Could an English VN do well in Japan?

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melodym3
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Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#1 Post by melodym3 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:32 pm

This isn't directed at anything specific, just something I was thinking about today and was curious about. I assume most people on this forum are creators of western, english speaking visual novels (or sims/otome/stat raisers/kinetic/ect), not all of course, but the majority seems to be such.

Japanese VNs translated into english have a market here, but what about the reverse. If you were able to get your entire game translated, and then was able to market it properly to a Japanese audience, do you think it would have a chance at success overseas?

Maybe it's just that I haven't seen this done often, which I'm sure is for a variety of reasons (cost of translating, amount of work involved, and other variables) but I feel even if you got past all the obstacles it wouldn't have the same effect as those Japanese counterparts.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever considered trying to branch into that market? We already know there's a calling for these games there, but does that even apply to what we're doing?
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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#2 Post by Greeny » Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:02 pm

In any case, it'd be a lot harder even getting the product to the people.
From my experience, the Japanese don't use the internet the way we do; although I have to admit I only know about the average person, not so much about the subset of Otaku culture.
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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#3 Post by melodym3 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 5:16 pm

you bring up a really interesting point about just general cultural differences being as much of a barrier as the different language. Now I'm wondering what other variables are involved. Either way it's complicated! haha
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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#4 Post by LVUER » Fri Jul 26, 2013 6:49 pm

Greeny wrote:In any case, it'd be a lot harder even getting the product to the people.
From my experience, the Japanese don't use the internet the way we do; although I have to admit I only know about the average person, not so much about the subset of Otaku culture.
In what way they are different than other countries? I'm really curious...
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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#5 Post by gekiganwing » Sat Jul 27, 2013 1:33 am

I seem to remember Jack_Norton talking about how Bionic Heart got some attention among Japanese fans. He will have much more insight than me, of course...

Anyway, this is not an easy question to answer. You can ask "will it play in Peoria?" all day, but until you try to sell your product, you can't guarantee how many customers will buy it. And popularity is an elusive, fickle thing that can't be bought.

There are plenty of examples of products which are much more successful outside of their place of origin. Starcraft was an unexpected hit in Korea, Kim Possible became a success in Germany... so it's entirely possible that your VN might attract the attention of a specific group of people that you can't directly communicate with. But overall, I think you'll benefit more by 1) aiming to please yourself with quality writing (and gameplay), and 2) marketing your game to an audience you know well.

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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#6 Post by melodym3 » Sat Jul 27, 2013 4:51 am

Yes, I think we can all agree it shouldn't be a priority, especially in the development stages, I just find this sort of thing to be interesting. I doubt I'd ever have the patience, time or money to try to tackle something like this, so it's fun hearing about others experiences with the subject. Maybe my definition of fun is weird. haha.

Either way, those are some interesting examples! That just makes me even more curious what sort of forces are behind these sorts of things. It's very strange how things work, like fashion trends, one hit wonders, or even movies with cult followings. Though, I guess if someone was able to figure out the 'it' factor, they would have done it by now. Maybe it'll forever be a mystery! I should go read up on marketing or something, just for fun.
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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#7 Post by Chu-3 » Sat Jul 27, 2013 12:34 pm

LMAO. I'm making my game in Japanese and English, I've been attending Comiket and I think I know the market quite well.
In my case, I make otome game so mostly the Japanese VN Maker are otome/bl related.

In Japan, it is nearly a common sense to everyone that if we make a paid games, we will need to sell it at comiket. For the rest of the products which is not sold at comiket, you will need to sell it at doujin shop. Digital downloads system is not that famous in Japan, since they're afraid if their information will leak or if they forget the download link. They will feel safer if they have the hardcopy in hands. DLsite is the most famous digital download store there, but as far as I know, mostly stuffs that sells well there are adult stuffs, because some people are shy to buy this kind of stuffs directly at store.

So it is damn difficult in Japan to let someone know about our products. Some of my friends make brochures and pamflets and ask some shops to let them put it there. Less people use the internet to browse for "unknown" products. And as far as I know, a lot of famous writers and illustrators who usually works for otomate and any other Japanese AAA companies, join up together and make doujin game. This how they managed to get their fans buy it on comiket and other store. Fan base is very important. If you don't have any fan base, it's very hard to sell your games over 13-15 usd if it's VN...or to be specific, otome.

Yet, I know that some people are interested for foreign games. There is a foreign booth category at comiket as well. But then... I never go there myself(the foreign booth is set up at different day with otome booth) Idk how many people comes. EVN has potential I think. I knew some of my friends who seems to be interested with the EVN site I showed but then they can't understand(language barrier). Yet, the biggest problem is same I guess. How to make they know about your product.

