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MetalUpa1014

Will visual novels ever have a market in the West?

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That's what I've been asking myself for quite some time now. As we all know, visual novels have been quite a profitable sub-industry for around 30 years since the surge of personal computers. Unfortunatley, this hasn't necessarily translated (get the pun?) over to the West. I'm willing to bet that at least 90% of visual novels never get an official release or even a fan translation. Sure, we've got Phoenix Wright and Zero Escape and there's no doubt that those games are technically visual novels, but have more interaction than simply reading through text while making the ocasional choice. I guess graphic adventure titles have somewhat of an appeal in the West, but will the "pure visual novel" category ever hit its mark in the West?

 

Recently there's been several new developments. JAST USA is going to release Steins;Gate officially at the end of the year, while Higurashi: When They Cry is confirmed to have an official Steam release. But can pushes like these really affect anything? Will a gaming audience that primarily plays heavy action games or more casual social titles ever accept a game where all you do is simply read, regardless if the story is amazing?

 

One of the main goals of Fuwanovel is to "make visual novels popular in the West." But can the goal actually be realized at all? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions.

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Hm... I don't think so. They can have their own communities and start being reasonably more popular, but I don't think there will be a time where they are actually "popular". Even becoming like anime is a long, long journey, and anime is still something most people think to be silly, weird, bad, etc.

 

I can't see VNs making success in the west anytime soon. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to make them popular, though. If you don't fight you can't win, after all~

I'd really love to see VNs getting popular in the west, and I'm trying my best to make them so (to the limits of what a single person can do. Getting friends to play one of them, recommending them, etc.) but the goal seems so far that I can't really see it happening.

 

Well, let's hope that I'm wrong~

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I personally think it's hard for visual novels to get super popular in the west. Even among anime/manga fans a lot of them don't try out visual novels (i did ask a lot of my friends in my college anime club none of them even tried it nor willing to try it). The few I do know that tried VN's only tried out Clannad/Stein's gate mainly because they thought the anime was interesting, but was unwilling to try out the other ones regardless of i told them.

Would also like to throw in the fact that most VN's will get some heavy censorship  though I can't say about this for anyone else, but changing the original content of anything really holds me back from buying it, though im mainly thinking of "If my heart had wings". Also piracy "might" contribute to this also, I'm not really going to discuss that one too much because im not too knowledgable on it, because of the huge variety of mindsets everyone has such as "if it was bad i wouldn't of gotten it in the first place" or "if it was really good i like to support it".

In general, I know the Japanese pop culture has a decent amount of fanbase in it but I think the biggest obstacle would be the general public's reaction to VN's.

Overall I think it's very unlikely VN's will ever get popular in the west, or at least anytime soon.

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The question have been debated quite extensively now and then. If you want to dig for older answers, try at least the topic(s) about Moenovel's arrival on the market. 

 

A lot of things can be said and I expect walls of text to sprout. Don't have the time to participate right now though.

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Going with the others' opinions, VNs can't hit the western markets. 

 

Think of it like this: Even in places like Japan or Korea, where "Anime Conventions" are frequently held, it is improper to cosplay outside of these areas (although some Japanese are more brazen than others...)

 

At least in America, there really isn't a good impression for "anime" in general, perhaps because of places like 4chan, various stereotypes, and social expectations. 

 

This doesn't include the fact that if VNs were to be created in English language, there will need to be a team who is willing to face the piracy that'll occur and spend their lives drawing, writing, and programming.

 

If we even want to officially release translations, we'll need to obtain permission from the original producers, get translators, (again face the possibilities of the work being pirated), AND return most (if not all) of the profit back to the original producers.

 

So basically, "Westernizing VNs" is hard, unprofitable, and will never happen. 

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From what I can tell, VN's will never be more than an underground success, if even that. Even with hybrid sleeper hit games like 999, Virtue's Last Reward, and Phoenix Wright, VN's as a whole will probably not have any great commercial success out here in the West, and that's a damn shame.

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I think that if visual novels even get five times as "popular" as they are now, they'd only be on smartphones and PCs. There's no way in hell you're ever going to see the original Xbox 360 version of Steins;Gate localized. The console market is basically incompatible with the niche genre of visual novels.

