Visual Novels and Monetization

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Morhighan
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Visual Novels and Monetization

#1 Post by Morhighan » Mon Aug 22, 2016 11:01 am

So recently I played the VisualShower games that I could find for my phone. Specifically I played White Island and Beyond the Bounds, both of which I have been impressed with so far.

For those of you unfamiliar with VisualShower's games, they release visual novels that have "escape the room" type interactions for smartphones. Players get the prologue for free. After the player has read it, they can wait a few days for the next chapter to unlock, or they can buy it using in-game currency. The in-game currency can either be bought with real currency, or earned by sharing the completion of the chapter on social media.

I really can appreciate this sort of monetization of content. I always shy away from Otome games, for instance, because many of them employ the "purchase the routes of the boy you want to date" method of monetization. I may be wrong, but I haven't run into many popular otome games that allow you to earn the premium currency. Because I don't have disposable income, I usually just avoid these types of games.

However, because VisualShower lets players experience the game after waiting or earning enough premium currency via sharing, I have become absolutely fascinated with the concept of visual novels and monetization. I'm actually not too interested in the moneymaking part, but more fascinated by the methods of programming it. But money doesn't hurt. ;)

I watch the Extra Credits series, and they make some really good points about "Free to Play" games and monetization. You can watch the playlist on Free to Play here.

Of course, when speaking of free to play games, I feel it's important to recognize that some companies do it with good intentions while others put forth efforts to get money from players that seems less than savory. I'm hoping to figure out a more "moral" way to monetize games, especially visual novels. This goes for both PC and mobile platforms.

I'm curious what you all have to think on this matter. Do you play or make monetized visual novels? What styles work for you personally as a player or as a developer?

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Re: Visual Novels and Monetization

#2 Post by Anne » Mon Aug 22, 2016 8:06 pm

Just wanted to say that there're plenty free otome games (I'd say more than those where you purchase routes), Voltage and Solmare (Shall We Date) both have them as well as many other companies that only do free ones. And I definitely recommend Mystic Messenger if you haven't tried it (it has a very unique concept greatly implemented and not many of the free games disadvantages).
Personally I don't play "free" mobile games as they normally require too much effort to progress the story compared to just paying for routes (buying stuff in "free" games is way too expensive), besides you have to keep the story in mind from day to day so all in all it feels more like a chore.

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Re: Visual Novels and Monetization

#3 Post by Miss Skizzors » Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:05 pm

I don't like paying for visual novels. I'm just going to come out and say that. I mean, it's not for the same reason as some other people. Some people think that visual novels don't give you as much as a "real game" does, so they aren't willing to pay for what they feel is incomplete. But why would I start developing them if I felt visual novels were incomplete games? As a matter of fact, the reason I don't like to pay for them is because quality is never assured. A demo helps, but they rarely share the word count, and even if they do it's not easy to calculate how long it will personally take you to read it.

I'm not going to name names, since I know at least one of the people who worked on it hangs around these parts. However I absolutely love one of their free games, but I wouldn't have been satisfied with the one I paid for if it were free, and let's just say it was in the $10-15 range. I'm not particularly judgmental, but one should always live up to their previous standards. That applies to teams, not just individual developers. Also, I'm not one for episodic games. Sequels, yes. Episodes, no.

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Re: Visual Novels and Monetization

#4 Post by trooper6 » Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:15 pm

Thought 1: I have no problem paying for a VN if it is good. And I have paid for good VNs.
Thought 2: The whole "pay for the route of the boy you want to date" I don't like at all. It doesn't feel organic to me...it feels...cheaty...like you are just buying affection. I'd rather buy a full game and then see what happens then buy my boyfriend.
Thought 3: One of my favorite games of all time was Cause of death which was a weekly episodic game. You could wait and get the episode for free, for pay a buck and get the episode early. I would usually get the each episode for free then buy the entire season because I wanted to support the game devs...because that game was so good!
Thought 4: The people who used to make Cause of Death have now formed a new studio and are using a new monetization model. You get two keys every two and a half hours and you can unlock chapters with keys. So theoretically you can play the whole thing for free. Completing each chapter gives you a diamond. You can spend your diamonds on extra scenes and extra options. You can also buy extra diamonds or extra keys. I bought some extra diamonds...because, again, I really want to support these developers...but I don't actually like this model. I'd prefer they had a price per episode and everyone you pays that price gets access to all the things in the episode...I don't really like the idea that I get more/different content in the same episode because I bought some diamonds...if feels unfair.

