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The Unstoppable Downfall of the Bishoujo-ge Industry–interview with nbkz producer at minori

Business Journal (biz-journal.jp) conducted an interview with nbkz producer at minori on the topic of ‘the state of the bishoujo-ge industry’. The title of the article, ‘Average Income Under 3,000,000yen!? The Unstoppable Downfall of the Bishoujo-ge Industry’. (3,000,000yen is about USD$32,116) I’m going to summarize the important bits because the whole thing is 4 pages.
The opening script introduces to the viewer what are bishoujo-ge. Apparently, the bishoujo-ge genre peaked at the beginning stretch after 2000, the entire industry was valuing at over 30,000,000,000 yen a year. (30 billion yen = USD $321 million). Compared to last year it is now estimated to be worth 22,000,000,000 yen a year. (according to 2012年矢野経済研究所調べ)

Questioner: How much does it cost to create a bishoujo-ge?
nbkz: Speaking as a person who looks after the budgeting at our studio, if you want to preserve a degree of quality it cost 30,000,000 yen and upwards. (About USD $321,165 and upwards).

The minimum team in a studio is illustrator, colouring, writer, director is about 5 persons if these people double-up for other roles. Each of these cost 250,000 yen a year, assuming it takes one year to complete a full-priced game (= 8,800 yen). So that’s 15,000,000 yen for the core-team. Then outsource music, sounds, programming, backgrounds, for 4,000,000 yen. Promotion video, leaflets, posters, transport & other expenses is another 1,500,000yen. Rent, lighting, gas, postage and other operational costs to sustain company is 3,600,000 yen. So all up that’s a total of 24,100,000. Now add press advertisements, polls and other miscellaneous factors, including insurance for the employees, it works out to be 30,000,000 yen minimal. Different titles vary in price a lot. Supipara costed us over 100,000,000 yen. (About USD$1,070,550)

Questioner: 100 million yen?! Why did it cost so much??
nbkz: The most expensive are the CGs. (goes on to say how CGs are much harder work than anime frames)
nbkz: Moving from 800×600 to 1920×1080 was a major increase in our costs. (goes on to explain why higher res cost more)

Questioner: At the end of last year, you released Natsuzora no Perseus [VNDB.org] which was broken into two versions, the regular version and a grand limited edition (has CD + DVD + small artbook). Between regular version and limited version, which one being sold is more profitable for your studio?
nbkz: providing the merchandise cost us more. If we’re only calculating net profits, selling more of the regular version is better for us. There is no long-tail for bishoujo-ge sales. The Friday, Saturday and Sunday after release, those 3 days determine how many copies we will sell. That is why we provide the tokuten (aka merchandise) to encourage sales in the first 3 days, because they determine whether we go over… or under.

Questioner: What do you think about releasing as an all-ages version so that they can go on to receive ports to the PS3, etc?
nbkz: Personally I think they are not worth it. The PC and the PS2/PS3 have too great similarity. Similar in that you have to sit down on a chair and stare into a monitor/screen. And if it is a port to console, you also have to add new CGs or new routes or scenarios. And plus, they don’t sell (!). If they even sell more than 50% of the numbers sold in the original title you can safely call that a Grand Victory. A port will cost us 10,000,000 yen. They don’t really pay back our costs.

Questioner: (Regarding Supipara) How did your All-ages move go?
nbkz: Only sold half as much as what we expected. At the end of Supipara we were all expecting we will be disbanded.

Some other points he raised, in the year 2000, 100,000 copies sold is a super hit, 30,000 sold is a big hit. 20,000 sold is normal. Nowadays if you sell 10,000 hits you are big. Eroge is extremely niche, nothing like the anime-audience. The audience nowadays want instantaneously everything (mentions youtube, nico, 1cur anime, and LN/Manga). Eroge should also move towards making good but short titles, not whooping epics like before. The 8,800 price range is what is killing many  potential customers. Young people can only afford 1000yen-and-under items. And so manga and LN fit that category. As for anime it is free to watch when aired… yet Bishoujo-ge sticks to the 8,800 yen price bracket. Young people cannot afford that price point.

