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Tips for Buying EarthBound

February 4th, 2009 | EarthBound, MOTHER 1, MOTHER 1+2, MOTHER 3, Uncommon Knowledge

A topic that comes up often but that few know about is just how well the MOTHER games do in each territory. Well, mostly in Japan, because only one game has ever been released outside of Japan in the 20 years that the series has existed.

Getting some of these numbers wasn’t easy, and no, vgchartz wasn’t consulted for any of these. Yes, I know how off their data can be. They even had MOTHER 2’s sales at like 800,000, when it actuality it was less than half of that according to Japanese sources. Most of these figures come from NPD data, MOTHER Party, and Enterbrain.

Also, gamers have this mindset that a game must sell a million copies for it to be successful. That’s not true, people just have a fascination with that number, so try not to fall into that trap 😛 Especially back in the day, many games didn’t sell anywhere close to a million copies but are still considered successes today. Like Final Fantasy III (US). See this interview with Ted Woolsey for an interesting look at how things were then.

Anyway, on to the numbers!

Japan North America Other Regions
MOTHER ~400,000 0 0
MOTHER 2 (EarthBound) ~300,000 ~140,000 0
MOTHER 1+2 (original) ~240,000 0 0
MOTHER 1+2 (Value Selection reprint) ~80,000 0 0
MOTHER 3 ~400,000 0 0

MOTHER 1 came out during Japan’s Famicom boom, when everyone, not just the hardcore crowd, was playing games like crazy. By the time MOTHER 2 came out, the boom had ended and most of the casual crowd had moved away from gaming. This is why sales decreased and also partly why Itoi chose the slogan for MOTHER 2 that he did (“Kids, grownups, and even your sister”) – he wanted the game to appeal to more than just the hardcore crowd. He wanted these people to come back to gaming.

I think MOTHER 1+2 and MOTHER 3 didn’t do quite as well as Nintendo and Itoi had hoped, especially MOTHER 3. It sounds like they produced a lot more copies than there was demand for, and eventually game shops were filled with copies in the bargain bin – and this is why there was that giant Play-Asia sale a while back where you could get an import copy for like $15.

As for EarthBound’s sales, getting those numbers wasn’t easy. I’m actually not sure where reid and Jonk got them from, but they have connections and sources like crazy so I don’t doubt the numbers. They had done a bunch of this research for the EarthBound Anthology a few years ago. Anyway, apparently, the first year EB was released, it sold like 75,000 copies, and then the remaining amount was sold over the next few years. Not a very good showing for its first year, that’s for sure. There are a number of factors behind this, including the bizarre advertising campaign and the market conditions at the time, which I’ll go into more detail in a future article sometime. (My plan is to write up one big juicy article a month, and that’ll be one topic sometime.)

I didn’t bother to look up the Smash Bros. figures because they’re crazy and it seems like everyone has slightly different numbers, but all added together, they’ve probably sold in the tens of millions of copies. That’s tens of millions of people playing EarthBound-related stuff, which is pretty cool 😀 If only there was a way to get the EarthBound/MOTHER games re-released officially so these people could play the real games…

POLL: Do these numbers come as a surprise to you?

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34 Comments to EarthBound Series Sales Figures

Difegue said on Feb. 4, 2009

Wow, impressive to see how EB sales are less than half of M2’s O_O

Jimi said on Feb. 4, 2009

I was just thinking, you know how the word on the street is that Mother 1 was completely localized, and then just given the boot. They said they were going to ship it with a guide, and all kinds of fancy stuff. Did they ever do a full guide? I wonder if that exists in anyway whatsoever in the deep dark depths of Itoi’s basement.

Zaxtur said on Feb. 4, 2009

I’m surprised Mother 2 sold less than any of the others in Japan. I mean, that’s the one we all know and love! And it turns out it’s the runt!

Mato said on Feb. 4, 2009

MOTHER 1+2 was probably runtier, it only got past 250,000 copies because Nintendo did a Value Selection re-release and kept it in stores for a few years longer.

The Pig King said on Feb. 4, 2009

That makes more sense. The only thing that surprised me was that 1+2 sold more than 2, because I’d read somewhere that it was the only one not to sell over 300,000.

Mato said on Feb. 4, 2009

OK, I broke up MOTHER 1+2 into the original release and then the re-release like 3 years later, I guess I should’ve done that originally rather than just add their figures together, heh.

MotherFTW said on Feb. 4, 2009

Is that maybe a reason why they aren’t releasing M3 in US?