So, there you go.
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Re: Visual Novels and Monetization

#5 Post by Rossfellow » Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:24 pm

Do you play or make monetized visual novels? What styles work for you personally as a player or as a developer?
The monetization type you describe seems to be prevalent in mobile phone platforms.

This maybe a side-effect of platform differences, but one of the advantages of VNs on consoles (and lots of PC ones) is that you buy a whole game and play the whole game. VNs with content DLC is very uncommon there, and if they do exist they're mostly cosmetic add-ons (Costume patch in Steins;Gate.)

Honestly, I prefer that model. It's very straightforward and brings it to par with media of its ilk like books and film.
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Re: Visual Novels and Monetization

#6 Post by Miss Skizzors » Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:31 pm

trooper6 wrote:Thought 4: The people who used to make Cause of Death have now formed a new studio and are using a new monetization model. You get two keys every two and a half hours and you can unlock chapters with keys. So theoretically you can play the whole thing for free. Completing each chapter gives you a diamond. You can spend your diamonds on extra scenes and extra options. You can also buy extra diamonds or extra keys. I bought some extra diamonds...because, again, I really want to support these developers...but I don't actually like this model. I'd prefer they had a price per episode and everyone you pays that price gets access to all the things in the episode...I don't really like the idea that I get more/different content in the same episode because I bought some diamonds...if feels unfair.

So, there you go.
Interesting. I was extremely close to bringing up Cause of Death's sister game, Surviving High School. I loved them both, but particularly SHS. At some point I may even make a VN with a few stylistic similarities. Aside from being VN's, of course. I'd be interested to know about this new studio of theirs. The only thing I'm aware of is that Centerscore were swallowed whole by Vivendi.

Also, my love for these games seems to contradict what I said about episodic games, I'm aware. But if you recall the free stories that just came from downloading the games (The Maskmaker and Football Season), those were my favorites. Not that I didn't check out other content too, some of which I paid for. Yes, yes, I said some. It's up to you to guess how I got some of the additional content at that time...

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Re: Visual Novels and Monetization

#7 Post by trooper6 » Mon Aug 22, 2016 9:47 pm

Miss Skizzors wrote: Interesting. I was extremely close to bringing up Cause of Death's sister game, Surviving High School. I loved them both, but particularly SHS. At some point I may even make a VN with a few stylistic similarities. Aside from being VN's, of course. I'd be interested to know about this new studio of theirs. The only thing I'm aware of is that Centerscore were swallowed whole by Vivendi.

Also, my love for these games seems to contradict what I said about episodic games, I'm aware. But if you recall the free stories that just came from downloading the games (The Maskmaker and Football Season), those were my favorites. Not that I didn't check out other content too, some of which I paid for. Yes, yes, I said some. It's up to you to guess how I got some of the additional content at that time...
Aside...Cause of Death and Surviving High School are definitely VNs. People don't tend to talk about them here because they have no connection to the Japanese anime world...but they are still VNs.

