Back in February, Nikkei Trendy Net had a chance to interview Level 5 CEO, Akihiro Hino, and get his thoughts on a wide range of matters, including this year’s Level 5 Vision event, and the development of games for the overseas market.
Hino also commented upon the performance of Level 5’s most recent titles, Inazuma Eleven 3: Challenge the World – The Ogre and Ni no Kuni, both of which released toward the end of last year. We’ll cover them in that order.
The Ogre is a follow-up to Inazuma Eleven 3: Challenge the World – Spark/Bomber, that ties in with the latest Inazuma Eleven movie.
Hino says that, while production costs on The Ogre were lower, profits were high. By the end of 2010, Hino says, Level 5 had shipped 360,000 units of The Ogre, which wasn’t enough to keep up with demand, and many stores had sold out their stock. People were having trouble finding the game. As of February 2011, Level 5 have shipped 440,000 units of the game, but Hino says he would have been happy just selling 300,000 units. They are presently developing Inazuma Eleven Go for the 3DS.
Moving on to Ni no Kuni: The Jet-Black Sorcerer, Hino says Level 5 and Studio Ghibli’s game has sold over 500,000 units, so he definitely classifies it as a hit. However, in retrospect, he feels that Level 5 should have paid more attention to how the game was promoted, given what a well-made title it was. In particular, he says, they should have considered how close they were releasing the game to Monster Hunter Portable 3rd.
Portable 3rd released on December 1st, and Ni no Kuni on December 9th. At first glance, Hino says, it didn’t seem like Portable 3rd had affected Ni no Kuni sales at all. However, looking at the situation again, both games were targeted at the enthusiast gamer — ie; not “casual” gamers — so there was an overlap in audience (note that this is Hino’s opinion).
When you have a game like Monster Hunter Portable 3rd, Hino says, it’s hard to sell an RPG in which you have to immerse yourself. He feels it was naive to not have considered that point. Hino reveals that after sales of Portable 3rd cooled off a little, sales of Ni no Kuni began to increase.
Hino also stated that, while the sales of some games taper off completely a while after the initial release, that didn’t happen in the case of Ni no Kuni. However, while he didn’t say anything on this matter, it bears mentioning that several Japanese stores had slashed prices of the game by Christmas, which probably helped move copies.
Still, had it not faced competition from Portable 3rd in the first place, Hino theorizes, Ni no Kuni’s sales at launch would probably have been higher. For reference, Ni no Kuni sold 170,548 units in its first week. The initial shipment for the game was 600,000 units, which is the highest initial shipment of any new Level 5 property to date.