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


Zander
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6 hours ago, Zander said:

3. The Format in Itself

I think I'm in the camp of "there's essentially a massive amount of reading in most vns, and reading is not that popular".

I also think there's a high entry barrier: at least for me, personally, getting into visual novels was difficult. I was already a weeb and fond of reading, so that wasn't the problem - rather it was hard knowing what to expect from the medium, and crucially, becoming accustomed to their pacing. I think it's interesting to compare, say, comics/manga and visual novels. Both have text and visuals, and are not a genre but rather a medium. It's also tricky, imo, to get into them and enjoy them at first. Oh, and both are often not taken seriously despite incredible works in each.

How did other fuwaposters find their first visual novel experiences? Was it easy to enjoy them straight off, or did it take time?

Edited by Sayaka
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1 hour ago, Sayaka said:

I think I'm in the camp of "there's essentially a massive amount of reading in most vns, and reading is not that popular".

No, that can't be it.  Actual reading is significantly more popular than Visual Novels.  Just look at the amount of actual novels that come out every year.  There must be something else going on here.

I have long believed one of the biggest problems with VNs is that they tend to get classified with games. When they get news coverage, it's by video game websites like Kotaku or Siliconera.  The type of audience that might be drawn to visual novels probably overlaps a lot more with people who like a good book.  If I had a marketing budget for (say) Steins;Gate, I'd probably spend a signficant chunk of it advertising the game as if it were a new science fiction novel: sending review copies to sci-fi book reviewers, showing up at sci-fi book conventions, and so on.  Unfortunately, the most natural fit for games with love scenes would be romance novels; the demographics for those aren't very promising for most VNs (but otome games would work fine).

In large part I think visual novels have a lot of trouble because they're trying to sell to the wrong crowd.  Selling to the gaming crowd is problematic because, well, VNs don't look a lot like most other types of video game.

Edited by Nandemonai
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6 minutes ago, Nandemonai said:

No, that can't be it.  Actual reading is significantly more popular than Visual Novels.  Just look at the amount of actual novels that come out every year.  There must be something else going on here.

I have long believed one of the biggest problems with VNs is that they tend to get classified with games. When they get news coverage, it's by video game websites like Kotaku or Siliconera.  The type of audience that might be drawn to visual novels probably overlaps a lot more with people who like a good book.  If I had a marketing budget for (say) Steins;Gate, I'd probably spend a signficant chunk of it advertising the game as if it were a new science fiction novel: sending review copies to sci-fi book reviewers, showing up at sci-fi book conventions, and so on.  Unfortunately, the most natural fit for games with love scenes would be romance novels; the demographics for those aren't very promising for most VNs (but otome games would work fine).

In large part I think visual novels have a lot of trouble because they're trying to sell to the wrong crowd.  Selling to the gaming crowd is problematic because, well, VNs don't look a lot like most other types of video game.

To clarify, I don't think it's the only reason visual novels aren't more popular, but a very significant one. Working on your "wrong market" theory: do you think if people could, say, easily buy and play a vn on their e-reader alongside traditional e-books, this would help?

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6 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). 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.

Biggest reason it is like that is because it is a massive time sink for very little gain. Lead admin is a med student, many other site leaders are enrolled at universities or pursuing careers. There were many large projects in the works, but because the site admins work for free (Fuwanovel operates at a loss even with donations) there is very little incentive to dedicate hours upon hours creating content that would fulfill the many goals this site has.

For example, most of the steam curation team has left to do other things with their lives. I and Palas had been working on a project to create an OELVN update tracker, but the amount of time we put into it was pretty heavy, and on top of that, half of the OELVN teams I contacted never once got back to me and hid updates behind a kickstarter paywall.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing Fuwanovel is that the leadership that does stick around and loves VNs ends up going to work in the VN industry to actually get paid. 

The simple fact of the matter is that Fuwanovel is at this point simply a community with popular VNTS updates. I highly doubt any new projects are in the pipeline, so the site is in a what you see is what you get phase. It really is difficult to dedicate time to building these projects while neglecting a million other things in your personal life that you would rather deal with. 
 

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36 minutes ago, solidbatman said:

Biggest reason it is like that is because it is a massive time sink for very little gain. Lead admin is a med student, many other site leaders are enrolled at universities or pursuing careers. There were many large projects in the works, but because the site admins work for free (Fuwanovel operates at a loss even with donations) there is very little incentive to dedicate hours upon hours creating content that would fulfill the many goals this site has.

