Yo-Kai Watch, Japan's Pokemon-killer, is getting a western release

Haven’t heard of Yo-Kai Watch? That’s ok. You soon will. The biggest game in Japan that's spawned its own anime, manga and a frankly terrifying merchandise line up, Yo-Kai Watch is now scheduled for a Western release on 3DS. Developed by Level-5 of Professor Layton (opens in new tab) and Ni No Kuni (opens in new tab) fame, the game has attained Pokemon levels of popularity in Japan.

Announced at Level-5’s Vision Event in Tokyo, Yo-Kai Watch will be published by Nintendo with Hasbro confirmed as taking on toy duties. 2016 has been confirmed for release for North America, Europe, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

But what actually is it, you ask? Yo-kai are Japanese folklore creatures - definitely not, y'know, monsters - that can only be seen using the titular watch before being befriended and used in battle. There isn’t much info on the western release just yet but we do know that hero Keita Amano will become Nathan Adams.

Japan’s love of Yo-Kai knows no bounds. Endless amounts of merchandise is available and Mcdonalds even recently converted some restaurants into the popular burger joint from the game. "On Japanese TV there are celebrities teaching each other to do the Yo-Kai Watch dance. You can't walk down the street in Tokyo without the theme tune blaring from a dozen shop windows,” explains GamesMaster’s Games Editor Matthew Sakuraoka-Gilman.

“It's without doubt one of the biggest franchises in Japan right now, spanning an anime series and a toy line that would make Pikachu blush. The fact that it's coming westwards can only be an exciting thing.”

“Remember how Pokemon revitalised an ailing Nintendo by shoring up GameBoy sales? Yo-Kai Watch could fulfil a similar role, boosting the 3DS as the Wii U comparatively flounders in the wake of XO and PS4.That said I don't think it'll be quite so effusive on our end as Pokemon was back in the day. A lot of the difficulty in bringing Yo-Kai Watch westwards stems from it having so many cultural touch points steeped in Japanese folklore. It will take an incredible localisation job to make it work. But, hey, Nintendo and Level-5 do have a great track record in that regard."

Clearly big plans are afoot for the franchise, with toys and anime already mapped out for the release in the west. Given the fact that it has so far generated over a billion dollars of retail sales of toys and merchandise alone, Yo-Kai Watch knows its audience and is preparing accordingly. I suggest you do the same with your wallet.

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in gaming, technology, and entertainment. She is the presenter of BBC Radio 3’s monthly Sound of Gaming show and has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland. She can also be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, Netflix UK's YouTube Channel, and on The Evolution of Horror podcast. As well as her work on GamesRadar, Louise writes for NME, T3, and TechRadar. When she’s not working, you can probably find her watching horror movies or playing an Assassin’s Creed game and getting distracted by Photo Mode.