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How do you guys feel about the JVN industry right now?

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 I asked this exact same question on the visual novel database yesterday .  However, I’m curious to see what my fellow Fuwa friends think. I am curious to see what you guys think of the industry currently. Is it doing well? Is the industry getting smaller and smaller? What are some of the biggest challenges that developers face? 

I am all ears.

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If you mean the west... then, rip because of piracy and really long wait time for every launch.

If you mean japan, then, we are secure, since japan is weird and our lovely japanese fap guys will buy everything (?)

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I think it's doing just fine. While it might have shrunk a little bit, I think this has more to do with just how well it was doing in Japan for a while. It's only natural for industries, especially ones this niche, to go up and down a little. People get overdramatic when well-known companies go under, but this is hardly a sign of doom for the industry and is usually linked more to poor business decisions. We've also seen new companies rise up recently, seemingly from nothing, and do really well. (Nukitashi, for instance.) 

2019 has been a great year so far in my opinion. Lots of cool releases already, plus more cool stuff to come.

As far as what challenges devs face nowadays, I'm honestly not sure. Right now maybe 2020 Olympics censorship? Lol.

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This is my impression of what the state the industry is in right now (some of this is repeated from previous posts I've made here on the forums).

Just to get this out of the way, the VN industry (non-nukige) is currently in the process of contracting and changing priorities.  The industry has long relied charage/moege to keep sales up, which has ironically led to most of the writing talent fleeing to other mediums.  This wasn't really a problem until the last six years or so.  Why has it become a problem?  Because my generation in Japan has less money for spending on high school nostalgia than it did back in 2014.  At the same time, the younger generation of otakus in Japan is far less interested in standard charage (high school situations, predictable romances, etc), so this means that the industry is not set up to compensate for the demographic changes in its consumer base.

To be blunt, more and more VN consumers want something with an actual story.  Unfortunately, due to the trends of the last decade, writers who can actually produce what they want are in short supply.  As a result, the VN industry is contracting as companies find they can't replace the talent they abandoned during the charage boom as easily as they could the random ero-writers they've been using up until now. 

A few pieces of evidence (that don't involve hearsay).  The relative number of plotge to charage made in the last two years (regardless of quality) has tipped toward plotge significantly... though most of those are of lower quality than in the pre-2015 years due to the aforementioned lack of talented writers.  Navel and the other major names in particular are aggressively testing the waters, as is evidenced by their releases in the last few years (fewer FDs, more new IPs, resurrection of IPs with a differing atmosphere than previously seen, etc). 

A few hiccups:  Overcompensation... the fondness of the younger generation for the consumption of escapist material has led to a string of low-quality fantasy VNs in the last couple of years (Digination being the source of many of them).  This would normally be a good sign, but it is troubling that the new writing talent that is emerging isn't leaving much of an impression on someone who is as much of a fantasy addict as I am.  The flow of money into these 'experimental' games (lol) has diverted funds that probably would have normally been pumped into charage developing, which has caused the actual number of non-nukige VNs released to fall overall. 

A key statistic drawn from my experiences over the past decade...  Until the last two years, it was normal for 6 or more non-nukige VNs to be released each month on average.  However, increasingly we are seeing months where only three or four releases are seen... and those releases differ significantly in nature from previous years (and are even spottier in quality). 

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I am not qualified to talk about the Japanese VN industry as a whole, but from my limited personal perspective it looks pretty bad.

VN developers close down all the time (Light , PropellerMinori ) or they leave the VN scene to chase the bigger money in the mobile market (Type-Moon , Sprite ) and it is hard to judge how much this void is being filled with newer developers because in the west they only become known after they make a name for themselves.

 

And from a personal perspective, a majority of releases seems to be "moege" and/or nukige which I don't have much interest in, which causes the dead of companies like Light to be amplified tenfold. There aren't that much companies that consistently put out games outside of the moege/charage genre that interested me, like Light or Nitroplus , so every loss is hard. And unfortunately the translations that are released in west seem to mirror the high representation of "moege/charage" and nukige.

