Why Atelier Ryza Has the Best Launch Sales the Atelier Series Has Ever Had
Ryza's thighs must be one of the biggest (but not the sole) reason behind Atelier Ryza's success in Japan.
Atelier Ryza released on September 26 in Japan for PS4 and Switch, and it seems like Gust struck gold with it. On September 27, The Wall Street Journal‘s Takashi Mochizuki tweeted that sources said Atelier Ryza had the best launch sales ever for the Atelier series. In short, this means preorders for the game were incredibly high. In the Japanese version of the tweet, Mochizuki also mentioned how a lot of people praised the game’s battle system and how Atelier Ryza trended on Twitter on release day. The latter point was something the official Gust Twitter also noted.
On September 30, Koei Tecmo via Mochizuki released the first sales numbers for Atelier Ryza. The game currently sold over 150,000 copies, physical and digital included, and is sold out in multiple stores. According to Game Data Library, the previous record-holder was Atelier Meruru, which sold 100.722 copies in its first week when it released on June 23, 2011, in Japan.
I believe Atelier Ryza’s success can be attributed to multiple reasons.
The first reason is simply that Atelier Ryza seems to be a pretty good game. Koei Tecmo and Gust did an excellent job at promoting it too. Most notably, while it’s technically turn-based, the battle system changed into something which looks pretty fun. It’s much more dynamic too, and everyone knows most players nowadays like dynamic and action RPG-like gameplay. It’s no wonder people are praising it. Atelier Ryza also has a cool decoration system and farming system. You can also create your own exploration fields and share them with other players. Lastly, Atelier Ryza‘s story also has different themes than most of the other games in the series, as Gust tried to start a “new type of Atelier” with this game. It seems like this approach worked well.
The second reason I can think of is the various shop-specific preorder goods Atelier Ryza had, plus its limited edition. Shop-specific preorder goods will make hardcore fans preorder the same game multiple times to get them. Most of the products also feature some risque illustrations, but it’s not necessarily only for the female characters. This is something every single Japanese game does, so it’s nearly not enough to explain this highly-successful launch. It can reveal a lot when coupled with the other reason below, though.
One of the biggest reasons may be how Ryza’s character design created a buzz. Right after the game was announced in May 2019, Ryza’s Zettai Ryouiki-focused design made a huge stir on Twitter. There’s also how character designer Toridamono explicitly said in the game’s first Dengeki PlayStation interview that he basically said that they paid attention to making Ryza’s thighs look as fat as possible. Now… this is interesting. While I’m far from being an Atelier series specialist, I don’t believe it’s merely a case of people with a thighs fetish preordering the game because of Ryca’s design. In my opinion, Ryza’s character design isn’t particularly more risque than some other designs in the series.
If you pick the titular protagonist of Atelier Marie, the first game in the series, she also wears a pretty high-exposure outfit. This is something which happened a lot with other games too, like the Arland subseries with character designs by Kishida Mel, or the Mysterious subseries character designs by Yuugen and Noco. You can argue that for over a decade, the Atelier series panders more to male otaku players by using more sexual service, it’s not something which started with Atelier Ryza. And it’s not like Zettai Ryouiki wasn’t a big thing for over twenty years now.
This is far from being the first time a character’s design creates such a buzz. But I believe it’s rare that it actually translates into preorders like with Atelier Ryza, and this is what makes it noteworthy. While I do not mean to undermine their work, in my opinion, Gust got lucky.
今日は『ライザのアトリエ』公認コスプレイヤーの #伊織もえ さん！
— 「アトリエ」シリーズ公式@ライザのアトリエ発売中！ (@GustAtelierPR) September 21, 2019
After Atelier Ryza‘s announcement, multiple popular artists started drawing fanart of Ryza, with some, of course, being explicit. As the buzz kept going, numerous popular cosplayers started wearing Ryza’s outfits at events too. Most notably, Moe Iori’s Ryza cosplay at Comiket 96 in August went viral; she is now officially hired by Koei Tecmo and DMM to cosplay Ryza. There was also a life-sized Ryza statue at TGS earlier this month.
— がすとちゃん@ライザのアトリエ9/26発売！ (@GustSocialPR) September 27, 2019
After seeing the buzz, it seems that Koei Tecmo was also quick on the uptake. They announced a 1/7 scale Ryza figure by Wonderful Works in late July, at Wonder Festival Summer 2019. Usually, game characters don’t get a figure announced unless they’re very popular, and a figure announcement happening two months after the game’s reveal–and before the game is out–is even rarer. It’ll be interesting to see how much the figure will be scalped for when it releases in June 2020.
Big Japanese outlet Game Watch also interviewed character designer Toridamono, asking about Atelier Ryza‘s character designs. Koei Tecmo also allowed Game Watch to publish multiple illustrations and character design drafts. This is something we usually don’t see until when an artbook is released, long after the game’s launch. We covered the interview here in August.
Lastly, adult-oriented doujinshi manga based on Atelier Ryza were also sold online and at events such as C96 in August, before the game even released. This isn’t particularly rare (see Dragon’s Crown, who probably owns the nonexistent Guinness World Record of “most porn before the game released”), but I’m bringing it up as it’s a good occasion to mention an exciting story. Shortly before Comiket 96, there’s a particular doujinshi author who complained about how Koei Tecmo seemingly prohibited them from selling their Atelier Ryza doujin. This is something that never happens. Doujinshi is technically illegal because of copyright infringement, but rights holders pretty much never prohibit them or send warnings or sue authors. Even in cases like here, where it’s sold before the game or anime it’s based on is out.
What likely irked Koei Tecmo about that author is how, besides their doujin, they were also planning to sell goods based on the game. That’s where the problem lies — the products they were planning to sell included things like towels. Unlike explicit doujins where everyone will know it’s unofficial, these goods can be mistaken for official goods. Fans could mistakenly buy these, making the author profit instead of Koei Tecmo hence why Koei Tecmo gave them a warning.
When this happened, a few supported the author, tweeting things like “I’m gonna cancel my preorder of Atelier Ryza,” but seems that had zero impact. Most people realized that the author was in the wrong and throwing a tantrum.
That’s all the story, and this is only Japan we’re talking about. If Atelier Ryza gets huge in the west too, maybe it’ll mark the debut of Atelier as a less niche series. We’ll get first sales estimates for Atelier Ryza‘s first week in Japan when Famitsu publishes theirs on October 2. This is when we’ll get an estimate on whether the PS4 or Switch version sold the most. Producer Junzo Hosoi recently talked about what Gust is planning after Atelier Ryza, and how Ryza will make an appearance in the next game.
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout launches on October 29. The game is coming to PS4, Switch, and PC. You can preorder it now on Amazon.