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NowItsAngeTime

Why Don't More People Read Visual Novels? - A Short Video Analysis

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Reading requires effort, getting it requires effort, etc. and in the end, there's also that feeling that you don't know whether it will be worth reading for you or not. The big time investment in them do make me reconsider what to read.

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I personally think that VNs right now are in a sense stuck in a cursed loop. VNs as a medium just really lack variety and as a result appeal to a small number of people. Even most all-ages titles follow the same story structure: even in non-adult titles a male protagonist always has to be surrounded by a lot of female love interests; it almost always has to take place in high-school; even in plot-focused stories there are a lot of slice-of-life scenes, which aren't even well written, and mostly just serve as a way to stall the story for some time rather than developing the characters; finally, the personalities of the protagonist, the heroines and even the side characters typically just follow certain well-known archetypes. So, if you just happen not to enjoy some of these titles and just want to find something more unique, you're much better off watching some anime or reading a manga. Otome games are a bit different, but, from my limited experience with them, they seem to have a bag of different, though slightly similar, problems. There are indeed some unique and experimental VNs that do things differently, but most of these are doujin titles and don't get that much exposure. Most of them aren't even that good, since good authors are likely to join some company at some point and start making a lot more standard VNs, or leave the medium altogether. Also, we, the current VN fans, enjoy these tropes to at lest to some extend, and a lot of us actually prefer them. As a result, in a short run it's not a very good strategy for companies to experiment with story structures, since they don't know if the fans would like these changes, and they just stick to the strategy that worked thus far. And VNs are also expensive to make, so they don't allow for much flexibility. Nowadays, manga and light novel authors don't even have to make any initial investment at all, since they just can start posting their stories online and see how people react to them, or even completely stick to episodic online distribution. In case of VNs, even a single financially unsuccessful product can make a whole company go bankrupt.

I personally think that if VNs somehow let this loop, there's a good chance that they would start appeal to a bigger number of people. They probably wouldn't be the same people as the current VN fans. Will they ever do that? I doubt it, but I don't know. EVNs might actually lead to something interesting at some point, who knows?

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I think that one of the problems with VNs is that so many of the heavily recommended VNs are very long. So many of the ones that are really often recommended and very highly rated are 50-100 hour titles and I just don't think that getting into something where those types of titles are seen as an introduction is easy.

Another thing is how so many in the community tries highlight VNs as some sort of high art superior to every other medium and completely disregard anything part of the VN market that doesn't adhere to what they consider good, like calling moege and nukige trash and trying to make it out to be as if VNs would be way more amazing and mainstream had it not been for those damn genres.

I personally think that one of the ways to get people into VNs would be to actually get people into things like moege or nukige as I think there are a lot of people who would want harem anime and manga to actually have conclusive endings and based on the amount of 18+ doujins of popular characters there is a demand for ero content with characters you actually get emotionally attatched to during a story.

I think trying to highlight VNs as having good stories won't really do much as every medium has good stories to offer, I think instead it is important to highlight the things which makes VNs special and the types of content you either won't find in other mediums or you won't find done as well. Some I would highlight is integration of porn in the story, harem stories with branching routes and romantic development as well as mystery which can be enhanced by route and choice systems.

Take nekopara for instance, in the realm of moege it was well done but nothing special, but it managed to go sort of mainstream and there seems to be quite a large base of people who are fans of it outside of the VN communities. I think some of this love people have for it comes from how it has done stuff they haven't seen before as they haven't gotten into VNs.

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2 hours ago, [Hun]Lepto said:

I thought VNs were far cheaper and easier to make than normal 3D games (that is, if they don't have complex gameplay elements).

Sure, but 3D games are a lot more popular. Comparing them to manga and light novels, VNs are a lot more expensive to make. Anime are even more expensive, but they are typically based on existing stories from the other media that are already popular enough, while most VNs are original. Also, manga and LNs are usually episodic (or, otherwise, very short) so the publishers can get some invested money back relatively soon, while in case of VNs they typically have to make a full product first, and then if it works then it works.

