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Contrasting the Japanese and Western VN Fandoms

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The Western VN fandom has long idolised the Japanese VN market. Before the recent growth of the EVN scene and official localisations, Western VN fans had to subsist only on the occasional fan-translations of Japanese VNs while being told how much better the untranslated VNs were. However this faith in untranslated VNs rested on an unspoken assumption: that Western and Japanese VN fans enjoy the same content. But is it true? Through comparing the largest VN fandom site in Japan (erogamescape) against the largest VN fandom site in the West (VNDB), we sought to find out.

Do we love the same VNs?

While the ability of a numerical rating to summarise a subjective experience (like reading a VN) is debatable, the average score a community assigns a VN provides a useful approximation of how highly esteemed that VN is within the community. Both EGS and VNDB allow users to rate VNs they’ve read, so comparing how the same VN scores on both sites gives us an impression of how much the communities agree on which VNs are best.

 

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We can see there’s a strong correlation between the score a VN gets on each site, especially for higher rated VNs, showing that both communities tend to agree on which VNs are considered “the best” (despite the ferocious arguments within each fandom over that same question). But as the score drops, so does the agreement over the VN score. So while both communities tend to agree on what’s good, we disagree on what’s bad.

There’s also another trend that’s a little less noticeable, but becomes more apparent if we remove the untranslated VNs...

 

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While the untranslated VNs in the last graph seemed to fairly evenly straddle the equal score line, the translated VNs are frequently below it (meaning these VNs score higher on EGS than VNDB). But is the translation a cause or an effect of the lower score on VNDB (i.e. does the release of a translation lower the score on VNDB, or are only low-scoring VNs being translated)? To answer this, we tracked how the VNDB score of a VN changes immediately after a translation is released.

 

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We tracked 117 of the most popular Japanese VNs that had an English translation released in the past 5 years. In the first 60 days after their translation was released, their score dropped an average of 0.146 on VNDB, with Fata Morgana being the blip on the far right that significantly bucked the trend and increased in score. There also seems to be slight correlation with lower-rated VNs on EGS dropping more than higher-rated ones.

So it seems confirmed that the translations are the cause rather than an effect. But why does this happen? This remains the subject of fierce debate among my friends, but we came up with a few theories:

  • Japanese VNs are made for Japanese tastes, so Western fans might not enjoy them to the same extent. Western fans who learn Japanese and use VNDB might align more with the taste of Japanese fans rather than with their fellow Western fans.
  • Japanese VNs are made for Japanese tastes, so Western fans might not enjoy them to the same extent. Western fans who learn Japanese and use VNDB might align more with the taste of Japanese fans rather than with their fellow Western fans.
  • The high barrier of entry for a Westerner to read an untranslated VN (they have to know Japanese) filters out those who have only a casual interest in the VN. So the pre-translation score is dominated by hard-core fans who are more likely to rate it higher.

  • The experience of reading a translation can be inferior to reading prose in its original language, so VNDB users rating a VN based on that translation might assign lower scores than those reading the original text.

  • The larger drop in score for lower-rated VNs might be because they don’t attract the same care and attention by their translators, with any official localisation likely done on a lower-budget.

VN popularity

It isn’t just through scores that we can measure a communities’ tastes, we can also estimate a VN’s popularity through the number of votes it gets. In comparing the number of votes the same VN gets on EGS and VNDB, we can see whether the same VNs are popular in both Japan and the West.

 

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Note that this chart is using a log scale.


The most obvious trend is the clear split between translated and untranslated VNs. Unsurprisingly, translated VNs and EVNs do significantly better on VNDB than untranslated VNs. But we Western fans aren’t especially choosey, even fairly unpopular VNs on EGS can attract large fanbases on VNDB if they’re translated.

Given that translations aren’t random, they require either dedicated fan-translators or a localiser willing to invest in them, it’s surprising that the translated VNs span the entire width of popularity on EGS. So we might have expected it to skew more to the right, with unpopular EGS VNs being much less likely to get a translation. While the ratio of translated-untranslated VNs is higher for more popular EGS VNs, no VN seems to be beyond the prospect of being translated, no matter how unpopular it is.