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I think that if visual novels even get five times as "popular" as they are now, they'd only be on smartphones and PCs. There's no way in hell you're ever going to see the original Xbox 360 version of Steins;Gate localized. The console market is basically incompatible with the niche genre of visual novels.

 

There is the indie side of PSN and XBLA. I'm not entirely sure of the politics/costs associated with it, but it might not be impossible for a OELVN to find its way there.

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I think they'll have more of a chance if they had some gameplay elements like in 999. Recently, I demoed a couple of VN like games at the EB Expo. I love VNs but I always end up including gameplay segments because otherwise nobody would get anywhere near it. I know a good few folks who loved 999 but have zero interest in Ever17 because that one is all reading.

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I think that the possibility is there, however it will take a very long time for it to be at the profitability point these companies want.  Stereotypes toward Japanese-made games, anime, manga and novels are a huge barrier that needs to be passed in order for it to work.  Not only that, it's that the term "visual novel" has barely touched the western population, and to those who have never heard of it, they will think "Oh no!  Something new!  SCARY!" and will avoid it at all costs without even considering the current stereotypes.  

But what I think people need to do is stop thinking Sony and Nintendo, the more popular names for when they hear about Japanese games.  I think that when other names get out there things will start to get easier for visual novels.

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Maybe it's more that people still don't know what the Visual novel is or what does it even mean. I knew 3 years back about visual novels and played one of them (got bored tho, the game was family project or something), but at that time I only knew it was game and not a visual novel. I think most of the people who watch anime and read manga are the ones that should get interested about them first. The problem is that when you tell someone about VN they only say it's like reading a book (and they have never played one). 

Also the H-scenes on Visual novels is the one main thing that most likely will scare people away from the VN games, as the H-scenes are more like tradition to the genre. This is also one main reason why I won't recommend some VN to my friends or atleast as a first one to play through. There was a topic about the H-scenes and the need for those and I know it splits the votes.

TL:DR VN/Eroge is a genre that are still seen as a Porn game or adult story and not a way to tell story like any other game. People believe things even though they have not tried the game from genre.

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If you find a game or VN available in another language which you think your fellow fans will like, then make every effort to translate it. If the product was made by a single individual or a small group, then strongly consider working together with them. Use small companies such as Carpe Fulgur and Rockin' Android as your inspirations.

 

When creating your own VN:

 

1. Are you making a game or a story? This is something you'll want to decide early on. You will benefit from thinking about whether you want to sell it to video game fans or other fans.

 

2. What sort of art style do you want to use? This is another important aspect of marketing. Do you want it to be bleak, unsettling, and serious? Do you want it to be kid-friendly and toyetic? Do you see any benefit in using (filtered) photographs? How about 3D polygon art?

 

3. Your story should probably match well with your art. Unless you're trying to create a deceptive game (such as Eversion)...

 

4. In case I haven't already made this clear, you most certainly don't have to use cute art, modern world slice of life themes, romance / love polygon stories, or a focus on teenage characters. Using either the MPAA or the ESRB content rating systems, your intended rating can be anything from G / EC all the way to NC17 / AO.

 

5. Consider trying at least one of the following:

 

* Moacube's visual novel Cinders

* Seven Sisters' game EverLove: Rose

* Dear Esther

* Heavy Rain

* The Stanley Parable

* Telltale's Walking Dead series.

 

Afterwards, think about what you like and dislike about them.

 

6. Finally, consider whether you will benefit by selling your finished product. If that's a viable option, then decide how much, in what sort of format, and for what platforms or services.

 

You may not be able to change the world, but if you can make a game or a western visual novel that *you* are proud of, that's a good step forward.

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There is the indie side of PSN and XBLA. I'm not entirely sure of the politics/costs associated with it, but it might not be impossible for a OELVN to find its way there.

I doubt that 5pb or other major VN companies would want their big brands on some indie channel where it'd sell probably only a few hundred copies. If there was ever a console visual novel in English, expect it to be digital on XBLA or PSN.