Which is perfectly understandable, mind you. I hope I didn't come across as critical when I agreed with Lesiak. I don't expect anyone to prioritise Fuwanovel over any real-life concerns, especially when they are volunteering their time and expertise, and I appreciate the the time, money, and effort that has already been invested. I do wonder why there is no influx of new people to fill the gaps, though, but I suppose this isn't the place to discuss that. Thanks for shedding some light on the topic in any case.

1 hour ago, Nandemonai said:

In large part I think visual novels have a lot of trouble because they're trying to sell to the wrong crowd.  Selling to the gaming crowd is problematic because, well, VNs don't look a lot like most other types of video game.

I agree with you for the most part here. The fact that Steam is the primary distribution platform for a lot of OELVNs as well as the censored releases of translated JVNs doesn't really sit right with me. 

1 hour ago, Stormwolf said:

Not sure its possible for normal vn's tbh. Vn's with something truly special might gain some popularity though. Todays youth has too little attention span for even cutscenes in games, let alone reading for 50+ hours.

I don't entirely disagree, but I don't think we can generalise the entirety of youth into one group, nor are all VN fans young. Taking your comment as a whole, though, I can see your point... I could never see the most popular visual novel reaching parity with a game of a more traditional video game genre, be it FPS or RPG or what have you, in terms of popularity.

 

On a side note, there is the "hit" text-based game Choice of Robots on Steam that has quite a following and recieved good reception. It has no visuals whatsoever, but has still sold well on the merits of its writing. I think it's a good piece of evidence to argue that there is an audience for novel-like experiences on Steam, albeit small.

Edited by Zander
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15 minutes ago, Zander said:

I don't entirely disagree, but I don't think we can generalise the entirety of youth into one group, nor are VN fans young. Taking your comment as a whole, though, I agree... I could never see the most popular visual novel reaching parity with a game of a more traditional video game genre, be it FPS or RPG or what have you, in terms of popularity.

I can't even guess to what the average age of vn readers are in the west is. All i can say is that i'm at the age myself where i like the teacher and other older side characters better than the heroines :(

 But back on topic. I think a gameplay compontent is essential to a vn's success in the vest. Some of the best jrpg games are almost like VN's anyway. Take shin megami tensei and persona. Super popular games and are like dating/visual novels. 

Edited by Stormwolf
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2 hours ago, Zander said:

Which is perfectly understandable, mind you. I hope I didn't come across as critical when I agreed with Lesiak. I don't expect anyone to prioritise Fuwanovel over any real-life concerns, especially when they are volunteering their time and expertise, and I appreciate the the time, money, and effort that has already been invested. I do wonder why there is no influx of new people to fill the gaps, though, but I suppose this isn't the place to discuss that. Thanks for shedding some light on the topic in any case.

 

Most of the people that could realistically fill the gaps are on the payrolls of VN companies in some capacity, or have simply moved on from VNs and the community all together. For example, I used to be extremely active here. I check in about once a month now, maybe read a thread, but I rarely ever log in or take part in any discussions. This thread just caught my eye and I figured it might be helpful to shed a bit of light on things as someone who used to be very involved with things here. Granted, that last was about 5-6 months ago.

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5 hours ago, solidbatman said:

Biggest reason it is like that is because it is a massive time sink for very little gain. Lead admin is a med student, many other site leaders are enrolled at universities or pursuing careers. There were many large projects in the works, but because the site admins work for free (Fuwanovel operates at a loss even with donations) there is very little incentive to dedicate hours upon hours creating content that would fulfill the many goals this site has.

For example, most of the steam curation team has left to do other things with their lives. I and Palas had been working on a project to create an OELVN update tracker, but the amount of time we put into it was pretty heavy, and on top of that, half of the OELVN teams I contacted never once got back to me and hid updates behind a kickstarter paywall.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing Fuwanovel is that the leadership that does stick around and loves VNs ends up going to work in the VN industry to actually get paid. 

The simple fact of the matter is that Fuwanovel is at this point simply a community with popular VNTS updates. I highly doubt any new projects are in the pipeline, so the site is in a what you see is what you get phase. It really is difficult to dedicate time to building these projects while neglecting a million other things in your personal life that you would rather deal with. 
 