Overall, while there remains a correlation in popularity between EGS and VNDB, it’s far weaker than the score correlation. This mismatch might partially be down to the age of the communities. VNs have been a popular niche of the Japanese market for decades, but were virtually unknown in the West before the 2010s. So there’s quite a number of 80s-00s era JVNs that have hundreds of votes on EGS, but are practically unheard of on VNDB.

Differences in taste

So far we’ve been looking at each VN as a whole, but can we delve deeper? A VN can be seen as a package of tropes: childhood-friend heroine, tsundere heroine, dumb male protagonist that’s inexplicably beloved by all (these 3 criteria should narrow us down to approximately 90% of all VNs ever made /s). Through comparing the scores of VNs that have a trope against those who don’t, we can get an impression of how popular that trope is.

Fortunately we don’t have to determine these tropes ourselves, both EGS and VNDB allow users to apply tags to a VN which denote the type of content it has. So let’s start simple and see which tags are correlated with a higher average score on EGS.

This world cloud ranks the EGS tags by the average score of the VNs they appear in, with higher scores being placed higher on the chart, so we can see what type of content is most lauded on EGS. The text size is proportional to the number of VNs that tag appears in, so we can see what’s a common trope and what’s rare.

 

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A full size version of this image is available here, and a spreadsheet version is available here.  Note that this is mostly using google translate for the EGS tags, so the labels are… imaginative.


Generally, it seems like complex VNs (with tags such as “intelligent,” “to solve a mystery” and “difficult to get”) are the most highly rated, while more sexual oriented tags seem to be linked with lower average scores (which is probably due to nukige/porn VNs). It also seems Japanese fans value the *novel* over the *visual* element in their VNs, with “CG is beautiful” being rated quite poorly. Towards the bottom are tags mostly related to being old or low-budget (with tags such as “Low price” and “XP supported”).

This has only shown us what Japanese fans like, but we’re more focused on how Japanese and Western fans compare. So instead, let’s try comparing which VNDB tags are correlated with a VN scoring higher on VNDB or EGS.

 

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A full size version of this image is available here, and a spreadsheet version is available here.


It seems like Western fans value romance and slice of life type stories more than Japanese fans do, whereas Japanese fans are more generous with their nukige/porn ratings. Perhaps we’re more judgemental in our view of sexual content here in the West? Japanese settings also seem to be more favoured among the Western fandom than the Japanese, the weeabooism is real /s. Slightly disappointing is how poorly female protagonists do in the Western fandom. While otomes are widespread in the EVN market, they remain a relatively unpopular niche on VNDB.

Differences in the marketplace

We’ve compared the taste between the Japanese and Western fandoms, but we haven’t looked at the differing availability of VNs in the markets. Are certain types of content more likely to be translated than others? How does the the home-grown Western VN industry differ from the Japanese one?

 

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A full size version of this image is available here, and a spreadsheet version is available here.


It seems that action/violent type content -whether in the form of police investigations or wars- are especially popular subjects for translated VNs. Female protagonists are also surprisingly high, especially since otomes don’t seem to be translated that often, but that might be because an even smaller proportion of nukige/porn type VNs are translated, and they overwhelmingly have male protagonists.

Lastly, let’s look at the EVNs. With a negligible presence in Japan (there were only 4 EVNs on EGS with at least 4 votes), we can’t really compare what the fans prefer, but we can see how the markets differ in the kind of content they produce. This next chart tracks which VNDB tags are more common in EVNs vs JVNs.

 

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A full size version of this image is available here, and a spreadsheet version that includes more tags is available here. The sexual content tags were removed because there’s so little sexual content in EVNs that it seemed a waste of space, and it gave room to include rarer content type tags.


The clearest difference between the markets is in the amount of porn, there’s exceedingly little in EVNs. This is likely due to the smaller budget for EVNs which would preclude h-scene artwork, and restrictions on adult content on Steam discouraging such content.

EVNs encompass a broader range of protagonists than JVNs with LGBTQ+ related content being much more common, and female protagonists being as common as males (unlike JVNs where female protagonists make up only a small proportion of VNs). But JVNs can be inclusive in other ways, like being the sole representation of protagonists who can turn into panties.

Stories relating to personal difficulties, especially regarding depression, seem much more common in EVNs too. They also seem more willing to break from the usual high-school settings of JVNs, having more university aged and above characters.

Criticisms

Before we get carried away with forming any stereotypes of Japanese and Western fanbases from this data, let’s consider a few issues with the data.

