The release of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age in Japan is already proving that Dragon Quest is a cultural phenomenon in the region. While Dragon Quest has never really broken out in the West the same way Final Fantasy did, the series holds a commanding lead over the hearts and minds of Japanese players.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age launched in Japan on July 29, 2017, for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo 3DS. It sold a total of 2.1 million in its first two days on the market, according to numbers from Media Create (via 4Gamer). With a system breakdown, you see 1,148,888 copies sold for 3DS, with another 950,315 copies sold for PlayStation 4.
Even on a single platform basis, these are launch numbers that destroy most games in Japan. The only other games over the past few years that come close are from a few major series: Pokemon, Monster Hunter, Final Fantasy, Yo-kai Watch, and Dragon Quest's own spin-offs. Nintendo's Splatoon is a new entry to this list, selling an amazing 648,085 copies at launch on Nintendo Switch.
Looking back through the series history, we see similar launch sales numbers. Here's the list of titles stretching back to Dragon Quest VI on Super Famicom, not including the massively multiplayer release, Dragon Quest X. (Dragon Quest VI and VII launch number currently unconfirmed.)
- Dragon Quest VI (Super Famicom, 1995): 1,274,857 (3.2 million total)
- Dragon Quest VII (PlayStation, 2000): 1,862,065 (4.11 million total)
- Dragon Quest VIII (PlayStation 2, 2004): 2,167,072 (3.6 million total in Japan)
- Dragon Quest IX (DS, 2009): 2,318,932 (4.26 million total in Japan)
Assuming Dragon Quest XI sales ratio of launch-to-total is roughly the average of these titles means it should cross at last 4 million. One thing that pops out is the fact that up until now, Dragon Quest has been a single platform release. Early releases were all on Famicom and Super Famicom, with subsequent launches coming on whatever was the largest platform available in Japan at the time.
Dragon Quest XI is a split release, with the PlayStation 4 and 3DS launching now and the Switch version coming at a later date. The Nintendo 3DS is by far the biggest current platform in Japan with 23 million sold to date, but Square Enix can't ignore the PlayStation 4, which only has 5 million sold in the region, but boasts 63.3 million sold worldwide. Dragon Quest might not be as popular in other regions, but with a Western release of Dragon Quest XI coming in 2018, Square Enix is hoping to reach a chunk of that playerbase. The Nintendo Switch version is still development and unfortunately, it lacks a firm release window.
Another odd hook to the entire situation is Dragon Quest XI on the 3DS and PlayStation 4 are somewhat different games. Both versions carry the same mechanics and narrative content, but with vastly different visual styles. The PlayStation 4 uses a full cinematic style with high-resolution 3D models, while the 3DS uses a squatter, super deformed style on its top screen and a 16-bit style presentation on its bottom screen. You can see the difference in the two trailers above, which showcase the same story and battle content on either system.
Hachima Kikou called the same scene in either version "completely different", according to a translation by Kotaku. It's a large enough difference that you could see players double-dippingwith both versions. Dragon Quest XI contains a Spell of Restoration feature, letting players share most of their progress between the PlayStation 4 and 3DS versions. In addition, Square Enix offered a special "Double Pack Hero’s Sword Box", containing both versions of the game in a single package. So the publisher is expecting a number of players to buy and enjoy both versions together.
The split release makes it a bit hard to gauge the strength of Dragon Quest XI sales overall. How many players purchased both versions of Dragon Quest XI? How many more are potentially waiting for the Nintendo Switch release?
It's also worth noting that overall, sales performance of the game seems much stronger on the PlayStation 4. That 950,315 copies sold represents one-fifth of the entire PlayStation 4 userbase in Japan. In contrast, the 3DS version sold more with 1,146,888 units, but the 3DS userbase is way higher. The difference there is clear. Dragon Quest XI pushed the weekly sales of the 3DS much higher than the PS4 for the week - 142,600 3DSs vs 93,356 PS4s sold - but overall, I would've expected a higher number from the 3DS release. Those are great PS4 numbers and okay 3DS ones.
That just leads to more questions. Is the 3DS losing steam in the market, in favor of Nintendo's newest platform, the Switch? Did folks just look at the difference between the two versions and decide that the PlayStation 4 was the place to be? Or does the PS4 just have a more fervent Dragon Quest-playing userbase? The latter is possible given the recent Dragon Quest-related releases in the past two years: Dragon Quest Heroes, Dragon Quest Heroes II, and Dragon Quest Builders all included the PlayStation 4 within their launch lineups.
Suffice it to say, sales of Dragon Quest XI are going to be watched for the rest of the Japanese launch and beyond. It'll be interesting to see if 3DS and PS4 sales stay roughly in parity, or if one platform outperforms the other. And when Square Enix finally releases the Switch version, it'll be intriguing to see how Japan reacts.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is coming to PlayStation 4 and 3DS in North America in 2018.