While during the announcement of Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin back in September 2020, most of those who were excited were the passionate fans of the first game as well as fans of the main Monster Hunter series. As the release got closer, the game received more and more marketing at digital events, whether they be Monster Hunter livestreams, Nintendo Directs, or Capcom E3 presentations. Plenty of video game enthusiasts grew tired of hearing about it, but that didn’t stop it from becoming one of the best-selling JRPGs on Steam and easily surpassing sales of its predecessor, with shipment and digital sales surpassing one million copies only about 10 days after release, and also becoming the third-best selling game of July 2021. It may be surprising to some that a more niche title like this could do so well, especially after the first Monster Hunter Stories game wasn’t as successful in the U.S. and was limited to Nintendo 3DS and mobile devices. I decided to ask a handful of those who have recently played Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, including media, streamers, and fans, their reasoning for why this might be, and why this sequel was able to surpass its predecessor with such flying colors.
Before getting into the sales of the Monster Hunter Stories spinoff series itself, we have to look at the increased popularity and sales of the mainline Monster Hunter franchise. The franchise has been big in Japan for quite some time, and had reasonable sales worldwide, but popularity really exploded in the west once Monster Hunter World and its Iceborne expansion were released. At the time of writing, Monster Hunter World has sold over 17 million copies worldwide, likely due to its more mainstream appeal in the West and being available on more platforms than its predecessors. Increased popularity likely led to a greater interest in other games in the series for those who were introduced to it through World and Iceborne, and although Monster Hunter Rise hasn’t sold as many copies, as of May 27th, 2021, it has sold over seven million copies, which is still no small feat, but still quite a bit less than World (for now). Monsters from Monster Hunter World did happen to be highlighted in multiple trailers for Monster Hunter Stories 2, and seeing their favorite monsters represented may have been a factor that helped increase interest for players who started with and/or just really enjoyed World.
As previously mentioned, another key factor that likely helped increase sales of Monster Hunter Stories 2 was the larger amount of marketing it received compared to its predecessor. The first Monster Hunter Stories game, which was announced at the Monster Hunter Fest ‘15 finals and released for the Nintendo 3DS in Japan on October 8, 2016 and nearly a year later worldwide, was marketed pretty well in Japan through advertisements for the game itself, the free demo (with the ability to transfer save data to the full game), the anime series, and merchandise (including five Japan-exclusive amiibo figures), a rerelease containing the 1.2 update on July 26, 2017, and a digital 1.3 update the following Winter ,while outside of Japan the game received only an announcement trailer and launch trailer before release, with a dub of the anime series airing exclusively on FunimationNow. Additionally, the Western version of Monster Hunter Stories also did not receive any of the big DLC updates, with the most notable DLC it did recieve being the Glavenus monstie as well as the Legend of Zelda armor and weapon set and the Epona monstie. Even after release, few big outlets actually reviewed the game, a notable exception being IGN’s Casey Defreitas who gave it an 8.9 and stated “As a spin-off of the popular action series, Monster Hunter Stories expands the world with a shiny, new, undeniably cute coat of paint. But don’t let that deter you, because Monster Hunter Stories‘ heartwarming story is served with amazingly fun RPG gameplay that never gets old, even beyond the 50-hour campaign.”
It was also nominated for several awards in 2017 including “Best Handheld Game” at The Game Awards and for “Best 3DS Game”,”Best RPG” at IGN‘s Best of 2017 Awards, and “Handheld Game of the Year” at the 21st Annual D.I.C.E. Awards. But even this slight increase in publicity as well as a mobile port the following year still likely didn’t help sales much (at least in the West) due to the aforementioned reasons.
For Monster Hunter Stories 2, it felt like there was new information coming out every other week, with some new footage each time, and it had appeared at a variety of digital events since it’s initial announcement during the September 17, 2020 Nintendo Direct Mini: Partner Showcase. Between later Nintendo Directs, Monster Hunter specific digital events, and Capcom digital events, if you had been paying attention to video game news at all, it was much harder to miss that Monster Hunter Stories 2 was coming soon.
Timing and platforms may have also been a big factor in increased sales. The original Monster Hunter Stories was exclusively released exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS on September 8, 2017, at a time where a lot of people had already moved on to the Nintendo Switch. Fall is also not the best time to release a more niche game, as it’s when a lot of the bigger titles start coming out. While a mobile port was released later, once again, not many people had known about that either. By comparison, Wings of Ruin came out at a great time, when there was a bit of a gap in the release schedule, particularly in that of the Nintendo Switch. Being available on two platforms at launch, those being Nintendo Switch and Steam, helped a lot this time around too, with Wings of Ruin setting a new record for peak concurrent users of JRPGs on Steam and becoming the best selling Nintendo Switch game of July 2021.
