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"Make Visual Novels Popular in the West": How?


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Fuwanovel has this tagline both here on the forums as well as the main site; if you were to Google Fuwanovel, the first result proudly exclaims "Fuwanovel – Make Visual Novels Popular in the West!". I haven't seen too much discussion about it, though, so I thought I'd stir up a conversation to hear everyone's opinions on what needs to happen in order for VNs to appeal to a larger portion of the Western audience, or if it's possible at all.

Popularity is subjective, of course, so for our purposes just consider what would make VNs more popular, rather than reach any particular standard of renown.

I'll present a few general topics that I feel are relevant to provide a base, but of course don't be afraid to present any thoughts that may pertain to something else.

1. Sexual Content - This post and associated podcast by NowItsAngeTime brought up some good points on this topic. Do you feel that the presentation of sexual content, or the idea of pursuing heroines as a requisite feature, that is so common in VNs needs to be changed, altered, or removed somehow? Dreamysyu noted that visual novels with sexual content are separated from those without completely in Japan - to the point that they are essentially different genres. 

2. Setting and Japanese Influence - Naturally, a lot of VNs are set in Japan, frequently in specific settings like a high school. This even extends to OELVNs, where it is not unusual to see a VN that takes place in Japan or has characters with Japanese names, honorifics, and so on. Do you think VNs, particularily OELVNs, need to break away from this standard in order to appeal to a larger Western audience?

3. The Format in Itself - Does the nature of a visual novel make it forever doomed to be a niche genre? Would VNs with gameplay features appeal more in the West? Are there possible changes to the existing format that can be altered while still retaining the core of what a visual novel is?

I look forward to hearing your opinions!

Edited by Zander
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14 minutes ago, Zander said:

1. Sexual Content - This post and associated podcast by NowItsAngeTime brought up some good points on this topic. Do you feel that the presentation of sexual content, or the idea of pursuing heroines as a requisite feature, that is so common in VNs needs to be changed, altered, or removed somehow? Dreamysyu noted that visual novels with sexual content are separated from those without completely in Japan - to the point that they are essentially different genres. 

I don't think this is a huge problem, but it is something that probably makes people a bit wary of having visual novels on their steam accounts and such. Differentiating the ones with and without more probably would help though, as many tend to think of porn when they hear of visual novels, if they even know about them at all. 

16 minutes ago, Zander said:

2. Setting and Japanese Influence - Naturally, a lot of VNs are set in Japan, frequently in specific settings like a high school. This even extends to OELVNs, where it is not unusual to see a VN that takes place in Japan or has characters with Japanese names, honorifics, and so on. Do you think VNs, particularily OELVNs, need to break away from this standard in order to appeal to a larger Western audience?

I don't think it's the setting that is the main issue, it's more the way they tend to be written. But more neutral or "western" settings would probably help, not everyone is in love with Japanese culture.

17 minutes ago, Zander said:

3. The Format in Itself - Does the nature of a visual novel make it forever doomed to be a niche genre? Would VNs with gameplay features appeal more in the West? Are there possible changes to the existing format that can be altered while still retaining the core of what a visual novel is?

I do believe it is doomed to be a niche, it is not a great way to neither read nor experience a story. Perhaps the mechanics could be developed to present the story more fluidly, with less text and more video or gameplay-ish content, but would it still remain a visual novel? I don't know.

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That's indeed a good question.

37 minutes ago, Zander said:

1. Sexual Content - This post and associated podcast by NowItsAngeTime brought up some good points on this topic. Do you feel that the presentation of sexual content, or the idea of pursuing heroines as a requisite feature, that is so common in VNs needs to be changed, altered, or removed somehow? Dreamysyu noted that visual novels with sexual content are separated from those without completely in Japan - to the point that they are essentially different genres.

As far as sexual content goes, the presentation of it in VN's could be off putting for some people and appealing for others depending on their preferences. I'm not saying that all VN's have sexual content as there are quite a few VN's that don't have any at all.

37 minutes ago, Zander said:

2. Setting and Japanese Influence - Naturally, a lot of VNs are set in Japan, frequently in specific settings like a high school. This even extends to OELVNs, where it is not unusual to see a VN that takes place in Japan or has characters with Japanese names, honorifics, and so on. Do you think VNs, particularily OELVNs, need to break away from this standard in order to appeal to a larger Western audience?