 

Obviously I have no insight into the Japanese market and my perception is heavily influenced by my personal taste, but my outlook for the VN industry is pretty pessimistic.

 

Edited by Formlose Gestalt

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6 hours ago, Clephas said:

my generation in Japan has less money for spending on high school nostalgia than it did back in 2014.  At the same time, the younger generation of otakus in Japan is far less interested in standard charage (high school situations, predictable romances, etc), so this means that the industry is not set up to compensate for the demographic changes in its consumer base.

This seems backwards.  As people progress in their careers, their income tends to grow (more money, not less).  A work of fiction's target demographic tends to correlate with its protagonist (high school settings with a straight male protagonist would be aimed at young males).

More likely: Eroge appeal to young males.  As the market has matured, its initial base has grown older and drifted away for various reasons--including moving on in their career (less time) and that THEY'RE the ones less interested in high school settings and writing aimed at young males.  Meanwhile, the younger generation has less disposable income these days, a phenomenon that isn't limited to Japan.  Many of them spend their time on mobile, consoles, or on social media, and may not even have a PC for personal use.  Those who have a PC and game on it have a growing library of Western alternatives to play (e.g., on Steam).

Edited by sanahtlig

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7 hours ago, Clephas said:

Just to get this out of the way, the VN industry (non-nukige) is currently in the process of contracting and changing priorities.  The industry has long relied charage/moege to keep sales up, which has ironically led to most of the writing talent fleeing to other mediums.  This wasn't really a problem until the last six years or so.  Why has it become a problem?  Because my generation in Japan has less money for spending on high school nostalgia than it did back in 2014.  At the same time, the younger generation of otakus in Japan is far less interested in standard charage (high school situations, predictable romances, etc), so this means that the industry is not set up to compensate for the demographic changes in its consumer base.

To be blunt, more and more VN consumers want something with an actual story.  Unfortunately, due to the trends of the last decade, writers who can actually produce what they want are in short supply.  As a result, the VN industry is contracting as companies find they can't replace the talent they abandoned during the charage boom as easily as they could the random ero-writers they've been using up until now. 

A few pieces of evidence (that don't involve hearsay).  The relative number of plotge to charage made in the last two years (regardless of quality) has tipped toward plotge significantly... though most of those are of lower quality than in the pre-2015 years due to the aforementioned lack of talented writers.  Navel and the other major names in particular are aggressively testing the waters, as is evidenced by their releases in the last few years (fewer FDs, more new IPs, resurrection of IPs with a differing atmosphere than previously seen, etc). 

Couldn't this also have to do with saturation of the market rather than shifting consumer base? Moege and Charage usually don't have uniquie things to sell people on, because of this I think they have a large problem competing with older titles. It could be that there are just as many reading Moege and Charage today as before, but that they instead of buying new titles pick up older titles 2nd hand. With a plotge I think they tend to be more unique and have a wider variety of settings (not all being sett in high school for instance). Of course this is just speculations and you most likely have a much better grasp on the japanese VN market in general then I do, I just wanted to add my thoughts on another potential cause to the shift in which title that does well.

Edited by bakauchuujin

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2 hours ago, sanahtlig said:

This seems backwards.  As people progress in their careers, their income tends to grow (more money, not less).  A work of fiction's target demographic tends to correlate with its protagonist (high school settings with a straight male protagonist would be aimed at young males).

More likely: Eroge appeal to young males.  As the market has matured, its initial base has grown older and drifted away for various reasons--including moving on in their career (less time) and that THEY'RE the ones less interested in high school settings and writing aimed at young males.  Meanwhile, the younger generation has less disposable income these days, a phenomenon that isn't limited to Japan.  Many of them spend their time on mobile, consoles, or on social media, and may not even have a PC for personal use.  Those who have a PC and game on it have a growing library of Western alternatives to play (e.g., on Steam).