  • The VNDB and EGS userbase might not be representative of the wider Western/Japanese fandom. As per some of our earlier analysis posts, VNDB significantly undercounts the popularity of EVNs for example. So some caution should be taken in extrapolating what the wider fanbase likes based on this data.
  • The VNDB and EGS userbase might not be representative of the wider Western/Japanese fandom. As per some of our earlier analysis posts, VNDB significantly undercounts the popularity of EVNs for example. So some caution should be taken in extrapolating what the wider fanbase likes based on this data.
  • It’s easy to mix up cause and effect. Are sci-fi stories better than other stories and that’s why they’re associated with higher scores? Or is it that VNs that care about their story are just more likely to have a sci-fi setting?

  • Some trends, like what type of content is more likely to be translated, might just be tracking the changing tastes of the era. With older VNs being less likely to be translated than newer VNs, the charts might just be picking up on what kind of content has become more popular in recent years.

  • The dataset has some errors. EGS and VNDB catalogue VNs differently and that can cause some mismatches in the data. We’ve done our best to account for that, but with the dataset being so large, some mistakes will have slipped through.

Acknowledgements

A big thank you to /u/8cccc9, Part-Time Storier, and Cibelle for helping with this analysis.

I hope you enjoyed reading through this, and if so, you should check out my tumblr and twitter for more VN analysis posts. If you have any feedback, questions, or suggestions for further analyses then you can reply here, on twitter, or DM me on Discord (Sunleaf_Willow /(^ n ^=)\#1616).

Our next analysis post is likely to be on h-scenes. What type of content is most highly regarded by the fandom? How has the popularity in the fandom of certain sexual acts risen erect and fallen limp over time? How is the EVN market handling sexual content in contrast to Japan? Hopefully we’ll have lots of answers (and some painful puns) next time~

Edited by BunnyAdvocate

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29 minutes ago, BunnyAdvocate said:

EVNs encompass a broader range of protagonists than JVNs with LGBTQ+ related content being much more common, and female protagonists being as common as males (unlike JVNs where female protagonists make up only a small proportion of VNs). But JVNs can be inclusive in other ways, like being the sole representation of protagonists who can turn into panties.

Goddammit, Japan.

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Goddamn this is great work.

 

37 minutes ago, BunnyAdvocate said:

We tracked 117 of the most popular Japanese VNs that had an English translation released in the past 5 years. In the first 60 days after their translation was released, their score dropped an average of 0.146 on VNDB, with Fata Morgana being the blip on the far right that significantly bucked the trend and increased in score.

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43 minutes ago, BunnyAdvocate said:

The high barrier of entry for a Westerner to read an untranslated VN (they have to know Japanese) filters out those who have only a casual interest in the VN. So the pre-translation score is dominated by hard-core fans who are more likely to rate it higher.

In my opinion, this is the dominant effect.  We don't choose VNs to play randomly; we pick games we think we'll like.  If I have a greater selection of games to play, I can choose VNs that I'm more likely to like.  Whereas if my selection is limited, I'm stuck playing games that have less intrinsic appeal to me, and I'm going to be harsher on them.

Edited by sanahtlig

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10 minutes ago, sanahtlig said:

In my opinion, this is the dominant effect.  Another way of putting this: if I have a greater selection of games to play, I can pick and choose VNs that I'm more likely to like.  Whereas if my selection is limited, I'm stuck playing games that have less intrinsic appeal to me, and I'm going to be harsher on them.

Yeah I agree, Japanese speakers are spoilt for choice. That theory also aligns well with the popularity chart, where even fairly unpopular EGS VNs can still attract large audiences on VNDB, probably because our selection is quite limited so we'll read everything.

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40 minutes ago, BunnyAdvocate said:

Generally, it seems like complex VNs (with tags such as “intelligent,” “to solve a mystery” and “difficult to get”) are the most highly rated, while more sexual oriented tags seem to be linked with lower average scores (which is probably due to nukige/porn VNs).

While language is an important barrier, I think that amount of pornographic content is another big issue. Many countries have problems with it as well. For example, in the region I live, the only true way to find any pornographic content is to google it. You cannot see it on TV or any kind of stores. It is viewed extremely negative. Due to this, it is hard to recommend it or to even talk about it with others.  Majority of VNs have little story and a lot of h-scenes. If you want to sell them, you need to censor them. 