As for the setting you are absolutely correct in that most, if not all VN's take place in Japan or similar countries or use Japanese influences such as names, honorifics, etc. Even OELVNs like DDLC for example which was very popular over here in the west still had Japanese influences and supposedly even takes place in Japan based on what I've read on the topic. So yes, in my opinion VN's could maybe have a better time appealing to western audiences if they took place in a more western setting.

37 minutes ago, Zander said:

3. The Format in Itself - Does the nature of a visual novel make it forever doomed to be a niche genre? Would VNs with gameplay features appeal more in the West? Are there possible changes to the existing format that can be altered while still retaining the core of what a visual novel is?

 

I'll have to agree with what @atorq posted about it being doomed to be a niche. Also, I don't believe there is any possible way to change the current format while still retaining the core of what a VN is.

Edited by Andromis
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That tagline is literally what brought me here after I've (re)discovered visual novels and decided to devote more of my time to them. What makes me a weirdo is that from the very beginning I was actually infatuated with OELVNs and I'm only very slowly digging into the "proper" VNs.

My personal view is that VNs will always be a niche genre in the West because of their strong connection to "weeb culture", which grosses many people out (that very much includes OELVNs) and to a lesser extent because of the stigma connected to sexual content in them. And because people playing video games or watching anime around here are not really that much into reading. Apart from the super undemanding titles like Nekopara or Sakura games, there's simply no mass market for them.

I'm also pretty sure that VNs will never go far in the West without a healthy OELVN market. The actual "hardcore" VN community is very niche and hermetic, like most fandoms of this kind and as long as people are told to learn Japanese if they want to get involved and western stuff is treated with disdain, the community like ours really won't help things much. Progress is obviously happening thanks to more and more major JP titles being translated, but those also might hit a wall quite soon, if the fanbase doesn't expand steadily - I don't think those horrible sale numbers of A Sky Full of Stars are just because people were bitter about h-scenes - there's simply not that many people interested in buying quality JP VNs and the market is getting saturated.

I think an interesting question is what we, as a community, can do to popularize VNs in the West. I desn't look like we're doing much right now, because outside of the forums, the site is rather stagnant. While the VNs in the West are booming, at least in some respects, we're just cuddled in our own, super-niche corner, ignoring the filthy masses roaming around Steam and other places. Optimally, we should do something to reach people outside of our own little circle, how and who should do it is a nice topic for discussion. :)

EDIT: And when it goes to setting and giving VNs a "western" feel, definitely. But I don't think I've seen a VN developer that didn't come from the "weeb" culture and wasn't heavily inspired by some JP VNs. It would be extremely hard to escape that association because it's a core feature of the genre and part of its identity. The thing that we should do away with is mindless copying - there are situations where using Japanese setting adds something to the game (DDLC is a good example because it tried to look as generic as possible to make the twists more powerful and unexpected), but usually, it's just lack of imagination IMHO.

Edited by Plk_Lesiak
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First, visual novels have a content too narrow, the companies make them with a very tight age demography in mind, sexual contents and "obligatory" romance elements kills any chance to make a "culture" of reading visual novels starting when you are kid, which was the way that animes become popular in some countries. The image of "porn" games don't help either, look at the front page of mangagamer, the first thing that you will see is  NSFW images of Sorcery Jokers and Imopara 2, and differently from Japan here in west porn is much more accessible and "cultural"  to give a open for porny vns.

Resuming in one line (cuz im too lazy to write a wal of text), when the content and structure are suitably to only some random guys it will only popular, at best, to some randoms guys.

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1. Sexual Content - This post and associated podcast by NowItsAngeTime brought up some good points on this topic. Do you feel that the presentation of sexual content, or the idea of pursuing heroines as a requisite feature, that is so common in VNs needs to be changed, altered, or removed somehow? Dreamysyu noted that visual novels with sexual content are separated from those without completely in Japan - to the point that they are essentially different genres. 

