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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