Nearly 20 years removed from its debut, Pokémon is still going strong, both in its native Japan and abroad. It’s not as much of a global trans-media juggernaut and wallet-draining scourge of parents everywhere as it once was, though. In Japan, the latest brand to take up that mantle is Yo-kai Watch, a billion-dollar game/anime/manga/toy craze created by Level-5, the veteran development and publishing house that’s known overseas for the Professor Layton series. Today, Nintendo announced that it‘s partnering with Level-5 to unleash Yo-kai Watch on the rest of the world.
Yo-kai Watch is pretty much Pokémon but with cute cartoon ghosts. It’s about a kid who wears a magical watch that allows him to see, befriend, and battle the hundreds of otherwise invisible monsters that populate our world. Together, the two main Yo-kai Watch 3DS games have sold over 7 million copies, and a third entry is in development. After the first game came an anime series that kicked the craze into high gear; the 2014 animated movie had the best opening weekend of any Japanese film at least since 2000. The toy replica of the main character’s watch (along with the collectible medals you can pop into it and use to play a popular arcade game, which awards even more medals) was Japan’s hottest toy for months, with hundreds of people lining up outside stores just to enter a lottery for the opportunity to buy one. (Kotaku’s Brian Ashcraft chronicled the phenomenon and his quest to nab a watch for his son.)
Unlike Pokémon, which is a Nintendo owned-and-operated series, the company will only be publishing and helping Level-5 translate one of the Yo-kai Watch 3DS games for a global launch. (The announcement didn’t specify which of the three games Nintendo would be localizing.) But Level-5 has brought on more heavy hitters to handle the other tendrils of the ingenious Yo-kai Watch child-brainwashing machine. VIZ Media is publishing the manga, which is expected to debut in September, followed closely by a translated anime series, Nintendo’s 3DS game, and oodles of toys from Hasbro for kids to throw tantrums over.