The idea of pursuing heroines is one of the defining attributes of VNs, regardless of genre. It's also one of the biggest selling points. I can't imagine it being removed and positively impacting sales. If gamers want a medium of story-telling that's less romance-driven, there are countless alternatives. The sexual content is just a step-up from the romance aspect, even if they're considered different genres. Players either appreciate it as a form of romantic bonding, or they more or less ignore it either by skipping the H-scenes or playing all-ages versions when available. (I'm only referring to regular story-driven eroge, not nukige.)

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2. Setting and Japanese Influence - Naturally, a lot of VNs are set in Japan, frequently in specific settings like a high school. This even extends to OELVNs, where it is not unusual to see a VN that takes place in Japan or has characters with Japanese names, honorifics, and so on. Do you think VNs, particularily OELVNs, need to break away from this standard in order to appeal to a larger Western audience?

 

Personally, no. But I'm biased in this regard. Still, I imagine that it'd be difficult to alter VNs to conform to Western preferences. That would mean Western-style artwork and English voice-overs, among other major changes. I have a hard time imagining it being successful.

 

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3. The Format in Itself - Does the nature of a visual novel make it forever doomed to be a niche genre? Would VNs with gameplay features appeal more in the West? Are there possible changes to the existing format that can be altered while still retaining the core of what a visual novel is?

 

That's the problem. VNs are unfortunately a niche genre. Also, while quite a few well-known VNs are getting official translations now, they're not catching on to the point where the medium as a whole can be considered successful. Gameplay features such as in Ace Attorney or Danganronpa can help certain titles stand out from the rest, but if the VN industry is to become popular in the West, some more action will be necessary.

Negating the notion that VNs are only for Japanophilic weebs is one major task. Giving the option of VNs with or without sexual content is another, as well as actually localizing more VNs, advertising them, and making finding and purchasing them a simple process. Steam makes it easy for Westerners to get hold of some VNs, but it's restrictive nature is preventing the genre from shining. The fact that physical copies of VNs are virtually nonexistent in the West is also a major hindrance. 

Basically, we need to popularize Japanese otaku culture in the West more, if even a little. But with all the other ubiquitous entertainment mediums, it's not an easy task.  

Edited by Hiashi
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As it stands now, I think anime/manga becoming more and more mainstream is the main reason visual novels as a medium have grown the past few years. I think all of us were happy to see big titles like Grisaia and Clannad appearing on steam. When it comes to that, it's honestly gone a lot faster than I anticipated, which is great. I do, however, feel that we're going to stagnate, as Lesiak pointed out.

To make this medium work for a western audience... I think we simply need to wait for a few good, radically different OELVN's to be written. Something, preferably, with western art and themes. Now, I don't dislike the Japanese style (on the contrary), but I do think it would impact how the medium as a whole is seen. Even though visual novels are possibly the most open type of medium I know, allowing for virtually any kind of story to be told, I do think visual novels are impeded by exactly the three factors Zander mentioned. If the kind of OELVN's I have in mind were to appear, the first two (the stigma on sex and the Japanese setting) would be overcome.

The last of the three hurdles is the simple fact they require lots of reading, and reading just isn't that popular of a hobby nowadays. I don't think this is one that really can be solved... though then again, perhaps if visual novels were popular, maybe people would read more as well.

1 hour ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

I think an interesting question is what we, as a community, can do to popularize VNs in the West. I don't think we're doing much right now, because outside of the forums, the site is rather stagnant. While the VNs in the West are booming, at least in some respects, we're just cuddled in our own, super-niche corner, ignoring the filthy masses roaming around Steam and other places. Optimally, we should do something to reach people outside of our own little circle, how and who should do it is a nice topic for discussion. :)

So to answer this question... I think fuwanovel could (I'm not steadfast enough to say should) focus more on supporting OELVN projects. My inner weeb would hate for that to replace what we have now, so I would hope directing our eyes to OELVN's would not stand in the way of our own super-niche corner, as you put it.

As for the masses huddling to nekopara and the sakura games on steam... I think/hope that a part of them will find sites like fuwanovel, and thus hopefully get more invested in the medium. It would be good for fuwanovel (and hopefully visual novels as a whole) to welcome these audiences. It'll open up a whole new can of worms, but growth inevitably brings new problems, and we can tackle those as they come.