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8 hours ago, Dreamysyu said:

Sure, but 3D games are a lot more popular. Comparing them to manga and light novels, VNs are a lot more expensive to make. Anime are even more expensive, but they are typically based on existing stories from the other media that are already popular enough, while most VNs are original. Also, manga and LNs are usually episodic (or, otherwise, very short) so the publishers can get some invested money back relatively soon, while in case of VNs they typically have to make a full product first, and then if it works then it works.

With that logic, true. I always felt that non-episodic VNs do take quite a risk by having every budget go into it.

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You guys kind of underestimate the effort and resources necessary to make a decent VN. Art is really expensive, and voice acting even more expensive if it's meant to not sound like shit. VNs are a really good, cheap tool for people that want to create basic interactive stories for fun or are artists and want to apply their own skills in such a way... But when we get to levels of quality that could be attractive to a mainstream audience the difference between VNs and simple 3D game or other types of 2D games isn't that massive. And I'm not sure I have to remind anyone how huge 2D/retro gaming is right now, so we shouldn't really have to use AAA games as the point of reference...

Anyway, I think most arguments people already listed are valid (massive amounts on text in aggressively pushed "kamige", questionable porn, anime aesthetic)... But an important point people forget about is how many, often high-quality VNs don't have mainstream appeal because they defy expectation/do not provide the kind of interactivity Western audience wants. Every time I see Steam users complaining about a VN they played not being a game or having too few choices, it reminds my how either bizarre or dull the idea of interactive literature is for an average gamer... And at the same time, people who are not into games in the first place have few incentives to get into this particular niche of otaku media. And the way the industry handle stuff hardly helps. One genuine perk of VNs over other otaku media is conclusive romance, but for example, we in the West never get the anime tie-in titles that let you pursue a non-canon romance from popular shows. We never see VNs coming to the West with a proper marketing budget either. The result is that you have things like Steins;Gate and Clannad, with legendary-status anime adaptations, being the only VNs with proper reach, alongside gameplay-heavy adventure games such as Danganronpa or Ace Attorney and occasional lowest-common-denominator moe crap like Nekopara...

I don't know if I'm right about it, but the longer I look at it, the more botched the whole "bringing VNs into the Western market" feels. Mostly because it relies on the existing fan community nearly in 100% and its ideas of outreach stopped at MoeNovel's delusions of 12-years-old French girls playing Pulltop's waifu games. Either VNs truly have no appeal in the West outside of porn and the small crowd of people looking for romantic stories, or they are selected and marketed in an atrocious way. I would hope it's at least partially the latter, because that still can be remedied to some extent... Like not letting this category on VNDB to forever stay massively neglected.

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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18 minutes ago, adamstan said:

Ekhm... Toradora would like to have a word with you ;)  But yeah, those are rare.

I edited that part in the meantime. ^^ I meant that they nearly never reach the West (and neither do other tien-in VNs, we get some of the licensed JRPGs at best), outside of fan translation. And they would be great tools for making more anime fans interested in the VN formula. 

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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On 10/13/2020 at 9:47 AM, Plk_Lesiak said:

You guys kind of underestimate the effort and resources necessary to make a decent VN. Art is really expensive, and voice acting even more expensive if it's meant to not sound like shit. VNs are a really good, cheap tool for people that want to create basic interactive stories for fun or are artists and want to apply their own skills in such a way... But when we get to levels of quality that could be attractive to a mainstream audience the difference between VNs and simple 3D game or other types of 2D games isn't that massive. And I'm not sure I have to remind anyone how huge 2D/retro gaming is right now, so we shouldn't really have to use AAA games as the point of reference...

