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bakauchuujin

How can we make visual novels more popular in the west?

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Something that has interested me with Fuwanovel is the line make "visual novels popular in the west". Personally I would love to see visual novels be seen as something that can stand equal to manga and anime, though it seems like it is lagging far behind in popularity. The last few years there has been an enormous amount of titles that have been officially localized and I now think that there are enough good titles out there for many people to really get into visual novels. So what I wonder about is what we as a community can do to make sure that visual novels get more popular in the west, how can we make sure that more people get to know visual novels, not just as meme games or something they occationally watch some playthrough of but rather as a serious form of media with a wide variety of good titles to choose from.

 

I personally think that there is a large potential for visual novels to become more popular, for instance Nekopara managed to sell quite a lot of copies and became known outside of the core VN fanbase. I have heard quite a lot of people moaning about this and going on about how there are so many other good titles that deserved the popularity way more. Though one thing I think is important to think about is how easy it is to find information about many of the different visual novels that has been localized. Things like information about the different localizing companies, their titles and their general quality of release is something that seems to be limited to sites that specializes in visual novel. For instance I can't really see any video on youtube talking about the different visual novel studios appart from a few videos bashing Sekai Project and their kickstarters. Looking at the popularity of Nekopara, DDLC and even really bad VNs like the ones from Winged Cloud the thing they seem to have in common is that they have managed to become popular through youtube and has managed to make it outside of the core VN fanbase. So what I wonder about is how we as fans of visual novels can make sure that information about visual novels is more easily available for people so that the people who could potentially get into visual novels actually do.

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not much really. maybe have a popular reviewer for vns but thats kind of hard since vns are so long so you cant really have a full review but more of a first impressions video. if it was a full review, they would have to released their text post of video like a week or so after the vn has been released and by then itll become a bit irrelevant.

 

theyre slowly gaining popularity with zero punctuation reviewing ddlc and markiplier and i believe jackseddl;waoaguteye playing ddlc as well. steam and gog are helping by handling these games. vns are more niche because most of them have official "porn" versions on them and some are aware of this and may be turned off from them.

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3 hours ago, bakauchuujin said:

Looking at the popularity of Nekopara, DDLC and even really bad VNs like the ones from Winged Cloud the thing they seem to have in common is that they have managed to become popular through youtube and has managed to make it outside of the core VN fanbase. So what I wonder about is how we as fans of visual novels can make sure that information about visual novels is more easily available for people so that the people who could potentially get into visual novels actually do.

Nekopara and Sakura games are easily-accessible, visually flashy sources of porn and that created their broad appeal. DDLC was a viral sensation, but it won't happen again anytime soon and its influence on the popularization of VNs is unclear, also thanks to the elitist VN snobs that consider it an unholy spawn of Satan that should be eradicated along with everyone that enjoyed it. ;p

Seriously, though, I think VNs are getting slightly more mainstream over time (things like them entering GOG might be huge in the long run), but how I see it, especially when it goes to Japanese ones, the stigma connected to them and the actual cultural distance (like the approach to loli content)* might be simply not something easily crossable - maybe not in our lifetimes. At least as long as all ages games in the VN format are by default associated with eroge, they'll not break out of their cum-stained little corner, with few exceptions such as Steins;Gate being significant, but not really changing much for the rest of them. Things like JAST parading a pornstar as the face of their AnimeExpo event (or the fact that MangaGamer site is still one of the ugliest things on the Internet) don't help much either. :P

And I don't say that to attack anyone's fapping pleasures, I'm just slowly realizing how foreign most VNs are to Western sensibilities. The real way in which I see them expanding is through the broader distribution of the gateway drugs of quality all-ages releases and non-erotic or mildly erotic EVNs. Katawa Shoujo is such a great entry-level VN because it does a lot to make the player comfortable - it approaches its themes tastefully and with actual thought, makes ero content optional and does not ask you to invest large sums of money into something you're not sure is your thing. Promoting EVNs, making the scene that is more focused on storytelling aspects of the medium rather than smut more visible is the way to go. Fuwanovel once did quite a good job of covering the EVN market, back when nearly everything it produced was pure crap. Now, when there's actually stuff to see there, we're silent.

