Yo-kai Watch Is Popular Enough In Japan To Be Compared To Pokémon

By Sato . April 11, 2014 . 5:31pm

Earlier this year, Level 5 revealed that they had already shipped over 500,000 copies of Yo-kai Watch in Japan, but who would’ve expected it to become popular enough that it would be compared to Pokémon? Nikkan Sports, an affiliate newspaper of Asahi Shimbun, tells us more about its growing popularity.


Level 5 originally created Yo-kai watch with a cross-media approach, consisting of a game, manga and anime, all which are currently big hits with the younger audience in Japan. To get you up to speed, the story of Yo-kai Watch is about a young fifth-grader boy named Keita Amano who gets a mysterious watch from a youkai (Japanese folklore monsters) called Whisper that he met in the forest. Using this watch, he is able to see all kinds of youkai in town.


At times he works with them, and sometimes he has to persuade them toward different causes. Other times he fights with them, but he also befriends them. There are already over 200 different youkai in the game, with Jibanyan, the ghost of a cat who died being hit by a car, being the fan favorite.


Yo-kai Watch debuted as a manga on CoroCoro Comics, followed by the game that was released last year in July, and an anime series that started earlier this year. Thus far, Level 5 have sold over 700,000 copies of the game in Japan.


As far as toy watches and other Yo-kai Watch goodies go, they’ve been flying off the shelves at stores, according to Nikkan Sports. They actually opened a Yo-kai Watch specialty store in the middle of March at a shopping area by a station in Tokyo, but they had to temporarily close the store down after two days of business due to the unexpected amount of customers.


According to the Nikkan Sports report, Yo-kai Watch is comical for the kids, but it also throws in a lot of Showa Era (1926 – 1989) jokes, so even older folks can enjoy it, which is believed to be another reason for its success. In terms of success as a social phenomenon in Japan, they even compare it to Sailor Moon and Pokémon. Of course, the Yo-kai Watch game isn’t selling nearly as much as Pokémon games do—they’re typically multi-million sellers—but the merchandising machine certainly appears to be on the warpath.



To give you another idea of how popular it is, a special dance exercise video for children, featuring characters of Yo-kai Watch, currently has 3.3 million views on Youtube.


If you’re wondering whether we’ll ever see Yo-kai Watch in the west, Level 5 International America recently asked western fans about it, and a trademark was also filed in the USA, so it seems likely to happen sometime in the near future. Additionally, Level 5 recently announced Yo-kai Watch 2 in Japan.

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  • Holy….
    I had hoped great things for this game but did not expect something this grand.
    But now….. Maybe this will finally push the developers to finally give the West this game. Because last time I checked, we wanted it.

    EDIT: you know what? I still want this game over here. But KyoryuOrange put things best; it’s a bit of a stretch to say that this game is starting to be comparable to Pokemon, but for what it is, it’s picking up steam.

  • AuraGuyChris

    I guess it’s time for me to jump ships…

  • KyoryuOrange

    What I find shocking is that anyone finds it shocking that a monster collecting game growing in popularity is being compared to the most popular one.

    This is like saying Digimon or something else bery similar to Pokemon (gasp) got compared to Pokemon. On the other hand, let’s look at what this very article shows us: The comparison of sales shows such a wide gap between them that there practically IS no comparison there.

    I don’t see why this is really a big deal here.

    • Slickyslacker

      It’s like comparing Mind Zero to Persona. It’s inevitable.

      • Harvey Tejada Loto

        and toyota to ferrari

    • This is like saying Digimon or something else bery similar to Pokemon (gasp) got compared to Pokemon.

      Except… Digimon isn’t half as popular. Not any more. This is a new franchise, and while it isn’t there yet in terms of software sales, the merchandising for this is on the level of Pokémon hype. That was the point.

      • 永次

        Digimon is not as popular as Pokemon in game terms but in anime, figures and merchandising both are very near (pokemon is bigger, obviously).

        • Renaldi Saputra

          Digimon is more popular for the franchise itself, or rather v-pets and toys, rather than anime & games

      • Will Jay

        Anymore? Sure, but Yokai Watch isn’t a fifteen year old franchise.

        • And one could argue that, in Japan, that’s a disadvantage rather than an advantage.

    • katamari damacy

      To Digimon’s credit the 1st anime they had was dark and mature (for a kid’s show) and light years ahead of the Pokemon’s anime.
      Other than the tamagatchi portable version, the console games were kind of hit or miss.

      • Suicunesol

        Forgive me, but I am amused by your definition of “dark” and “mature”, even if it’s for a kid’s show. :P Maybe compared to Pokemon, yes. Maybe, if you forget that Pokemon battles are essentially cockfighting.