Another point, many cultures don't care about high school that much. While it focuses on specific demographic, but lack of variety is harmful. If more VNs with different settings and without h-scenes were released in the west, it might be easier for younger generation to freely introduce it to others, which in turn would lead to higher fan base. 

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Great job, as always! :sachi:

42 minutes ago, BunnyAdvocate said:

We tracked 117 of the most popular Japanese VNs that had an English translation released in the past 5 years. In the first 60 days after their translation was released, their score dropped an average of 0.146 on VNDB, with Fata Morgana being the blip on the far right that significantly bucked the trend and increased in score. There also seems to be slight correlation with lower-rated VNs on EGS dropping more than higher-rated ones.

Interesting. Yeah, this trend that the rating for recently translated "kamige" tends to drop is pretty noticeable, and I myself wondered about it for some time. I personally thought that it has something to do with hype most early readers of the translated versions have for them, but it would mean that the score would slowly increase back to its original value, as long as the new readers arrive, and this doesn't correlate with your data.

Actually, is it possible to see the raw data behind that chart? It would be interesting which VNs fell the most and which increased their score after translation.

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19 minutes ago, Dreamysyu said:

Interesting. Yeah, this trend that the rating for recently translated "kamige" tends to drop is pretty noticeable, and I myself wondered about it for some time. I personally thought that it has something to do with hype most early readers of the translated versions have for them, but it would mean that the score would slowly increase back to its original value, as long as the new readers arrive, and this doesn't correlate with your data.

 

It's because EOPs are dumb and JOPs are always right. w

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33 minutes ago, Dreamysyu said:

Great job, as always! :sachi:

Interesting. Yeah, this trend that the rating for recently translated "kamige" tends to drop is pretty noticeable, and I myself wondered about it for some time. I personally thought that it has something to do with hype most early readers of the translated versions have for them, but it would mean that the score would slowly increase back to its original value, as long as the new readers arrive, and this doesn't correlate with your data.

Actually, is it possible to see the raw data behind that chart? It would be interesting which VNs fell the most and which increased their score after translation.

I've been changing around how some of that code worked as I was experimenting with it, trying to explain the drop etc, so this list might not perfectly match the animation, but this should be a list of VNs and their change in score over those 60 days.

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21 minutes ago, BunnyAdvocate said:

I've been changing around how some of that code worked as I was experimenting with it, trying to explain the drop etc, so this list might not perfectly match the animation, but this should be a list of VNs and their change in score over those 60 days.

Interesting. So looking through the data, it seems that the vast majority of the VNs that increased in rating after being released are either continuations of some popular VN series, like SciAdv, or are made by the companies that already had highly popular releases in English prior to that. And it's kind of understandable, because it seems like those who didn't like the previous installments don't touch these new VNs. So if we exclude them, the trend is even more universal. I think, it probably means that that @sanahtlig is right. Other than that, Kindred Spirits and Fata Morgana seem to suggest that there actually is some difference in tastes between EOPs and JOPs, though it's very minor.

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2 minutes ago, Dreamysyu said:

Interesting. So looking through the data, it seems that the vast majority of the VNs that increased in rating after being released are either continuations of some popular VN series, like SciAdv, or are made by the companies that already had highly popular releases in English prior to that. And it's kind of understandable, because it seems like those who didn't like the previous installments don't touch these new VNs. So if we exclude them, the trend is even more universal. I think, it probably means that that @sanahtlig is right. Other than that, Kindred Spirits and Fata Morgana seem to suggest that there actually is some difference in tastes between EOPs and JOPs, though it's very minor.

Yep that sounds reasonable. I just wish there were more data points so we could be more confident either way. Using a similar method, I've been thinking of trying to do a translator ranking table. If we look at the average score change after a translation is released, we might be able to gauge how good the translations they produce are. The results would be pretty unreliable, like if you're trying to rate Mangagamer vs JAST, it's difficult because both companies have hired different translators for different projects. But still, it might be fun (and pretty controversial) to see what it turns up.

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6 hours ago, BunnyAdvocate said:

We tracked 117 of the most popular Japanese VNs that had an English translation released in the past 5 years. In the first 60 days after their translation was released, their score dropped an average of 0.146 on VNDB

I have a theory, which can explain it. Not all users on VNDB feels like they need to have read a VN in order to vote for it. This is easiest to spot when a VN gets one or more 10 votes prior to release. This will result in a wrong vote average on release day, but as time goes on, people will finish, give a realistic vote and the few who votes based on expectations or whatever will vanish in the average due to their low numbers. VNDB has counter measures against voters like that, but it's possible that enough slip through to cause this effect.

