From Godzilla to Gamera, Japan loves its monsters. Pokémon, or Pocket Monsters, is no exception. But Pokémon's days as Japan's reigning video game monster ruler could be over.
This is anecdotal evidence at best, and in no way am I trying to imply that Pokémon is no longer popular in Japan (that would be insanity!), but just that there seems to a video game franchise that could very well be more popular.
The below image compares two launch lines at the Yodobashi Camera retailer in Osaka's Umeda. The red line shows how far the cue for the Pokémon: Black and White line stretches, while the blue shows how far the line for Monster Hunter Portable 3rd stretched. Reports say over 1000 people lined up for the game.
(If that wasn't mind-boggling enough, the line at the Shinjuku Yodobashi Camera was apparently 3000 people long!)
Monster Hunter Portable 3rd is, at the moment, the PSP's killer app in Japan, moving handheld hardware the way a Pokémon title traditionally does. This, however, isn't new for Monster Hunter as the title traditionally does extremely well on the PSP in Japan, but Monster Hunter Portable 3rd just feels bigger. There's more buzz in the air, more people tweeting how they were able to secure a copy.
Pokémon: Black and White was a tremendous success, selling 2.63 copies in its first two days, surpassing 2006's Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl, which sold 1.58 million in its first week on sale in Japan.
The question now is whether or not Monster Hunter is bigger?
Pokémon: Black and White is the fifth generation Pocket Monsters title, and it's impending 2011 Western launch is a very big deal. Even if its line is shorter at a couple retailers in Japan, the game will do massive business outside Japan, while Monster Hunter Portable 3rd just won't. It's a title that does have a devoted Western following, but one that doesn't inspire the same type of interest that Pokémon does. Maybe, it's the character design, maybe it's the gameplay, I honestly don't know.
Even if Pokémon isn't the king of monster video games in Japan anymore, it still is the worldwide one.