Maybe I'm wrong and there's much more room for VNs to expand simply as a particularly attractive source of porn. Still, investing countless hours into reading your fapping material is also not something I would expect to go mainstream in the West and I'm not sure anyone of this Forums would be happy with nukige being the main thing brought here.

The other problem I see and someone can correct me if I'm wrong, is the piss-poor marketing of Japanese VNs in the West, mostly directed towards the already-existing fanbase. Why is something as good as Dies Irae not a freakin' bestseller on Steam? Why most chuunige, with no questionable content and story elements and stylistic beloved by zillions of anime fans in the West, sell like absolute shit? There's little money and little conviction in how most VN companies treat their Western releases and I'm not sure if that will ever change.

And what we can do, as fans? I wonder. I'll tell you in three years whether my grassroots effort did anything, because promoting VNs is most of what I do lately. ;p

 

* Not to insult anyone's taste's, but if it was Maitetsu and not Analogue that introduced me to VNs, I would probably run for the hills and never come back. :isla:

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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VNs are not very popular at the moment (despite what the majority of people believe). Maybe yeah compared to some years ago, when the market was nonexistent, but taking aside the very popular titles that everyone knows for, sometimes, the wrong reasons (Nekopara), and other times they deserve their popularity to a degree (Grisaia and Katawa Shoujo for different reasons each), the other VNs are not relatively popular. Just look at the recently leaked steam sales, apart from those titles the rest don't really sell huge numbers. There are several reasons:

1. Stigma around VNs generated by the Japanese counterparts and perpetuades by the English Visual Novels that desperately tried to copy the Japanese ones. Japanese people have inherently different societal and moral views and there are differences between us (Maitetsu and its controversy could serve as an example of what I'm saying). There's also a problem with the sexual content and the questionable themes, which makes normie audiences strive away from them even more.

2. Anime is popular because it's easy to access to, just like manga is to a degree, and VN's are not really very accessible unless you know what you're doing (pirating a VN for a person who is just to just click the first result in google after searching for "X free" is a difficult task to say the least, since the pirating sites are specific ones.)

3. Terrible practces by Japanese developers in Japan towards their fans, with an attitude to appeal only the existing ones and not trying to appeal for a broader audience and the English publishers doing the exact same thing (reminder that tweets don't count as real marketing, but publishers seem to think otherwise). More aggresive marketing would result in more exposure and sales, but I guess they don't want to take the risk since the money that comes from VN's is already limited?

There are more reasons, but I'm lazy and don't want to expand on it more, but that's mainly it. The best we can hope for is to appeal for normie audiences in a better way, by starting to create dedicated patches for thes games, making the base one all ages and creating h patches in case the interested people want to buy them (I know these ecist already, but it should become the norm) and focus on safe themes and tropes, that will make people who are undecisive of joining the community not want to run away instantly (looking at loliges in general, which only hurt the repuation of vns).

Also, more aggresive marketing from publishers and more professionality from them, and I'm sure that sooner or later they'll become more mainstream.

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6 minutes ago, ittaku said:

VNs missed the boat as they would have had to have taken off in the non-instant entertainment era. People don't read any more; that's why VNs will never be popular in the west.

Agreed. People want instant entertainment and a win here and now. We see a move from movies and certain computer game genres towards casual gaming on mobile devices. A game like StarCraft 2 is no longer as popular as it once was. It shifted towards games like League of Legends. At first glance something of the same nature, but it's fast phased and games ends quickly. You aren't stuck on the same map for hours and you don't save and return the next day. This move towards short and fast interactive entertainment means people click fast rather than stop and think. Visual Novels are the polar opposite. Nothing happens. It takes days to complete and you have to remember what happened to fully understand what goes on later in the story and well written stories will force you to stop and just think about the story without progressing.

