Even Level-5’s President Was Surprised About Yo-kai Watch’s Booming Popularity

By Sato . May 5, 2014 . 5:31pm

We recently got an idea of exactly how popular Yo-kai Watch has become in Japan, from the game to the popular anime series to toys that have been flying off the shelves. Level-5 president and CEO Akihiro Hino, who has also been stunned by the sudden popularity of the series, talked Yo-kai Watch with Famitsu in a recent interview.


Famitsu starts out by asking Hino about his thoughts on the results of Yo-kai Watch’s success thus far.


“For something that was originally a cross-media project, I thought it would be something equal to Inazuma Eleven, but since beginning of the year, its popularity has gone much higher than I had expected,” says Hino.



“The anime started in January, which was followed by the toys, and that’s when we got all the cross-media content together. From there, the Yo-kai Watch craze practically exploded, which was even surprising for us.”


Famitsu points out that Yo-kai Watch had already sold well over 650,000 copies of the game, and since then, it seems like its sales are actually increasing over time, rather than declining, which is impressive for a game that has been on the market for nearly a year. [Note: The latest figures from sales tracker Media Create indicate that Yo-kai Watch has sold over 800,000 copies in Japan.]


“There’s already been plenty of orders for the game, and the number of shipments have already surpassed one million units,” says Hino. “At this rate, it looks like we might actually pass a million copies in sales, in the near future.”


“Around January and February, [the game] was selling at a pace of about 30,000 copies a week, but lately it’s been 40,000 to 50,000 copies, so it seems like it continues to rise day by day,” he continues. “In a way, I believe that this is an abnormal situation, but at the same time, I feel ‘this is what it’s like to have something in a boom’.”


To give you a better idea of the sales of Yo-kai Watch, above is a chart that Famitsu prepared. The chart shows the sales of the game, starting with its launch in July 2013. The black box on the bottom-right of the graph indicates the start of the anime on January 8, and as you can see, its sales have continued to rise ever since.


In addition to the help from the anime and manga, the Yo-kai Watch toys have also played a big factor in the franchise’s popularity.


“We’ve had the folks from Bandai handle the toys, and they’re selling much more than we first expected,” says Hino. “While on the subject, they say that it’s currently in the state where they’re selling so much, a lot of people can’t get their hands on them. So they would actually be selling much more. That’s how popular it is right now.”



According to Hino, the idea of making toys for Yo-kai Watch had a lot to do with Level 5’s work with the Little Battlers series and the results of having figurines and models from it, which he believes is a crucial part of creating a boom or social phenomenon.


Finally, Famitsu asks if he had as good of a feeling about Yo-kai Watch during its early stages of development.


“While I did believe that it would get its break, honestly, to have it come this far, where the children of Japan would get so hopped-up on youkai, to the point where all the goods would sell out, is something I didn’t expect,” Hino replies.


Yo-kai Watch 2 is slated for release in July for Nintendo 3DS. It should be interesting to see how many copies that game sells in its first week.


[Photographs courtesy Famitsu.]

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  • riceisnice

    Level-5 always surprises me. I’m still surprised their games aren’t out here yet :(

    • Audie Bakerson

      Danballs toys and anime are coming, so Baku Boost (the 2nd rerelease of the first game) should hit latter this year too. They’ll probably announce it after everyone has cooled off from E3.

      As for YW, they mentioned they would only have the anime ready next year.

  • JonathanisPrimus

    It surprised me how quickly they milked and then buried LBX.

    • I wouldn’t say that, but I get what you mean.

    • Jumbokitty724


      • JonathanisPrimus

        Little Battlers eXperience aka Danball Senki.

        • Jumbokitty724

          oh it looks pretty cool :) Never herd of it reading this comment.

    • FTM

      I’m surprised it made it up to W. From what I understand the draw of the games’ were the stories— I do not know enough Japanese for that, so I can’t comment. But when I played them (Boost, and W) I found it to be one of the most repetitive, unsatisfying action games I’ve played. I was charmed by the art-direction and love put into the world, but as far as videogames go they were extremely repetitive and mind-numbingly simplistic.

      Of course, I wouldn’t complain if they were to be localized ;)

      • Audie Bakerson

        The Japanese is really really simple (父さん! 父さん… でも、父さん. The rest of the cast isn’t as bad as Ban most of the time though), so I wonder how anyone can not know “enough” to read the story. I liked the story for it’s delightful childish absurdity with stuff that really doesn’t seem like it should be in a children’s series (real bullets flying everywhere, attempts to assassinate the prime minister).

        I found Boost to be fairly fun, if laughably easy once you hit mid-game. I think it’s a mistake to make Achilles a relatively slow fighter with a slowish weapon as the default.

        • FTM

          Sure, and the furigana is always a nice treat from Level-5. But still; unless I’m digging to go discover the kanji I don’t know, then there’s no way to know the story. I don’t use videogames as a learning material (think that’s silly, to be honest), and I like to have fun; stopping to paw through a translation-text every minute isn’t my idea of fun.
          Different strokes for different folks I guess. I found LBX to be on the same level of extremely mind-numbing stuff like Kids Hollywood Movies games, from Megamind through Puss n’Boots. It demands absolutely nothing from the player but to press a button (robot customization is so simple and one-sided it doesn’t count), and there’s nothing less rewarding or satisfying than just that; button pressing.

    • Well that was a reaction to the sales though, right? The first game sort of disappointed them, and then the sequels/updates were just super flat. We don’t know for sure since we weren’t there to read the reaction, but it sounds like Japan just weren’t digging it. And you can’t waste too much time forcing something that won’t happen.