Whoa, all of a sudden I sound really optimistic. It sounds a lot better now that I wrote it down than the image I had in my head...

The crux of it is that I think we should open up more to OELVN's. How do you think we could best open up fuwanovel to OELVN's? I know it's cheeky to ask it like that, but I'm honestly not sure myself... and I'm curious to hear what you all think.

Edited by Jptje
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1 minute ago, Jptje said:

So to answer this question... I think fuwanovel could (I'm not steadfast enough to say should) focus more on supporting OELVN projects. My inner weeb would hate for that to replace what we have now, so I would hope directing our eyes to OELVN's would not stand in the way of our own super-niche corner, as you put it.

As for the masses huddling to nekopara and the sakura games on steam... I think/hope that a part of them will find sites like fuwanovel, and thus hopefully get more invested in the medium. It would be good for fuwanovel (and hopefully visual novels as a whole) to welcome these audiences. It'll open up a whole new can of worms, but growth inevitably brings new problems, and we can tackle those as they come.

Whoa, all of a sudden I sound really optimistic. It sounds a lot better now that I wrote it down than the image I had in my head...

The crux of it is that I think we should open up more to OELVN's. How does you think we could best open up fuwanovels to OELVN's? I know it's cheeky to ask it like that, but I'm honestly not sure myself... and I'm curious to hear what you all think.

 

Well, when I came here my idea was to contribute to FuwaReviews/The Frontpage with OELVN-centric reviews and interviews (that eventually turned into the blog thingy, as I basically couldn't get a response from the anyone up top about whether they're interested in what I'm offering). Other easily achievable thing is getting more active with Steam Curation and generally promoting VNs there. Endorsing reliable OELVN developers. That's at least when it goes to somewhat easily-achievable stuff.

Lack of manpower and the admins being "ded" (direct quote from Nosebleed) is probably the biggest obstacle here, probably more than the OELVN-sceptic mentality. If you Google "visual novels" Fuwa is very high on the results list, I think it can influence quite a bit, the frontpage simply doesn't have much life in it and doesn't offer many reasons for people to pay attention to it. That's the first thing we would have to fix.

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Just now, NowItsAngeTime said:

More VNs to get anime adaptations so when people find the original source they'll find a lot of the story was left out for anime pacing.

Unless the adaptations are so shit that they rather discourage people from looking at the source material than anything else. I think this happens more often than not.

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1. I've already posted my thoughts about that in length in the thread you linked to. In short I think it is something that is at the moment a necessary evil but it is something I have never been real fond of. I think going forward if vn's want to have a larger penetration(:illya:) in the west then they do will have to alter or remove them. Or at the very least there will have to be more high quality vn's with minimal h scenes translated and released. The English vn market is still largely dominated by vns that are heavily sex based and I think that will need to change if we want to draw more people in. It still is a bit embarrassing to go on to a vn retailer and see almost nothing but titles like Bleeding Orphan Makers~My Cunt is Overburdened by Lust.

2. This definitely needs to change because for one thing it just demonstrates a complete lack of originality. These elements are already played out in mainstream vns as it is, so if OELVN's want to stand out and be their own thing they will have to drop a lot of overused anime and vn tropes. They will have to branch out and challenge themselves or they will continue to be seen as a inferior offshoot.

3. Well in much of the western world anime itself is seen as a niche market even though it has grown in popularity over the years. Video-games themselves have only just now started to be taken as a mainstream entity. So VN's will probably always keep the cult status they currently occupy. What we really need is more vn's like doki doki and katawa shoujo that become immensely popular and reach a large audience and  garner a strong media presence. More anime adaptions are always a positive as well.

For the forum itself? I think there should be more engagement with the steam vn audience. I know there is a fuwa steam group but it seems to be pretty much defunct.

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3 hours ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

That tagline is literally what brought me here after I've (re)discovered visual novels and decided to devote more of my time to them. What makes me a weirdo is that from the very beginning I was actually infatuated with OELVNs and I'm only very slowly digging into the "proper" VNs.