Apart from having missed the chance to be big (if it ever existed), I would say the genre is doing better than it used to. It has more mainstream awareness compared to just a few years ago. It used to be something obscure nobody heard about, yet now they are on steam and at least it has public awareness. A lot of people might not like VNs, but at least now millions of people will have an idea of what it is when you mention "Visual Novel". Steam recently made an announcement of policy change and visual novels were mentioned explicitly. Also VNs shows up in places you don't expect, like here (talking about new steam policy):

In other words the public awareness is much bigger than ever before. Availability is like never before because now shops let's you download and the titles will never go out of stock. Multiple stores carries VNs (steam being the dominant one in the public eye). VNs will never be big like FPS or MMO, but relative to what VNs used to be, right now seems like much more public exposure than even the wildest dreams 5-10 years ago.

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3 hours ago, ittaku said:

VNs missed the boat as they would have had to have taken off in the non-instant entertainment era. People don't read any more; that's why VNs will never be popular in the west.

This. Short attention spans and the need for instant gratification are much more fundamental barriers facing VNs in the west than h-scenes, cultural attitudes or any of the other issues brought up in this thread. Trying to change VNs so that they appeal more to western sensibilities is an awful idea, it'll only serve to alienate the current fanbase in pursuit of a nonexistent market. The best we can hope for is to slowly expand the current niche fanbase so that the companies can sustain themselves and we can get more and bigger releases each year. 

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I'm mostly interested in the more niche otome genre but I'm really seeing a lot of potential there. However, most are really interested in F2P mobile games (see how popular Mystic Messenger is). Also, there are so many EVNs for PC which are mainly otome (and even Russian ones which get translated in English). On the PC side, there's a lot of growing interest with how successful Cinderella Phenomenon is. I think as the fanbase matures even more, there would be more interest in the paid stuff. I mean, several kickstarters were successful and expected to deliver. The quality in general is also becoming better with more interesting plots and characters. (They even feature LGBTQ+ love interests!) Especially since otome EVNS love their strong female characters.

 

What I'd also really love to see though is something like The House in Fata Morgana. Not otome but compelling narrative, strong visuals, and an absolutely beautiful and haunting soundtrack. I hope to see something like that as the audience grows.

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There needs to be a strong push in trying to put quality products out there that will sell. There also needs to be more engagement with fans of a specific sub genre (like yuri, BL, and otome) like, "Hey if you enjoy this yuri title you might be interested in this visual novel."

I don't know man it would be nice if we would collectively try and move past the whole weird sex fetishy label that vns still get stigmatized by. I mean its not ever going to happen but it would be nice.

It would also be cool if some of the strong jp vn companies would actually try and take some of their business outside of Japan and actually invest in the western market. It seems like they are struggling to sell in their own country and there is at least some sort of untapped potential here.

Maybe the people behind Katawa Shoujo and DDLC should link up and try and combine their powers in order to make the next great vn.

Also come on EVNs quit with the fucking high schools already. What most western people are nostalgic about is college not high school. Try to stand out from all the others.

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The most accessible visuals novels to a Western audience will be cheap, interactive, and/or feature gameplay.  We're starting to see more interactive fiction games, but Western developers typically don't have the budget or skillset to release titles that match the production values of the Japanese, where VN-making is an established professional industry.  Where Western developers have the advantage is in cultivating a supportive fanbase, networking, and marketing/publicity.

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Visual Novels are popular North East Asian countries, such as Japan (duh!), Korea and China, the same places where Light Novels have been shown to successed, on the other hand in the west visual novels will not become mainstream for the same reason that Light Novels will not be as successful as Manga and/or Anime.

Some games such as Nekopara, Read Only Memories, VA11, Doki Doki, Katawa Shojo enjoy some western mainstream success due to temporary hype, but at the end of the day only the dedicated western VN fanbase will care.

