<Aaerul> Question 1.
<Aaerul> Following the 2000 sales or no voice incident with Koihime, the general mood of our community is mostly ‘gloom and doom’. Should fans of Mangagamer be worried? What is your personal opinion?
<Kouryuu> Yeah, the way MangaGamer works and is a bit unique. Or perhaps one could say a bit Japanese?
<Kouryuu> I don’t see it going away anytime soon.
<Kouryuu> On the contrary, we have new groups and people joining us in the near future, so I’d say there’s no reason to worry about us disappearing.
<Kouryuu> Though, it is admittedly a little irritating to hear 2,000 copies be considered an ‘unreasonably high benchmark’.
<Kouryuu> There’s nothing unreasonable about it: that’s the minimum for Nexton to break even if they were to include the voices.
Could Mangagamer benefit from more sex, rather than less sex in their image?
<Kouryuu> Hrmm, more sex or less sex. That’s a tough question indeed.
<Kouryuu> Currently our games seem to be reaching the pre-existing visual novel scene right now–the same one all the fan translators are involved in–and so our ‘less sex’ story titles have been faring better
<Kouryuu> and admittedly, without sex we can sell to underaged customers
<Kouryuu> however, going around the conventions that I usually frequent anyways, I’ve noticed there are a few different types of buyers
<Kouryuu> first there are your anime fans, who want the game because it’s the original game the anime was based off of
<Kouryuu> like the visual novel scene, they want the games for the story
<Kouryuu> for some of them the sex is a minus, for others its a plus, a lot don’t seem to mind too much either way
<Kouryuu> the only time having sex in the games seems to really hurt when trying to sell to those in that group is…well, when they’re underaged, lol
<Kouryuu> that group also has another problem though–they only want games with name recognition.
<Kouryuu> They want Higurashi, Shuffle, Fate Stay
<Kouryuu> big titles they can recognize from anime, or from companies who made those games
<Kouryuu> like, a lot of the members in this crowd who ask us for 俺達には翼はない (Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai) don’t necessarily want that specific game
<Kouryuu> they want the next game made by the people who made Shuffle
<Aaerul> but oretachi IS Navel’s next game,
<Kouryuu> but they know nothing about oretachi other than it’s Navel’s
<Kouryuu> and that’s all that matters to them
<Kouryuu> they come asking us for the game, knowing only the title and that Navel made it
<Kouryuu> that’s their motivation for asking for it
<Kouryuu> Because on the other side, you have the group of people who want their sex, lol.
<Kouryuu> They want the game for the porn.
<Kouryuu> Sure, they may want more than just porn… but without the porn they’re not really interested
<Kouryuu> the ‘bishoujo game’ as porn or ‘hentai game’ is firmly in many people’s minds already dude to their history in the states
<Kouryuu> heck, enough so that those terms made their way into the jargon used by fans
<Kouryuu> These are the people who wants games like ‘Suck my dick or die’ ‘Cosplay Alien’ and ‘My Classmate is a Sex Slave’
<Kouryuu> they want to be able to drop their $20-30 and get a few satisfying nights
<Kouryuu> and these kind of people tend to buy quite a bit of it–but they rarely go out of their way for it
<Kouryuu> like, they’ll pick it up at conventions, or anywhere else where they can impulse buy a title that looks okay
<Kouryuu> but they rarely go and actually seek them out
<Aaerul> that’s a bit of a problem.
<Kouryuu> which is why I would say our sales of those games are lower than JASTs
<Kouryuu> though we are working towards solving the issue of reaching them, but that will have to wait until a later time.
<Kouryuu> The real problem, lies with games that don’t fall into either category
<Kouryuu> like Kira Kira
<Kouryuu> Games that have no anime, and thereby no name-recognition, but are not sex-driven either
<Kouryuu> With our sales at Otakon, I noticed it was still very possible to sell Kira Kira to the anime group
<Kouryuu> but it required a great deal of getting them to actually stop, show interest, listen to me actually talk about the game, and I even used other anime with more name-recognition in comparission
<Kouryuu> to finally get them to move
<Kouryuu> We still managed to move a lot for one convention, but it took that extra effort for nearly every one.