GoldenEevee said on Feb. 4, 2009

I can’t believe that EB only sold that much, a game does not have to sell a million to be succsessful, in fact, it should at least sell OVER 9000!! Well, anyways, EB didn’t sell well because for one thing, the people complained that the graphics “were inferior to Chrono Trigger” and “ALL RPGs HAVE to take place in a medievel setting, never a modern, feudal japaneeese, ancient egyptian, colonial america, wild western, prehistoric, or Sci-fi setting”

Anyhoo, Nintendo has been ignoring the Mother series and it’s fans for over a decade so that Nintendo can suport POKAYMON and it’s fans instead of all it’s other series, in fact, it (Pokemon) has even become more popular than Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog combined! Curse that electric rodent, CURSE YOU PIKACHU, CURSE YOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Jupiter-x said on Feb. 4, 2009

That’s pretty cool. I did a presentation on the series for English class last year, and I had sales figures for Mother 3 around 330k so yeah, that looks about right. I had figures for the Smash Bros series around 13.6 million, too. Good to get confirmation of those numbers from a much more reliable source, thanks!

I still keep the presentation loaded on my flash drive in case of emergencies. :3

Spitball Sparky said on Feb. 4, 2009

EarthBound makes everybody so irritable for some reason…(GoldenEevee,Poe)…but anyway I’m really suprised that Mother 2 sold the least in Japan.

Darien said on Feb. 4, 2009

Oh, that interview’s really interesting; hadn’t seen that before. Definitely brings to light how much really got done with so few resources in those older translations; one guy and a month to translate all that text? And then make it fit? Yikes.

When you did the Mother 3 translation, did you have as strict a size limitation, or were you able to stretch that at all?

Mato said on Feb. 4, 2009

It was tough, and there was a definite space restriction (we would’ve had to cut all the text by about 1/2 or more), but I wasn’t happy with it so I made sure we hacked the game enough until we finally had the space we needed. In the professional world, you rarely have that luxury, and it’s not common for the translator to be on the programming team either 😛

Jeeves said on Feb. 5, 2009

Does that mean that if the game were officially localized, they wouldn’t make room for the script and it would have to be abbreviated?

Mato said on Feb. 5, 2009

I don’t know, there’s no telling how it would’ve been handled. Reprogramming the game was horrible in so many ways, I wouldn’t even wish it upon anyone even if they had the source code. They probably would’ve done some level of compression though. But I don’t think they would’ve gone to the same lengths we did. They could’ve always taken out a lot of the unused stuff to make new room though.

Feykie said on Feb. 5, 2009

I wrote about this once in a monstrous essay about why NoA does not have a personal grudge against the series. It compared EarthBound to other games of the time since some people seemed convinced that EarthBound sold “really well”. I couldn’t find many games with references about the number sold, so I didn’t much to go off. This is what I found:

Earthbound sold around 140,000 units for the time it was at retail stores.
Chrono Trigger sold 280,000 units, twice as much as Earthbound.
F-Zero X sold at least 383,642 units in North America and 97,684 units in Japan.
Final Fantasy III sold 520,000 units, almost quadruple the amount that Earthbound sold.
Kirby Super Star sold over 1 million copies in Japan.
Star Fox had 4 million units sold.
The biggest seller for the SNES, Super Mario World, sold 20 million units (it came bundled with the SNES)

Later era games:
Starfox 64 sold 300,000 cartridges within 5 days of release.
Pokemon Red sold 4.83 million and Blue sold 5.02 million.
Nintendo released Super Mario Bros again for the GBA as part of its 20th Anniversary with a special edition, which sold approximately 876,000 units.

I’d never known the statistics for Mother 1, 3, or 1+2, so this is a neat post. :]

satsy said on Feb. 5, 2009

I vaguely knew some of the numbers, but this really does drive the point. It wasn’t successful, however you slice it. It clearly wasn’t a flop, that’s pretty clear as well. 😉 But I can see why Nintendo are a bit dubious about release. There’s no guarantee it’ll be any more successful this time around, whatever the M3 patch figures say.

Which reminds me, what was that figure again?…

Darien said on Feb. 5, 2009

Another issue about releasing Mother 3 in the states is that it came out in Japan in 2006. 2006 was perilously far past the GBA’s prime as it was (the DS having launched in 2004), and the system certainly wasn’t going to get any younger during the localisation process. Yes, porting it would have been an option, but add the time (and expense!) of porting the game to the time and expense of localising it in the first place, and you have a pretty significant project on your hands… all for the sequel to a game that sold 140k copies.