I agree with your statement. Young people nowadays have a wide variety of media to get distracted with, specially with mobile phones. I don't know how it is in Japan, but the PC market must be pretty niche still, and very young males will either have a crappy PC which they barely use or none at all. If they have a good one they use regularly, they'll mostly play western games via platforms such as Steam, since that's the best bay of using a powerful PC. As for grown ups, and this is my personal opinion, they'd probably get pretty bored playing a dumb slice of life moege with a highschool setting after maybe 8 or 9 hours at work. If I had that kind of lyfestile with pretty limited free time and a lot of cash to spend on, I'd always go for plotges, nakiges or chuuniges. Of course, I'd always find the time to play a good comedy slice of life eroge from time to time, but if they are not interesting to play then it'd feel like I'm wasting my time since I'm not enjoying any good story or well developed characters. This has been more of a logical explanation based off my knowledge of Japan and also my personal preferences, but that's why I think the O so powerful charage/slice of life genre is dying.

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14 hours ago, sanahtlig said:

This seems backwards.  As people progress in their careers, their income tends to grow (more money, not less).  A work of fiction's target demographic tends to correlate with its protagonist (high school settings with a straight male protagonist would be aimed at young males).

More likely: Eroge appeal to young males.  As the market has matured, its initial base has grown older and drifted away for various reasons--including moving on in their career (less time) and that THEY'RE the ones less interested in high school settings and writing aimed at young males.  Meanwhile, the younger generation has less disposable income these days, a phenomenon that isn't limited to Japan.  Many of them spend their time on mobile, consoles, or on social media, and may not even have a PC for personal use.  Those who have a PC and game on it have a growing library of Western alternatives to play (e.g., on Steam).

That would be so... if not for economic problems in Japan.  People aren't as willing to open their wallets for this kind of leisure over there as they were five or ten years ago... at least my generation isn't.  The current world economy is making it even worse, since everyone is afraid of a collapse and Japan's economy is constantly moving back and forth between minor growth and minor contractions (despite government economic policies that are supposedly designed to fix the problem). 

It is true that the younger generation has less disposable income... but that is leading to a decrease in goods sales (figurines, dakimakura, etc) rather than 'mainline' material like games, LNs, and anime discs or downloads.  That also hurts the VN industry, because many companies are at least partially dependent on selling goods to make up for temporary losses (a common strategy in the VN industry).  This has also led to fewer people buying new and release day versions, because the younger generation has less interest in swag/omake material (prime incentives for the somewhat obsessive collectors of my generation in Japan). 

Edit: Also, I should note that Japanese wages have been stagnant for decades, and fewer efforts have been made to hide that fact than were made in the US.  As a result, recent inflation has negated any gains for the average person and most people know it.  Also, the changes in Japanese corporate culture and structure have essentially eliminated career stability for many professions, so the argument that someone will make more money as they get older doesn't really apply here.  That said, a larger percentage of the young population live off multiple part-time jobs than in previous generations, so your point isn't completely off the mark.

12 hours ago, bakauchuujin said:

Couldn't this also have to do with saturation of the market rather than shifting consumer base? Moege and Charage usually don't have uniquie things to sell people on, because of this I think they have a large problem competing with older titles. It could be that there are just as many reading Moege and Charage today as before, but that they instead of buying new titles pick up older titles 2nd hand. With a plotge I think they tend to be more unique and have a wider variety of settings (not all being sett in high school for instance). Of course this is just speculations and you most likely have a much better grasp on the japanese VN market in general then I do, I just wanted to add my thoughts on another potential cause to the shift in which title that does well.

Saturation has been an issue for over ten years... and it essentially resulted in charage becoming more... efficient (shorter and less complex VNs, constant 'tossing away' of writers and artists that asked for too much money, increasing reliance on temporary contractors even in popular companies, etc).  The actual number decreasing is a relatively recent phenomenon.  2nd hand sales have always been an issue, though moreso of late... in fact, there has been something of a boom in the sales of older VNs (one reason a lot of older VNs began appearing on dlsite and DMM as download-only versions with no real announcement in the last four years).  The tendency of online platforms to regularly offer sales and incentives to buy download-only versions has increased the tendency to only consume the 'main material' amongst the younger generation.