Another explanation could be that those who start a playthrough marathon on release day will be more likely to give it higher votes than people reading in a more normal speed.

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One important factor that heavily affect vndb untranslated ratings is the japanese proficiency of the voters and i think that could be one of the reasons of why the scores tend to differ more on "bad" vns. Not to related, but one graph that i like to see is votes cast x user average score.

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13 hours ago, tymmur said:

I have a theory, which can explain it. Not all users on VNDB feels like they need to have read a VN in order to vote for it. This is easiest to spot when a VN gets one or more 10 votes prior to release. This will result in a wrong vote average on release day, but as time goes on, people will finish, give a realistic vote and the few who votes based on expectations or whatever will vanish in the average due to their low numbers. VNDB has counter measures against voters like that, but it's possible that enough slip through to cause this effect.

If the trolls actually are the main reason for that, wouldn't the ratings for more anticipated titles, like Steins;Gate 0, be even less accurate prior to release, compared to an average moege? Trolls vote for the titles they know. Also, even if you simply read some discussions about some recently translated "kamige" it's very noticeable that quite often the reactions tend to be more mixed than before they are translated.

Edited by Dreamysyu

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It's hard to comment on such an impressive research but it is a common tendency that something which is not available to masses (untranslated VNs in this case) is more valuable to those who got their hands on it. It's your usual "I've been into it before it became mainstream" type of argument. However, it's nice to see that we can more or less agree on the best VNs despite Japanese and Western cultural differences.

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>In the first 60 days after their translation was released, their score dropped an average of 0.146 on VNDB, with Fata Morgana being the blip on the far right that significantly bucked the trend and increased in score. There also seems to be slight correlation with lower-rated VNs on EGS dropping more than higher-rated ones.

I did something similar for eden*, where I tracked how much the score had changed over time. Our results match.

I believe "The high barrier of entry for a Westerner to read an untranslated VN (they have to know Japanese) filters out those who have only a casual interest in the VN. So the pre-translation score is dominated by hard-core fans who are more likely to rate it higher" along with English-only readers being more likely to read a VN they're not really interested in due to lack of compelling content causes that effect.

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Bot-voting is really common with moege, as is troll voting.  When you see someone whose profile gives nines or tens to every moege released by a big name company, you know those votes are invalid, lol.  The same goes for people who give fours or fives to everything.... in the end, most people stay in the 5-8 range, with only the most hated and troll votes going below 5 and 9s and 10s being disproportionately troll votes. 

It isn't that bad on vndb, though... erogamescape is where the bot voting is completely out of control.

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18 hours ago, Sion said:

I did something similar for eden*, where I tracked how much the score had changed over time. Our results match.

I believe "The high barrier of entry for a Westerner to read an untranslated VN (they have to know Japanese) filters out those who have only a casual interest in the VN. So the pre-translation score is dominated by hard-core fans who are more likely to rate it higher" along with English-only readers being more likely to read a VN they're not really interested in due to lack of compelling content causes that effect.

1

That's good to hear you got some similar results. I agree with your assessment as to the reason why too. Despite the score change between translated and untranslated VNs, I was surprised at how well the untranslated and EGS scores matched up, as I'd been told the vndb ratings for untranslated VNs were entirely unreliable due to those voting based on the CGs. I suppose this might be the case with less widely read VNs, but it didn't seem to happen much in our dataset.

 

16 hours ago, Clephas said:

Bot-voting is really common with moege, as is troll voting.  When you see someone whose profile gives nines or tens to every moege released by a big name company, you know those votes are invalid, lol.  The same goes for people who give fours or fives to everything.... in the end, most people stay in the 5-8 range, with only the most hated and troll votes going below 5 and 9s and 10s being disproportionately troll votes. 

Do EGS scores have much of an impact on the JVN industry? Much like how metacritic is immensely influential in the Western games market, with companies paying employee bonuses based on metacritic scores etc.

