Dragon Quest IX producer Ryutaro Ichimura recently gave a talk at the Promotion, Advertising & Media Forum 2009 in Japan about the secret behind the game’s nationwide success.
The two major points Ichimura touched upon were "extended play" — which refers to supporting the game with post-release content in the form of weekly quests for up to a year after its release — and "play with everyone," which refers to the game’s multiplayer and communication features. In order to increase sales of the game, these concepts were further broken down into the following three measures:
Expansion of the player population
Although they relied on the nostalgia factor to satisfy existing fans, Ichimura noted that it was important for Square Enix to attract more women and children to the franchise. He cited Pokémon as an example of a game that children found fun to play, as opposed to Dragon Quest, which he feels has a reputation for being difficult.
In order to remedy this and expose more children to the franchise, Square Enix developed Dragon Quest Monster: Battle Road II as a card / monster-battle game for mobile phones, which worked out in their favour.
Square Enix president Yasuhiro Wada has stated in the past that he hoped the delivery of free downloadable quests post-release would prevent players from trading in their copies of the game, thus decreasing used sales. Ichimura confirmed that the strategy has been a success; used sales of DQIX have fallen by 50% compared to previous games.
He went on to point out that, although Dragon Quest IX shouldn’t take more then 50 hours to complete, on average, the game’s play time per-person is 140 hours. The total play time for all players exceeds 60,000 years.
Communication between users and other games
This was achieved through the implementation of "chance encounters," which is the game’s ability to passively receive data from other players in the form of profiles and treasure maps. Completing a treasure map requires the passive "collaboration" of several players. Ichimura stated this helped spur word of mouth. The treasure map system also works with Dragon Quest Monster Battle Road II, a Square Enix arcade game. When the two games connect players can access special battle. In conclusion to his lecture, Ichimura compared this feature to communication services such as blogs and Twitter.
As of November 20, Dragon Quest IX has sold 4,013,913 units according to Enterbrain data. The game’s initial shipment consisted of 5 million copies.