It’s certainly easy to see why Nintendo wouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to release Mother 3 stateside. In fact, I’m going to say that the late-lifecycle release is probably a big part of the reason, since the old Earthbound 64 got no small amount of mention in Nintendo Power prior to its difficulties, which certainly implies that Nintendo was keen to release it in North America at that time.

Mato said on Feb. 6, 2009

Darien: That may be true, but MOTHER 1+2 was released in 2003, when the GBA was still in its prime, yet Nintendo didn’t release that outside of Japan either. They even had the scripts of both games translated. I get the feeling that MOTHER 3’s timing wasn’t that big of a factor. It was a factor of course, but they probably wouldn’t have done anything with the game anyway, even if it had been released much earlier.

Axel said on Feb. 11, 2009

I think the fact of the matter is the Mother series is like an acquired taste. It doesn’t really appeal to the crowd, but for a smaller, hardcore group (that’s us :P) it’s nothing short of a masterpiece. Mother 3 is easily one of my top 3 favorite games of all time, hands-down, and Earthbound in my top ten (I played Earthbound after I played Mother 3, so that might have made a difference in preference…)

I was playing Mother 3 (with the translation patch) in college one day and when my friends (who are mostly non-gamers or casual gamers) saw me playing Mother 3, they were wondering what the hell I was playing. I explained to them the gist of the game, the battle mechanics, the gripping, multi-faceted story and design, the brilliant writing (by that point more hardcore gamers had joined in to see what the fuss was all about). They weren’t impressed at all. They’d rather play cliche-ridden, soddily written, over-testosteroned games like Gears of War.

copb.phoenix said on Feb. 16, 2009

…I had a friend tell me that it didn’t have gamer rankings, achievements/trophies, or modern graphics…Which meant he will never play it.

(He’s an MGS fan.)

DSimon said on Feb. 16, 2009

copb.phoenix, I’m an MGS fan. And I also love Earthbound. So to your friend, I give a rude raspberry noise –


– for deciding that he’s too cool to play a game as wonderful as EB.

The retard of epic proportions said on Mar. 1, 2009

copb. pheonix: That guy is clearly a graphics freak, I can’t stand it when people only like the games for the graphics instead of gameplay or storyline, graphics are bullcrap. I don’t care if I’m playing an N64 or an NES game, I only play games for story and gameplay because those are the only this that really matter.

copb,phoenix said on Mar. 15, 2009

Good to know I’m not alone on that score.

somar said on Apr. 12, 2009

wy cant they sell mother or earthbound in australia that sux

Karma said on May. 4, 2009

“…I had a friend tell me that it didn’t have gamer rankings, achievements/trophies, or modern graphics…Which meant he will never play it.”

Your “friend” is a plauge onto humanity and a failure at life.

Sorry, I know that’s harsh.

But it’s also true.

I think it’s important that he know, rather than delude himself into believing he is a worthwhile human being or, god-forbid, decides to ever convince himself he’s an decent or intelligent gamer in any regard, and then blab off that particular inaccuracy to anyone else.

It’s not like he can hope to save himself from any sort of actual embarrassment, but at the very least… maybe manage to mitigate the damage from shooting his mouth off, saying anything like that to another person.

adam said on Aug. 3, 2009

to mato : not to get of topic but the Paul McCartney
dead cenpericey is vagly reladid to that sean thet everdead is fond fantind in forside

PikminBound said on May. 11, 2011

Outside of emulators I’ve never played Earhtbound because I’m from England. I feel Nintendo should really rerelease or remake the mother games over here. Despite many people claiming how desperately they would like to have it rereleased here, they always seem to ignore it. If they are reluctant because of the poor Earthbound US sales, they probably shouldn’t worry. European gamers tastes are generally similar to Japanese gamers.

Ninten3274 said on Jul. 1, 2011

Fans in 1995 – 1996


Fans in 2011


Reggie’s Reply: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! *dies*

Mr.Fobby said on Dec. 15, 2011

(@ninten LOL)…
japan has it all
earthbound cons
mother3 is normal
its not FAIR! … *sobs*

Matthewtheman said on Oct. 17, 2012

So by my calculations, NOA made about 9,000,000 from EarthBound, and spent about 2,000,000 on its localization, and the majority of that 2,000,000 went into advertising. So at least the game wasn’t a flop.

Ninten said on Nov. 10, 2013

I think pokemon sucks like a bad book. I think that because the story is repetitive, music is repetitive and some of the main characters look like clowns, and everyone knows that RPGs are supposed to have a good story, but pokemon ditches that and behaves like if they were lazy. So I think that EarthBound should be recognised MORE than Pokémon.


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