The Monster Hunter series has always been incredibly popular in Japan. It’s one of Capcom’s best-sellers and sells more and more copies with each new iteration, especially after they started releasing them on handhelds like the PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo 3DS.
Yet despite its overwhelming popularity and fame in Japan, the franchise never really seemed to make a huge impact to the rest of the world. Sure the last few entries have been more popular than usual, with Monster Hunter Generations even getting a nomination in The Game Awards for 2016, but it still seems to fall short compared to how well it does in its homeland.
Take for example Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, the latest numbered entry in the franchise. It was the first title in the series to surpass a million combined sales for European and American markets. While that sounds great, you should take note that this was the 7th English Monster Hunter release, despite the franchise already breaking the million unit count by the 3rd game in Japan.
Even Capcom themselves once admitted that the sales of the franchise are much lower in the West compared to Japan and attribute the cause to fact that the handheld market is only 10% of the video game market in the West compared to its massive presence in Japan.
Therein lies the rub. The Monster Hunter franchise has been stuck on the handheld for the past few entries now, with even the recently announced Monster Hunter XX set to be a Nintendo 3DS title. And it being stuck on the handheld comes with a few limitations.
For one thing, a handheld device will never have the same graphical fidelity or performance of an actual console or PC. Sure the last few Monster Hunter games on the 3DS look okay, but they could look far better. The series have had a few console releases in the past, with the last one being Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for the Wii U in 2012, and those entries proved that, with the right hardware, these games can look absolutely beautiful.
Another issue is the controls. It takes a lot of time to actually get used to the control scheme of a Monster Hunter title and even more so when you’re forced to play them on a handheld like the 3DS. The past few games have made it easier and more accessible, but it’s still a barrier of entry for many people that want to try out the franchise.
Some people might argue that Monster Hunter doesn’t get much popularity because it’s a niche genre. While I agree that’s a possible cause, I’d also argue that there’s a large audience out there for “tough but fair” games where you gradually learn to just become a better player rather than becoming overpowered or the enemies becoming weaker. The popularity of games like Bloodborne and the Dark Souls franchise prove that.
So how can the Nintendo Switch help this franchise? Well if Nintendo’s upcoming console can do what it claims it can do — be the perfect console-handheld hybrid — then that will be the definitive platform for the series.
It will be the platform that will appease both the Western and Japanese audience. It retains the mass appeal it has in Japan for having a sense of community as a handheld device, while reaching a broader audience outside of Japan by making it follow more conventional standards in performance, graphics, and controls.
A recent leak revealed that there might already be a Monster Hunter Switch game in the works, but so far there’s been no confirmation from any official source. But if this really is true, then this might be the move that will make Monster Hunter a household name for gamers in the West and have a much larger impact and presence. With the Nintendo Switch event just a day away, here’s hoping that they mention something about the franchise.