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BunnyAdvocate

Analysing EVN and JVN fans on Steam

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To what extent do JVN and EVN fans on Steam overlap? How many VNs do they buy? Who spends more? Which fandom is more elitist? As an update to my last analysis post on VN sales on Steam, I trawled 100k Steam profiles to find out. Here are my results~

Data collection and definitions

Using the Steam API, I checked over a million steam profiles and collected public game lists on just under 100k users. I then used Steam's "Visual Novel" tag to identify which of those games were VNs. As Steam tends to be more lax on its definition of what a VN is, I cross-referenced this with VNDB.org and only included those games that had a VNDB entry. VNs were then split into three categories:

  • JVNs: non-free VNs created by a Japanese company.
  • EVNs: non-free VNs created by a primarily English speaking developer.
  • Free VNs: free VNs created by either a Japanese or English developer. Unlike the non-free categories, users are only counted as "owning" a free VN if they have logged some time playing it.

Those of you who follow my twitter may notice a few of these graphs are different to what I teased earlier. When investigating the overlap between VNs, I consistently found one group of VNs that were an outlier in terms of their fanbase overlap with other VNs, their userbase size, and their average price. It was always the Chinese and Russian VNs. So in the interests of better analysing the English language VN fandom, I restricted the dataset to only those VNs developed originally in English or Japanese.

Results

Let’s start simple and just see how widespread we VN fans are on Steam:

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While VNs remain a niche, they seem to be widespread enough among the Steam userbase that most users should at least be familiar with what they are. EVNs are penetrating Steam better than JVNs, perhaps due to bundles and lower prices. But they’ve also been on Steam longer than JVNs, with Analogue: A Hate Story being released back in 2012. Overall, 37.9% of Steam users either own or have played a VN of some kind. But owning one VN doesn’t necessarily make you a fan, so let’s see how many VNs these users own.

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The dramatic drop for free VNs show how dependent it is on a few VNs that reach more mainstream attention. 26.5% of free VN users have only played Doki Doki Literature Club for example, and only 53.2% of free VN players have ever bought a VN. This suggests that free VNs might not be an effective strategy for promoting a later commercial release as so few of these users buy VNs.

EVNs drop at a faster rate than JVNs, showing that EVNs’ wider userbase doesn’t necessarily mean they have more users who would identify as VN fans as they tend to only own a couple of VNs. However once we get past the casual crowd, we see EVN owners seem to be more prolific purchasers than JVN owners. EVN owners purchase more VNs on average (5+ EVN owners own 23.7 EVNs on average, whereas 5+ JVN owners own 17.1 JVNs each). This may be because there are 66% more commercial EVNs on Steam than commercial JVNs so there’s more to buy, and they cost far less (the average EVN is £7.31 vs £14.00 for JVNs). So let’s try comparing the average spent on VNs next.
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These prices assume users paid full price so are overestimating the total spent, but the relative value between JVNs and EVNs should be fairly accurate.

Here we can see the influence of those higher JVN prices. While EVN fans may buy more, they spend less. On average, EVN owners spend £60.87 while JVN owners spend £81.12. The richest 10% of spenders have a disproportionate influence on the industry, accounting for 60% of all EVN revenue and 53% of JVN revenue. This is broadly in line with the Steam average, where the top 10% of spenders account for 61% of all revenue. So far we’ve been treating JVN owners and EVN owners as distinct entities, as if they were two warring tribes. But are they actually the same users? Let’s investigate the overlap~

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Given that 86% of free VNs currently on Steam are by English developers, I expected the free VN fanbase to overlap more with EVNs, but it’s actually JVN owners who play free VNs more frequently, as 62.1% of JVN owners play free VNs but only 52.9% of EVN owners do too. Perhaps it’s because there are more EVN owners who are only lightly into VNs so are less aware of other free VN releases.

Equally surprising is how many JVN owners also own EVNs: 75.2%. Despite the reputation of JVNs being the elitist community, it’s EVNs owners who are less likely to try JVNs where only 52.4% of them own a JVN. "But what about bundles” I hear the comment sections cry. Perhaps some EVN/JVN owners just picked up one in a bundle and aren’t really fans of them? OK, let’s retry this overlap with only those users who have at least 5 EVNs/JVNs/Free VNs in their library.

