Soapbox features enable our individual writers to voice their own opinions on hot topics, opinions that may not necessarily be the voice of the site. In this piece, Serebii owner and Nintendo Life contributor Joe Merrick finally addresses the topic of Pokémon: Let's Go sales figures...
Pokémon Let’s Go is undoubtedly the most divisive Pokémon games to exist, with negative attention everywhere on the internet, despite the obvious high quality of the game itself. Designed to bridge the gap for Pokémon GO newcomers and the hardcore, mainline content we’ve come to expect, the game truly delivers exactly what was promised - yet we're hearing reports that fans are review-bombing the game in disgust.
Is this negativity justified? No, but the sheer volume of negative noise about the game has made people start to believe that it was always going to fail. It has been almost a week since Pokémon: Let’s Go launched and we’re starting to get solid sales figures. With sales data from Japan and the UK, we’re getting a picture of how these games fit in, sales-wise, to the context of the wider series, and what it may mean for the franchise going forward.
To start off, in Japan, the game has sold 664,198 physical copies according to Famitsu and 661,240 according to Media Create. Now, in terms of sheer numbers, this puts it behind every single Pokémon game since Pokémon Crystal, and makes it the second-lowest selling outing overall for a launch week. Of course, we can’t get a full global picture until Nintendo’s sales briefing in January, but using Japan as a foundation we can see how well it’s doing in Pokémon’s home turf.
In terms of pure numbers, this may seem quite bad, but when we look at it in a nice table format (with data collected from Media Create), it showcases that, in terms of attach rate, these games are doing fine, thanks very much.
|Game||Week 1 Sales||Device Install
Base week of launch
|Pokémon Diamond & Pearl||1,588,734||11,439,351||13.89|
|Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver||1,442,990||27,697,364||5.21|
|Pokémon Black & White||2,557,779||31,002,197||8.25|
|Pokémon Black 2 & White 2||1,561,738||32,852,835||4.75|
|Pokémon X & Y||2,048,444||13,223,532||15.49|
|Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire||1,508,665||17,036,780||8.86|
|Pokémon Sun & Moon||1,893,387||21,520,967||8.80|
|Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon||1,163,003||23,533,118||4.94|
|Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! & Eevee!||661,240||5,601,957||11.80|
This showcases that these games have sold well in conjunction with the console’s install base. The Nintendo Switch is less than two years old and is much younger than any device that Pokémon has been put onto, which means a smaller install base - so it stands to reason that the numbers wouldn’t be higher, because there are fewer players to sell the product to. It’s also worth noting the sales data doesn’t include digital downloads, which become more and more dominant. In that respect, Let's Go's performance is robust.
On the flipside, the game has helped to drive hardware sales, with almost 200,000 Switches being bought in launch week in Japan alone. Granted, that also factored in the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate special edition, which was also on sale that week, but it will definitely have contributed.
This story doesn’t just apply to Japan, either. Data from ChartTrack in the UK also showcases that the game is doing well, selling less than Sun & Moon and X & Y but more than Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon. This shows a similar tracking in terms of attach rate, with it having a 12 percent attach rate in the UK - close to the figure seen in Japan.
So why do this matter? By putting a main series Pokémon RPG onto the Switch early on, it helps build the audience and Pokémon Let’s Go is certainly a game that can do that. Playing on nostalgia, as well as the mechanics and connectivity with Pokémon GO - one of the most popular mobile games of all time, lest we forget - has introduced a whole new wave of players into the mainline Pokémon series. This was a clever marketing strategy, and by doing it with a game that doesn’t start a new generation and is a remake of a beloved classic, it helps build the audience in a great way without damaging the sales that people come to expect from the start of a brand new generation.
This game was never meant to be the big hardcore Pokémon experience that we have come to expect, and that’s why it's proving to be the most divisive game we've seen so far - even to the point that many players refuse to accept it’s a main series title, despite Game Freak, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company repeatedly stating it. No matter what the haters say, Pokémon: Let's Go has been a roaring success when it comes to its core aims, and the sales are fully indicative of this.
Next year is Generation 8, the next main series game after Let’s Go and the start of a new Pokémon generation. New generations always do really well and it’s the game that the hardcore base - including those who seem to dislike Let’s Go so much - have been waiting for. However, with a whole new userbase being added via Let’s Go, this could introduce Pokémon into a new golden age, where its commercial performance eclipses even that of its Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, DS and 3DS forerunners. We will see this time next year if this strategy has paid off, but those who are trying to paint Let’s Go as a failure are totally missing the point - and are seemingly blind to the facts.