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“Answerman, Is there really a market for visual novel adaptions in the West” (via ANN.com)

From June 15th Answerman! on Animenewsnetwork

Hi Answerman,ā€¦ Is there really a market for visual novel adaptions in the West if the concept of a visual novel is largely unknown here? (see full question here which is 14 lines long.)

On Visual Novels themselves, I'll say this: I think the rather incredible reception for Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward in the US has really shown that there is indeed a market for visual novels in the West. Now, the Zero Escape games are a bit of an odd duck compared to most other Visual Novels out there, since the game is part Visual Novel, and part "Escape The Room"-style puzzle games. But the interesting concepts and wacky characters and impressively detailed writing for those games is what made them a success here; just look at how many "Best of 2012" awards Virtue's Last Reward racked up from the Western gaming press.

Unfortunately, that may not exactly trickle down to other types of Visual Novels. So I'll say this: the future of Visual Novels will largely depend on the platform they're released on, and the quality of the game itself. I don't necessarily think that Visual Novels need to rely on their ties with any anime or manga tie-ins. Coincidentally, there's been some chatter coming from Nitroplus about a Western release of the original Steins;Gate game, which would personally thrill me, as that's a game I've been wanting to play for quite a while. But I wouldn't hold my breath to see that game get released on anything other than on iOS devices, or possibly the Playstation Vita. The Western game console market is too wracked and glutted with expensive content and it's difficult for niche genres to break out, considering the costs involved. No way they'd bother trying to find a publisher willing to put out the original Xbox 360 version, for example.

And when I say "quality," I mean that implicitly. The Zero Escape games made a dent in Western gaming fans' eyes because they were basically billed as interesting puzzle games, and to their credit, the puzzle elements of the games actually correspond to, and actually enhance, the narrative. By comparison, Steins;Gate has very little actual "game" elements. I'm a pretty damn huge fan of the Phoenix Wright games also, but even those have a much bigger "video game" function than almost any other Visual Novel you can name.

But I'm optimistic, in general. Up until now, the only Visual Novels we've been seeing are the ones that play less like a Visual Novel and more like a traditional video game. Phoenix Wright and Zero Escape may not be million sellers, but they're series that people with passion for gaming for the most part know about. They were a great Trojan Horse to get Westerners a little taste of what Visual Novels are, so now maybe something like Steins;Gate - a purely Visual Novel with only the barest of game-like interaction - can find its audience.

The timing is right, and there's no shortage of digital platforms that allow self-publishing. (Except the Xbox!) All that matters now is that whoever wants to do it can afford the right time, hire the right translators, and trust that the audience will show up and pay for it.

^ I agree with everything here. Iā€™m also thinking that, in this age you don’t really need mainstream appeal anymore to survive, the core fanbase will keep you alive. And secondly, that translating games that haven’t already been translated by fans means more core fans will be willing to support you.

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.

13 Comments

  • from what I had talk with friends the main problem they find with geting into visual novels is this:
    1) what you said,no matter how many endings and different scenarios you have,they don’t see it as gaming.

    2) reading…may be because of laziness,boredom or something else,a lot of people don’t like reading and no story with cute characters can change that…

    3) lenght…and this conects with the second point,even if they don’t have issues with the reading part the time it takes to finish most games completely it’s a monster.

    4) and lastly,conecting to the third point,is the content of this hours apon hours of playing,there are too many scenes of characters doing activities that are not related to the main story (example:shiro’s cooking in fate),this scenes are necesary,the problem some find with them is ,as I said,the lenght.
    it could be compare to those who watch the movie and give a damn about the book because it’s long and lacks visuals,here the game is the book,and the anime adaptation the movie…

    • Would a person be abnormal if all the cons you said are pros in my book?

      The different endings gives you a choice (unless you like a side character more)

      BGMs, sprites with changing expressions, backgrounds and CGs set the atmosphere well, requiring little for your imagination to complete the scenery.