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The main aim of this discussion is what we as a community of fans can do to expand the industry not what the creators and the publishers need to do btw. As for what I had in mind I was more thinking about things making it so that many of the people who are into anime and maybe know some visual novels have more information about the different visual novels available. 

19 hours ago, tymmur said:

It has more mainstream awareness compared to just a few years ago.

Since it has gotten more mainstream awareness I think we have a possibility to make visual novels more popular than it is by trying to make it so that the people who are aware of VNs might learn more about which VNs are available in english and what companies are licensing them. My question was more so aimed at how do we make it so these people could more easiliy get into more VNs rather than it ending in them just playing one or two VNs that has temporary hype. While I doubt most of them would get into VNs I do think that there is enough out there in that suituation for it to potentially be a decent increase in the VN fanbase.

Btw I think https://fuwanovel.se/quiz.php for instance is a good example of things we can do.

Edited by bakauchuujin

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49 minutes ago, bakauchuujin said:

The main aim of this discussion is what we as a community of fans can do to expand the industry not what the creators and the publishers need to do btw. As for what I had in mind I was more thinking about things making it so that many of the people who are into anime and maybe know some visual novels have more information about the different visual novels available. 

Since it has gotten more mainstream awareness I think we have a possibility to make visual novels more popular than it is by trying to make it so that the people who are aware of VNs might learn more about which VNs are available in english and what companies are licensing them. My question was more so aimed at how do we make it so these people could more easiliy get into more VNs rather than it ending in them just playing one or two VNs that has temporary hype. While I doubt most of them would get into VNs I do think that there is enough out there in that suituation for it to potentially be a decent increase in the VN fanbase.

The VN community made some insane effort to make the medium more accessible - I'm not sure if we would ever get where we are now without the huge fan translation community that put an incomprehensible amount of work into making this absolutely obscure, mostly unknown genre available in English. We talk about 200+ games translated mostly for free, among them Clannad (reminder - a game with a script longer than all Harry Potter books combined). Aeru's anarchistic vision for Fuwanovel was to make VNs popular by spreading pirated copies with fan translations. This vision was abandoned when the Western VN market started professionalizing and I don't think it's unreasonable to think that the initiative is now on the side of those who inherited the manpower and passion of the VN fan translation industry (that is, the publishers, who now employ pretty much all the most talented and dedicated people from the VN FTL community). And the developers, whose expansion to the West was made possible mostly thanks to the huge grassroots effort in the years prior. If they don't do a better job at expanding the niche, I don't think anyone can.

But as fans... Well, this:

15 hours ago, solidbatman said:

i might make a new website about visual novels and attempt to make them popular in the west via discussion and informational guides on visual novels. 

Saying this might be getting boring by now, but when you type "visual novel" in google Fuwanovel is one of the first things you find. A community effort at making information about VNs more accessible, helping people get into the medium through initiatives such as the recommendation quiz... These are the things we could definitely do more of and I think they mean a lot. The problem is, Fuwa is in a perpetual state of paralyses, so we can't really use it as an effective platform - this might change though and concentrating on such community sites and contributing to them is the best approach IMHO. There's no "magical" way to make VNs suddenly grow to the popularity levels of Manga and Anime, they'll never get that far, but we can cultivate our little niche and strive to make it more inviting. Anything beyond that is in the hands of people that are actually paid to do something about it.

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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I probably have the most exotic view on how to make visual novels popular.

My answer is treat readers like intelligent adults by providing the most interesting stories the media has to offer. And translated VNs are suffocating for their seemingly large, but in fact very limited number of quality works with interesting stories. So naturally my attention falls to untranslated works. But that alone raises multiple issues - awareness, availability, language barrier, erotic scenes.

I'm trying to raise awareness by giving small overviews to as broad range of visual novels as possible starting with the oldest. That provides description for obscure games and creates a solid timeline-based structure to see actual evolution of the media.