        The problem I had with Digimon is that the Digimon spoke (which sometimes reminded me of actors in animal suits), and that the main characters were constantly on a quest to save the world (digital or real). Mature or not, “kids saving the world” had been done to death.

        In the Pokemon anime, Ash was on a journey to improve himself and “be the best” aka. “Become Successful”. For some people, that was actually a more mature concept.

        • Aaron K Stone

          Eh If I remember correctly at least they didn’t shy away from concepts such as death or romance and how is one concept more mature than another? They’re concepts for bleedin sake.

        • I think that is the more appropriate definition of mature (dark is a little more bordered). Kids saving the world is really here nor there; that it was saving the world alongside the ramifications of what that cockfighting means, pushing children toward serious responsibilities, death and other things are mature themes. Skull Greymon is a good example of that.

          All the same, I could say that coming of age stories of young boys and their companions/sidekicks have been done to death since time immemorial. Doesn’t mean I love Pokemon any less though~. (Especially later seasons.)

          The mature part isn’t in the premise, but the storylines and handling.

        • Renaldi Saputra

          the mature theme he meant was most likely the deeper psychological things, when the kids were portrayed to become much realistic than any of kids anime, where they still make childish mistakes, etc..
          also mature theme might means the series even give things on the character’s mind like “why I have to fight?” “Why I am here?” “Why I must do that?” “What I have done?”
          “Why I hurt everyone?”

          pokemon don’t have things like that, at all (only on anime series), they mostly only care about pokemon battles without giving the main character the thoughts of that..
          and eventually the character become cliche.. It’s normal to be the very best, “reaching your dream” is a thing that is taught for every children, but if it’s without an apparent reason, then it’s not mature at all..

          Digimon Tamers, on the other hand had a deeper one, even though is more focused only on 1-4 characters..

          mature isn’t always dark indeed. But if it’s mature with giving depression, grief, trauma, and deep sorrow, then it can be called dark

      • Renaldi Saputra

        I bet you haven’t watched tamers

    • NTaiyokun

      Believe me, I was in Japan recently. This shiz is EVERYWHERE.

    • Fire.fire.kun

      it reads like one of those investment type articles if you read betwen the lines

      Sure, there is no way of knowing if the game franchise will grow more popular, become its own stable niche, or decline in popularity over time, but what the article is saying is the potential for pokemon level growth is there, so INVEST INVEST INVEST!!

  • Rogerrmark

    Pretty sure I saw a long legged Lotad…

  • Will Jay

    I honestly don’t see it keeping up, considering Level-5’s usual business plan. Inazuma and Danball both dropped massively by the end of their runs after the yearly releases. It might pick up some with 2 and 3, but any further and I get the idea that it’ll start to drop again.

    Not to mention what that KO guy said.

    • Slickyslacker

      Even if it is more of a niche franchise, it has been dominating Japanese sales charts for several months. Which is unprecedented for something of its kind.

      • Will Jay

        The first three IE had similar growth to my knowledge, and it’s also exactly what happened to Pokemon – only Pokemon had no anime to advertise it at the time like YW does, which you can pretty much attribute all of YW’s long-term success to. It only started picking up like this when the anime premiered.

    • Shane Guidaboni

      Also, they probably don’t have any plans to continue the series in the same vein as Pokemon anyway.

  • O_O! Dat music video. The dancing was too funny lol.

    It’s nice that it’s doing so well, but I think it’s a little early to be comparing it to Pokemon.

  • Guest

    Level-5 creates several interesting big-hitters franchises but never foster them to become long-lived. But after seeing this happening so many times, I guess this really is Level-5 business model and it works for them :P

    They take advantage of the IP at its height, all they can from video games sales, merchandise and what not. And when there’s no bigger interest from the market they just stop or try to give it another form.

    But to be honest, from my point of view, they have the liberty to do it. Unlike other developers they push new projects regularly; and despite being cross-media projects they always focus video-games at the front and center, not dropping the quality of the mechanics and making it fun. I just wished the localization of some its titles were just faster so we wouldn’t feel so left behind.

    • xavier axol

      well, i still find it shocking. some people follow pokemon related stuff (specially video games) very religiously. at least my friends do, so it’s hard to compare them since pokemon debuted long ago and still remains very popular.

    • RajaNaga

      Honestly, I think several great realeases is much better than milking a series dry, and maybe Level-5 just Gets that. Though, from the sounds of it Inazuma Eleven is getting a bit long-winded.

  • xavier axol

    that reminds me, i need to watch the anime. :D

    • zzzSleeping

      Good luck with that the anime is subbed only up to episode 6.
      It is a nice simple and cute anime.

      • 永次

        That’s the good point, anime dubbed? my god…

        • 하세요

          I…think it’s more of “they only have up to Episode 6 subbed when there are 14 episodes out.”

