Recent sales reports from Japan indicate that Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin has done rather well, as retailers have sold most of the first shipment of the game.
After five solid years of development, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin made its debut on PC, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4 earlier in the week. Developer Edelweiss says most of those five years were spent on the intricacies of the game’s core mechanic—an incredibly realistic and detailed rice-harvesting simulation that makes your character stronger and prepares her for battle.
In Sakuna, the harvesting of rice begins with mixing rice seeds and mud into a bucket of water. More mud yields better rice, but also less rice, which already gives the player an early decision to contend with. You then need to till your field, and the amount of effort you put into this impacts how well your crop will contend with weeds (which you also need to routinely monitor as your rice grows). Once you’ve done that, you place your rice seeds in a seeding box and wait for them to sprout until they’re ready to be planted. And all of that is just step 1.
When Edelweiss began working on Sakuna in 2015, the two-man team knew exactly what they wanted the game to be—equal parts action-platformer and rice-harvesting simulation. During development, they visited the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives association to learn the intricacies of harvesting rice, researched old Japanese homes and farming tools, and even went to the effort of growing their own rice to get a feel for the minutiae they wanted to replicate in-game.
The end result of all this effort is that Sakuna appears to be finding an audience that appreciates its eccentricities—at least in Japan. Multiple Japanese retail blogs have reported that Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin has sold through most of its first shipment to retailers. Meanwhile, on the Nintendo eShop in Japan, the game worked its way up to the #2 spot in the game rankings list over the weekend. (This is a list that takes into account the last two weeks of digital software sales.) While none of this points to an overwhelming success, it does tell us that Sakuna is doing reasonably well, or at least, better than Japanese retailers expected.
People who have played the game remarked on Twitter that its commitment to simulating the rice-harvesting process as meticulously as it does caught them by surprise. Some are expressing that they aren’t fully on board with just how painstaking the entire process is, while others revel in its uniqueness and are tweeting out screenshots and captures of their rice fields. A bunch of players have even found their way to the website of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries in Japan, where they’re following an actual rice-growing guide to grow rice in the game.
Meanwhile, the agricultural industry appears to have spotted an opportunity to stir up word-of-mouth as well. Shinmei Holdings, a Japan-based manufacturer and distributor of rice products, recently spoke to Edelweiss about Sakuna’s development process, and is presently conducting a Twitter campaign offering followers that retweet a chance to win two copies of the game and 2 kilos of rice. Shinmei also pointed Twitter followers to U.S. Miraijuku, an e-learning firm dedicated to teaching rice-cultivation, in the event that the game inspires someone to take up rice cultivation as an actual career or hobby.
Over in North America, there’s no real indicator as to how well Sakuna is doing. We know that the Switch version saw twice as many pre-orders as the PS4 version prior to release, but that doesn’t really give one a sense of how actual launch numbers look. The game moved its way into the early 20s in the eShop bestsellers list over the weekend, but again, that doesn’t tell us much in isolation either. One will just have to wait for publishers Xseed and Marvelous to issue a statement once sales reach a satisfactory level.