My personal view is that VNs will always be a niche genre in the West because of their strong connection to "weeb culture", which grosses many people out (that very much includes OELVNs) and to a lesser extent because of the stigma connected to sexual content in them. 

You're no weirdo, I'm quite the fan of OELVNs myself. You're not alone in that! 

Addressing your other point, though, I do think there are OELVNs that have no connection to weeb culture at all whatsoever. Cinders, in my opinion, is a good example of an OELVN that subverts many of the traditional connections to, er, weeb-ism. It has a distinctively European art style, no sexual content, and a lot of input from the player. It's not a perfect or all-encompassing VN by any means, but I think it stands as an example that a connection to weeb culture is not a necessary ingredient to make a successful VN. Unless you mean that people will simply see that it is a VN and instantly mark it off as a weeb thing... while I would like to think my fellow humans are more open-minded than that, it may indeed be the case.

2 hours ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

Well, when I came here my idea was to contribute to FuwaReviews/The Frontpage with OELVN-centric reviews and interviews (that eventually turned into the blog thingy, as I basically couldn't get a response from the anyone up top about whether they're interested in what I'm offering). 

I'm interested in taking on similar things, if you ever felt like working together on something or sharing ideas! I do agree with you that Fuwa is pretty barren, with the site being even more so than the forums.

2 hours ago, Hiashi said:

The idea of pursuing heroines is one of the defining attributes of VNs, regardless of genre. It's also one of the biggest selling points. I can't imagine it being removed and positively impacting sales. If gamers want a medium of story-telling that's less romance-driven, there are countless alternatives. The sexual content is just a step-up from the romance aspect, even if they're considered different genres. Players either appreciate it as a form of romantic bonding, or they more or less ignore it either by skipping the H-scenes or playing all-ages versions when available. (I'm only referring to regular story-driven eroge, not nukige.)

Personally, no. But I'm biased in this regard. Still, I imagine that it'd be difficult to alter VNs to conform to Western preferences. That would mean Western-style artwork and English voice-overs, among other major changes. I have a hard time imagining it being successful.

(...)

Basically, we need to popularize Japanese otaku culture in the West more, if even a little. But with all the other ubiquitous entertainment mediums, it's not an easy task.  

On your first point about heroines, I agree that it is a defining attribute and a big selling point, but note that I don't think it should be removed entirely from the genre necessarily, just that the way for other types of VNs should be left open. You later mentioned Danganronpa, which I think is a good example of a very successful VN (although some wouldn't call it that, I suppose) that subverts the traditional trope of pursuing heroines' routes while also selling very well. 

Popularising Japanese otaku culture in the West is one way of looking at it, I suppose. It seems your opinion is the polar opposite of mine — I feel as though the West should have its own VN industry that stands on its own two feet, whereas you think that the Japanese media should be retained but popularised. I agree with you on the point that VNs aren't available physically in the West, and that digital distribution is often a complicated process due to the, er, proclivities, of some visual novels. 

2 hours ago, Norleas said:

The image of "porn" games don't help either, look at the front page of mangagamer, the first thing that you will see is  NSFW images of Sorcery Jokers and Imopara 2, and differently from Japan here in west porn is much more accessible and "cultural"  to give a open for porny vns.

I can't really disagree there. Porn games will always appeal to people that are interested in playing porn games, and I don't think having a gratuitous display of nudity and such will really change any of their minds. The way VNs are presented is definitely important in how they are generally viewed by their potential audience; I really can't imagine linking a friend that hasn't played any VNs to Mangagamer to look at Dies Irae, for example, without him getting the wrong idea about my interests...

2 hours ago, Jptje said:

So to answer this question... I think fuwanovel could (I'm not steadfast enough to say should) focus more on supporting OELVN projects. My inner weeb would hate for that to replace what we have now, so I would hope directing our eyes to OELVN's would not stand in the way of our own super-niche corner, as you put it.

The crux of it is that I think we should open up more to OELVN's. How does you think we could best open up fuwanovels to OELVN's? I know it's cheeky to ask it like that, but I'm honestly not sure myself... and I'm curious to hear what you all think.

I think you basically have the same ideas as Lesiak and I with regards to Fuwanovel itself. I think giving more attention to OELVNs could be helpful, without degrading the quality of content we have here in terms of Japanese visual novels. OELVNs rarely get any attention on the visual novels subreddit, which is perhaps the only other significant VN community. 

