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Pokémon's biggest threat, Yo-Kai Watch, is one step closer to coming to America

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Yo-Kai Watch, the role-playing game series developed by Level-5 and aimed at kids, is a monstrous success overseas. The Nintendo 3DS games have already sold 6.5 million copies over the past two years and the franchise has spawned toys, manga and an anime series that has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

That's just in Japan. Now, Yo-Kai Watch is set to go global, thanks to a partnership with Hasbro which will introduce an "innovative toy line" based on the series next year. Hasbro is working with Dentsu Entertainment, which represents Yo-Kai Watch in the West, and TV Tokyo, which airs the anime in Japan.

Dentsu and TV Tokyo say Yo-Kai Watch will expand its cross-platform reach to include "additional broadcasting, video game and merchandising relationships to be announced later this year."

Hasbro's Yo-Kai Watch toys are bound for North America, Latin America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia in 2016.

The first Yo-Kai Watch video game was released in Japan in 2013 for Nintendo 3DS. A dual-release sequel hit the following year in the form of Yo-Kai Watch 2: Honke and Yo-Kai Watch 2: Ganso. In the games, players assume the role of a young boy or girl who is befriended by a friendly ghost named Whisper. Together, using the Yo-Kai Watch — a wristwatch that can identify ghosts, goblins and demons from Japanese folklore — they recruit and battle other yokai. The games are something like a kid-friendly version of Shin Megami Tensei-meets-Pokémon.

In Japan, Yo-Kai Watch is supported by a popular line of toys, including a real-world version of the game's titular watch and medals that work with it, as well as all manner of merchandising.

Level-5 president Akihiro Hino heralded Yo-Kai Watch's global growth in an interview last year.

"Our plan for next year includes worldwide expansion," Hino said at the time. "I believe that there is an attraction to Japan-like fantasies. Also, I have already acquired an endorsement from a foreign toy manufacturer that says [Yo-Kai Watch] will absolutely succeed.

"Even though the ample charm of our ghosts was born in Japan, the day they make a splash abroad is drawing near."

Level-5 is responsible for the Professor Layton puzzle-adventure games and soccer RPG Inazuma Eleven, which have shipped more than 23 million units combined.

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