After EA bought them and then cancelled them, the people who created SHS and CoD formed their own studio Pixelberry Studios (http://www.pixelberrystudios.com). They have an app called Choices and inside that app there are three different stories: Most Wanted (think Cause of Death but in Los Angeles); The Freshman (which I think is their new version of SHS--but maybe in college?); and The Crown and The Flame (which is fantasy). I have only played Most Wanted so far...though I will eventually play book one of all three. Most Wanted feels a lot like Cause of Death...which is a bit frustrating, but I imagine what was more frustrating was to create this IP that means something to you, and then you get sold to EA, they cancel your game...and then you can't do anything with the IP you created anymore so have to start again.
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*Currently Doing: Coding of emotions and camera for the labels--On 5/10
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*Next Next thing to do: Set up film animation
*Other Thing to Do: Do SFX and Score (maybe think about eye blinks?)
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Re: Visual Novels and Monetization

#8 Post by Miss Skizzors » Mon Aug 22, 2016 10:11 pm

trooper6 wrote: Aside...Cause of Death and Surviving High School are definitely VNs. People don't tend to talk about them here because they have no connection to the Japanese anime world...but they are still VNs.
You're right, they're unconnected to Japanese visual novels, but making a game in Ren'Py doesn't make them any more Japanese... no, seriously. PyTom's not Japanese and neither are a lot of the developers here. So if you create VN's that don't use Japanese art styles, then they're on the same playing field as those two games. I don't think we need to shy away from comparisons to any visual novels. I mean, it's a big enough debate as to whether visual novels are automatically games or not.
trooper6 wrote: Most Wanted feels a lot like Cause of Death...which is a bit frustrating, but I imagine what was more frustrating was to create this IP that means something to you, and then you get sold to EA, they cancel your game...and then you can't do anything with the IP you created anymore so have to start again.
I always felt bad for them about that. But anyway, we're kind of dragging the thread off-topic aren't we? My bad. Also, I think that I'd like to see people being more innovative with monetization methods. Wouldn't it be interesting if we had one that specifically catered to visual novels? I have my ideas, but I need to make them... less exploitable. :lol:

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Re: Visual Novels and Monetization

#9 Post by Morhighan » Tue Aug 23, 2016 5:50 am

Anne wrote:Just wanted to say that there're plenty free otome games (I'd say more than those where you purchase routes), Voltage and Solmare (Shall We Date) both have them as well as many other companies that only do free ones. And I definitely recommend Mystic Messenger if you haven't tried it (it has a very unique concept greatly implemented and not many of the free games disadvantages).
Personally I don't play "free" mobile games as they normally require too much effort to progress the story compared to just paying for routes (buying stuff in "free" games is way too expensive), besides you have to keep the story in mind from day to day so all in all it feels more like a chore.
Oh good to know! Apparently I've only run int the purchase routes ones, and I guess that scared me off. :lol: I've just downloaded Mystic Messenger as of yesterday. I'm super impressed with it!
Because I don't have disposable income, I don't usually mind putting out the effort to progress the story. Well...as long as I can remember/it holds my interest!

Miss Skijors wrote:I don't like paying for visual novels. Also, I'm not one for episodic games. Sequels, yes. Episodes, no.
As a developer I like paying my fellow developers and supporting them, despite any potential problems with quality. I mean, I might take certain measures to check out a game before hand and THEN pay for it (thank goodness my friends seem to like the same games I do, or I'd never know what to buy) but I guess I'm willing to make a leap of faith sometimes if the company has a good track record. If not, I'll probably get it in a bundle!

I have mixed feeling on the episodic games bit. I'm not usually into episodic games, though I really enjoyed Umineko for instance. I'd much rather go for sequels if this was a traditional medium, however because I'm mostly interested in indie games, I understand that you can really "shoot yourself in the foot" by making a sequel instead of putting all the content in one game.

