There's something about NieR: Automata that has caused it to occupy its own well-respected little corner of the JRPG spectrum. Part of that can be chalked up to game director Yoko Taro's off-beat brilliance, of course, as there hasn't been a figure quite as captivating as him since the arrival of Hideo Kojima so long ago. Having a creative mind, however, doesn't necessarily translate into sales, and that's what makes Square Enix's recent announcement about NieR: Automata so incredible. 2B and 9S' adventure through a post-human apocalypse has sold over a million copies in its first month, surpassing tempered expectations from Square Enix and Platinum Games.
Those sales figures might not seem absurd for a AAA game, but that's the thing - despite NieR: Automata's high review scores, the title was always considered more of a niche project for Square Enix, a chance for its partnership with Platinum Games to show off what both teams could do. Games like NieR: Automata typically struggle to find their footing in western markets due to their status as JRPGs, so it makes sense that expectations were lower for NieR: Automata.
Beyond what usually can hinder a JRPG's release in the west, however, was the fact that NieR: Automata found itself sandwiched between two gigantic releases in Horizon Zero Dawn and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. NieR: Automata's sales in such a tough release window are all the more impressive considering Breath of the Wild set Nintendo sales records and Horizon Zero Dawn sold 2.6 million copies in its first two weeks.
Now that most of the people who planned on buying Horizon Zero Dawn and Breath of the Wild likely have, it will be interesting to see if NieR: Automata's sales numbers inflate a little in the coming months. The game has the benefit of overwhelmingly positive word of mouth advertising, and Yoko Taro has gradually become a very prominent figure in the industry, especially on Twitter.
Regardless of what happens later on, however, NieR: Automata's success in the here and now is worthy of praise in its own right. It's always refreshing to see game designers who decide to do their own thing get rewarded for their stubbornness, and hopefully Taro's success will inspire young creators to craft similarly rewarding projects.
NieR: Automata is available now for PS4 and PC.