Availability is another issue. How to make visual novels available from the browser? By providing video playthroughs! But visual novels aren't your usual games. They usually last for 30+ hours and require concentration which is ruined by bashing commentaries of let's players in my opinion.

Language barrier is probably the gravest issue. Learning Japanese takes at least three years of diligent study and there's the need to read right now. Before 2014 google translate neural update I could not stand machine translation - excite, baidu, old google, honyaku, atlas are all just a joke so I had to read slowly through edict + mecab parsing. But google translate update made machine translation viable, so I feel absolutely comfortable reading with it. I perfectly understand what's being said out-loud without any translation and it's characters who usually move the plot, but I don't want to struggle through protagonist uneventful lines as well as narrator descriptions.

Erotic scenes are easily eliminated with video editing. I usually make it perfectly clear that such scene ensues by giving 5 second censored footage and then skip scene entirely. From my experience in less that 1% of visual novels such scenes actually provide crucial for plot information. For the same reason we have censored versions of visual novels published now in Steam and those don't really stop being good games at all. Even Maitetsu that had the whole point of the game in fully animated erotic scenes managed to get to Steam so that we could assess its other sides. I actually had to drop the game as soon as I stumbled upon the first such scene, the disgust was that high - but now I will finally be able to play (or watch) it one day.

My point is that limiting ourselves to nukige, translated works and the mess of EVN is not the only option. In order not to sink in this swamp we have to nurture refined tastes by reading such outstanding story-focused works as DiaboLiQuE, Luv wave, EVE: The Lost One, EVE Zero, EVE TFA, ELLE and some less perfect, but still very curious obscure species that I provide at my channel.

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the thing im always concerned about is do we really want to vns to have the same amount of publicity as anime or manga in the west? imagine maitetsu, a vn about loli characters with the option to sex those characters being well known as attack on titan, for instance. a whole mess of activists and established governments would step in and regulate that kind of content and may just ban the content all together.

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Even if it's a game worth it, I don't think that the DDLC phenomenon has been a positive one in general terms. Here pen-and-paper roleplaying games gained a lot of fame, but a bad one, since they were known by association to crimes perpetrated by players. Of course, it was all sensationalism, but the regular person doesn't know better.

DDLC has been on the spotlight for

its use of suicide and disturbing content

, even if it all was warned about beforehand.

For me the best we could achieve is that everyone, or the majority of anime & manga lovers would play VNs often, and then some will of course stick to anime & manga anyway. I don't think we can hope VNs will attract people who aren't keen on Japanese media. Their point of entry will always be anime, because it's accessible and most people have watched an anime at some point of their lives (probably their childhood, I was born 1983 and still watched 80's children anime). Maybe videogames like Pokémon, that also has anime, and then in time they will jump to VNs... but you need something in-between because Pokémon players don't readily jump into VNs. Also the Pokémon anime is... old.

Obviously you don't get into VNs hating the artstyle, and people who aren't familiar with Japanese media tend to dislike it or at least, they aren't really accustomed to it.

Maybe we could attract some hentai lovers, because back in the day you played the likes of Knights of Xentar for the porn, it didn't matter if it was anime-like or not, it didn't matter the kind of media it was... it only mattered for the H. But then again, there are a lot of H-less VNs. With the advent of the internet however, you can have as high a dose of porn as you want, so no real need for eroge or nukige unless you really like them...

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2 hours ago, mitchhamilton said:

the thing im always concerned about is do we really want to vns to have the same amount of publicity as anime or manga in the west? imagine maitetsu, a vn about loli characters with the option to sex those characters being well known as attack on titan, for instance. a whole mess of activists and established governments would step in and regulate that kind of content and may just ban the content all together.

I agree with this statement and it's something I have been wondering about every single time this topic is asked. Why would I personally want VNs to be popular? I still don't have an answer, meaning most likely I'm not really that interested in VN popularity.

