In terms of the worlds being a success or a flop, you probably consider most every fire emblem to be a flop, but at the same time you might also call them ‘consistent flops that will by their nature -never- move numbers like mario or an rpg like zelda’. In fire emblem terms, considering the SNES expansion of the original its peak, the only major flops have been the ninth and tenth games (GC and Wii respectively, Wii being a -major- flop given install base and time of release). At the moment, the most recent release for 3DS ranks 3rd in terms of most sales. Either way, fire emblem as a series is probably the best example of anybody linked to nintendo making new worlds.
The world of the newest game is the same hunk of earth as the first/third and second games (two games worth of continent combined!), only set in the far future from when those games occurred. Then it links in all of the worlds/lands of the other games in the series, giving slight hints at what might have happened to each. While not technically Nintendo first party, the second party, IS, has been expanding the fire emblem world ever since first release on the NES. Even more than that, they expand in a way that promotes player imagination.
The Iwata Asks interview arrived at Fire Emblem being all about the players making their own stories within the worlds they provide, with the characters they provide, etc. While the games themselves do solidify a lot of setting details, there is always a certain level of mystery that is put in on purpose, so you can fill it in however you like. Mainly past events, but also the endings and details about the characters in general. In an interview for the fourth game, in which all sorts of ‘mysteries’ were explained, the final word was: “every player has their own story; the discussions here are just a few of these stories, they aren’t supposed to be the true answers or settings.” The designers haven’t changed much since then, so such feelings still hold 13 or so years later.
The newest entry, for 3DS, has already outsold Skyward Chore in Japan, which was for Wii, and was slowly nearing Ocarina of Time 3DS sales (440,000 vs. 560,000, but just recently dropped out of japanese charts). I think that part of what kept it selling was monthly DLC and free spotpass releases whenever they finished adding in maps/scenarios/characters from old games (those seem to have stopped/slowed recently). Basically, constant stream of content, most of it free. Not that the game is what I’d call a ‘success’ though, since for that to occur it’ll have to beat the sales of the orginal title’s SNES expansion while accounting for population growth, etc. Or at the very least beat the fourth game since my guess is they’ll either remake it or sequel it for their next release.
Fire Emblem outselling Zelda? It really goes to show how weak Zelda has become.
What I like about digital distribution is that it allows games to be sold that cannot be sold in retail… namely games that may be niche in the Western market and games of previous generations. Games like Fire Emblem, if they can’t be sold at retail, should be sold online. I don’t see why there is any reason to deny gamers sweet gaming goodness.
The Japanese truly must play their handhelds like a console. There has to be a reason why Monster Hunter and games like Fire Emblem just don’t sell on Western handhelds.