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The next monster craze comes West next year.

Nintendo announced today that it will be the publisher of Level-5’s Yo-kai Watch role-playing game, bringing it to its Nintendo 3DS in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Australia, and New Zealand next year. The company will also handle publishing duties for South Korea. The children’s franchise about a world of spirit-like creatures is a cultural phenomenon in Japan, with the game bringing in sales of more than 7 million copies there since its 2013 launch. The greater franchise, which includes manga and an animated television show, has generated more than $1 billion in retail sales in Japan alone. Nintendo is poised to welcome similar successes in the West through this debut.

Yo-kai Watch follows a boy who possesses a special watch that he uses to summon Yo-Kai, a world of creatures that take on many ghost-like and monster-like forms. Nintendo stresses that these are not ghosts. Like Nintendo and Game Freak’s Pokémon, the hero takes the summoned Yo-Kai on adventures and fights other Yo-Kai.

Nintendo did not specify a date for the Western release of Yo-Kai Watch.


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Western approach

Nintendo’s publishing of the Yo-Kai Watch game is only one part of the planned Western invasion of the franchise. Last month, American toy and game company Hasbro announced last month that it would collaborate with the Japanese rights owners Dentsu Entertainment to bring a new toy line for the franchise to the U.S. in 2016. Beyond this, the company hinted at further gaming, broadcast, and other merchandising relationships to be announced later this year.

Yesterday, San Francisco-based company Viz Media announced that it will publish the award-winning Yo-Kai Watch manga (graphic novel) series in North America starting later this year. Expect news on the television animation soon.

It took about two years for the Pokémon franchise to become a Western craze following its initial success in Japan in the 1990s. Yo-Kai Watch looks to be following the same pattern.

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