The Little Battlers Is The Latest Victim Of Waning Popularity In Japan

By Ishaan . November 11, 2013 . 1:04pm

The latest game in Level 5’s popular Little Battler franchise was released last week in Japan. The Little Battlers Wars was released on the Nintendo 3DS and sold 50,127 copies in its first week.


Additionally, Japanese sales tracker Media Create reports that The Little Battlers Wars sold through 60.31% of its initial shipment during launch week, which means that there were an abundance of copies available for people to buy, so the low sales weren’t due to shortages.


50,000 doesn’t seem like a very impressive figure for an established franchise, but this trend has been plaguing the Little Battlers series for a while now. The original Little Battlers game released for PSP in 2010 sold 166,000 copies in its first week. By the time Level 5 got around to releasing a full-fledged sequel, The Little Battlers W, sales had dropped to less than 100,000 copies sold in its first week.


In fact, this trend isn’t restricted just to The Little Battlers. Level 5’s other established franchises have steadily been dropping in early sales, too. Professor Layton is one example of this trend, while Inazuma Eleven is another. In both cases, launch sales of the newer games were nowhere near those of the franchises’ peak years.


That said, while their existing franchises are waning in popularity, Level 5 are in the process of establishing an entirely new set of franchises, and these are off to a promising start. We’ve already discussed the success of Fantasy Life, and last we checked, Youkai Watch has been doing well for itself, too, with sales having crossed 200,000 since launch. Both series have the potential to grow in the future, and one hopes that they will.


Meanwhile, another major new brand for the company is WonderFlick, a free-to-play RPG for PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360, smartphones and PlayStation Vita. Smartphone versions of the game will launch this month, with console versions scheduled for next year. Level 5 say you’ll be able to transfer save data between platforms, too. WonderFlick, too, looks like it has immense future potential to be a moneymaker.


At the same time, however, Level 5 aren’t planning on abandoning their core franchises any time soon. While the last Professor Layton game was described as being Professor Layton’s final adventure, the Layton brand itself will continue in a different form, with the next game being a “role-play puzzle” title for 3DS and smartphones. Just how this game will differ from past Layton titles in both scope and target audience should be interesting to see.

  • Audie Bakerson

    Know what would increase sales? An English release.

    • fairysun

      Given the reception of White Knight Chronicles in the West, Level 5 thinks twice about releasing game outside Japan.

      • Kaetsu

        I liked White Knight Chronicles but it seems like no one else did which is a shame because I’d like to see more.

      • InfectedAI

        WKC wasn’t exactly their best offering.

  • MrRobbyM

    Level 5 needs to get their stuff together. They haven’t really made anything of quality in the past few years other than a handful of titles.

    • Will Jay

      Inazuma Eleven and Danball Senki are all quality, but the issue with them is probably market oversaturation. There’s also a lack of major JRPG titles like the Dark Cloud games that appeal to JRPG fans without the need for lots of supplementary material or aiming too much for the children audience.

      I really think that Ushiro game I believe it was called they had in development for the PSP a few years back would’ve helped them out. Shame it was canned, probably due to their popularity with kids.

      • Warboss Aohd

        Ushiro, a Horror JRPG.

        ………why aren’t there more Horror JRPGs?

        for real, Sweet Home and Koudelka opened my eyes to how great the genre could be.

      • I actually agree with you on the market saturation bit. There are a lot of games aimed at kids these days, and it’s clear that everyone from L5 to Capcom believes that there’s a market for games aimed at school boys.

        Personally, I do believe that is true. There is a market of younger gamers out there, where new IP can thrive. The problem is, how do you appeal to that market? Everyone seems to believe merchandising is a big part of it. Level 5 with their LBX kits and Capcom with their Gaimetal toys for Gaist Crusher.

        Aside from that, though, I can’t tell what Level 5 are doing wrong. In the case of Inazuma and Layton, you could argue that people are just not as interested as they once were. Inazuma, while it isn’t doing the amazing numbers it did a few years ago, still has a decent market of fans. Meanwhile, Layton will have to tap into that phone audience, since most Layton fans have migrated there.