<Kouryuu> where as mentioning Higurashi was pretty much enough to get that to move if the person recognized it
<Aaerul> and do you see the majority of mangagamer’s potential customers from the anime market?
<Kouryuu> yes and no
<Kouryuu> just as we have games that target the two different groups, I feel the difference should be able to cover itself.
<Kouryuu> like, the potentials anime group who wouldn’t buy the sex games, is probably easily covered by the potentials in the hentai game group who would
<Kouryuu> and vice versa
<Kouryuu> We do need to move more towards getting our company recognized by both groups though
<Aaerul> and where does mangagamer’s advertising budget go towards?
<Kouryuu> in short we need to do more advertising, but I’ll explain.
<Kouryuu> Basically, around the time our ads with Sankaku and so forth stopped, is when we started discussing advertising
<Kouryuu> and as you may or may not know, our reputation back then was not the greatest one around, because of the rather lackluster translations for some releases
<Kouryuu> which is why I, and one of our other staff advocated for the redirection of the advertising budget for a while.
<Kouryuu> It was thanks to this that our games like Koihime Musou, Guilty the Sin, Edelweiss, and 4 others which haven’t been announced were able to get the translation checks they needed to bring the quality back up
<Kouryuu> I know for Koihime, the work ended up being far more than I thought when I accepted the job, so I really hope people will enjoy and appreciate the effort we put into getting that presentable
<Kouryuu> and my reason behind redirecting the advertising at the time was rather simple:
<Kouryuu> advertising our company while lackluster translations were being released would only spread a bad image
<Kouryuu> something I most certainly didn’t want, and that they agreed with
<Aaerul> so mangagamer’s ads are back in full force now
<Kouryuu> Well, not in full force yet, but we are shifting back into advertising now.
<Kouryuu> We have a couple magazine advertisements lined up, and another part of the advertising budget was redirected into developing an affiliates system.
<Aaerul> affilliates system?
<Kouryuu> well, a general system like you see Amazon or Play Asia using
<Kouryuu> where any user can host our ad on their site, and they’ll get a cut of the sales it brings in return for promoting us
<Kouryuu> We’re hoping to have it up within the next month, but its been hit with delays before
<Kouryuu> I do hope anyone with a site who wants to help spread the word about us, will considering participating when it’s up.
<Aaerul> I might be one of a dying example of fan translators who work to bring in more fans so that a market for these games can flourish. Why do you think our attitudes have shifted so much since the days of VHS fansubbing?
<Kouryuu> two words, the internet
<Kouryuu> or to be more precise, high-speed internet capable of sending GBs of data within a few
<Kouryuu> back before the internet, or even during the days of unstable 56k dial up, getting a publisher to localize was important
<Kouryuu> because the only other way to get it, was to import it and wait for it to ship
<Kouryuu> yet at the same time importing sites rarely existed because there was no internet form which to place an order
<Kouryuu> so you had to have a friend, or a friend of a friend, who made the trek foryou
<Kouryuu> and this was the case for just about anything
<Kouryuu> be it anime, games, visual novels
<Kouryuu> if it wasn’t localized by an american company, obtaining it was HARD
<Kouryuu> and involved plane flights
<Kouryuu> Even with VHS fansubs
<Kouryuu> someone generally had to go to Japan to record or buy the original ‘master tape’
<Kouryuu> which would then be recorded to a ‘pressing tape’ which was then used for mass recording of tapes that would be distributed
<Kouryuu> and of course, the recording process generally took as long as the tape ran just to press one copy for distro
<Kouryuu> so fansubs required at least 9 hours of recording, and a plane flight in addition to the standard time for translating, editing and so on
<Kouryuu> for 6 episodes
<Kouryuu> and the reason behind the whole ‘master tape’ ‘pressing tape’ system was because the VHSs would frequently degrade the more they were used to record
<Kouryuu> so having a company legitimately release a series was a BIG deal
<Aaerul> and you feel that fans have lost that respect now. they do not understand nor appreciate what publishers do.