Questioner: What will happen to the bishoujo-ge industry in the future?
nbkz: not just the bishoujo-ge industry, I think the whole entertainment industry is going to end eventually. The concept of the professional entertainer is dying. On Niconico douga, amateurs create almost pro-like quality and is nevertheless entertaining without the added cost of hiring professionals. As time goes by, the gap between professional and amateur will decrease, until there is not much of a gap at all.

The next part is pretty radical coming from minori.

nbkz: There is the idea that it’s all because of the pirates who free ride too much. I think not. The people who are unable to play our games for free will merely shift their consuming behaviour to other free content if they cannot play for free. People who have no money to give you will have no money to give you no matter what.

Questioner: What is your business strategy? (against the problems).
nbkz: The only way forward is to build your business on fans who willingly pay you to see you make the next title.  This is hard to admit but, there are fans of ours who buy multiple copies of our games…. we will only be able to create because of our niche fanbase. I think that in the future it will become even more important to listen primarily to the voices of those who pay money for our products.

Mine: Among the marketing community, Japanese millennials are known as the “Generation who does not consume.” This is because young people have very low salaries. Uncertainty about the future means higher saving rate, which means less money towards music, movies, books, DVDs. Very insightful interview with minori’s producer 酒井伸和氏 aka nbkz. Too bad no mention of their overseas licensing efforts.

About the author

Tay

I'm the Fuwanovel community admin and a big fan of Visual Novels. The easiest way to get a hold of me is via a PM on the Fuwanovel Forums, by twitter (@ArchmageTay), or by email.

14 Comments

  • Well, it’s sad, but I think that If they sell their products outside Japan and in digital format (GOG or Steam). I’m sure their situation would improve. (Mangagamer? Uff…. the activation process is awful).

    • The problem with Steam etc is sexual content and the problem american firms have with that…
      I doubt you’ll see eroge in the near future on Steam.

      All ages versions should be easier to get up on Steam – see Analogue, which sells apparently pretty good.

  • I was pretty unimpressed about minori when i read on NNL blog about supipara demo – NNL wanted to translated it for us western VN fans for free and contacted nbkz asking for permission to do that.

    He rejected it for the reason he thought he can sell it for some money on MG site. WTF? Did someone ever bought short demo of game? Also it never happened. Thats how minori treat western fans.

  • The problem is that you can’t buy any console games, nor visual novels for pc if you don’t live in Japan, they don’t sell it anywhere else, like in Europe and the USA. I think there is a lot of people in the recent years who started to learn Japanese because they’re interested in anime, games, vn, etc, while the Japanese didn’t notice this enough, and don’t try to sell their products. The only option is to import them, but that costs 2x as more, and most people can’t afford it like that.
    Of course translating everything is a lot of money, and doesn’t always worth the cost, they should notice that selling the original Japanese games with japanese language could be a big success for improving their sales with minimal costs…

  • You should re-check your numbers, they’re kinda off at some points. 300,000 yen is not USD$~32,000, it’s USD$~3,200, so either the number or the conversion is wrong. Similarly, 5×250,000 = 1,250,000, not 15,000,000. 250,000 yen/year (2500$/year) seems like an impossibly low wage in Japan for me, anyhow.

  • That’s why they need to open more companies (if they are that D:) like Mangagamer or Jast in different countries with different lenguages, because the people that download the games are mostly from other countries and not from Japan (at least, that’s what I think, because we can’t just go to the store and buy it *lives in a place were anime is just some “weird chinese cartoons”, so they don’t sell almost anything related to it ;_;*) If there was a company that released games in my country, I would totally buy them :’c

  • yea, I think the visual novel market in other countries outside of japan will grow in the years to come. if they can strike deals with foreign publishers, i think that’ll give them more income?

  • That was a very interesting and informative read. I had a suspicion that the industry was in danger, but not that much danger financially. By the way, what is a 1 cur anime? I did a quick Google search and that turned up nothing helpful.

    • Cours is another way to say how many TV seasons a show airs and generally used for anime to say how long a show runs.
      1 Cours is 3 months, 2 Cours is 6 months etc

      Not to be confused with S1 or S2 of an anime

  • Japan market is getting too small for the absurdity quantity of monthly releases, they need to look at the foreign market more seriously. I think eroge companies could spend some bucks on a english translation of their works and try to sell them on global sites that reach most countries like Amazon…

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