Nintendo in Japan

Next Generation’s Tim Rogers writes a bit about Nintendo’s staggering success in Japan…

My Family Finance Diary is basically a non-game that features simplified spreadsheet software, for, um, putting your family finances in order. […] The “Family Finance Diary”, essentially, is a calculator that cares, aimed at the ice-blue or noble-pink DS-owning people of Japan who do grocery shopping for families of three or more.

And it’s the seventh-hottest-selling game in Japan at the moment.

When Nintendo fans on internet message boards high-five themselves and bark about Nintendo destroying the competition, I feel a little queasy, because I know for a solid fact that non-games like Family Finance Diary, Nintendo’s Observation Training and Brain Training aren’t actually competing with, say, Grand Theft Auto at all. It should be very remarkably clear that these software products are designed for startlingly different purposes and demographics.

Then there are the black marketeers who buy up popular consumer electronics devices and ship them off to continental Asia…

On most weeknights, a group of five to ten Chinese people can be seen standing in front of the McDonalds next to the Bic Camera superstore in Ikebukuro, counting their loot. The ten to fifteen agents reporting to the meeting point bring shopping bags from all of the electronics stores in the area, including Yodobashi Camera, which actually doesn’t have an Ikebukuro location. On a typical weekday, they can be seen counting up Nintendo DS Lites and Wiis. Just recently, they’ve moved their loot-counting spot to a lot behind the Bic Camera, overlooking a red light district with a couple of convenient stores. They count up dozens upon dozens of Wiis while they wait for their truck to show up. […]

Last night, I sighted these supposed black-marketeers in the act of counting what must have been five hundred Wii systems and several hundred Nintendo DS units - a small warehouse full. I took a picture of them, and was then threatened very politely by one man. He told me he would be forced to do something very bad to me if I didn’t delete the photo immediately. Long story short, I ended up not deleting the photo, and he ended up not doing any very bad.

I really wonder, though. These guys are obviously accounting for several thousand of the DSes and Wiis purchased each week in Japan. It just strikes me as vaguely wrong.

On the upside, Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has already sold 750,000 copies and really is an excellent game. And on an entirely unrelated note, Famitsu published a very positive review of Bladestorm for the PS3 which is apparently a fusion of Kessen and Dynasty Warriors.

Stuff like this does happen, but Tim tends to play loose with reality from time to time so it’s probably best to not take this at face value.

Besides, the Wii/DS crunch in Japan finally seems to be easing so I’d expect this market to let up in another few months.

I love how gamers try to write off the popularity of Brain Age and the like by saying it’s not competing with Grand Theft Auto, etc.

Here’s a reality check. People have finite amounts of money to spend on entertainment and they spent those dollars on Brain Age, not GTA. It’s competition.

Here’s a second reality check: the people that buy Brain Age and the people that buy GTA are not necessarily the same people. Like I said in the other thread, the idea that GTA fans are abandoning the series because they’ve already spent their finite finances buying Raving Rabbids or Brain Age is, to put it mildly, incredibly silly.

From gaf, +100 k selling NDS games in japan. asteriks means “non game”