          So you’d be watching at a snail’s pace compared to what’s actually out.

          • 永次

            Good point.

        • French

          anime dubbed is awesome !

    • Guest

      It’s pretty good! Give it a try! It has funny moments… I especially like Kumasan and his fear of the big city x)

  • nonscpo

    Instead of comparing them with pokemen why not tell us what makes Yo-kai Watch so unique and different from Pokemon.

  • Ethan_Twain

    Nobody in Japan makes games for kids like Level 5. First it was Inazuma 11, then Little Battlers, now Youkai Watch. Considering how many other companies try and fail to make hits for Japanese kids this is doubly impressive.

    They should take some queues from franchises like Pokemon or Gundam in terms of longevity though. Yeah, nobody else in the industry is laying these golden eggs like Level 5… but wouldn’t it be nice if they didn’t have to come up with a new one every 5 years? Imagine how filthy rich Level 5 would be if they were keeping up Little Battlers AND Inazuma 11 AND Youkai Watch. They would need to expand! Their mastery over Japanese Children’s media would be unprecedented!

    But instead these franchises come and go one at a time it seems like. Well, best of luck getting a solid 3-4 years out of this one guys.

    • Pedro Furtado

      It’s funny to see Square and Capcom both get burned trying to do the same thing :) to be fair, Little Battlers isn’t exactly a golden egg.

      • Ethan_Twain

        You’re right, that one didn’t do as well. But it sure did better than anything Square or Capcom have managed to put out! That one was only a dud by Level 5 standards.

    • katamari damacy

      and Level-5 refuses to localize Little Battlers and only reluctantly localized Inazuma 11 as a digital only title.
      Level-5 sort of hates North Americans for not loving White Knight Chronicles enough, because apparently they designed WKC especially for us.

  • 永次

    Yes, Youkai Watch sold around 5 millions like Pokemon and has anime since 1995, and has that big quantity of figures and…

    • Brandonmkii

      For something that JUST started, I’d say it’s impressive. If it’s eventually around long enough, it could be as popular.

      • 永次

        The difference is when Pokemon was released, they sold more than 10 millions of games (only in Japan), and well, anime, merchandising…

        • Aaron K Stone

          Yeah, but Pokémon didn’t sell well initially.

  • Renaldi Saputra

    both youkai watch and pokemon are family-friendly anime and those were by Oriental Light and Magic studio..

    so I think it’s kinda reasonable

    oh and Danball Senki Wars was popular as hell in Japan

  • Kaetsu

    I’m just happy for Level-5. They’ve had some real hits on their hands recently like this, Inazuma Eleven, Ni No Kuni, Fantasy Life and Professor Layton. At one point things weren’t looking that great for them but now they’ve been pumping out some really popular games so I’m really excited for them!

  • Eric Harris

    I might end up watching that video 1000 times. If anyone can link me to any other Japanese crazy stage songs please do (and don’t say they are all crazy, even if you are correct).

  • Tsurugi

    So bring it to USA, Japan will receive the 2nd game of Yo-Kai Watch, where is the 1st for USA, don´t wait years like Inazuma Eleven…. bring it now!! =D

  • Strain42

    As excited as I am for Yo-Kai Watch…saying that it’s already all set up to compare itself to Pokemon is kinda like when Rovio said that their Angry Birds movie would trump Pixar…

  • See, if had said it compared to BSSM and Pokemon in their formative years, I could totally get that. But as they are now? Nowhere near. Sailor Moon was long and had a lot of power, and after the end of the manga, and finally the end of the anime, and after the end of the musicals (and PGSM), still had a lot of power. Even globally. And now with its rebirth/reboot, it’s even stronger. I can’t see Youkai Watch getting particularly close to that.

    Obviously the same goes for Pokemon. Of course it’s fairly powerful on a global scale, but even just going by Japan, it doesn’t carry anywhere near the same weight, strength and I don’t think it has that brand power.

    But, it is interesting to look at how Youkai Watch compares to them from when they were still babies themselves and how it could grow to match them, depending on how it’s handled.

  • Neophoton

    I’d find it easier to compare with Puzzle & Dragons in the sense that for younger franchises, they’re picking up a lot of craze pretty fast. Albeit, PazuDora Z sold a lot faster than Youkai Watch did, if I recall correctly. I still remember when PazuDora (not the 3DS release) was banned from arcades, at least in some parts of Tokyo awhile back.

    But I suppose there’s some extent of inevitability to compare it to Pokemon if it becomes long running. I’m not too sure how Level-5 is with keeping up their franchises.

  • Abel_Nightroad

    So cancelling it on PS3 and release it on 3DS was a great decision. I hope they will use that money to finance projects on home consoles.

  • Eric Harris


  • Intrigued to try this out

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