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- Jun 8, 2016
Thank you so much for your analysis, really gives a lot of context.So I guess first of all, I should show you some data:I've seen you mention the whole Digimon saving BS thing before, whenever you get the time would you mind elaborating a bit more on that? I've been curious about it for some time lol.
This is April-December 2017 sales data aggregated by Media Create, which does monthly, quarterly, and annual reports on the industry's growth, based on the Japanese fiscal year. In English:
1 billion yen is equal to about 9 million US dollars. So currency converted, in 8 months Duel Masters pulled in ~$144,000,000, while Battle Spirits down in eighth place only got ~$18,000,000. That's a lot less but it's still not bad, right? It's more than Wixoss and Z/X...except that BS was a much larger outfit, and around seven years earlier Battle Spirits was in Vanguard's spot. The unexpected success of Vanguard (2011) and Buddyfight (2013) gradually edged BatoSupi out of the spotlight, its anime that had been running continuously on TV since 2008 ended up discontinued after March 2017, and there was concern over whether or not the franchise would survive in the long run. (Kinda the situation Buddyfight is in now...and Digimon itself was in circa 2002.)
- Duel Masters (16.2 billion yen)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! OCG (15.4b)
- Cardfight!! Vanguard (3.8b)
- Weiss Schwarz (3.3b)
- Future Card Buddyfight (3.1b)
- Pokémon TCG (2.6b)
- Magic: The Gathering (2.4b)
- Battle Spirits (2.2b)
- Selector Infected Wixoss (800 million yen)
- Z/X (800m)
- Love Live! School Idol Collection (600m)
- Fire Emblem Cipher (600m)
- Shironeko TCG (350m)
- ChaOS (250m)
- Lycée (240m)
Enter Digimon. The first Battle Spirits x Digimon Collaboration Set launched September 2017, then you had CB03 in February 2018. On the next annual report, covering Spring 2017 to Spring 2018, we got this:
Now this report included some of the same data as the previous one, but shifted the perspective forward several months so it left out BatoSupi's less profitable first quarter of '17 and included the more profitable last quarter of '17 and first of '18. Those last two quarters where Digimon Collaboration Boosters were launched bumped the TCG's total revenue up a billion. Then, CB05 came out in May alongside a Digimon-themed Starter Deck, and we got this out of the monthly report for May 2018:
- Yu-Gi-Oh! OCG (23.4 billion yen)
- Duel Masters (22.2b)
- Cardfight!! Vanguard (5.4b)
- Weiss Schwarz (4.9b)
- Future Card Buddyfight (4b)
- Pokémon TCG (3.5b)
- Battle Spirits (3.3b)
- Magic: The Gatheirng (3.1b)
- Selector Infected Wixoss (1.6b)
- Z/X (900 million yen)
BatoSupi was the third best-selling game in general for the month the fifth Collaboration Booster came out. Of course there were other product launches for Battle Spirits released between Digimon sets, like a Kamen Rider collab, the Dream Decks, and the 43rd and 44th main boosters. The Collab Booster and Collab Starter also came out in the last week of the month. But in general, core players either preorder or purchase the bulk of their product in the first few week after launch, and retailer orders are based on a combination of those two factors, so May sales data would have been primarily made up of the Digimon Starter Deck and fifth CB.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! OCG (2 billion yen)
- Duel Masters (1.9b)
- Battle Spirits (500 million yen)
- Magic (400m)
- Weiss Schwarz (350m)
- Future Card Buddyfight (300m)
- Pokemon (230m)
- Selector Infected Wixoss (160m)
- Cardfigth!! Vanguard (160m)
- Z/X (160m)
At this point Battle Spirits was back on its feet, Bandai kept accelerating with more product releases, and by 2019 the game was healthy enough that they were able to greenlight a new series of anime films set after the two most popular seasons of the show, Battle Spirits Shounen Gekiha Dan & its sequel Brave. (yes, they gave Battle Spirits the Adventure Tri treatment.) The end result of this was BatoSupi entering 2020 as the #4 TCG in Japan, making just under 770 million yen/$7 million in the month of January. (that ranking list is given in thousands of yen as the base unit.) From all this data we know that the series had a hard time and that it recovered with Digimon's help, but I'd like to touch on why that worked.
By now you may have heard about the DIGIMADO/Digiwindow fan conventions/tournaments. Digimon in Japan has a particularly rich history with regards to its TCGs, and its card game products produced an especially close-knit community of fans online, big enough to make running events every year viable. The Digimon TCG fan community is actually bigger than what we see in those live events, as a lot of people can't make it to every meetup for one reason or another. There was effectively a base of Digimon card fans that were waiting for a new game to come along, and Battle Spirits provided a convenient outlet for that. It helped that you could get memorabilia in the form of free set posters from your locals' extras, and playmats given out to tournament winners, and the Digimon cards themselves were reasonably strong in the context of BatoSupi. When local game stores publish photos from BS tournaments, it shows things like players posing with Alpha or Hyper Colosseum cards, or sleeving their decks in older Digimon sleeves. So this game became the closest thing those fans had to an active Digimon TCG, and their presence helped raise attendance numbers at weekly events to rebuild the fragmented BS community, which in turn made people more willing to go in because there were already a lot of players, which got the game to the point that Bandai could do more and more collabs beyond just Digimon and push out more product at a pace comparable to the bigger games. As a result, card shops now aren't so skeptical of a taking orders on and hosting tournaments for a new Digimon TCG, because the IP helped them rebuild a customer base they thought was gone for good. I think the fact that the official Digimon TCG Twitter account is close to 6000 followers after just about one month, while the Appmon TCG account still only has ~700, speaks to how much more enthusiasm there is for this game.
It's absolutely the same audience. Konami has an aging demographic issue in that their YGO revenue is primarily driven by a much older base of customers than their target demo, and they're trying to fix that by getting in on the same niche Bandai and Bushiroad are gearing up for. That's what the streamlined rules and card redesign are all about. The timing of it's no accident either--Digimon TCG starts in April, first Rush Duel starter and booster set is in April, Dominator would have launched in the same time frame had Rebirth For You not taken its place in the production order.Seems to be the intended audience for the new Rush Duel format for YGO as well, so hopefully the lower prices and better marketing will ensure Digimon finds success there.
I’m familiar with Media Create, but from what I understand they stopped providing weekly video game sales data (for free at least), so I’m guessing it might be a similar situation with card games. Hopefully there’ll be a suitable way to track data for when the Digimon Card Game launches, but for now I have really high hopes for it.
It feels like almost everything is just right for it to succeed, but that’s just me. The only card game I’m really familiar with is Yu-Gi-Oh! so I have a pretty limited view on things. That said, I feel like even if Rush Duels do relatively well and/or Sevens becomes a beloved series, the fact that two formats might mean a split player base is probably a concern in the short-term. Long-term, Rush Duels can just replace the classic game if it really takes off and the younger player base will keep playing. Additionally, having two card games means some players may support both games for now. Still, it sounds to me like having a unified, large and dedicated player base is pretty important too, and the marketing focus on older players teaching younger players alongside the connection to Adventure: might work out better than the Sevens era which seemingly abandons the recognizable YGO art style and traditional game format. Of course, it’s not a zero-sum game so maybe we’ll see both Digimon and YGO do really well without cutting into each other too much.