According to the fiscal report that Nintendo released today, Pokémon Legends: Arceus sold 12.64 million units last year. While it doesn’t usurp Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl’s combined sales figure of 14.65 million, it’s nevertheless impressive for an original title that deviated so far from every mainline game in the series.
Legends is currently sitting at number fifteen on the VGChartz list, directly under HeartGold and SoulSilver. It’s also sitting above Crystal, Emerald, Platinum, and both FireRed and LeafGreen. Whether you think that Legends is a quirky experiment or a main Pokémon game, the sales figures solidly establish the open world monster-catcher as a giant among the classics.
The rankings are especially wild when you consider how much controversy the game initially generated. Before Legends was released on January 28, fans weren’t sure about the unusually aggressive monsters that would attack humans on sight or the ugly trees that they saw in the official trailers. Once players could experience the game for themselves, they wouldn’t stop arguing about its low graphical fidelity.
Despite the criticism, Legends was the fresh and exciting title that the Pokémon series really needed this year. The plot was fascinatingly dark, the giant Pokémon were novel, and even ordinary creatures had a lot more personality than players were used to from the series. In contrast, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are barebone remakes of a game that was released fifteen years ago. At the time, critics panned it for playing too safe to the usual formula. Legends showed that Nintendo didn’t have to choose between tradition and innovation.
Legends let down hardcore fans in some ways. But it proved that engrossing gameplay and big IPs can lead to record-breaking sales, even if it’s not the prettiest or resource-intensive game in the series. This seems to be Nintendo’s approach to their other first-party games. Fans groused about how Nintendo took almost eight years to release new Mario Kart 8 maps after the game’s initial release. Many of these maps were visual downgrades compared to the original. It didn’t matter. According to the report, Mario Kart 8 sold almost 10 million copies last year.
Nintendo can afford to publish creatively off-the-path and ugly games, and fans will buy millions of copies anyway.