surrounded by the Combine. If Candy Crush Saga can make so much money, is that the future? Is that all we’re going to be left with – if not thematically, then as a business model or a creative approach?

That’s the fear that drives the aggression. There’s a hobby which we love, and a wealth of creative works which have given us unforgettable experiences – gamers fear that the new business reality represented by F2P and casual games is an outright threat to that experience and that hobby. In the chase after the new casual audience, game companies will be forced to abandon the pursuit of the kind of experiences which enrapture and delight the existing audience – or at the very least, to turn them all into tawdry fairground toys which demand that you pump coins into them to keep on playing, robbing them utterly of the atmosphere and immersion which is so much of their appeal.

I wonder, then, if the atmosphere of discussion and debate around games might become a little more civil (on this topic, at least) in the wake of two fairly important events in the past week. Firstly, you can’t have failed to notice that GTA V came out and smashed through sales records not only for games, but for just about every entertainment media imaginable. Of course, week-one sales of games surpassed the revenue of blockbuster movies long ago, but GTA V cements games as the dominant entertainment medium of our era by finally silencing the last bastion of naysaying – not only did it make more money in a single weekend than the biggest films in the world make in their entire lifetime, it was also purchased and played by more people in one weekend than the number who bought tickets for any recent movie. Revenue or volume; count it how you like, GTA V is the biggest entertainment property on earth.

“GTA V cements games as the dominant entertainment medium of our era by finally silencing the last bastion of naysaying”

Meanwhile, in Japan, another entertainment property went on sale – Monster Hunter 4, Capcom’s latest release. Its figures don’t rival GTA’s, but in the supposedly “declining” Japanese games market, it sold over two million units in its first week and helped to drive hundreds of thousands of sales of the 3DS – a console that’s meant to be a miserable flop thanks to the unstoppable advance of smartphones and tablets. That can’t rival Apple’s 9 million unit sales of the iPhone 5S and 5C, of course, but then again, that’s not a remotely useful comparison, no matter how often blowhard mobile evangelists trot it out – the 3DS purchasers are all confirmed gamers who will go on to spend heavily on expensive game software, while only a certain portion of mobile phone owners play games, a much smaller portion pay any money for them, and the amount of money they pay can be quite small (or quite large, of course, but certainly rarely exceeding the spend of a console owner).

GTA V and Monster Hunter 4; two games which are absolutely squarely aimed at the core gamer who is presently so terrified of being squeezed out by the flood of mobile, casual and social software. Two games which, completely uncoincidentally, have just become the biggest entertainment properties in the world and in Japan over the past few weeks.

There is no threat here. There’s a small and dwindling clique of hardcore evangelists who will try to characterise GTA’s success in particular as an outlier, an erratic piece of data that doesn’t change the overall context of the industry, but they’re absolutely wrong. GTA’s enormous release is actually a perfectly logical and predictable continuation of a curve which has seen the top-rated properties in traditional gaming ranked higher and higher in sales terms over the past decade or two. GTA V is not a last gasp of sales success for a doomed industry; it was inevitable that eventually, a core videogame would achieve this level of sales success, and it is also inevitable that a future franchise will surpass this (although perhaps not for a few years, as the new console generation and the other systems which will play host to the next giant release need to establish themselves first).

Social, mobile and F2P gaming isn’t going anywhere. Developers are going to get better and better at creating and honing those experiences, targeting specific audiences and even creating experiences in those categories that appeal to core gamers – no question. But this isn’t the only way to make a game or to make money from games. There will still be a huge audience who want 8 to 12 hour long amazing narrative-driven interactive experiences. There will still be a core audience for combative multiplayer. Hardcore FPS, long-form RPG, exploration of vast worlds; all of these things have huge audiences which, far from being drawn away by the lure of Hay Day or Bubble Witch Saga, are continuing to grow and expand. Yes, the really impressive expansion right now is at the casual end of the market – but that doesn’t stop core games from selling even more than they used to, as this month’s success stories prove.

This isn’t a zero sum game, and everyone needs to stop talking and acting as though it is. As long as there’s an audience that wants and is willing to pay for core game experiences, there will be companies that provide for that need. Mums playing Candy Crush Saga outside the school gates do not in any way detract from the value of the market that wants a new GTA, a new Monster Hunter or any other core experience. This expansion is not be aimed at core gamers, and a big mistake being made by lots of companies now is trying to apply rational choice models to a fundamentally irrational consumer behaviour and deciding that core gamers actually SHOULD want this kind of business model or game experience. However, that mistake aside (and it’ll stop once a few companies get badly burned for their foolishness), this expansion also does not harm core gamers. Once they realise that, perhaps we can all tone down the rhetoric and instead enjoy the hegemony of videogames as, quite remarkably, this generation’s truly dominant entertainment medium.


Japan’s gaming market is a world apart

Videogame fans queue up to buy ‘Monster Hunter 4’ in Tokyo on September 14, 2013. (AFP/Yoshikazu Tsuno)

CHIBA, Japan – The latest version of blockbuster videogame Grand Theft Auto may have stoked a worldwide buying frenzy, but the ultra-violent offering is likely to be a minnow in Japan’s vast gaming market.

Shoot-em-up offerings from abroad often struggle to gain traction in the multi-billon-dollar Japanese videogame sector where fantasy-style games reign supreme and sell in the millions — though many in the West have not heard of them.

They include the hugely popular Monster Hunter franchise, which has sold 23 million copies and counting since its debut a decade ago.