Co-op quests are yet another feature that may have helped increase interest. Although the first Monster Hunter Stories only had competitive battling, Monster Hunter Stories 2 added co-op quests similar to its mainline counterparts, even if there’s a smaller limit of two players rather than four. This provides an easier way to get materials you might need to craft for armor and weapons, as well as access to a few exclusive monsties that can’t be obtained otherwise.
As I mentioned earlier, I asked media and streamers their thoughts on Monster Hunter Stories 2 and its impressive sales. Nadia Oxford, who reviewed the game for Fanbyte, had this to say: “Honestly, aside from just being a solid RPG, I think it’s a great entry point for anyone who’s interested in Monster Hunter‘s larger culture/aesthetic, but is intimidated by its action-heavy gameplay. Monster Hunter has a well-fleshed out world to begin with, and the Stories games switch things up to a more manageable pace. Plus, I think tinkering with your monsters’ builds via the gene system is a lot of fun.” while writer Aiden Strawhun added, “I really wanted to play the first stories when that came out, but never got around to it! I’m a fan of Monster Hunter, but not a super serious one. I loved Monster Hunter World when it came out a few years ago. I was super excited about Monster Hunter Stories 2 when I saw the gameplay. Turn-based combat is my favorite; it’s easier on my hands. And also anime girls with weapons entirely too large for them. I tried the demo and was absolutely hooked.”
The turn-based combat of Monster Hunter Stories 2 and its predecessor may be yet another key element for the impressive sales. Being more slow-paced than a mainline Monster Hunter title makes Monster Hunter Stories 2 more accessible for the most part, although unfortunately there’s currently no way to turn off the quick-time events that sometimes appear during battles.
YouTuber Gym Leader Ed had this to add: “Monster Hunter Stories 2 is an example of what a triple A monster taming title should be. It sets the bar higher for other games in the genre in both the graphical and story telling departments. Despite some of its flaws, like frame rate drops on the Nintendo Switch, it justifies its price by being a monster taming experience, packed with content including a gorgeous world and dens to explore, quirky characters, monster customization, weapons and armor, and more. The fact that the game sold over one million copies so quickly is also a tremendous stride for the Monster Taming community, as games like this show the world that Monster Taming experiences outside of Pokemon don’t only exist, but are also willing to compete and even surpass them in terms of quality. Monster Hunter Stories 2 also shows that Monster Taming Games and “Pokemon-Likes” aren’t one in the same, as Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a very different gameplay experience. All I can say is that I hope the Monster Hunter Stories series continues to grow and expand upon itself for years to come!”
As it turns out, even people who were never all that into the main series or all that into the monster taming genre still picked up Monster Hunter Stories 2. Twitch streamer Breebunn had this to say about why she was interested in it: “My friends were playing it, and they’re super into Monster Hunter, and I’ve played a little bit of Monster Hunter: World. But honestly, just the cute art style of it made me want to get it, and also all of the cute armor sets made me like ‘ok I’m sold.’ I love a game where I can make my character look really cute. So that’s kind of what convinced me to get it.”
When asked to elaborate on her experience with the game so far, she stated, “It’s been such an awesome experience! I’ve genuinely loved sinking hours into that game. They really figured out how to make turn-based (combat) engaging entirely. It’s a turn-based system that, if you even drop focus for a moment, you’ll get lost and you’ll lose, because you need to be paying constant attention with how the turn based [combat] works in that game, and because of that it keeps you so hooked. Every time I encounter a new monster I get so excited to see what new weapons I’m gonna have and what new armor sets I’m gonna have. Oh and obviously the egg system too is super addictive. The way you use eggs and breeding (rite of channeling gene inheritance system) in that game is super smart, I wish Pokémon did it that way. It’s so well done.”
There are plenty of reasons Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin has done so well and has been a vast improvement in terms of sales when compared to its predecessor. Not all great games get the chance to have a sequel, and even if they do, they may still remain as more niche titles played by their most passionate fans. Monster Hunter Stories was able to get a second chance at life through Wings of Ruin and has exceeded expectations. Will it continue to break records and will we see the series continue through Iceborne-like expansions or brand new full games? Only time will tell, but right now it seems more likely than it ever did before.
If you would like to hear more of Erroll’s thoughts on Monster Hunter Stories 2, the Monster Hunter Franchise, Capcom games, or other games originally developed in Japan, make sure to check out the In From Japan Podcast!