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Cost of localising a VN

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Can anyone in-the-know share with us the cost of localising a VN (and VN only)? Doesn't have to be exact, but a accurate rough estimate will do as well (coz I think getting actual real data may not be easy) Tried to googled, but only came up with links such as this, which is not very useful....

I'm sure a lot of us are curious about it. Thanks in advance!

Btw one of my main reason to seek this info is to vivify Moenovel more (if it's indeed a fact that they don't spend much money of Tl-ing a VN, comparatively speaking) :P

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I'd love to comment on this... but my knowledge isn't extensive. 

The big one is licensing costs, though.  Originally, that was the biggest cost for a localization (this doesn't apply to MG or localizations by Western branches of Japanese companies).  One of the early rumors I heard, when they were trying to license Clannad, was that Key wanted one million dollars for the license.  However, I imagine that is at the higher range for this kind of thing, lol.

Edit: To clarify, I honestly don't know how much the licensing fee thing applies under modern conditions.  With the advent of Kickstarter and closer interactions between VN companies and localization companies, there is every possibility that this kind of cost is no longer valid or nonexistent.  I do know that some companies pay translators by the symbol and others by the line (symbol usually is a better deal for the translator)... and costs for the average game (just the translation) can be in the low to mid five digit range depending on length.  Depending on how the company in question handled the original game production, there is every possibility that royalties have to be paid out to VAs or the original team... *shrugs*

This kind of crap is why I hesitate to make a guess on the total costs.  When I first started getting into VNs, most Japanese companies didn't want their stuff coming over here, because they didn't want to have to deal with Western mores and companies (there were a couple of issues with eroge of the Illusion type at the time).

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Maybe kickstarter goals can be some indicator on how much companies feel they have to earn to cover the license and translation costs? If I remember well, Sekai Project's campaings for bigger titles have goals between 100 and 150k dollars, it was also 150k for MiKandi's Libra localization and I think even more for MuvLuv and Dies Irae. 

Frontwing, which obviously don't have to buy its own licences, set up a 35k dollar goal for Momoiro Closet, a medium-size game. If this is indeed any kind of clue, VN localization seems fairly expensive relatively to the size of the western VN market. 

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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Additional info for those not in the know:

Valve takes a 30% cut from all games sold on steam (afaik. Kindly correct me if I'm wrong).

Just thought I'll add this on as my purpose of starting this thread is to let those who doesn't know yet have some idea of the business side of our beloved VNs

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44 minutes ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

Frontwing, which obviously don't have to buy its own licences, set up a 35k dollar goal for Momoiro Closet, a medium-size game. If this is indeed any kind of clue, VN localization seems fairly expensive relatively to the size of the western VN market. 

The Momorio Closet one is a kickstarter for physicals not for localizing the VN. They state in the kickstarter that they would localize it regardless, and that the aim of the kickstarter is the physicals. However if you look at Solpress they also have kickstarters with roughly that goal. I would assume that the licenses they got weren't too expensive considering that the ones they are working with aren't that large companies and the titles weren't well known in the west. However there is still a problem with using kickstarters as an indicator, firstly we don't know if the cost intend to cover all of the localization or if they cover some of it with their own money and assume they will get the rest needed through later sales. Secondly kickstarters also often include physicals, this means that some of the money will go to cover the production of these physicals, this will of course be taken into account by the ones making the kickstarters that make the goals.

Edited by bakauchuujin

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You can  get some information about publishing figures.  Just not anything about visual novels directly.  All of the information about licensing fees and licensing terms is very much secret.  But there are times when companies get forced to reveal these secrets: when they have to go to court.  If you want to sue over something, you have to file the contracts, including real dollar figures, with the court.  And court documents are public.  Some lawsuits in the video game and anime business have resulted in some real interesting info surfacing over the years.

The complete contract between Bungie and Activision for publishing Destiny (which originally contemplated that Destiny 3 would already be out and Destiny 4 would come out next year) can be found here. A writeup of the significant parts (a contract is rather dry and boring) is here.

Now, Destiny is a far cry from your average visual novel.  But it's the only time a full contract has been released that I could find.  A bunch of stuff was released in the lawsuits over Curt Schilling and 38 studios: you can find more here and here (note that the actual document trove is no longer online).

But even that's a bit far afield.  There is some very interesting license data from the implosion of ADV Films, though.  When ADV was falling apart, Funimation sued them over a debt they said they bought from a Japanese company.  That led to some dollar figures being released. We know how much ADV paid for certain shows.  The list is on ANN and while anime is more popular than VNs, of the three I found, it's the closest match. I'm not going to reproduce the list here (just check ANN).  But there are a few things I can say about it:

1) It's not clear what these numbers are.  Are these the up-front minimum guarantee prices?  Or is this the total amount paid, including the up-front minimum guarantee and all the royalties that were owed?  Did they even owe any royalties?  The Crunchyroll coverage seems to imply that ADV paid a flat $25K per episode for 009-1.

2) Does this include the costs of translating the show and producing the DVDs?  Almost certainly not.  $21,335 for a TV show with 39 episodes (UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie) is not enough money.

3) The numbers vary widely.  The lowest price for a TV show is $21,335 for UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie.  That's barely more than the $20K for the Air movie.  The highest price is pushing a million: $960K for Kurau Phantom Memory.  Four of the listed shows cost ADV more than three quarters of a million dollars, and one more is just under.  On the flip side, six others cost less than sixty grand.  The most expensive show cost ADV nearly forty five times the least expensive.

4) Licensing costs are probably paid by every company in the business.  Even MoeNovel (a Pulltop subsidiary) probably on paper pays Pulltop for the rights.  This is something I learned when I got a job.  I worked for the phone company for awhile, and I found out my department pays another department for the phone lines.  This seemed really weird to me; I was like 'why bother?'  My coworkers explained that because of the way budgets work, if that division provided the phones for free, their numbers would look terrible. The cost savings they generated would make everyone else in the company look good, but their bottom line would look terrible.  This would lead to them getting punished (for being 'unprofitable') for being successful.

Likewise, Moenovel is owned by Will.  Money that they generate goes into Will's pockets.  But they made that money off of Pulltop properties.  So the deals need to be structured in such a way that the Pulltop entity reaps the rewards of Moenovel's success.  It is probably safe to assume Moenovel pays something to Pulltop.

The only company that might not have to do this 'one part of the company pays another' thing is Frontwing, because they might not have set up a different entity to run the overseas business.  It's hard to say.

5) The non-licensing related costs are going to be relatively fixed and predictable.  They will be a product of the size (in bytes) of the script, with added complications for things like actual gameplay elements.  Scripting costs (engine work) are less predictable, but compared to a 45X variance factor in licensing costs?  That's not too significant.

6) Licensing costs vary widely.  Sol Press seems to be licensing on the cheap (i.e. not going after famous or hugely-successful Japanese projects).  For all but the cheapest licenses, however? Licensing fees likely dwarf all other costs associated with the release.  Witch's Love Diary's script is about 1.5 megabytes, or about 750K characters.  Now I know MG pays by the character (everyone does) but not how much: if they pay 1.5 cents per, that's about $11K.  If they pay 5 cents per, that would be about $37K.  [Edit: Apparently some companies pay by the character, some by the line.  That probably won't change this math too much.]

Both of these guesstimates are on the low end of the ADV price chart.  Visual Novel licensing fees are going to be quite a bit lower (they have to be, or there's no business to be done, sales just aren't high enough).  But still.

7) For most titles, the licensing fee is probably the biggest cost.  Since this is the part that's least predictable, it's extremely difficult to say what a given title might have cost.

Edited by Nandemonai

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