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Visual Novels – Could There Be A Market For Them in The West? by Jonoridge

Jonoridge posted this at Nothing I disagree with here.

Jonoridge: (the) Visual Novel genre still hasn’t really expanded outside of Japan.

There are two reasons for this I believe; one being that many people in the West don’t see them as real video games because of the emphasis on text to tell a story and the player having very little interaction. The other reason… is the art which uses a manga/anime style which limits their appeal immediately to those who actually like that style. However there has been a few VNs that have used real actors and succeeded.

I think there must have been a couple on smartphones or galake, but the only one I can think of is 428: Fuusa Sareta Shibuya de by Chunsoft, which didn’t sell that well.

Jonoridge: I believe if Visual Novels are to break into the Western market (and they should because they offer a different style of game that currently isn’t out over here), a strong emphasis on story and branching story paths, something that isn’t seen very often in video games. They need to use a more gritty art style, one that a Western audience would be more likely to embrace. The only risk here is that there’s currently no market for them and the change might be received negatively in Japan where the market actually is.

They are marketing ‘The Night of the Kamaitachi’ to Kindle users (can’t find reference, so I have no idea what happened to that idea). Overdrive created Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ that was specifically aimed at Westerners. And there has been an surge of titles specifically targeted at Android/iOS that has got ‘translation’ in hope of luring Westerners. Particularly otome-games. There’s all these browser-run visual novels springing up all over the place (have u seen this?). Not just OELVN, the Japanese are thinking the same thing. Not to forget Katawa Shoujo created a whole new market to explore. Whatever innovations that are coming up next, I have a feeling it won’t be from established industry players. It will be from the informal economy.


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.

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10 years ago

I would love to see visual novels being sold in stores over here (in Uruguay, a little country in south america xD), but it’s reaaaaaaaaally difficult to find even a store with anime goods :c I was thinking that this side of the world needs more japan-ish things, so yesterday I just sent a message to Mangagamer, asking them if they were going to open a staff for spanish projects, they said that at the moment they don’t have someone fluent enough to do it, but that they will consider it in the future. I hope they will >_<! (not for me though, because I can read them in english with no issues, but I would love to have spanish people that doesn't speak english playing visual novels *-*)

Reply to  Sieg
10 years ago

The french too. biggest anime lovers

10 years ago

I happen to like cute art styles and upbeat stories, and I tend to avoid products with bleak aesthetics and themes. Having said that, I realize that I’m not an average video game or genre fiction fan…

If a person or company wants to sell VNs to fans who like grim/serious fiction, then, well… that’s what they should make. Something similar to Chaos Gateway, or Dear Esther, or The Stanley Parable. It helps to have an audience in mind, because it’s impossible to appeal to everyone.

On the other hand, if you want to sell VNs with gameplay to people who like video games in general, then it is probably wise to create gameplay and art that specific types of fans like. And it definitely helps if the VN works on a modern computer, console, or other device.

Finally, a thought or two on sales. The head of the Winter Wolves indie group often talks on Twitter about how well his group’s products are selling. It appears they’ve had quite a bit of success with reverse harem games and general RPGs. And while I didn’t expect that the English version of Hakuouki would sell more than a few copies (it’s a niche product, and it’s on PSP, which is rarely longer considered commercially viable outside of Japan), according to the data on VGChartz, it sold just short of 58000 copies in 2012.

10 years ago

Considering Katawa Shoujo – after I read some material about it (and completed Rin’s route) I think it can be considered as One/Kanon thing in Japan that brought Nakige genre.
Katawa Shoujo in the same vein brought the “feels” thingie for the English-speaking people.

10 years ago

The thing is; unless the visual novels are translated into several languages (aka, English/French/Spanish, etc…), there’s always going to be a limited audience outside of Japan.

This doesn’t include the fact that translations aren’t done in a few months; it can take up to a year or more! Considering that, it’s not efficient to export visual novels out of Japan for any situation. Heck, even the NEWS for releases of such games must be reposted in English by people like Aaeru.

Now, it would be idealistic, for both the company and the players, if the companies can SHIP the games to the users. Of course, higher shipping costs and delivery times can apply, but this is currently the “best” and “most efficient” method for marketing visual novels in the West at all. (And this also assumes the fact that the player can understand Japanese, or use hooking tools + translator engines.)

All I can do for the Western VN players is write reviews in English. This will advertise good games and disgrace bad ones; that’s pretty much the limit for any individual.

10 years ago

But there are already Visual Novels that have kind of succeded in the west: Hotel Dusk, Phoenix Wright, 999, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, even on PC with Analogue: A Hate Story (Which is argurably the best western Visual Novel in existence and one of the best overall). The problem westerners have with the genre is the poor player interaction as most Japanese Visual Novels tend to be glorified Power Point presentations.

10 years ago

Oh and I was forgetting that most consider The Walking Dead by Telltale a Visual Novel with point-and-click aspects, and it was the best rated game last year alongside Journey, so I’d say there is a market for Visual Novels in the west, Japan just needs to break its chains to broader horizons.

And with chains, I’m refering to Highschool settings.

10 years ago

Thanks for blogging about my article. I do truly believe there is a potential market for visual novels in the West. Fingers crossed we see more overseas in the near future. I think the key would be to have them released on iPhones and the like.