 

Maybe it's more that people still don't know what the Visual novel is or what does it even mean. I knew 3 years back about visual novels and played one of them (got bored tho, the game was family project or something), but at that time I only knew it was game and not a visual novel. I think most of the people who watch anime and read manga are the ones that should get interested about them first. The problem is that when you tell someone about VN they only say it's like reading a book (and they have never played one). 

Also the H-scenes on Visual novels is the one main thing that most likely will scare people away from the VN games, as the H-scenes are more like tradition to the genre. This is also one main reason why I won't recommend some VN to my friends or atleast as a first one to play through. There was a topic about the H-scenes and the need for those and I know it splits the votes.

TL:DR VN/Eroge is a genre that are still seen as a Porn game or adult story and not a way to tell story like any other game. People believe things even though they have not tried the game from genre.

I never really considered VNs to be largely pornographic, though I could be wrong. There's lots of "All Ages" titles, aren't there?

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Well, as far as I see it there's three obstacles -

 

First, the 'porn novels' stigma; one which is hard to break out of in any case. Talk about All Ages releases you want, loads of these games have porn in them and many of the most famous ones do as well. The public conception is one that will need to change.

 

Second, language barriers - Translation helps with this but the problem is that even then, Visual Novels are still a very Japanese thing.

 

Third, Western Developers and prominence.  Visual Novels are a very niche market, which is sorta sad as I see a lot of storytelling potential in the concept, the ability to link text to images and music is very useful. A degree of interactivity in the story on the part of the reader is also great. The trick is, is there any Western developer willing to put their neck on the line on even a side project for a say, English VN (Voice acted or not) and actually throw money, time, and writers behind it. Right now? No, there are none (That I know of). 

 

On a side note, an Asimov style Science Fiction VN would be something I would literally pay cold hard cash to get my hands on. Hell, any half decent Sci-fi VN, hard or soft.

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I doubt that 5pb or other major VN companies would want their big brands on some indie channel where it'd sell probably only a few hundred copies. If there was ever a console visual novel in English, expect it to be digital on XBLA or PSN.

 

That's why I specified it might not be impossible for an original english language visual novel to find it's way to XBLA or PSN. I  don't have the expectation that a Japanese company would undertake the costs of localization or even license it  to someone else for distribution on PSN/XBLA. Just saying it's not impossible to see the medium on a console.

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I really think that Hideo Kojima's "lost" games Snatcher and Policenauts are in desperate need of a re-release/remake. Those were some of the earliest visual novels ever made, and they still hold up very well. Snatcher, with it's Blade Runner inspired narrative as well as the revival in point-and-click adventure games such as the Walking Dead, would make this potentially marketable. Policenauts is even better, having a hard science fiction story with clear references to Lethal Weapon and other movies. Though the games have a Japanese feel, their influence is undoubtedly Western. Thus, they wouldn't feel foreign or weird to Westerners. The biggest selling point of these games though, are THAT THEY'RE MADE BY HIDEO KOJIMA! Kojima's name is practically household among ALL hardcore gamers. Even the gamers that have never touched an adventure game before would be interested because of his influence.

 

That's just the first step. About 1-2 years ago; Hideo Kojima, Suda51, and Chiyomaru Shikura announced that they were going to do a collaboration project with 5pb publishing it. It would have a WORLDWIDE RELEASE plus an anime adaption. Kojima even stated that his intention was to introduce visual novels to the West. With all those big names, even the most cynical of people have to admit that this project has a very good chance of gaining Westerners' interest. Unfortunately, that project hasn't been heard from in a long time. I hope it hasn't been cancelled.

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 Unfortunatley, this hasn't necessarily translated (get the pun?)

be7KKQQ.png

 

Indeed it is a very ambitious goal to try and make VNs popular in western countries. Personally i highly doubt it will appeal to users who mostly play action based FPS type of games, they're interested in interactivity and playability and most importatly online gaming. Visual Novels don't fall into any of these categories, they are in my opinions a more fancy way to read a book. Unless any of these users has any sort of passion for reading there's little to no chance they would be interested. 