        In the case of Little Battlers, though, it was never really all that popular to begin with, and I’m not sure why that is.

        Oh, and as for Ushiro… I think it’s fairly safe to assume that got turned into Youkai Watch. :)

        • J_Joestar

          Everyone wants a piece of that Pokemon-style massive cross media/merchandise market.

    • Suicunesol

      Really? I had the impression that Level 5 was very good at releasing quality titles that weren’t always franchise sequels. Regardless of whether sales have taken off, we’ve had Ni No Kuni, and LaytonxPhoenix, with Fantasy Life and the recent Youkai Watch.

      • J_Joestar

        I think it is probably more of an issue of “too much of the same too soon”

    • Hraesvelgr

      Personally, I’d say Level-5 hasn’t made much of anything of quality ever. They’ve made a few okay games, a bunch of bad ones, and their one really great game isn’t even their own IP.

  • Will Jay

    Isn’t 60% actually higher than W’s sell-though percentage in the first week? I’m not sure, though. Definitely lower than the original game.

    There are multiple factors you can blame on Wars’s poor sales. The RTS elements and overall gameflow change, the change in character artist, system change, and from what I’ve heard in the past the military theme is not a very popular one with kids in Japan at all, especially in recent years. Wars feels a tiny bit like they’re trying to abandon their old fanbase a tiny bit to bring more of the IE fanbase into it as well.

    I do think waning interest is a part of it, though. It sort of reminds me of the waning sales of Medabots…

    EDIT: If I recall Level-5 titles often have a large surplus of unsold copies at launch that slowly sell with time as well. I read that here before.

  • InfectedAI

    If only there was an untapped market that would appreciate their already released titles that they haven’t been exposed to yet…

  • Hines Green III

    Wow this is sad. I really like this series and I wanted it to be Pokemon level where it doesn’t die. Why does everything I love die? ; _ ;

  • Warboss Aohd

    if only dey had a game wit a audience o’ a slightly older demographic dat haz a fanbase across da world, a dungeon crawler wit’ city buildin’ elementz.

  • Well this is bound to happen as the 2nd title has got even sillier and overall weaker compared to first one. Even the first one got its share of problem as when that game is made, lots of creativity pool got consumed just to make the first game which makes the series stagnates really fast.

    i don’t exactly know the real problem of Wars but given the situation of the previous games, for me who played the first 2 games, it is hard to convince me that Wars will be any better. Either this, or just the existing fanbase from Vita and PSP are not getting the game.

  • Tonton Ramos

    I wonder if Galaxy ends and Kanon’s story starts considering he is from the future will it have the same effect of the sales?

  • GH56734

    I heard Inazuma Eleven was also hurt because of trying too hard to cater to a specific… well-known demographic (hint: not kids). Which is a damn shame, since they had the first trilogy in the top 100 best-sellers of the 21th century.

    I would like them to export Youkai Watch, if they’re not willing to do so with the very similar Ni no Kuni DS (whose fan-translation is stalled because there are no jp>en translators available). And do something with their other franchises -Danball Senki, Fantasy Life-, anything.

    • Will Jay

      Funny thing is, if it’s the demographic I think you’re talking about, they generally don’t like the direction the Go series went in either compared to the original trilogy, especially Chrono Stones.

  • i wish level 5 make something like rogue galaxy again, or dark cloud…. really love those two games

  • Bigabu Beaze

    They should of packed in a DC Offenser model kit with the game. It would of sold more.

  • JonathanisPrimus

    The parallels between this franchise and Medarot/Medabots are too hilarious to be ignored. They were milked beyond belief eventually leading to a strategy role playing reboot that ultimately proved unsuccessful. Level-5 screwed the pooch by doing things like this:

    – Little Battlers eXperience (PSP – 2011)
    – Little Battlers eXperience Boost (PSP – 2011)
    – Little Battlers eXperience Explosive Boost (3DS – 2012)
    – Little Battlers eXperience W (PSP/Vita – 2012)
    – Little Battlers eXperience W Super Custom (3DS – 2013)
    – Little Battlers eXperience Wars (3DS – 2013)

    That’s ignoring the smartphone/feature phone games too.

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