      It’s not like it’s an isolated example. Capcom failed TWICE at a would-be media series recently. First with the Lost Planet spinoff EX Troopers, then again with that Gaist Crusher game. Square screwed it up with that “not Transformers”-game with Gyrozetter. These multi-media franchises HAVE to grab people’s attention and do it quick, otherwise, it’s just not worth the effort and you can lose a ton of money super fast. I mean, it’s not just a game you’re trying to force into “a thing”, it’s a cartoon, toys and a manga.

      I’m surprised they stuck with it so long.

  • Tsurugi

    Any company with less than a half of their selling they would already send this game to USA, I hope level-5 will bring this game to US in 2014

    • GH56734

      The battle system is an improved version of the (turn-based) DS version of Ni no Kuni. And that one was the highest selling DS Level-5 software ever and still didn’t make it because of them not trusting it to sell in the West (the DS version has remnants of a digital book hidden in the code, the excuse is flimsy at best)
      I hope they do manage to work it out though.

      • greeeed

        True, even Inazuma Eleven was not localize by them but by Nintendo
        (which sold a lot of units in EU)

        it make me remember NIS with Disgaea where they didn’t believe it will sell in west -> so Atlus localize it themselves -> guess what happened?


        • Tsurugi

          They doesn’ t care about selling outside Japan, if Bandai didn’t brought Ni No Kuni we would only see this game in youtube….it is just a shame….Inazuma Eleven/GO!, Yo-Kai Watch, Danball Senki Wars… many epic games that I could be playing….

  • Spectre

    It surprises me how they’re still so surprised that mentioning a western release doesn’t even cross their minds..

    • AuraGuyChris

      What dominates Japan might not be the same case in the west.

      • Aerii

        You have to admit that it’s ridiculous that they’re trying to release the goddamn anime adaptation in the West and haven’t said a thing about the game yet.

        • Zero_Destiny

          LEVEL-5 International America actually posted about it before the anime licensors publicly stated they were interested in American partners for the show.

          “Between the game and the anime, Yo-kai Watch is a success in Japan! Would you like to see Yo-kai Watch in the US/EU?”

          link: https://twitter.com/LEVEL5_IA/status/435909756339765248

          Granted it’s not a lot, they did at least copyright Yo-Kai Watch and then talked about it publicly. So you never know. They might hope to release the anime before/at the same time to help game sales as well or if the anime launches in North America it might convince L5 to give it a shot. :)

          At the very least, they’re aware of it, and they have gauged interest on it in the past.

          • Tsurugi

            But then in their website they said that they don’t have any plans, for now, to bring Yo-Kai Watch to US/EU

          • Zero_Destiny

            Of course! That’s typical PR talk. They would never reveal a release before they are absolutely and positively 100% ready for it. lol

            Just like how Atlus flat out told the press “Catherine is a Japan-only game and there are no plans for a NA release at this time. Sorry about that!” and then release it a mere 5 month after saying that. ;)

            No video game localizer in the world would put that kind of info on their website or say anything otherwise to the contrary of “No plans” until they actually announce a release. ^^;;

            A solid release date is absolutely the only real truth you can rely on in this market place. And that goes for what I said too, there is absolutely no guarantee that L5 will ever do anything with Yo-Kai. In fact, there isn’t even a guarantee that the anime will ever come out in America ether right now, since the licensors are just shopping around, that doest always pan out. L5 IA are at least gauging interest of it right now though, which is nice to see. :)

    • darke

      Because it seems like it’s pretty Japanese? These aren’t the usual western ‘monsters’ that the same age bracket in the west is familiar with.

      I can see the logic in bringing it over, but I would imagine they’d have to target ‘pokemon fans’ rather then a generic ‘kids’ since it probably fits the former demographic better in the west then the latter.

  • raven772

    I’m surprised they still haven’t made Dark Cloud 3 or its equivalent.

    • GH56734

      Dark Cloud is a Sony-owned IP.
      Yet it’s horrible a third sequel doesn’t exist yet…

  • awang0718

    “Yo-kai Watch 2 is slated for release in July for Nintendo 3DS. It should be interesting to see how many copies that game sells in its first week.”

    I predict Youkai Watch 2 will sell 700,000 to 1 million copies launch week. By the time Youkai Watch 2 launches, the first game will have likely already sold 1.2 million copies.

  • AuraGuyChris

    You’re in a culture where cute things are popular, dude. That is Japan.

  • Silver Citizen

    If it made so much money, then you can afford to bring it out here!

  • urbanscholar

    I’d be surprised too if I had a chokehold on the lunch money of kids nationwide :p

  • Namuro

    Damn! I want that watch!

  • Slickyslacker

    Come to me, E3. There’s no reason for it NOT to be at E3.

  • They still talk about Yokai Watch on their Facebook page (Level 5 International America). It’s a good bet that that’s their focus going forward now that no more Guild 0x games are on their slate.

    Kind of a shame. I for one thought Time Travelers, Fantasy Life Link and Majin Station look FAR more interesting. Even Wonder Flick, to be honest, channels their more charming games like Dragon Quest & Dark Cloud… it kind of looks like Blue Dragon, and I like that.

    But I guess the allure is too strong for them. If this takes off outside of Japan, they’re looking at a big, big hit. Can’t blame them for that.

  • Abel_Nightroad

    To think it was originally a PS3 project.

  • wahyudil

    The anime is very good … very funny story and high quality animation … I am enjoyed watching the anime very much …

    its not strange that the anime affect the sales … even I myself become interested in this game after watching the anime

  • Is taking a lot to get the game outside USA.im in Japan and i just love this game…hope get soon in USA and the rest of the planet.

  • Prepare your pockets..if you start you can’t stop!

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