Are there good OELVNs being released though? Maybe, maybe not. But I feel like if one were released tomorrow, the world wouldn't know about it.

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2 hours ago, Zander said:

Fuwanovel has this tagline both here on the forums as well as the main site; if you were to Google Fuwanovel, the first result proudly exclaims "Fuwanovel – Make Visual Novels Popular in the West!". I haven't seen too much discussion about it, though, so I thought I'd stir up a conversation to hear everyone's opinions on what needs to happen in order for VNs to appeal to a larger portion of the Western audience, or if it's possible at all.

Popularity is subjective, of course, so for our purposes just consider what would make VNs more popular, rather than reach any particular standard of renown.

I'll present a few general topics that I feel are relevant to provide a base, but of course don't be afraid to present any thoughts that may pertain to something else.

1. Sexual Content - This post and associated podcast by NowItsAngeTime brought up some good points on this topic. Do you feel that the presentation of sexual content, or the idea of pursuing heroines as a requisite feature, that is so common in VNs needs to be changed, altered, or removed somehow? Dreamysyu noted that visual novels with sexual content are separated from those without completely in Japan - to the point that they are essentially different genres. 

2. Setting and Japanese Influence - Naturally, a lot of VNs are set in Japan, frequently in specific settings like a high school. This even extends to OELVNs, where it is not unusual to see a VN that takes place in Japan or has characters with Japanese names, honorifics, and so on. Do you think VNs, particularily OELVNs, need to break away from this standard in order to appeal to a larger Western audience?

3. The Format in Itself - Does the nature of a visual novel make it forever doomed to be a niche genre? Would VNs with gameplay features appeal more in the West? Are there possible changes to the existing format that can be altered while still retaining the core of what a visual novel is?

I look forward to hearing your opinions!

1- It should be noted that, unless you intend to strip out romance altogether, avoiding sexuality itself is impossible.  However, having actual sex scenes in a VN isn't a requirement, when it comes down to it.  That is a Japanese custom born partially from the fact that VNs started with nukige.  It is also the biggest barrier to widening the appeal of VNs in general, which is one of several reasons why most companies make a non-ero version of story-heavy VNs when they get localized (other reasons include legalities, Steam rules, etc) nowadays.  Sexual content in most Japanese VNs tends toward the excessive (even for romance's sake, one is usually enough even in American movies). 

2- The visual novel medium possesses immense potential for storytelling (just look at what Light and Nitroplus do with it).  There should be no limit to the kind of settings and stories that can be presented.  However, if a VN maker wants to sell their game, they have to get past the art bigotry which consumes a large portion of the community first, and that is a huge barrier to justifying the production of 'pure western' visual novels.

3- Not necessarily.  The reasons visual novels are niche primarily come from your question 1 and the death grip the otaku community has one the medium.  Sex puts some people off, causes legal problems at times, and is something a lot of corporations don't want to deal with.  The other part is that roughly 70% of all visual novel fans are otakus (the other thirty percent being a mixture of adventure game lovers who began from stuff like Heavy Rain, people who only play OELVNs, and people who will read anything with a good story).  Otakus dominate the demand in the industry so far, so widening the appeal has remained difficult.  Anyone who wants to spread the appeal of the medium, as opposed to a specific VN, will have to be willing to take the risk of abandoning the otakus altogether and convincing people to invest in something that is entirely Western in flavor... a risk most business people will not be willing to take, unfortunately.  In other words, it isn't impossible but it won't be easy.

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As others have already said, I do think that VNs are becoming more popular in the "west", mainly due to anime spreading massively among the youth. It's not difficult to enter the VN genre from anime (maybe there's a side story or a sequel to an anime you really like, but turns out it's a VN, etc.), I know it was my case, and probably it was the same for many others hereabout.

That said, let me address some of the questions the OP proposed.