Well, I understand that completely, but while there are things that are indeed hard to do something about (like making significant changes the frontpage) there are probably ones that are much less complicated, but the lack of communication makes them problematic. Like, I don't think I'm the only one willing to contribute content (which is, obviously much simpler than programming something, but the lack of it is also one of the reasons that the site looks a bit dead), my experience was that I simply had no one to talk about it with. Same goes for Steam curation, it's not a hugely involved task, but I don't even know who was administrating that.

It wasn't my intention to criticize anyone by the way, it's absolutely normal for people to be driven away from this kind of projects by everyday life, the worrying part is lack of any "generational change" - that is, the old team cannot do much to keep the site in shape and new people that join have no way of influencing things or remedying the problem. This is a type of thing that can kill a community in the long run.

Edited by Plk_Lesiak
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1 - Yeah, sexual content is a problem to a lot of people. It's already part of the medium, though. I remember how surprised I got when I saw a lot of friends and people I knew saying things like "I don't to read VNs with sexual content" or "It has a good story but I dropped because of the sexual content", I never saw it as a big deal but I can understand them. I believe the best they could do is start making VNs with the option to able/disable h-scenes so everyone could be happy. Also yeah, the young ones wouldn't be able to appreciate the medium with this strong sexual content presence, that's important too.

Though it's a bit different if the sexual content is dark, people are too sensitive nowadays.

 

2 - Doesn't really matter. If it's good, it's good. VNs should keep their japanese setting since, well, it's their culture after all (Unless a writer wants to use a different setting, every writer should write about what they want to write). Now OELVNs can be different, yes. But if you think they should change the "standard" to appeal to the general western audience, then shouldn't they also change everything else? Like art, soundtrack, narrative and so on. If someone is tired or disinterested in japanese culture and "standards", then this person wouldn't like VNs in the first place. In the end it becomes something completely different, maybe a new medium? And that wouldn't help VNs becoming popular here. 

It should be noted that I'm refering to people who don't really have any contact with japanese culture, few people that dislike anime would want to read VNs, for example. People that only wants to complain how their VNs almost always happens with high school students or things like that shouldn't be considered (Because they are already part of the ones who read/play VNs, duh).

 

3 - So one day I wrote a review about a certain Visual Novel, and a friend of mine came and said "I didn't read it because it's too big". An other person I know once said: "I don't have the patience or time to sit through 10 hours of text with nothing happening", and an other friend of mine once said: "There's no way a bunch of text can be exciting".

Our society is growing more and more impatient, years ago people would be willing to sit through 12 episodes of an anime just to see the big twist and the story finally "starting" (e.g. Steins;Gate). Nowadays if an anime doesn't explain everything in the first episode, they drop it. This is the mentality a big part of the general audience have. Then you have VNs, which has several hours of text and sometimes dozens of hours of text, what do you think would happen?

People don't even pay attention to what they are reading/watching, let alone interpret or reflect over it. To cater to this audience would meaning losing it's identity as a "Visual Novel" the way we know it, would the great popularity be worth it? I strongly don't think so.

VNs with gameplay would help, though. I'd say the gameplay would be a way to entertain someone who is not willing to read hours and hours of text.

 

In other words, it works because it's the way it is. I don't think they should sacrifice what I call the "cultural roots" so it met the "standards" of the west, I think this line of thought is pretty dangerous too. Though it's about a completely different theme, Sakura Quest anime dealt with this discussion about "making a small culture big so people from other places could enjoy it too".

Visual Novels are like birds, they can fly high, there's a lot of different types and even some types we don't even know, sometimes they fly together in the same direction, they can be big or small, but more importantly: They are free. Let them be free, it's not worth to trap it in a cage just so you can show it's beauty to other people. There are those who can love birds, and those who can't, it's simple as that.

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33 minutes ago, Palas said:

Kendjin. Who hasn't been here for a while, so no new people can be added. I think Emi (what was her handle again) and I manage it and since the last (maybe two) year(s) it's an extension of the FuwaReviews, which... could be reviewed, but that'd mean a completely new system. I don't know how it'd work.

I've started writing that it's not up to date with what FuwaReviews puts out, but it seems this problem was more or less fixed in the meantime. ;]

The admins, while maybe not active here still seem to be alive on Steam so we could start a discussion there. It's clear what would be my first idea on how to expand Curation, but I will try to contain my unhealthy lust for exposition and power. :D I would love to hear more voices from the review team though, I know @Decay is very busy, but I would be healthy for someone to claim responsibility for day-to-day functioning of the reviews hub and make discussion about it possible. 

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