 

However i do believe these small pushes will affect the popularity of visual novels in some way. Without any push from known organizations in western countries like JAST USA that have the funds to actually advertise this market it would be almost impossible to make Visual Novels widely known. Even if they are targeted with hate by a lot of users who aren't used to this culture there'll also be people who haven't heard of VNs or who have open minds and will give them a try. There's so many genres that at least one will be fitting for a certain person. We have to break stigmas and change ideals. Make people understand that reading is not a bad thing, it's not all about TV and movies and dubbed series, the original content can be good as well. Make people realise that they're just being lazy when they say they don't like reading subtitles or any other excuse. Explain that there's not only eroges out there, there's great all ages VNs with great stories that would leave one teary eyed.

It will take effort i have no doubts about that, but i do not think it is an impossible goal to make Visual Novels more popular in western societies. With the right strategies and the funding it can go slowly but steadily reach that point.

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I really think that Hideo Kojima's "lost" games Snatcher and Policenauts are in desperate need of a re-release/remake. Those were some of the earliest visual novels ever made, and they still hold up very well. Snatcher, with it's Blade Runner inspired narrative as well as the revival in point-and-click adventure games such as the Walking Dead, would make this potentially marketable. Policenauts is even better, having a hard science fiction story with clear references to Lethal Weapon and other movies. Though the games have a Japanese feel, their influence is undoubtedly Western. Thus, they wouldn't feel foreign or weird to Westerners. The biggest selling point of these games though, are THAT THEY'RE MADE BY HIDEO KOJIMA! Kojima's name is practically household among ALL hardcore gamers. Even the gamers that have never touched an adventure game before would be interested because of his influence.

 

That's just the first step. About 1-2 years ago; Hideo Kojima, Suda51, and Chiyomaru Shikura announced that they were going to do a collaboration project with 5pb publishing it. It would have a WORLDWIDE RELEASE plus an anime adaption. Kojima even stated that his intention was to introduce visual novels to the West. With all those big names, even the most cynical of people have to admit that this project has a very good chance of gaining Westerners' interest. Unfortunately, that project hasn't been heard from in a long time. I hope it hasn't been cancelled.

 

 God damn, those games were awesome. I agree. Mmm. 

 

 Regarding what the others had said. I must agree. I dont think that they will never make it into the top sales list. But i think that making them avaliable on portable devices can only help. 

 Lately people has started to read more thanks to the easy avaliabilty of books in pdf format. Tablets are great for this purpose. 

 As VNs are basically light novels with music, voices and nice pictures they will never appeal people who are not fond of anime or books.

 

 Maybe in a couple of years if the tendency keeps rising and people read more and more, they will naturally flock to VNs as well. 

 

 I mean, most people i know dont care about VNs just because they dont like to read. For that reason only. If they dont feel the urge to pick the light novel that gave birth to the anime they watch, its dibious that they will ever pick the VN that is a major pain in the ass to read from start to finish.

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I'm going to offer a bit of a different opinion from the consensus that visual novels are not likely to become popular in the West. 

If you're talking visual novels in exactly the same sense as the majority of visual novels out there - one protagonist and many members of the opposite sex (could be just the ones I've played) - then I think the opportunity for being overcome by stigma is way, way too high. I honestly don't think you could market 'dating sims' because playing dating sims in the West are, in a sense, something quite embarrassing to admit to a general public. That is to say that even if there was an equivalent of Clannad, people would talk about it in their niche rather than announce it to the whole world. 

 

If you market it more from the sense of an interactive art-based story, though, I think there is at least a chance of something becoming popular in the West. Just to give one example, Juniper's Knot by Dischan appears to be quite popular and people really loved it. But there's something more at play here - the fact that people, who probably have never played visual novels before, were some of the ones who loved it. That alone means that there are people out there who would play a visual novel and truly enjoy it. Of course, people in this niche would love it - but so would people outside of it, depending on how it's executed. 

If you're thinking of localising visual novels from Japan itself - I actually think that that's a way harder route to go. The visual novel would have to come from within the context of Western society to be for a Western audience. One very pertinent example is the existence of 1) lolis and 2) imoutos within visual novels - within Japan, those sorts of things are at least somewhat tolerated. Try marketing that in America (or Australia) and people would be in an absolute uproar. 

Speaking as someone that wants to write and create a visual novel for a Western audience myself, I really think that the opportunity is beyond the niche market. If there is comparison to visual novels, the popularity will probably not take off; if it appears to be creating a completely new medium in itself, then I think that you have the beginning of "visual novels" in the West even if they're not strictly called that. 