3 hours ago, Zander said:

1. Sexual Content

I even made a topic about this. I think that sex depictions are OK, sexual content not so much depending on the target, because by "sexual content" I understand, you know, content to get off. It's like the difference between a movie with sex scenes and a porn movie: technically the content is almost the same, but the purpose is completely different. VNs are for us westeners on the weird side, because eroge usually conflates a (hopefully) solid story with some porn scenes, oftentimes not even that well written. In our minds porn and storytelling are two worlds apart, and as a result this japanese mixture could put some people off.

Do I believe this should change? Not really, but if possible, I'd want the h-scenes to be less random; to be there for a reason that felt natural, rather than for sheer fanservice.

3 hours ago, Zander said:

2. Setting and Japanese Influence

Ok, I'm totally biased here, but I love japanese culture (and I'm a weeb) and the reason I fell in love with their stories is because they are different from what I was used to. So hell no, I don't think japanese should adjust their stories to fit more into the western culture and tastes. We have plenty of western stories already. Let's keep things like they are and the kind of people who can appreciate them shall enjoy them.

3 hours ago, Zander said:

3. The Format in Itself

VNs are between novels and videogames. I think VNs are the perfect format for those who find books not that inmersive or even bleak, but don't actually enjoy the game mechanics and playability of videogames all that much or don't feel like it's a priority. Just like I said before, VNs are just right for the right people, and for the rest there are plenty of other mediums. 

I don't think VNs being a niche is that bad as long as people know they exist. So, rather than "making visual novels popular in the west", in the sense of getting more people to take up the hobby, I'd be content if they were popular enough for people to know that it's an option available, and maybe the right one for you.

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2 hours ago, Hiashi said:

The idea of pursuing heroines is one of the defining attributes of VNs, regardless of genre. It's also one of the biggest selling points.

I strongly disagree, if that was the case I wouldn't be here right now. Just look at my vndb profile, you can notice that the vast majority of the games I evaluated with more than 8 are not focused on pursuing the heroines. I'm not really a womanizer in real life lol, dspite that,  artifical love stories don't interest me, I want desperation and betrayals to keep me interested, fluffy romance where nothing relevant happens with random sex scenes for stupid otakus are boring.

Edited by WinterfuryZX
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2 hours ago, Norleas said:

First, visual novels have a content too narrow, the companies make them with a very tight age demography in mind, sexual contents and "obligatory" romance elements kills any chance to make a "culture" of reading visual novels starting when you are kid, which was the way that animes become popular in some countries.

That's not true at all, there are visual novels for every demographics, PC gamers, console gamers, males looking for moege eroges, females looking for otome romances, all ages VNs (like Steins;Gate), kinetic novels etc.

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40 minutes ago, WinterfuryZX said:

I'm not really a womanizer in real life lol

You bring big shame to Italy, the country of womanizers, this is you:

Gawd, tell me you at least have the decency of following great Italian traditions such as helping tourists by delicately relieving them of their wallets!

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1 hour ago, Zander said:

You're no weirdo, I'm quite the fan of OELVNs myself. You're not alone in that! 

Addressing your other point, though, I do think there are OELVNs that have no connection to weeb culture at all whatsoever. Cinders, in my opinion, is a good example of an OELVN that subverts many of the traditional connections to, er, weeb-ism. It has a distinctively European art style, no sexual content, and a lot of input from the player. It's not a perfect or all-encompassing VN by any means, but I think it stands as an example that a connection to weeb culture is not a necessary ingredient to make a successful VN. Unless you mean that people will simply see that it is a VN and instantly mark it off as a weeb thing... while I would like to think my fellow humans are more open-minded than that, it may indeed be the case.

Well, many people definitely do that (which infuriates me whenever I see it - I despise close-mindedness and bigotry in every form). But that doesn't mean they're that big of a majority or can't be converted to some extent. :)

And yeah, there are notable exceptions when it goes to "weebness" of OELVNs and the are also games that still take a lot from their JP sources but also mix in decent amounts of their own cultural context and ideas, which makes them much more approachable for people without "weeb" sesitivities or any knowledge about Japanese culture. I think that's the right way to go for western devs (and if you go for Japanese themes and setting, at least do it for a reason, like for example Strawberry Vinegar is just a charming, weeb love letter to Japanese food and it's pretty much impossible to hold it against the author ;)). 