trooper6 wrote:Thought 1: I have no problem paying for a VN if it is good. And I have paid for good VNs.
Thought 2: The whole "pay for the route of the boy you want to date" I don't like at all. It doesn't feel organic to me...it feels...cheaty...like you are just buying affection. I'd rather buy a full game and then see what happens then buy my boyfriend.
Thought 3: One of my favorite games of all time was Cause of death which was a weekly episodic game. You could wait and get the episode for free, for pay a buck and get the episode early. I would usually get the each episode for free then buy the entire season because I wanted to support the game devs...because that game was so good!
Thought 4: The people who used to make Cause of Death have now formed a new studio and are using a new monetization model. You get two keys every two and a half hours and you can unlock chapters with keys. So theoretically you can play the whole thing for free. Completing each chapter gives you a diamond. You can spend your diamonds on extra scenes and extra options. You can also buy extra diamonds or extra keys. I bought some extra diamonds...because, again, I really want to support these developers...but I don't actually like this model. I'd prefer they had a price per episode and everyone you pays that price gets access to all the things in the episode...I don't really like the idea that I get more/different content in the same episode because I bought some diamonds...if feels unfair.

So, there you go.
Thought 1: Ditto, friend.
Thought 2: It kind of feels like buying prostitutes to me, and I've joked about that before. Not that there's anything wrong with using that industry's services, but I'd rather feel the relationship grow more...naturally. :wink:
Thought 3: I will need to check that out!
Thought 4: Huh. Interesting. But I think i like the model in Thought 3 better as well. It does feel unfair to "penalize" the player's experience because of what they did or did not buy.

Rossfellow wrote:
The monetization type you describe seems to be prevalent in mobile phone platforms.

This maybe a side-effect of platform differences, but one of the advantages of VNs on consoles (and lots of PC ones) is that you buy a whole game and play the whole game. VNs with content DLC is very uncommon there, and if they do exist they're mostly cosmetic add-ons (Costume patch in Steins;Gate.)

Honestly, I prefer that model. It's very straightforward and brings it to par with media of its ilk like books and film.
It does indeed! However I've seen some of that monetization start to happen with Steam games. I know there is an upcoming phone game that is also being ported to steam, and you can buy the boys' routes as DLC.

I'd like to explore DLC in VNs more. I've been thinking that more can be done with it than the cosmetic add-ons, but I'm not sure what.

I prefer the model as well, but I'm still curious if there are alternate models out there that I haven't heard of or thought of. :)
Miss Skizzors wrote:But anyway, we're kind of dragging the thread off-topic aren't we? My bad. Also, I think that I'd like to see people being more innovative with monetization methods. Wouldn't it be interesting if we had one that specifically catered to visual novels? I have my ideas, but I need to make them... less exploitable. :lol:
That's okay by me! It was an interesting side note to read. I definitely am interested in more innovation with monetization as well. Now I have to think on that! Ahaha, I can get that, things can be easy to exploit sometimes. :lol:

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Re: Visual Novels and Monetization

#10 Post by trooper6 » Tue Aug 23, 2016 11:52 am

Sadly, you won't be able to play Cause of Death anymore.
And perhaps the story of why not might make you think about monetization and the mobile game.

Cause of Death (and Surviving High School) was created by a company called Centerscore. these were weekly episodic games with really excellent writing. You could play for free for the week the episode was live, or you could pay a buck to buy the episode. You would buy it if you wanted to read the next episode early, or if you wanted to own the episode--if you didn't play the episode the week when it was live for free, then you'd have to buy it to play it, but hen it was yours. I played everything live, but I also bought everything on my old iPad.

Centerscore ended up being bought by EA. EA eventually decided that the games didn't make big money enough to keep the games running. So EA cancelled the games and pulled the games off of the App Store. So what does this mean? It means new people can't buy the games. But it also means that I can only play the games on my old iPad. I have an iPhone now, but can't play the games I paid for on it because EA pulled the game.