<Kouryuu> exactly, because with high-speed internet it becomes irrelevant to them.
<Kouryuu> ‘Why should I have to wait?’ becomes the call when they don’t realize the amount of time and effort it takes publishers to negotiate rights, arrange the deals and get everything set to go
<Kouryuu> and then after they’ve seen or played it ‘Why should I pay when I already have it?’ becomes the next call
<Aaerul> I don’t feel that fans of visual novels are spoilt on selection. Translated visual novels are still quite a rarity.
<Kouryuu> Comparitively, they do.
<Kouryuu> In the past two years, the amount of visual novels available through publishers has nearly doubled. So if you include fan-translation patches, it’s nearly tripled
<Kouryuu> and that’s compared to the 10 years prior
<Kouryuu> the output rate certainly skyrocketed
<Aaerul> and so you feel that the general snobbery of fan translators is just a flow-on from fans who are used to getting everything and getting it easy.
<Kouryuu> I’d say the types of fan-translators easily vary just as much. I wouldn’t call all of them snobby at all.
<Kouryuu> I’m sure a lot of the older ones are spread between feeling jaded and being very happy.
<Kouryuu> I know I’ve been very happy to see the community grow and see releases expand the way they have
<Kouryuu> with the advent of high-speed internet, the distribution of games is very fast, and very easy
<Kouryuu> but I also feel jaded at how many refuse to support the publishers now a days as well
<Kouryuu> they’re of the opinion that ‘I’ll always have anime cuz someone else is paying for it’ or ‘I’ll always have anime cuz fansubs of the japanese runs will continue even if the american company dies’
<Kouryuu> and the same goes for visual novels
<Kouryuu> a lot of ‘fans’ are starting to really take for granted the existence of fan-translators
<Kouryuu> I say ‘fans’ in quotes to differentiate them from real fans
<Kouryuu> it’s the typical play of ‘why should I support Jast or MangaGamer, when with so-and-so’s fan-translation patch, I can just have the game for free?’
<Aaerul> and so do you believe that fan translations and commercial businesses like mangagamer can co-exist in this industry?
<Kouryuu> yes, I do. Or at least I would like to.
<Kouryuu> Namely, because the Japanese eroge market is currently saturated
<Kouryuu> so it *is* impossible for legitimate publishers to release everything and it’s sister
<Kouryuu> I think there’s plenty of options for ways in which we can coexist
<Kouryuu> for example, I’ve done some work in the past for a fansubbing group called ‘Anime-Classic’ (though I haven’t had any time away from work lately to work on any for them)
<Kouryuu> the basic idea behind anime classic is the transation of anime released prior to 1990
<Kouryuu> Simply put, anime that’s very old–old enough to the point the legitimate publishers no longer consider it an option
<Kouryuu> I think this is possible with fan-translations of visual novels as well.
<Kouryuu> I would be rather shocked if we or JAST ever released another visual novel that was on the PC-98
What would you license for mangagamer if you had unlimited licensing power?
<Kouryuu> Well, my instictive response would be Type-Moon,
<Kouryuu> but that’s extremely difficult now that the fan-translations are so prevelant for them.
<Aaerul> what about KEY stuff?
<Kouryuu> from my experience, companies generally want a say in which of their games is localized.
<Kouryuu> so for example, I suspect Type Moon would want to start with Fate/Stay Night before moving on to localizing any other game
<Kouryuu> or that Key would want to start with Kanon
<Kouryuu> and this is where the fan-translation’s double edge deals its blow
Kouryuu> I’m honestly not sure.
Left: Otome, Right: Yume (Da Capo II)
<Aaerul> I am really happy about Mangagamer bringing us Da Capo 2.
<Aaerul> can you say a word to fans of visual novels but perhaps theyre not convinced about buying da capo 2
<Aaerul> why is da capo 2 worth playing for these people?