Anyway, I think most arguments people already listed are valid (massive amounts on text in aggressively pushed "kamige", questionable porn, anime aesthetic)... But an important point people forget about is how many, often high-quality VNs don't have mainstream appeal because they defy expectation/do not provide the kind of interactivity Western audience wants. Every time I see Steam users complaining about a VN they played not being a game or having too few choices, it reminds my how either bizarre or dull the idea of interactive literature is for an average gamer... And at the same time, people who are not into games in the first place have few incentives to get into this particular niche of otaku media. And the way the industry handle stuff hardly helps. One genuine perk of VNs over other otaku media is conclusive romance, but for example, we in the West never get the anime tie-in titles that let you pursue a non-canon romance from popular shows. We never see VNs coming to the West with a proper marketing budget either. The result is that you have things like Steins;Gate and Clannad, with legendary-status anime adaptations, being the only VNs with proper reach, alongside gameplay-heavy adventure games such as Danganronpa or Ace Attorney and occasional lowest-common-denominator moe crap like Nekopara...

I don't know if I'm right about it, but the longer I look at it, the more botched the whole "bringing VNs into the Western market" feels. Mostly because it relies on the existing fan community nearly in 100% and its ideas of outreach stopped at MoeNovel's delusions of 12-years-old French girls playing Pulltop's waifu games. Either VNs truly have no appeal in the West outside of porn and the small crowd of people looking for romantic stories, or they are selected and marketed in an atrocious way. I would hope it's at least partially the latter, because that still can be remedied to some extent... Like not letting this category on VNDB to forever stay massively neglected.

So then honestly, whats the point of making visual novels if they're still in limbo? I get JVN creators still doing it because they have a shot of getting decently noticed I guess. But with EVN's, what's the point? Honestly, visual novels should just stay on the JVN side of things if it's this bad. Didn't always use to think like this till recently when seeing just how anyone who makes a VN barely gets noticed unless they are lucky enough to be seen, Is that one of the reasons to why you quit your oEVN blog due to how visual novels, especially EVN, failed to make a market? Not trying to be harsh, but at this points it just seems like visual novels are failing and honestly  I don't see much of a point in making them, especially EVNs 

Funny enough, one of the things this site was made for was to make visual novels popular in the west. Given this topic and responses, it seems it's failed in that to a degree, especially for the EVNs.

Edited by blackrose

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49 minutes ago, blackrose said:

So then honestly, whats the point of making visual novels if they're still in limbo? I get JVN creators still doing it because they have a shot of getting decently noticed I guess. But with EVN's, what's the point? Honestly, visual novels should just stay on the JVN side of things if it's this bad. Didn't always use to think like this till recently when seeing just how anyone who makes a VN barely gets noticed unless they are lucky enough to be seen, Is that one of the reasons to why you quit your oEVN blog due to how visual novels, especially EVN, failed to make a market? Not trying to be harsh, but at this points it just seems like visual novels are failing and honestly  I don't see much of a point in making them, especially EVNs 

Funny enough, one of the things this site was made for was to make visual novels popular in the west. Given this topic and responses, it seems it's failed in that to a degree, especially for the EVNs.

No, that's definitely not why I quit writing the blog. And well, the point... Depends on why you want to make something. If to want to make good money, making a VN in the West is not the way to go, unless you already have a strong brand that consistently attracts a decently-sized audience. But the whole indie market is suffering from the same plague of over-saturation and most titles released failing to gain traction. The more niche the genre, the bigger the risk and VN are still very niche, but they're not some unique story of failure.

The thing is, while I might be somewhat frustrated with how the VN market fails to grow, it's not something I care about too much. If I were on a mission to do something with my blog, it was to show the value of EVNs to other VN fans, not to bring "enlightenment" to the masses. Because VNs staying niche doesn't mean they're going to die out tomorrow, or within a year, or necessarily ever. And I love the formula the same whether it goes mainstream or fails to do so.