A worst case scenario is activists resulting in a ban. It's not like activists haven't got a history of resorting to lying to reach their goal. Take for instance the activists attacking Lego. They proclaimed how bad it is for animals with oil spills and their solution to the problem is to get rid of oil companies. The way to do that would be to attack companies with contracts with oil companies because if people stop buying oil, the problem is solved. They went into Legoland and poured oil on some Lego houses, which then went into water and ground etc, but remember it was for a good cause. Lego stated that they have the contract to get non-toxic plastic and the world market can't deliver the amount they need, which is why they have a long term contract with an oil company (remember plastic is made out of oil). The activists didn't care and had a victory when the contract was canceled. Delivering toxic toys to children. It must be a dream come true for activists. They really made a difference. Lego however made a new contract with a different oil company, but that was apparently ok for the activists. They were fighting to get the contract canceled and they won. So what if nothing changed regarding oil.

I dare not to think about what people with a mindset like that would say about VNs. There are quite a lot of activists where facts and goals doesn't really matter. It's mainly about a crusade against some great evil and it doesn't matter if their claim is right or not. Remember when Go Go Nippon went on Steam Greenlight, one of the very first comments was "this must be one of those Japanese rape games" and then a bunch of comments followed about people flaming Steam for allowing something, which promotes rape. All age rape title... go figure. As I said: facts doesn't matter.

 

Another reason why I'm not to keen on getting VNs too big in the west is that once a market becomes big, big companies moves in and change everything. It will end up as TV: bland, the end user should be entertained with mindless stuff and don't think and it has to be political correct. In other words VNs could very well end up being what I try to avoid by picking VNs.

 

What would happen for me if VNs make it big? More titles? Perhaps, but to be completely honest my backlog of unread VNs grow as it is. I wouldn't benefit from more titles. Better titles? I just wrote releases would likely drop in quality, not increase. More popular might be good for publishers, but I'm not sure it's good for me personally.

 

And let's not forget VNs aren't big in Japan. Bigger than in the west, but it's still a niche, which never was and likely never will be big.

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I think the best we could do is make people realize that saying "I like visual novels!" have the same effect as "I like movies!". As in, it tells you absolutely nothing. "What type of visual novel" is the key here. We could make people see there's a VN out there with themes you like, it's not all just about having sex with as many girls as possible. Like anime. People know that hentais like Bible Black exist, yet they also know they can pick other things like Re:Zero, Yuru Camp or Devilman Crybaby. "Visual Novel" is a term that includes a whoooooooooole lot of different things, so we could try to make it more clear somehow.

5 hours ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

we can cultivate our little niche and strive to make it more inviting.

Yeah, that too. We can be kind of a circle jerking bunch at times. And that unfortunately helps create said image that "all VNs are the same". I have a friend that loves horror and gore games in general, including some VNs. So I suggested them to register here, but they didn't want to because, in their outsider eyes, "we only talk about Grisaia and the like, so they wouldn't find anything worth it in here". We want to make visual novels popular in the west, but, for some outsiders, only a select few. That and the whole Aaeru thing that it's still attached to us whether we like it or not, even if it's long gone. That's... a terrible image we have tbh.

37 minutes ago, tymmur said:

It will end up as TV: bland, the end user should be entertained with mindless stuff and don't think

I agree with this as well. Let's be honest, the easiest way to make VNs popular is to promote even more quick ecchi things like Winged Cloud games and meme games that youtubers would easily pick up. And with time they'll become even more cheap or even more meme. That's REALLY how we want to be popular?

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We could, y'know, open up a bunch of taco shops and put a sexy anime lady on the napkin with JAST, and MG's site printed on 'em.

In all honesty, it's just as ittaku said, VNs will never be mainstream--videogames and movies will always win. At least not unless every VN is turned into a heavy-gameplay novel which would basically go against what VNs stand for, i.e. "Visual Novel", not "Video Game".

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