Hasbro toy deal heralds start of Yo-Kai Watch’s Western invasion

One of Japan’s most popular video game series is to give it a go in the West with the release of a toy line in Europe and the US in 2016.

Hasbro has signed a deal to make toys based on Level 5’s Yo-Kai Watch series. The Pokemon-a-like game ruled Japan in 2014, topping the annual chart and claiming three slots in the region’s annual sales chart.

Yo-Kai Watch debuted in Japan in 2013 with a Pokemon-style split-release arriving in 2014. All three games finished in Japan’s 2014 Top Ten. Sales of the series to date have exceeded 6.5m units.

"The Yo-Kai Watch franchise has been hugely successful and we are ready to bring the brand to new markets across multiple platforms," Level 5 president Akihiro Hino said.

Hasbro Brands president John Frascotti added: "We have seen the massive success of the Yo-Kai Watch franchise in Japan and are thrilled to be chosen to help expand the property to new markets. We look forward to creating exciting and innovative play experiences with this amazing property for kids to enjoy around the world."

Famitsu’s Ricky Tanimoto told MCV last year that part of the series’ success in Japan stems from its wide media reach.

Yokai Watch is using cross-media, which acts like a way of marketing. Level-5 has been partnering with a TV broadcasting station, toy makers, and advertising companies,” he said. They have been using the relationship between original video game, animation, and toys and so on. This marketing strategy is successful in creating a boom in Japan because it causes increased Japanese consumer motivation.

However, other titles tried this strategy like Level-5, and they have not been as successful as Yokai Watch. So, I believe the original idea of Yokai Watch is an additional influence on this boom. Level 5 CEO Akihiro Hino is well known for his ability as a producer. And the success of Yokai Watch is also a due to the fact that a video game produced by Mr. Hino is very attractive to Japanese consumers. He is great at catching the current interests of children and daily life, and enhancing that with story and characters.

The combination of the cross-media marketing strategy and the game’s interesting contents means that Yokai Watch has become a continuous attractive trend amongst children. And the support from parents has helped it become a big social movement for the Japanese market.”

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