Yokai Watch — or Yo-kai Watch as the Western trademark has it — has become a major success on 3DS in Japan, giving Level 5 a timely franchise success as other brands (such as Professor Layton) take a back seat.
The company's Akihiro Hino has recently spoken to Weekly Famitsu — via Kotaku — to explain how Doraemon was a key source of inspiration, while also emphasizing the importance of the merchandising and anime, the latter of which led to a substantial spike in game sales.
We've created a lot of different IPs, and I figured it was about time that we made something like Doraemon, that could be loved by many people over a long period of time. That was the start of it. I researched what would give something appeal and longevity, and pondered what would be relatable to people and developed the open world RPG that children could play, Yokai Watch. I think title's popularity is the fruits of trial and error.
...Anime is content that is offered for free, and I strongly promote its use. The [Yokai Watch] anime focuses on problems that modern children face and is made so that the audience can laugh off such problems and be entertained as well.
Keita, the young boy at the core of the anime, is cited as important due to the fact he "isn't a child who always does the right thing", with the aim of producing a world both fantastical and relatable.
With over one million physical retail copies sold of the first game and reportedly lengthy queues and hype over the sequel, arriving this week, Hino-san also outlined the business and marketing decisions driving Level 5's latest hit forward.
When planning the first Yokai Watch, I already thought to release the sequel as 2 different versions. Children like having things that other people don't have, so from a marketing perspective, having 2 versions is a good idea. Also, a lot of people play Yokai Watch with their parents. Where people would have some hesitation about getting 2 copies of the same game, if you have different versions, it's a lot easier for them to buy both.
The key for a long-lasting hit piece of entertainment is whether the business side like merchandise, games, and movies is successful. That's why you develop commercial goods necessary for cutting edge entertainment and include the latest features in your games.
On the topic of the franchise coming West, Hino-san states that an international release is "in consideration in a big way", with trademark filings earlier in the year reinforcing that position. The company has experience of bringing titles to the West through Professor Layton titles — though they were published by Nintendo — and the Inazuma Eleven franchise. Lining up the game, anime and merchandise all at once for Western markets is likely to be a substantial challenge, and helps to explain the delay.
Are you keen on Yokai Watch coming to the West, or are you still largely unfamiliar with the IP that's increasingly popular in Japan? Let us know.