ByAna Valens, writer at
Writer and games critic. As seen at the Daily Dot, Waypoint, Kill Screen, Bitch Media, and ZEAL.
Ana Valens

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is out. And as it turns out, the game debuted on the Japanese market with over 180,000 sell through units. That means the game is over six times as popular as the next best-selling game in Japan at launch. But that's not quite as impressive as it might initially seem.

Gematsu provides some insight into the latest Media Create sales figures for a report in January:

The PS4 version of Resident Evil 7 ended with 187,306 total copies sold during launch week. PS Vita new release Uta no Prince-Sama Repeat Love scored second place with 29,008 sales. Third place was Pokémon Sun and Moon with 20,343 sales for Nintendo 3DS. This of course means that other new game releases haven't found much traction in the Japanese market.

Those sales figures include the Grotseque Version, which received a CERO Z rating: basically meaning the game is for 18+ mature audiences only.

Of course, Media Create's sales figures only include the PlayStation 4 version—don't expect the Xbox One version to chart any time soon.

When Final Fantasy XV launched in Japan last year, the PS4 version dominated sales figures. But the Xbox One version of Final Fantasy XV only landed 3,791 sales: just barely topping Splatoon, which came in with 3,714 sales—and Splatoon had been out since May 2015.

So it's no surprise that the Xbox One release of Resident Evil 7 didn't hit Media Create's top 20 sales.

That said, Microsoft did sell 231 Xbox One units during the week, which is impressive for the Japanese market. But it's still nothing compared to the 30,778 hardware sales that the PlayStation 4 raked in. Sony is the reigning console champ in Japan, and there's not much Microsoft can do about it.

Comparing the Success

Resident Evil 7 had a good opening week when compared to other games launched at the tail end of January. But for the Resident Evil series, Capcom's latest title is actually underperforming in Japan compared to its predecessors.

When Resident Evil 6 came out back in 2012, the game opened with 634,933 sales—more than three times as many as Resident Evil 7. And when Resident Evil 5 landed on PS3 in 2009, the game opened with a total of 398,747 units between the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, which is still more than double the Resident Evil 7 sales. RE7 just couldn't sell well in Japan, despite having a good week.

But how does Resident Evil 7 compare to other chart-topping titles from Japan? Not that well, either. As a frame of reference, Final Fantasy XV sold 690,471 copies at launch. And when Pokémon Sun and Moon came out, the game opened with a showstopping 1,590,629 units. That doesn't even include the extra 151,379 added on from the Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon Double Pack. So Resident Evil 7's sales figures are very subdued compared to some of 2016's hottest releases.

That said, 180,000 units is pretty impressive overall for the week. But the game itself has been hailed as "one of the worst debuts of the series in Japan," as Attack of the Fanboy put it.

Understanding the Lackluster Performance

Why would a game like Resident Evil 7 struggle so hard in its home country? It's most likely for the same reason that the game is performing so well outside of Japan: Resident Evil 7 brings the series back to its roots.

In a Famitsu review translated by Play-Asia, Japanese reviewer BunBunmaru captured the problem succinctly:

"With no weapon customization (similar to [Resident Evil 4]) the game returns to its roots. A lot of players may feel that the game does not offer much in terms of gameplay, but I believe the horror experience and gameplay found in the story is perfect enough."

While the game has a meaty campaign, Resident Evil 7 is solely based around an immersive horror single-player experience.

Famitsu's Yoshida seemed to reflect BunBunmaru's perspective in another way. "The Survival Horror basis of RE is still here yet the concept of the series is completely different this time around," Yoshida explained. And Asada "[wished] that there was more variety when searching for items."

It makes sense that Resident Evil 7 didn't perform well, even though Famitsu gave the title a 36 (out of possible 40). While the game has a meaty campaign, Resident Evil 7 is solely based around an immersive horror single-player experience. That might be appealing for Western fans, but for players in Japan, there needs to be more content to enjoy the game. Like co-op modes, which were a staple of Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6.

It's Not All Bad

Capcom shouldn't be entirely disappointed, though. The company was able to ship 2.5 million units worldwide in its first week alone, and with Capcom gunning for 4 million units sold through by March 31st, that's still pretty impressive. It's safe to say the game is a commercial success in the West, thanks in part to its critical praise across the board from both journalists and fans alike.

Plus, Capcom might be able to make up for lost sales in Japan over the next few weeks; unlike Final Fantasy XV, Resident Evil 7 doesn't seem quite as reliant on first-week sales to pull through. Either way, time will tell if the game itself performs well in Japan, or if sales remain extremely low compared to the rest of the world.

How do you feel about the latest installment in the Resident Evil series? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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