This makes me hesitant to pay for mobile games. So, I want any sort of ownership to be permanent.
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*Currently Doing: Coding of emotions and camera for the labels--On 5/10
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*Next Next thing to do: Set up film animation
*Other Thing to Do: Do SFX and Score (maybe think about eye blinks?)
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Re: Visual Novels and Monetization

#11 Post by Morhighan » Tue Aug 23, 2016 12:26 pm

@Trooper that's terrible! Also I've only heard of like one or two games being pulled, and usually it's for much better reasoning than that. ._.;

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Re: Visual Novels and Monetization

#12 Post by Zelan » Tue Aug 23, 2016 6:05 pm

Miss Skizzors wrote:I don't like paying for visual novels. I'm just going to come out and say that. I mean, it's not for the same reason as some other people. Some people think that visual novels don't give you as much as a "real game" does, so they aren't willing to pay for what they feel is incomplete. But why would I start developing them if I felt visual novels were incomplete games? As a matter of fact, the reason I don't like to pay for them is because quality is never assured. A demo helps, but they rarely share the word count, and even if they do it's not easy to calculate how long it will personally take you to read it.
This may be somewhat off-topic, but this sentiment doesn't make much sense to be. It's true that quality is never assured, but... isn't that true of anything? I've read the descriptions of books before and thought, "Wow, this book seems awesome!" only to read them and be let down.

Sure, there are ways to try things out for free and not have to commit money to them. Not sure if a book will be any good? Go to the library. A movie or TV show? If you have Netflix (and if my information is correct), you're charged a monthly fee rather than paying for each product individually. A video game? Go over to a friend's place and use their copy (with permission, please don't go around stealing your friends' games cx).

But sometimes, no local library has the book you want, Netflix lets you down, or none of your friends were at all interested in that one game. And that's the point where you have to make that decision on whether you're willing to spend money on that product or not. Are you going to be disappointed sometimes? Yeah, probably. But you'll also find some things that you really enjoy that you would never had experienced had you not gone ahead and bought them.

I could even say the same for how I treat free VNs found on this forum, with my time functioning as a currency of sorts. I tend to be somewhat picky when downloading games from here since there isn't time to play all of them AND do my homework AND have a social life, etc. etc. etc. So usually, if a game doesn't immediately strike my fancy based on its opening post, I click away from it and don't think about it again. However, maybe the art style for the sprites catches my eye, or I've played and enjoyed games from the same developer(s) before, or people keep on bringing it up in other threads and praising it. So I'll go ahead and give it a chance, and many times I'm pleasantly surprised. This was the case for the one I most recently played, Midnight's Cafe, which I played because it's by Hidden Masquerade, the creators behind The Phantom of the Hospital. It wasn't the absolute pinnacle of visual novels and it's not my favorite one ever, but it's quite an experience and it left an impression on me. Of course, time and money are two different things, so this is nowhere near a perfect comparison, but it boils down to the same principal at its core.

Anyway, after that long spiel, I'll get back on topic. There's a mobile app that I recently came across called Episode, which is basically a whole bunch of episodic VNs, most of them created by other users of the app. (There are some that are put out by the studio, but it seems like they're always partnered with some sort of company, since the two themes seem to be Mean Girls and ...Demi Lovato, I guess.) How it works in terms of money: The app itself is free. You can choose which story you'd like to read, and the first chapter of each one is free. After that, every new episode costs one pass. You start out with four passes, and after using them, you'll get three more every four hours. However, they don't stack past that three. So if you don't touch the game for twenty-four hours, you won't have eighteen passes, you'll have three. Plus, you have to watch 2-3 ads before starting each new episode. I don't know whether or not you still have to if you buy the passes, though (I haven't bought any myself).

Besides that, there are also diamonds, which are used to unlike what I guess are more "desirable" choices. These can only be bought. The diamond choices aren't present in most of the stories that I've read, though - I think a lot of the creators dislike them as much as the readers do.

I haven't seen the creation engine yet, but I think that it forces the stories to be linear by nature. I can't really confirm that, but every one that I've played seems to have variation in dialogue and such but not much impact on the actual story. Then again, I haven't gotten to the end of any stories yet, so I could be completely wrong.

I don't hate this business model, since you can theoretically get through the whole thing without paying any money, but having to wait can definitely be annoying, especially if you're reading a story with shorter episodes. And the diamond thing is just irksome, but like I said most of the stories that I've read haven't had any diamond options, so it hasn't been a huge pain in the ass.

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