Pokemon Diamond & Pearl Versions	Pokemon Co.	5,254,617	
New! Super Mario Brothers		Nintendo	4,729,000	
Brain Age 2				Nintendo	4,566,749	*
Animal Crossing: Wild World		Nintendo	4,266,849	
Brain Age				Nintendo	3,442,492	*
Mario Kart DS				Nintendo	2,334,982	
English Training			Nintendo	1,920,448	*
Nintendogs				Nintendo	1,587,007	
Common Sense Training			Nintendo	1,448,925	*
Big Brain Academy			Nintendo	1,426,671	*
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker		Square Enix	1,398,449	
Tetris DS				Nintendo	1,152,525	
Wario Ware Touched!			Nintendo	1,123,507	
Tamagotchi: Corner Shop			Namco Bandai	1,110,046	
Super Mario 64 DS			Nintendo	1,042,322	
Final Fantasy III			Square Enix	1,003,829	
irby: Squeak Squad			Nintendo	994,703	
Oshare Majo Love & Berry		Sega		978,611	
Yoshi's Island 2			Nintendo	810,398	
Cooking Navi				Nintendo	809,528		*
Tamagotchi: Corner Shop 2		Namco Bandai	780,711	
Pokemon Mysterious Dungeon: Blue	Pokemon Co.	761,617	
Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass	Nintendo	756,000	
Jump! Ultimate Stars			Nintendo	743,864	
Pokemon Ranger				Pokemon Co.	643,776	
Clubhouse Games				Nintendo	598,055	
Professor Layton and the Curious Town	Level 5		593,852	
Kanken DS				Rocket Company	570,662		*
Jump! Super Stars			Nintendo	549,265	
Megaman Star Force			Capcom		531,867	
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings	Square Enix	505,543	
Tokoton Kanji Brain			IE Institute	493,592		*
Flash Focus: Vision Training		Nintendo	487,093		*
Mario Basket 3-on-3			Nintendo	466,676	
Apollo Justice, Ace Attorney		Capcom		455,540	
More English Training			Nintendo	454,073		*
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time		Nintendo	417,391	
Pokemon Dash				Pokemon Co.	348,285	
Kanji Quiz DS				Rocket Company	340,429		*
Kirby: Canvas Curse			Nintendo	315,211	
Dragon Ball Z: Bukuu Ressen		Namco Bandai	313,505	
Moji Pittan DS				Namco Bandai	308,786	
Itadaki Street DS			Square Enix	304,892	
Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney		Capcom		300,084	
Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime	Square Enix	293,970	
Pokemon Trozei				Pokemon Co.	293,807	
Children of Mana			Square Enix	281,083	
Wario: Master of Disguise		Nintendo	280,981	
Momotarou Dentetsu DS: Tokyo & Japan	Hudson		276,964	
Super Robot Wars W			Banpresto	276,186
Mario vs Donkey Kong 2			Nintendo	269,128	
Magic Taizen				Nintendo	262,464	
Picross DS				Nintendo	255,164	
Harvest Moon: The Island I Grew Up On	Marvelous	250,580	
Kageyama Math Drills			Shogakukan	244,401		*
Tingle RPG				Nintendo	232,038	
IQ Supplement DS			Spike		226,674		*
Kanji Brain				IE Institute	221,184		*
Naruto: Saikyou Ninja Daikesshuu 3	Takara Tomy	220,928	
Digimon Story				Namco Bandai	217,986	
Puyo Puyo!				Sega		209,119	
Hotel Dusk: Room 215			Nintendo	206,262	
Heisei Board of Education DS		Namco Bandai	200,117		*
Yoshi's Touch and Go			Nintendo	197,337	
Super Princess Peach			Nintendo	196,641	
Tales of the Tempest			Namco Bandai	196,073	
Shiren the Wanderer DS			Sega		195,052	
1,000 Recipes				Nintendo	194,798		*
Mushi King: Road to Greatest Champion 	Sega		191,388	
Ouendan 2				Nintendo	180,663	
SD Gundam G Generation Cross Drive	Namco Bandai	180,000	
Legend of Starfi 4			Nintendo	167,136	
Digimon Story 2: Sunburst/Moonlight	Namco Bandai	165,622	
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney 2		Capcom		164,484	
Daigasso! Band Brothers			Nintendo	164,166	
Puzzle Series Vol. 3: Sudoku		Hudson		163,037	
It's a Wonderful World			Square Enix	163,000	
Sangokushi Taisen DS			Sega		161,493	
Sim City DS				EA		158,230	
World Soccer Winning Eleven DS		Konami 		145,228	
Power Pro Pocket 9			Konami 		144,631	
Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Tales	Square Enix	139,944	
Naruto: Shinobi Retsuden		Takara Tomy	137,669	
Dragon Ball Z Harukanaru Densetsu	Namco Bandai	136,441	
Chibi Robo: Park Patrol			Nintendo	134,506
Naruto RPG 2				Takara Tomy	131,748	
Minna no DS Seminar			TDK Core 	129,988		*
Mushi King 2				Sega		128,569	
Rune Factory				Marvelous	125,445	
Power Pro Pocket 8			Konami 		122,788	
Naruto: Saikyou Ninja Daikesshuu 4	Takara Tomy	121,149	
Etrian Odyssey				Atlus		119,584	
Kanji-input Easy Dictionary		Nintendo	119,523		*
Right Brain Master: Mistake Museum	Namco Bandai	117,849		*
Planet Puzzle League			Nintendo	117,414	
Harvest Moon for Girls			Marvelous	112,811	
Eyeshield 21: Max Devil Power		Nintendo	110,260	
Custom Robo Arena			Nintendo	109,279	
Toeic Test DS Training			IE Institute	108,248		*
Crayon Shinchan DS			Banpresto	107,127	
Mega Man Battle Network 5: Double Team	Capcom		106,526	
Harvest Moon DS				Marvelous	106,230	
Trace Memory				Nintendo	105,452	
Tea Dog's Room DS			MTO		105,258	
Right Brain Master: Mistake Museum 2	Namco Bandai	103,262		*
Bleach DS 2nd				Sega		102,055	
Kirarin Revolution: Idol Audition	Konami 		101,750	
Feel the Magic XX/YY			Sega		100,263	

At least half of those “non-games” are games.

That so reminds me that I need to pick up Pokemon Pearl/Diamond.

Look at it this way: educational and casual games have coexisted with gamer games on the PC for decades. Brain Training spells doom for gamer games now in the same way that Carmen Sandiego spelled doom for gamer games twenty years ago. Which is to say: not at all.

I guess “Basic Math” on the Atari 2600 was just tragically ahead of its time.

Not to mention that the standard line from Nintendo when the Wii was coming out was, “We’re not competing with these guys,” and “With games like these we’re trying to reach an untapped market.” They reiterated this a lot, so it’s sort of silly to turn around and say, “See, these games are beating GTA!” when they sell well.

I agree the comparison is a bit unfair, but Nintendo took a big risk against two heavily entrenched competitors and is now, largely, stomping them by understanding the market far better than them. I think it’s human nature to stick your tongue out at those when you’ve gotten a well-earned lead. Maybe not mature, but understandable.

Which, of course, makes the discussion of “competition” pointless, because it spans too great an area. Movies, going out to dinner, golf, vacations, lotto tickets or whatever. They all compete with Brain Age and GTA! This is why you hear all about the heated competition between the NFL and The Three Tenors tour.

If the question is: “Do I buy Brain Age or GTA?” then it’s competition. If the question is: “Do I buy Brain Age or not?”, it’s not competition. If the question is “Do I buy Brain Age this month and GTA next month, or do I buy GTA this month and Brain Age next month?”, it’s not really competition (I only mention this because most people have finte amounts of money, but that pool replenishes over time).

The number of people who have limited resources AND find themselves making the choice “Brain Age or GTA?” is probably pretty small.

You’re assuming that someone who would buy Brain Age would also buy GTA and is making an either or decision. I would say that a lot of the Brain Age market would never buy GTA regardless, just as a lot of people that buy Britney Spears albums would never buy a Slayer album.

I would have bought GTA4 day one but due to things that Microsoft did wrong and Nintendo did right, I sold my 360 and am sticking with the Wii. So I guess I kind of chose Wii Sports over GTA4. And Mass Effect, and Halo 3, and…

Please don’t start crying!