So is there any way to make your doujin/indies game famous there instantly? Yes. Easy. Money. Just pay some Japanese VN magazines to review your product. I forget how much it cost but I heard some people do this and succeed.

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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#8 Post by melodym3 » Sat Jul 27, 2013 5:15 pm

Woah, if you're willing to do comiket you deserve every bit of foreign business you're getting Chu. That's intense! I get overwhelmed with doing small local cons, I can't imagine doing anything that big and in another country. You're either crazy or a marketing genius. haha.

I imagine you must speak Japanese or have someone along with you who does? Still, that must be just the tip of the iceberg for work involved in tackling something like that. That's seriously impressive, and also pretty intimidating. hahaha.
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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#9 Post by Chu-3 » Sun Jul 28, 2013 12:06 am

LMAO. I'm quarter Japanese and I've lived in Japan nearly 8 years. Now I don't live at Japan again but I still go there frequently. I have some Japanese seiyuu and some other people helped me.
Well, for me comiket and other cons are more like a place to find networking. I managed to know some more indie developers and some businessman from it. It's not really bring us any profit actually, since the transport fee is already quite expensive. (For my case, plane ticket haha) And also, this comiket is different with other cons. It started at around 9 or 10 but then people already leave at 2, because they need to hurry to catch the shipment service before others. Super short and... doesn't really make money if you're not that famous. I've joined other cons at other country and they are usually being held for 2-3 days (comiket just 1).

Anyway, like what Greeny said, the biggest problem before you can know if English VN would do well in Japan is, how to get people know it. As far as I know, Katawa Shoujo might be the first foreign made VN that Japanese know. But then I hardly hear other titles like that. Luck, ads and strategy I guess :)

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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#10 Post by melodym3 » Sun Jul 28, 2013 2:11 am

ahh I see. Yeah I was curious how hard it would be to turn a profit at a convention like that. I have a hard enough time breaking even when I go to conventions to sell prints and charms. But if you're going into it with the purpose of marketing and making connections, that's a whole 'nother story. Very cool to hear from a different perspective.

I don't plan on tackling another language market, but after hearing all the work involved I really respect those that are attempting that. Best of luck to any of you that plan on giving this a shot!
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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#11 Post by Destiny » Sun Jul 28, 2013 4:35 am

Well, I am in Japan right now, and I think, the biggest problem, even more then getting people to know it, is the language.
I am studying here (and every school has to teach english here) and I can only talk properly with maybe 11 japanese students.
Most japanese have great trouble with the english language, so I imagine it as quite difficult to get the attention over here without translating the game. There are of course exceptions and in big cities and Tokyo and Osaka, the chance of english speaking japanese is ok, but still.
Video games are mainly a children or male habitat. And of course, almost all games here are either fully in japanese or have a japanese subtitle.

So I think, it would be a difficult fight either way without getting very popular or famous in the indie game area :/
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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#12 Post by Chu-3 » Sun Jul 28, 2013 5:06 am

LMAO. What I mean here is if the game has already translated to Japanese.
(In my case I sell my game in English and Japanese.)
If the game is not translated and it's VN, I'll say the chance to sell it is nearly 0.
Maybe some people who like rare and unique stuffs will buy, but that's all.

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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#13 Post by Green Glasses Girl » Mon Jul 29, 2013 12:28 pm

gekiganwing wrote:There are plenty of examples of products which are much more successful outside of their place of origin. Starcraft was an unexpected hit in Korea, Kim Possible became a success in Germany... so it's entirely possible that your VN might attract the attention of a specific group of people that you can't directly communicate with.
There is an entire trope devoted to this phenomenon.

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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#14 Post by Destiny » Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:12 pm

Well, but to go and say, that especially Japan should like it...
Well, there are criteria to make a game popular in Japan. If those are fulfilled, then there is a chance. If not, then not.
But usually, a very well made game always has a chance. I mean, look at the RPG Maker games "The Witch House", "Misao", "Ao Oni" and "Mad Father". They have a gigantic fanbase, especially in Korea, North America and the nordic countries. The games were not made for those, but they were a big hit there anyway.
Even commercial games have that. "Scratches" is made by a argentinian company and was a huge success in Germany. If they planned that? I doubt it.

So, wanting to make the game popular and well-received?
Should be possible with hard work and lot of love for the game.

Make the game popular in a specific country?
Research, fit the game to the countries language and preferences and see what happens.
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Re: Could an English VN do well in Japan?

#15 Post by CheeryMoya » Thu Aug 01, 2013 2:00 am

On a semi-related note, Playism was looking for Western indie games to localize for Japanese audiences. I think they'll take both free and commercial games. Maybe someone might be interested in trying them out?

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