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The biggest drop in size is the free VN category, who lose 88.5% of their users. Meanwhile, the overlap between EVN and JVN fans has only grown tighter; with 60.1% of those who own 5+ EVNs also owning at least 5 JVNs. So it doesn’t seem like bundles explain the strong overlap between JVN and EVN fans, but let’s try another test. If someone picked up a VN through a bundle that they aren’t interested in, they probably wouldn’t play it. So let’s try only counting VNs that have been played:

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There’s been a slight drop in how many JVN players also play EVNs, at 67.6%, but it’s still a significant overlap. So while bundles likely do inflate EVN numbers slightly, there’s no denying how linked the fandoms are. Overall, 59.3% of owned JVNs were played, while 56.2% of EVNs were. The lower EVN percentage is perhaps due to user’s owning more EVNs on average. Although both played stats were higher than the Steam average, where only 49.2% of owned games have any recorded playtime.

So what explains the lingering lower JVN ownership among EVN fans? Are EVNs perhaps catering to a wider audience? One thing the EVN scene is known for it its profusion of otomes (VNs with a female protagonist pursuing male love interests), so let’s compare their overlap.

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Rather than being more insular, otome fans are even more willing to try VNs developed in another language, with 81.2% of EVN otome owners also owning a JVN, and 90.3% of JVN otome owners also owning EVNs. However the overlap between otomes fandoms is smaller than EVNs/JVNs overall (68.6% of JVN otome owners also own EVN otomes, and 37.9% of EVN otomes owners own a JVN otome). Something that especially stands out is just how many otome fans there are in the VN market. 33.1% of EVN owners and 42.1% of JVN owners own an otome. They make up a significant part of the fandom, but many online VN community hubs either ignore or are outright hostile to them.

So it otome’s don’t explain the EVN/JVN gap, what does? To further investigate we’re going to need to delve into individual VN statistics and look through a lot of lists, so I’ll keep that for my next post in a week or two.  

Potential issues

We’ve been basing these statistics on public user profiles, however only 7.4% of Steam users have their game list public. So it’s possible we’re undercounting the more casual userbase who are less likely to have configured their profile to be public.

This has been an analysis of only Steam users, and while Steam is a major part of the game industry, it’s not the only source of VNs. JVN fans may prefer to stick with Mangagamer/Denpasoft etc, while EVN fans may prefer itch.io. So it’s possible the JVN/EVN fandom splits more than these figures would imply.

Conclusion

In my experience, the popular image of the VN fandom is of a male JVN elitist who hates EVNs and would never read an otome, but that really isn’t representative of the customer base. The majority of JVN fans also enjoy EVNs, the average JVN owner owns more EVNs (10.9) than JVNs (7.6). The same is true of EVN fans, who while preferring EVNS (8.5 owned on average) still frequently own JVNs (5.0 owned on average). So the canny VN developer would do well to advertise in both EVN and JVN fandom communities.

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I hope you enjoyed the analysis. Please let me know what you think and share any alternative theories you have on these stats. If you’re interested in more, check out my other posts on tumblr, watch for updates on my twitter, or give me a yell on Discord (Sunleaf_Willow /(^ n ^=)\#1616). Special thanks to /u/8cccc9, Part-time Storier, and Lunaterra for help with the analysis. I just do these analyses for fun, but if you want to support my work with a tip, I accept small donations at ko-fi.

Edited by BunnyAdvocate

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As others have said, I'll read whatever happens to catch my attention, without looking at its procedence. It might as well be made by some bushmen in the Kalahari desert for all I care.

It just so happens that, let's be honest, JVNs usually outdo EVNs in pretty much every aspect. It's not a fair comparison of course, as they as supported by big companies with huge budgets, but the world is not fair :leecher: That said, any indie developer can have a great idea for a great story, and even if they don't have the resources to make it shiny and appealing, that alone can perfectly make it worth the read by its own merits.

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Obviously VNs appeal to gamers with potato PCs who coincidentally tend to have lower budgets, so I guess they play a lot of free VNs.

The gamer/VN-player multiclass also exists, and those people have decent PCs, so they're not shy about spending some bucks on a VN, I guess they want quality above all.

I've spent around 400 euros on my Steam library, or so it says, and most of that is VNs, so there you have it.

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