      Length = amount of time I get entertained. 30-50 hour long VNs vs 2 hour long movies? No contest there.

      That’s my opinion on this matter.

    • 1) I think the gaming component in VNs isn’t enough to consider it gaming, yet it is interactive enough to get you in character. I don’t really mind much the degree of control I have, but I like the feeling it gives that whatever is happening is a consequence of my decissions. It gets me deeper into the story.

      2) Some people like reading some don’t. I see it as books in which I’m immersed into the story in a way a normal book can’t make me.

      3) I also thought in the beginning length was too much. Yet I’ve come to see them as a series, not like a movie. When I sit down and play/read for an hour, its like I’m watching one or two episodes. The only problem comes when the VN is not that good, yet you have the same problem with TV series.

      4) I’m the sort of person that prefers to read the book instead of watching the movie when it is good. The Lord of the Rings movies do not stand a chance against Tolkien’s books. And that’s why I prefer visual novels: they’re not just books, but books with visuals, books with a soundtrack, and books which have enough interactivity so that I’m more able to blur the line between myself and the main character in a way I can’t in other media.

  • it’s video culture, tl;dr culture. lazy culture

    for some reason for me it doesnt feel like reading, it’s more like watching an anime, but maybe only bcuz i can understand the voices…?

    • It’s something in-between. The fact that there are sprites and voices gives you a certain representation, but then not everything is presented and in those parts you must use your imagination. When you read a normal book you have to imagine everything. And there’s no music to build up the atmosphere.

    • To me, I can’t understand a flip about what they are saying. What I like is simply the stories, the western ones have a tendency to be alike and, well, constructed according to what is “mainstream”. But that’s just me.

  • I’m a fan of the normal visual novels with a set amount of choices to go through all the different routes one may have but I think people here get a little too technical with them. The only real beef I’ve seen is trying to broadcast on twitch tv (game livestreaming). They do not see visual novels as games and ones such as Kamidori will also get you banned even while censoring or skipping over the ero.

    Visual novels became the most I’ll ever read nowadays and it’s fun because I’m quite simple so all these poor stories is enough to satisfy me. Plus the wonderful CG by all the amazing artists, voices by the spectacular actresses and actors and most of all, THE ERO! The ero is probably what makes me want to go through visual novels the most. I’m just a huge pervert but I don’t really care anymore.

    I’m very lazy as well, which is why I have to wait for translations because I don’t have the motivation to learn Japanese. Got to hope for the best and see if any visual novels I’ve “read” already get translated so I can truly go through them.

  • Agree 100% with Luz, and to expand on the 4th point, generally American audiences favor characters who take action, constantly driving the narrative forward. Think of superheroes, action heroes, war movies, and westerners — all popular American movie genres.

    This Hollywood mindset embedded into American culture does not translate well to Japanese visual novels. Visual novels generally prefer establishing relationships (ex. Shiro’s cooking), comedy, analytical situations, word-play, and female dominate characters. The male protagonist is not always the Hollywood charismatic type, but rather a character who augments the personalities of the females.

    There are many huge exceptions to this in anime. For example, we see strong protagonists in Death Note, Dragonball Z, Code Geass, etc. and this is ONE reason I feel anime has a stronger American fan-base than visual novels.

    American gamers want to feel like they are accomplishing something when they play their games. This could include doing puzzles, solving a murder, interacting with something, etc. This mindset of accomplishments may have been inherited from our love of movies. You do not necessarily accomplish much when you read a traditional visual novel. Americans need something more to sink their teeth into.

  • I also don’t like to read but i enjoy a good story and to me a visual novel feels like watching an anime,and some stories are just amazing that you can’t get in any other medium not to mention the music šŸ™‚

  • I think eroge better just sell in Japan. Releasing out of Japan may damage the image of eroge worldwide. Especially after that Rapelay sh*t. After that there was sum ban right?. I dont not wish for more bans. Viva “Freedom of Speech!”

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