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18 minutes ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

No, that's definitely not why I quit writing the blog. And well, the point... Depends on why you want to make something. If to want to make good money, making a VN in the West is not the way to go, unless you already have a strong brand that consistently attracts a decently-sized audience. But the whole indie market is suffering from the same plague of over-saturation and most titles released failing to gain traction. The more niche the genre, the bigger the risk and VN are still very niche, but they're not some unique story of failure.

The thing is, while I might be somewhat frustrated with how the VN market fails to grow, it's not something I care about too much. If I were on a mission to do something with my blog, it was to show the value of EVNs to other VN fans, not to bring "enlightenment" to the masses. Because VNs staying niche doesn't mean they're going to die out tomorrow, or within a year, or necessarily ever. And I love the formula the same whether it goes mainstream or fails to do so.

Okay, thank you for clarifying. That second paragraph was more about the website because someone had mentioned it, not at you. As for myself, I know going into the vn market is not going to make me a lot of money. Not a problem for me because it's more of a hobby. My problem is if no one reads it then I don't find a point in doing it. Honestly, I hope the VN market hasn't failed too much...Seems people were pretty hopeful visual novel readers were growing, but now not so much. 

 

Is there honestly a point though for EVN's creators to make visual novels. This site, for example, proves people aren't fans of EVN'S. I mean it's better, but still many dislike EVNs. Honestly, maybe another big problems is that visual novels don't often branch out and that might be why. Though I'm not sure. . Or maybe should people branch more out into things like Yuri and Yaoi stories. Do those even do well? And honestly, will the visual novel market die in the next year? Seems so to me

Edited by blackrose

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3 hours ago, blackrose said:

Okay, thank you for clarifying. That second paragraph was more about the website because someone had mentioned it, not at you. As for myself, I know going into the vn market is not going to make me a lot of money. Not a problem for me because it's more of a hobby. My problem is if no one reads it then I don't find a point in doing it. Honestly, I hope the VN market hasn't failed too much... Seems people were pretty hopeful visual novel readers were growing, but now not so much. 

I think one of the issues is that we have Japan as our only point of reference and we wonder why VNs do not seem to take off the same way they did there. If VNs weren't this big in Japan it would be much easier for us to just accept them as a niche genre and celebrate the limited influence they gathered over the last few years.

And in the same way, this JP/West comparison shapes our perception of what should be considered a success. VNs are in many ways struggling now, but if you showed the current state of the market to someone from 2013, they would probably consider it a massive achievement. At the same time, many people hoped that the growth wouldn't slow down the way it did. Why it did and whether these problems are possible to overcome or inherent to the medium are interesting topics for discussion... But I don't think it's in any way justified to say the whole thing failed. It did turn into a viable niche for both localisation companies and small-time devs and I don't think it's going anywhere. It might scale down, evolve, but I would be massively surprised to see it gone.

And yeah, I didn't think that last part was about me, but also Fuwanovel as such had quite an interesting role in making the Western VN market a thing, despite suffering one disaster after another. It might be this dying, cynical place now, but it was important for spreading the message and hosting fan translation when they truly mattered. It maybe didn't achieve miracles, but considering how things looked when it started, it's still kind of impressive – and I still mostly blame localizers for the facts it's not even better. 😛

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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The upside of less people reading visual novels is that the community and fanbase surrounding them maintains its integrity instead of being compromised by the same mindless hordes that have managed to worm their way into anime and manga. This does mean there are less translations than there would otherwise be with more traffic and money pouring into the medium, but I think it's a fair trade-off for the medium not ending up infested with virtue signalling, censorship, complaining about niche themes and subjects which are much more present in visual novels than in animanga, attempted deplatforming/"cancel culture" and other forms of online drama that only harm the medium. Some people seem to be attracted to certain mediums like anime and manga only to use them as a pretext for posting memes, creating drama, worshipping online celebrities and generally not bothering to integrate. Unfortunately, traffic and popularity seems to be inversely correlated with quality of consumer base as far as media is concerned.

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