Another issue is that Japanese companies are not 'light on their feet'.  This is especially true of VN companies... well, really Japanese gaming companies of all types.  The tendency for a company to 'find their niche' and adjust only really ineptly when forced to adapt to changing market conditions is typical.  A rather famous example of this tendency would be Konami, where the use of video and audio 'tapes' (not to mention overhead projectors, lol) in presentations was still the norm four years back.  This unwillingness/inability to adapt to changes in something as fundamental to gaming as video/audio tech illustrates the point rather bluntly, at least to my mind.

 

Edit: I should note that, while I do sound cynical (and I am) and negative about the industry in my posts, I do honestly think that, after a time, the industry will manage to reimagine itself.  I won't predict what it will look like in the end though, since consumption trends are unpredictable in times of economic trouble.  Japan's economy hasn't been in great shape for decades, but it is increasingly vulnerable to outside influences (it was less so in previous decades due to certain trade policies) aside from the obvious ones like fuel and plastics. 

While I did note that there was a dramatic increase in the number of fantasy VNs in recent years (a delayed reaction to the trends in manga, LNs, and anime... at least to my eye), I don't think this trend is going to last long enough to entrench itself, though I wish it would.  That is because fantasy has reached saturation levels in the other otaku media, to the point where I'm pretty sure people are going to become sick of it soon.  I seriously doubt that will lead to more SOL nostalgia booms though, because the era in which the current generation grew up in is far different from the one mine did.

... I do have a few nightmare scenarios running in the back of my head for the industry as a whole, but I won't inflict those on anyone else, since they are depressing as all hell.  I also have some really optimistic ones.  I won't share those either, since wishful thinking rarely comes true, lol.

 

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I have no idea what's going on with the industry but I hope it goes through a change

Seems like it's been puttering around for the last couple of years or decade or so.

Hopefully new or changed  companies can breath some air into those stale lungs

Whatever the state of the industry is if it leads to less high school themed vns then I am all for it

Edited by Ranzo

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Sweet Jesus, after reading Clephas post it looks like the otaku industry as well as Japan is breaking apart. It really makes sense that the stagnation of the economy and the downgrade of wages coupled with insane working hours with no stability will cripple VN's sales, especially considering that they are not really cheap. Who in his right mind would ever buy a dumb looking moege for 6000 or 7000 yen? Nobody really. After working 2 part time jobs for the whole day the least I wanna do when I return home is spend hours and hours reading a pointless VN with boring characters and thoughtless plot. Unfortunately, that's been the trend the last couple of decades and the good authors of yore have long since moved on to other places to prove their talents. Unless they bring them back or faciltate colaborations betweem them so they can create new and better games, then we are for a bit of suffering. I hope things get better soon.

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While mod Clephas post is seemingly true to describe what happen in Japan in regard of VNs, in the end it's mostly just a speculation. Although it's not like the chance for that is slim seeing that we see many Japanese VNs companies being open for overseas market, especially minori who as we know was quite stubborn to close their website for foreigner before finally make a deal with Mangagamer (It still didn't save them from bankruptcy though). Another example is Pulltop and Harukaze in that while we should appreciate them for going overseas, unfortunately they have a wrong idea in that they decided to censored their overseas releases. Also we started to see some VN companies relies more on console releases, with the biggest example is Leaf in that recently they like to milk Utawarerumono (Well milking the available franchise seems to be the safest choices). So yeah while we still didn't see the end of VN in Japan just now, there's already some changes happened in Japanese VN market (Especially with gacha here).

Keep in mind that all of above just purely my speculation, so I couldn't give some certain situation in regard of Japanese VN market. But if we recently saw too many moege releases there, perhaps right now Japanese VN market was oriented towards lighter VN (Possibly to get some relaxation).

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