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I'm interested in taking on similar things, if you ever felt like working together on something or sharing ideas! I do agree with you that Fuwa is pretty barren, with the site being even more so than the forums.

I would love to! Still, the hard part is getting cordinated with Fuwa's administration. The formula of the Frontpage and FuwaReviews probably should be a topic for another, open discussion on the forums but it won't take much sense without authorisation from people actually having access to the site, and to Tay. There's a lot of things that could be done, but won't happen without getting through to people in charge. :)

33 minutes ago, Okarin said:

On second thought, do you really want VNs to be universal, and suffer the same fate as the general videogame industry?

What do you mean by that?

Edited by Plk_Lesiak
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Casualisation. Games are more casual and the shooters reign supreme. Plus dishonest customs like loot boxes, matchmaking algorithms, broken AAA productions, unfinished games that sell only because of marketing.

Indeed the VN industry would change radically if it had to accommodate a wide audience.

Edited by Okarin
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4 minutes ago, Okarin said:

Casualisation. Games are more casual and the shooters reign supreme. Plus dishonest customs like loot boxes, matchmaking algorithms, broken AAA productions, unfinished games that sell only because of marketing.

Indeed the VN industry would change radically if it had to accomodate a wide audience.

Realistically, VNs will never be casual in that sense.  Even if VNs become 'popular' in comparison to today (incidentally, the VN reader community is already many times larger than it was five years ago), they will never have the explosive common popularity that you see with FPS and sports games.  Something to keep in mind is that VNs will never be more popular than the number of people who can sit down and read without needing moving pictures.  If you don't want your game to tell you a story, you shouldn't be playing VNs, lol.

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VNs are traditionally disguised as "adventures", a true catch-all term.

And while some people may play a couple of them out of curiosity, you need more to stay. The art is not to everybody's liking, and you need an introduction to it.

That said, there are a lot of people who enjoy a good plot in their games. But if you leave outside the gameplay, that number dwindles.

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1 hour ago, Nier said:

That's not true at all, there are visual novels for every demographics, PC gamers, console gamers, males looking for moege eroges, females looking for otome romances, all ages VNs (like Steins;Gate), kinetic novels etc.

I was talking about age demographic, and in that aspect most vns are designed thinking in late adolescence - early adult if you are really generous.

And even in a general demographic, pc +18 games crush every other niche in terms of comercial releases, last year in Japan there around 185 new pc +18 games releases, versus 37 on consoles , 45 otome games and 67 all ages across all platforms.

 

Aside of that, one more thing that hurts the spread of visual novels is how lengthy most "non nukiges" are, you could watch a anime with 12 episodes in less than 5 hours, but to a vn you will need, in most cases, at least the double of that time.

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This is an interesting post.

I guess I'll have to add my share of opinions. Apologies if it doesn't make sense or if I'm misinformed about stuff.

4 hours ago, Zander said:

1. Sexual Content

Sexual content isn't a problem per se but a lot of youtubers and streamers cannot play it because of that reason. Which is why a 18+ patch is a good idea for that reason. On the other hand, some people may say that it makes the game feel complete since the content is 100% there.

There are also other times where sexual content is needed to further develop the story. That being said, if you're planning to make a VN from scratch then sexual content may not be needed in that regard. If it's a translation of a JP VN then it should definitely be there or as an option.

4 hours ago, Zander said:

2. Setting and Japanese Influence

I don't think this is a problem either. I've seen Western VNs which seem to promote a Japanese background to it. It's something that people are used to and I think that it's really easy to use those sources since it's been established many times in VNs like school setting, shrines, animal spirits, food, cultures, etc.

4 hours ago, Zander said:

3. The Format in Itself

It is still a niche genre however you look at it. Some people like to think VNs as a type of game genre much similar to Phoenix Wright so those type of games may not interest them. However, I have seen streamers play it but they tire out really easily since they have to read a lot. Doki Doki Literature Club is one of the most popular VNs that I have seen on Twitch so far.

What I'm trying to say is that VNs are still a niche genre but it is starting to gain some traction from what I've seen. You just need to spread it out there. I've been trying to introduce this website as an hub of VNs catered for the english speakers but yeah, it's still hard to spread word of it.

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