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22 hours ago, BunnyAdvocate said:

That's good to hear you got some similar results. I agree with your assessment as to the reason why too. Despite the score change between translated and untranslated VNs, I was surprised at how well the untranslated and EGS scores matched up, as I'd been told the vndb ratings for untranslated VNs were entirely unreliable due to those voting based on the CGs. I suppose this might be the case with less widely read VNs, but it didn't seem to happen much in our dataset.

 

Do EGS scores have much of an impact on the JVN industry? Much like how metacritic is immensely influential in the Western games market, with companies paying employee bonuses based on metacritic scores etc.

EGS scores matter for long-term sales.  Usually, the top EGS game for any given month will get a boost in sales for the month after and for the year to come, so companies that actually have a decent war chest are willing to invest in fake voting to skew the polls.  Getchu's verified purchase rankings are a bit more reliable, though. 

Edit: Just to add some perspective... there are a ton of charage companies out there.  The market in Japan reached saturation point years ago, and as a result, the competition between moege companies is fierce over there.  Companies that produce different types of non-nukige have their own niches and use other methods to increase profits, and companies like Saga Planets that have a naturally strong presence don't need to resort to that (because their games usually sell themselves).  However, the companies that all pretty much produce games that look, feel, and read the same... inevitably are competing directly against one another. 

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2 hours ago, Clephas said:

EGS scores matter for long-term sales.  Usually, the top EGS game for any given month will get a boost in sales for the month after and for the year to come, so companies that actually have a decent war chest are willing to invest in fake voting to skew the polls.  Getchu's verified purchase rankings are a bit more reliable, though. 

Edit: Just to add some perspective... there are a ton of charage companies out there.  The market in Japan reached saturation point years ago, and as a result, the competition between moege companies is fierce over there.  Companies that produce different types of non-nukige have their own niches and use other methods to increase profits, and companies like Saga Planets that have a naturally strong presence don't need to resort to that (because their games usually sell themselves).  However, the companies that all pretty much produce games that look, feel, and read the same... inevitably are competing directly against one another. 

Oh that's fascinating, thanks for explaining. I wish I knew Japanese so I could follow these industry developments a little better.

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2 hours ago, BunnyAdvocate said:

Oh that's fascinating, thanks for explaining. I wish I knew Japanese so I could follow these industry developments a little better.

This is a given, but in any situation that involves online polls on a site that doesn't require rl identity verification (as in, a one-person, one-account system with a design that  makes bot sign-ups difficult) dealing with money-making entertainment... you won't be able to trust the polls completely.  While I said Getchu is slightly more accurate than EGS, that doesn't account for a different type of skewing (people who purchase multiple copies across multiple accounts)... though to be fair, that is a relative minority mostly made up of hardcore users who tend to be more honest than the trolls. 

To give you an example of how things can get skewed... pandering to reviewers is a common problem in the West in regular video games.  Naming characters in an rpg after a particular reviewer is one that got used a couple of times before the turn of the century, before online reviews became the mainstream... and financial incentives are the most common one nowadays. 

*shrugs* In the end, the only advice I can give you is to take popularity polls with a grain of salt, ignore the highest and lowest votes, and then keep in mind that, even if it is rated highly, that doesn't mean you'll like it.  The same for if it is rated lowly.  I've honestly liked some games that got rated horribly, and, while I could see why, it didn't stop me from liking them, lol.

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Yeah I expect the multiple copies purchased die-hard fans probably don't skew it too much as you'd find such fans among all the major titles. While it might cause you to misjudge the absolute total number of fans, you'd still get a semi-reliable ranking relative to its peers.

1 hour ago, Clephas said:

Naming characters in an rpg after a particular reviewer is one that got used a couple of times

Haha wow, I never heard about that. I knew publishers try to make reviewers happy with all expense paid trips to play their game etc, but I hadn't heard of that in-game kind of manipulation. That's pretty hilarious.

So far, I've just heard of one incident like that on vndb, where the dev of Everlasting Summer linked vndb and asked their fans to get their VN into the top 50. Yorhel ended up wiping all the newbie accounts votes for that VN after a couple of weeks IIRC.

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58 minutes ago, BunnyAdvocate said:

Yeah I expect the multiple copies purchased die-hard fans probably don't skew it too much as you'd find such fans among all the major titles. While it might cause you to misjudge the absolute total number of fans, you'd still get a semi-reliable ranking relative to its peers.