<Kouryuu> Well, it’s a little hard for me to say much myself, since I’ve only worked on the opening part
<Kouryuu> this part being the everday-life section before the story brances into the character routes with their individual stories and unique plotlines
<Kouryuu> the game is absolutely gorgeous
<Kouryuu> it does a very good job creating a nice atmosphere
<Kouryuu> The text itself is rather simple for the most part, but then again so was Clannad if I’m not mistaken
<Kouryuu> there’s a wide variety of character sprites in different angles, expressions and such
<Kouryuu> and is put to very good use in the game
<Aaerul> makes the whole thing more immersive
<Kouryuu> Oh, and I guess one more word for fan-translators?
<Kouryuu> I know none of them want to see their work go to waste, but it really is worth it to actually talk to the game company about the game your translating
<Kouryuu> and share options with them.
<Aaerul> big call.
<Kouryuu> I’ve seen a lot of companies who are more than willing to see their games in English
<Kouryuu> they just want it done legitimately
<Kouryuu> the precedents are already falling in place.
<Kouryuu> Overflow is making strides to work with them,
<Kouryuu> Nitro+ is working with them and JAST
<Aaerul> And there is NNL
<Kouryuu> I know people have gotten worked up with all the recent C&Ds
<Kouryuu> but I think a lot of it is that the companies are paying more attention to the western market now
<Kouryuu> and since fan-translations can be a double edged sword when the potential for a legitimate release is there,
<Kouryuu> they don’t want to see the chances ruined
<Aaerul> and that is completely reasonable on their part
<Aaerul> and are you against fan translators who release despite C&D?
<Kouryuu> officialy, I would probably have to say yes.
<Kouryuu> but personally, I’m more concerned about whether or not they took the time and effort to approach the company issuing the C&D prior to doing so
<Kouryuu> if they get a C&D, and then release without even trying to contact the company, inform them of potential opportunities, and work with them
<Kouryuu> then they’re not being very mature.
<Aaerul>but the problem I see is, a lot of these groups do not have good enough japanese to speak to the companies
<Aaerul> theyve only got enough to translate
<Kouryuu> I think they should still try. If they’re not confident enough in their Japanese, show the effort, by writing as best they can, and include their english with it
<Aaerul> I suppose it is just as hard for the japanese companies to initiate contact with us
<Kouryuu> it’s important to show the effort
<Kouryuu> and demonstrate sincerity
<Kouryuu> think of it from their perspective, lol
<Kouryuu> you have a work you spent years on making
<Kouryuu> you have the opportunity to sell it in a new location and make more for the work you’ve done
<Kouryuu> would you want to see that chance go to waste?
<Kouryuu> how offended would you be if the person who was potentially ruining that chance ignored your requests and didn’t bother to even reply
<Kouryuu> or replied angrily at you for telling them to stop
<Kouryuu> (Also) it seems very few fan-translators care about ‘how one gets the game’ anymore
<Kouryuu> instead of actively promoting the legitimate purchase and import of the game
<Aaerul> yes it’s true
<Kouryuu> I know back in the early days, that was a key element of fan-translation groups.
<Kouryuu> with insani giving detailed directions on how to buy Planetarian
<Kouryuu> or Haleath’s constant reiteration that Kanon should be bought
<Kouryuu> and I do think it would help to have that again.
<Aaerul> actually, they think they are doing a favour to the companies because they feel they are helping out with ‘expanding the userbase’
<Aaerul> albeit extremely questionable.
<Kouryuu> I realize changing this generations opinions on the value of actually purchasing a product is a task as great as that of Atlas, but it has to start somewhere
<Kouryuu> ‘expanding the userbase’ is no help at all if that ‘userbase’ does not purchase the products
<Kouryuu> because it’s only once they pay for the product that they actually become part of the userbase
<Aaerul> but we do it in the hopes that 10%. or even 5% become paying customers
<Kouryuu> you won’t even get that 10% turnover if you don’t encourage them to buy
<Kouryuu> or help introduce them to how they can buy it
Thank you Kouryuu for this wonderful 2.5 hour interview. I made massive edits everywhere for the sake of readability. I hope you do not mind.