Yesterday, during the Sword Art Online: Extra Edition special, Kadokawa announced that Sword Art Online II is in production. The series, which will air this year, will be based on Sword Art Online‘s Phantom Bullet arc.

In the Phantom Bullet arc, Kirito begins playing free-to-play shooter-MMO Gun Gale Online after being asked to investigate a pair of mysterious deaths that are linked to the game. In the game, Kirito meets Sinon, an experienced player that helps to show him the ropes. The two find their fates linked together as they play, and the mysteries behind the deaths begin to come to light.

Since its creation, Sword Art Online has grown into a full-blown phenomenon. The adventures of Kirito through various MMO worlds have captured imaginations both within Japan, and across the globe. The light novels sell at a fever pitch, to the point that they were the top-selling light novel property of 2013. Likewise, the anime series has dominated in ratings, and sold tens of thousands of DVDs and Blu-Rays. The series is the engine for a merchandising machine that spans everything from toys to jewelry. People snap up video games and drama CDs, so they can spend just a little more time in the world of the characters.

SAO_II_phantombullet_20140101With this in mind, it would’ve been careless not to produce a follow-up. There are nine remaining novels in the main series, which contain a wealth of content to potentially draw from. This content could easily sustain more of the series if demand remains constant (or near-constant) through the course of the new series.

More appealing to Kadokawa, though, is undoubtedly the new merchandising possibilities. Phantom Bullet takes place in a brand new gaming world, which means new characters, new costumes, and new settings. And with these new elements comes new products. I don’t doubt that we’ll see an utter saturation of toys, art books, and more as the show’s launch gets closer. Given that the Sword Art Online: Extra Edition special seemed to exist solely to build up to the announcement, it’s clear that Kadokawa has high hopes that they’ll be able to continue to milk their current cash cow. Just how successful the company will be with this latest series remains to be seen. I have little doubt, though, that they’ll be pleased with the market’s reaction.