Haha wow, I never heard about that. I knew publishers try to make reviewers happy with all expense paid trips to play their game etc, but I hadn't heard of that in-game kind of manipulation. That's pretty hilarious.

So far, I've just heard of one incident like that on vndb, where the dev of Everlasting Summer linked vndb and asked their fans to get their VN into the top 50. Yorhel ended up wiping all the newbie accounts votes for that VN after a couple of weeks IIRC.

The specific example I'm referring to is Working designs renaming one of the cooler-looking characters in its game localization of Dragon Force for the Saturn Reiner, after the Game Informer reviewer that was set to review it (who always reviewed the jrpgs of the time).  It was amusing back then, but it was something of a premonition of what was to come, looking at it in retrospect.

Also, keep in mind that 'popularity' just means it is mainstream for the medium.  Polls are worse than useless when it comes to judging more niche genres like utsuge or chuunige inside the first year or so.  Fanboys of those niches are starved of their favorites, so they'll, quite naturally, rate them higher than they deserve in a lot of cases.  It is only years down the road that you can really judge them, sadly.

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That some interesting research there, although to me it's too overwhelming to read though. So let me try to comment the four pointers that you said below.

On 5/9/2018 at 12:58 AM, BunnyAdvocate said:
  • Japanese VNs are made for Japanese tastes, so Western fans might not enjoy them to the same extent. Western fans who learn Japanese and use VNDB might align more with the taste of Japanese fans rather than with their fellow Western fans.
  • The high barrier of entry for a Westerner to read an untranslated VN (they have to know Japanese) filters out those who have only a casual interest in the VN. So the pre-translation score is dominated by hard-core fans who are more likely to rate it higher.
  • The experience of reading a translation can be inferior to reading prose in its original language, so VNDB users rating a VN based on that translation might assign lower scores than those reading the original text.
  • The larger drop in score for lower-rated VNs might be because they don’t attract the same care and attention by their translators, with any official localisation likely done on a lower-budget.
  1. As for the first point, I admit that it might be the case. I can say that because we have three examples of this one, and those three examples were Gahkthun, Himawari, and Shiny Days. As for the matter of fact, the latter two did have some controversial contents that might be not comfortable for the Westerner, especially Shiny Days in which it was even prompted JAST to censor the loli H-scenes which something that I believe the first action of censorship that was initiated by JAST themselves. Also as the matter of fact, those three VNs did have the sharpest drop of VNDB average score over the year (More than 0.5), especially Himawari.
  2. Perhaps it might be the case, or maybe we can attributed that to have the Westerners did have very high expectation in regard of the untranslated VNs and therefore very happy whenever a new VNs that they want was about to be localized, only to met with the disappointment or at the very least the VN in question was in turn not as grand as Japanese reader said. In short, I would say that this is probably the usual case of high expectation.
  3. It might be the case then. But keep in mind that majority of the VNDB score is still more or less equaling Erogamescape average score, or even higher. The example of higher VNDB score than Erogamescape would be Princess Evangile, in which VNDB average score was at 7.44 while at Erogamescape it was only 68. While arguable both of Gahkthun and Sharnoth was the victim of this because the score difference was pretty steep (0.5) and translating Sakurai Hikaru prose was quite difficult according to some people, I would say that perhaps once again it's the matter of expectation and taste like point 1 and 2 point out. Besides from what I saw, Inganock is also quite well liked almost equally with the difference both of VNDB and Erogamescape score not as steep as earlier ecamples (VNDB 7.89, Erogamescape 81), so at the very least the translation issue (so-called) shouldn't affect Inganock there even with the translated version.
  4. I don't know of how much this would be affected the scoring much, but what I can say is that I would say that the author at the very least ideally should care to their work. If anything, I think the bad translated VNs could be attributed to the VNs story itself in which it's probably already bad in the first place.

So I think that's all for what I can say for now, and keep in mind that my opinion here might come as very subjective. But one thing to keep mind that the VNDB score is always fluctuated, so maybe we'll gonna see more new reader cast some votes in which it could affect the VNDB scoring as well (Duh).

PS - Just in case you want an example of what VN that almost equally liked by both of Japanese and Westerner and the VNDB average score didn't fluctuated much, there's Yurirei in which the scores for both of Erogamescape and VNDB is almost equal (VNDB 7.96, Erogamescape 80).

Edited by littleshogun

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