- The first era -
The releases of .hack//SIGN and the first set of games in North America and, to a slightly lesser extent, Europe were excellent. Think back to early 2003. No, wait. Back to May of 2002 during E3. Bandai Entertainment announced they had licensed .hack//SIGN while Bandai America announced the .hack games would be localized. Both series announced at the same time, at the same place. Things definitely got off on the right foot.
June 26, 2002 - The initial shipment of .hack Volume 1, the first installment in Bandai's planned four-part PS2 RPG/anime hybrid, sold out in just four days of release in Japan, the company announced today. Bandai estimates moving approximately 120,000 copies in that time. Given the somewhat moribund nature of the Japanese games market nowadays, that's not a bad showing for a project of this sort (although Bandai's ineffable marketing might cannot be underestimated).
Bandai hopes for total worldwide sales of the .hack PS2 games to exceed 1,000,000 units once the US release comes into play. The first volume will be released stateside in October.
Of course not everything was perfect. Infection was originally planned for October 2002 in North America. However to tie it in with the anime for better promotion (SIGN didn't air in Canada until 2005, however they got the dvd releases when the US did), a good move, it was delayed several months. Unfortunately for Europe, Infection didn't even drop until March 2004. The rest of the games were promptly released over there, finishing up by releasing Quarantine in December of the same year. European distribution was handled by Atari rather than Bandai.
The series has received mixed reviews, but positive sales figures. As of March 2004, sales of the .hack games exceeded 1.73 million, with 780,000 copies sold in Japan.
They got SIGN on TV at a watchable hour, the games had a good release schedule, voice actors were shared for the sake of consistancy, we got Intermezzo, Unison, and even GIFT! Heck, LotT got a decent enough timeslot for its first run. The LotT manga and AI Buster novels sold well for Tokyopop. Even .hack//Enemy TCG distrubted by Dechiper had sold well.
As the game's director Hiroshi Matsuyama observes, "The popularity of the previous series in the US was more than we expected... we believed a story based on an MMORPG with an online/offline world and the idea of anonymity that real users feel in regards to the internet is something that can be enjoyed by players worldwide."
According to the series director, the original four games sold over 700,000 copies in the US. As you can see by the above quotes the series did indeed exceed their hoped for 1,000,000 sold with the US release, 1.7 million worldwide as a matter of fact. Clearly .hack in the west was a success. However come 2005 when merger talks began and march 2006 when it was finalized the crap hit the fan.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4