 

I could be wrong, of course, but I'm willing to believe in the chance. 

EDIT: another piece of food for thought - visual novels are generally created for a niche market. If you create them for a non-niche market, they might have a chance of becoming popular (which by definition requires not the niche group, but the average person, to enjoy it).

 

EDIT 2: re-reading the posts above, actually it's probably not right to say that it's a "consensus" that visual novels won't be popular, since there are views on the other side and everywhere in-between really.

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All in all, if VNs (or let's use the term eroge for this discussion) want to ever hit the NA market, it really needs to appeal to the otaku/weeaboo audience with its packaging and CG. No one's going to know that VNs > its animated variations, and along with the various "taboos" that VNs have in general, it'll be hard to reach Western markets.

 

But if places like Fuwanovel or Anime-sharing (lol. The latter isn't really much about "spreading VNs to the West" though) work hard at its ideals, I feel as if it's possible to a certain extent. 

 

Although for the "pornography" factor, I want to assume that America is rather desensitized to such elements. Considering these games will only be accessible for individuals over the age of 18, most of these individuals have some relations (even females for that matter) to pornography or the theories of "copulation". 

 

But those are my opinions... 

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I believe that an increase in the total playbase of vn players. Regardless if they are pirates or not. Some of them will prbly buy the english translated vn's from mangagamer or JAST.

 

Thus making easy to use and downloading vn's from fuwa will help gaining a bigger market. Hopefully after a while jp companies will let the west licence the great vn's. If the translations also are very good, there might be a "boom" in people buying vn's.

 

Still VN's will prbly be niche even with the a bigger market. Some people have voiced a opinion that if vn's become popular they will massively cencored and such to fit the west. Just as they did with "If my heart had wings". Which you could say it's not the same game anymore. Because they cut so much out of it and rewrote it. I personally don't think such a Erogeapocalypse will happen, but it could happen.

But if it did happen. I feel they would have ruined a unique medium, and that pisses me off...

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I believe that an increase in the total playbase of vn players. Regardless if they are pirates or not. Some of them will prbly buy the english translated vn's from mangagamer or JAST.

 

Personally, I've "bought" several games that I thought were really good with a help of a Japanese friend. 

 

And I actually regret it to a certain extent.

While I DO support the purchase of the actual games themselves, it really means nothing if you're the only one doing it. It's kinda like the pedestrian who refuses to cross the street if there's a red light but no traffic; no one gives a shit about his thoughts, nor would they try to change his views. Some might find his "ideals" to be remotely attractive, but in the end, he's the one being late to everything and hindered by his own ideals. 

 

tl;dr, No one will pay money for something they can get faster, easier, and probably better (referring to translations by MangaGamer vs. Fan-translations) for free. 

 

Yeah, I have a hard copy of the game. But...

It doesn't really have much benefit than the ISO file... Heck, you can carry the ISO image in your hard drive; you have to manually take the freaking game disc with you to places. Kinda rustles my jimmies when I think about it like that, lol.

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While I DO support the purchase of the actual games themselves, it really means nothing if you're the only one doing it. It's kinda like the pedestrian who refuses to cross the street if there's a red light but no traffic; no one gives a shit about his thoughts, nor would they try to change his views. Some might find his "ideals" to be remotely attractive, but in the end, he's the one being late to everything and hindered by his own ideals. 

 

tl;dr, No one will pay money for something they can get faster, easier, and probably better (referring to translations by MangaGamer vs. Fan-translations) for free. 

 

"No one does it so I don't have to do it either" is just an excuse. 

When you enjoy a product culture, at some point you should reward the industry that produced it and pay for it, because culture for free is an utopia. 

Of course you can feel like your contribution is irrelevant by itself, but it's just really about doing what you can do, and hope there are enough people out there who realizes that. There's no other way, it's the same as voting, giving you blood or whatever: you're not going to change the situation by yourself, but the other way around (no one does it, I won't either) is a vicious circle going nowhere.

This is especially true in the VN industry where the copy you bought is actually almost relevant by itself, since a few hundred copies can actually make the difference between death and life for a company.

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