“But most of them were sold in Japan even though we did make an English version,” said a spokeswoman for game creator Capcom.

Language translation problems and cultural differences were among the reasons cited for the struggles of foreign game operators in Japan, a rift that was apparent as gamers flocked to the Tokyo Game Show this week.

Over 600 games titles were on offer at the four-day extravaganza that wraps up Sunday.

Though Japan once dominated the worldwide market with the likes of Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, the country appears to be looking increasingly inward.

“The main trends of the videogame market in Japan are divided into two categories: major worldwide successes like Pokemon, Final Fantasy or Biohazard, and games that are specifically designed for core Japanese gamers,” said the Asia Trend Map institute, pointing to the “overwhelming dominance of games made in Japan”.

A blockbuster offering based on the popular comic book “Shonen Jump” reflects a common theme in which many Japanese games are centred around a character well known in multiple media platforms, from so-called manga cartoons and movies to music and television series.

Namco Bandai’s AKB 1/149 Renai Sosenkyo, a popular dating simulation game, is the kind of title known to most at home but with little name familiarity abroad — AKB48 is the name of a well-known girl band.

“The title isn’t suited to foreign markets,” said Namco Bandai spokesman Toshiaki Honda.

Even Japanese giant Sony is releasing its PlayStation 4 abroad before its hits store shelves in Japan — a first — with executives saying that titles expected to be hits at home won’t be ready in time.

Eiji Araki, senior official of mobile social game maker Gree, added: “We’ve learned that characters and visuals favoured in the United States are different from those in Japan.”

For some, the unique character of Japan’s gaming market encapsulates the country’s so-called Galapagos Syndrome in which firms concentrate almost solely on the domestic market.

The take-up in Japan on Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones trailed huge sales abroad as many mobile carriers focused on homegrown flip-phone offerings.

While iPhone is now selling well in Japan, a ride on the Tokyo subway underscores another unique aspect of the nation’s gaming market — a love of handheld gaming devices.

Commuters on the city’s vast transportation network are frequently seen thumbing away on portable devices to pass the time while, at home, consoles outpace the rising popularity abroad of playing games on personal computers

For one official at Japan’s Computer Entertainment Rating Organisation, the love of fantasy and role-playing games in low-crime Japan stands in stark contrast to Grand Theft Auto’s brutal depictions of urban violence.

“Japanese consumers prefer family-use games to those with violent, anti-social or extreme expressions of sexuality,” she said.

A report by Internet firm GMO Cloud characterises the difference as “self-escapism versus self-expression”.

True or not, Grand Theft Auto is undoubtedly violent, especially when compared to Nintendo’s award-winning “Animal Crossing: New Leaf” in which players take on the role of a mayor running a rural community.

By contrast, past versions of Grand Theft Auto have included simulated sex with prostitutes and drunken driving, along with profanity-packed dialogue. Carjacking, gambling and killing are the staples of a game in which players take on the role of a psychopathic killer in fictional Los Angeles.

When Grand Theft Auto IV was released five years ago it blew away videogame and Hollywood records by taking an unprecedented $500 million in the week after its release, and it shows few signs of slowing with the game’s fifth incarnation released days ago.

Despite its foreign pedigree, Hisakazu Hirabayashi, of Tokyo-based consultancy firm InteractKK, said he still expects the newest Grand Theft Auto to have relative success among Japanese consumers, at least “for a Western game”.


Monster Hunter Frontier G coming to Vita

Online action RPG Monster Hunter Frontier G is making the jump to Vita, Capcom announced at the Tokyo Game Show.


It will be the first entry in the phenomenally popular series to make the jump to Vita, and is due next year. It will share some connectivity with the PS3 version – cross-save and cross-play.

Capcom hasn’t had much else to say on the topic, but has opened a teaser site. According to IGN‘s translation, the Vita and PS3 version will share servers, although a PS3 exclusive server will be available.

The subscription MMO was first released on PC in 2007, and came to Xbox 360 in 2010. In late July, announced for PS3 and Wii U later this year. the various ports do not share servers.

No version of Monster Hunter Frontier has ever been released outside Japan. It’s known variously as Monster Hunter Frontier Online and Monster Hunter Frontier G; the G was added after a major upgrade issues in April 2013.

Japanese Vita price drop pushes it above Wii U in sales

Japanese Vita price drop pushes it above Wii U in sales

The latest Japanese retail chart shows a Vita given a much-needed new lease of retail life by some stores pre-empting tomorrow’s official price cut, pushing it above a Wii U hampered by a stuttering release schedule.

Vita sold a total of 11,456 units in the week between February 18-24, 2013 with Wii U just behind on 9,633. However, both were trounced by the rampant 3DS, which clocked a total of 74,729 sales. PS3 took second place with 18,529, according to the retail figures from Media Create.

The Vita has now sold 1.2 million units in the territory, compared to 10.6 million 3DS and 790,000 Wii U. Vita’s sales are likely to jump again next week as the price cut becomes official and spreads to all retailers, but without a significant injection to its software catalogue, seems very unlikely to trouble the 3DS.

A look at those software sales reveals the cause of the 3DS’ success, showing a total of 11 3DS games in the top 20 chart, including perennial favourites Dragon Quest, Mario, Monster Hunter and Animal Crossing. Despite that dominance, it is the PS3’s Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance which tops out the chart, selling 308,681 copies in its opening week.