Anime Vice News

Pirates Attack Fort Visual Novel, Translations Plundered

One man speaks out about the horrors.


It appears as if pirates have once again struck a blow against the industry, and we would not even have known if it wasn’t for the one man’s account of the vicious pirate attack. His name is John, but better known as Kouryuu on the interweb. Kouryuu works for Manga Gamer as a translator, translating Japanese visual novels into english. In a recent interview, he spoke about the business, and of course when you talk about business, the subjects of pirates is not far off.

As you might of guessed, the business of selling visual novels is not quite booming here in America, but according to their business plans, it could be doing a lot better. He states that Kira Kira, and Higurashi are “Nowhere near as high as we wish they’d be. If our sales could reach those goals, it would be much easier for us to license some of the games that are out of our reach right now.”

He goes on to state, "I also wish less people would pirate our games. For a multi-million-dollar console game developer, a few hundred or a thousand copies lost isn’t very significant, but for a small company like ours, every single loss hurts. As it stands, our best seller, Shuffle, has still only sold half the copies we’d like it to, and our next best sellers, Da Capo, Higurashi, and Kira Kira, have sold even less. People have asked us about whether or not we would ever publish hard copy print-runs, but the fact of the matter is that those are impossible if we can’t anticipate sales equating our current goal."

But I wonder, if it’s really the pirates that are taking away all of their business, or maybe a combination of other things? For one each game is probably about $50 each, which is a bit pricy for a game that’s nothing more than a glorified book. Either way this interview is not all gloom and doom, he goes on and gives good advice to becoming a good translator, and what his daily life looks like. Check it out if you have ever wondered what it’s like to work as a translator.
giaon March 7, 2010 at 9:42 p.m.
I think it's one of those things where the core audience of people who are interested in visual novels-- very hardcore anime fans --are also very much downloaders. If you're already keeping track of a bunch of series on a torrent site, adding VNs to your to-do list probably isn't very difficult. And they're PC games, so they're pretty easy to pirate. 
 
That said, I don't think many of that core who are already downloading are likely to be converted into paying users, and I don't know if VNs have much of a shot at reaching outside of that core market. Porn games in the US are usually considerably more...simplistic, at least in my experience. :\
Void_Wizardon March 7, 2010 at 9:58 p.m.
Of there won''t be hard copies sold you're bound to be arrested buying the games these days.
JJOR64on March 7, 2010 at 10:17 p.m.
Here are a few reasons why I think they don't make that much money:
 
  1. The games are way to pricey.  I would rather buy a great game on a console then a "book" on my PC.
  2. There selection is very low at the moment.  Hopefully it will get some big name games soon.
  3. These games usually only appeal to people who enjoy anime/manga or otaku.
  4. They need to do more advertising.  The only site I know that has advertisements for the site is Sankaku Complex.
 
I would love for this site to do very well, but I have a bad feeling about it going away in a year or so.
crusader8463on March 7, 2010 at 10:52 p.m.
 THEY WANT HOW MUCH?!?!
 THEY WANT HOW MUCH?!?!
It all comes down to the price. I once looked into buying one assuming it was $5-$10 based on what i had seen of the few that i downloaded to see what they where all about, and i was almost literally floored when i saw what they where asking for them. Most of these games are the equivalent of a controllable slide show with some text on top of them. While i understand it's probably expensive to get the artist to make the pictures for the game, but my god i thought the prices were a joke.
 
While i understand piracy is in many ways hurting various industries, it's also give them a wake up call. For years they got away with inflating the prices of this stuff and now that there is a way for people to get them without paying the ridiculous prices they are not gonna put up with it. While yes there will be people who just download things because they are too cheap to buy them, but to many people its the only form of protest they against an industry that loves to over charge for there products.
relentlessflameon March 7, 2010 at 11:01 p.m.
I was thinking about the "nothing more than a glorified book" statement and thought it more than a little odd.  But actually, in thinking it over, the amount of material in these books would easily fill a whole series of light novels (or a long manga series, I guess), with the average playing time of your typical visual novel being something like 30-50 hours.  If you look at the price of audio books of a comparable length, the price is actually in almost exactly the same range.  But rather than the whole "book" being audio narrated, you have graphics, music and a bit of interactivity. 
 
I guess maybe the problem is trying to market this to "gamers".  If there were actually a light novel market in North America (which there pretty much isn't, granted), that might be the more natural fit.  And in the context of the price of light novel series, normal paperback/hardcover novels, and audio books, the pricing doesn't seem so out of line since it's "book plus".  I guess the problem is simply that it's a product line that has no direct analogy, so people can't figure out how to valuate it.  People who generally equate video games with advanced 3D graphics, complex controller schemes, and innovative gameplay mechanics will only look at a visual novel as a "game minus".  And perhaps this confusion over classification and product valuation might explain why people have an "I'm not paying those kind of prices for a book!" mentality -- a lot of the current target audience probably doesn't even buy many books to begin with!  If you looked at it on a "time invested per dollar spent" basis, visual novels are a pretty good value compared to other anime, manga, and related options out there, but I suppose that's a moot point if the amount of dollars spent is zero...
Konandaon March 7, 2010 at 11:31 p.m.
@crusader8463:
I don't think they are overcharging for that. The high price is because that is what they are charging for in Japan for visual novels. So factoring in that stuff in Japan is more expensive, along with licensing fees and the cut from having to localize it they aren't too far off in price. Also given that it's a niche market that probably creates some influence in the price. 
 
For instance the 2004 (CD) PC release of Fate/stay night on amazon.jp is currently selling for  ¥2,480 yen used. Yes not new used. 
 
Edit: Now granted that is probably a more poular title but for a closer example let's take Shuffle. What I assume is a best sellers (read sold enough for a price drop with a slightly new cover) edition of the PS2 release is going for ¥2,876. 
 
So as you can see these games are much more expensive than you think they are. The only difference is there is a market to support it in Japan (at least at the moment) where here it's much to niche and there are few people interested in playing a visual novel and far fewer that will actually pay for one.
GodLen staff on March 7, 2010 at 11:52 p.m.
@relentlessflame: yeah you are right, audio books are expensive as hell.
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 8, 2010 at 12:36 a.m.
I've never heard of MangaGamer.com until just now. I've never been a PC gamer. I've also never used a torrent site. I don't trust them. You never know what you are really putting onto your computer.

I pretty much only play the standard systems. PS2/PS3/DS/Wii.
 
Perhaps they should try something like individual activation codes. Something that is unique and has to be confirmed through websites. Much in the same way Playstation and XBox do with a lot of the DLC codes they offer to games. Say, like when you pre-order games and get certain codes that only work once.

@crusader8463:
The only reason I talked about piracy in my case was because the product I wanted most of all was altered in such a way that it changes story events from the original.
Only recently did I learn that the DVDs of Detective Conan in the US has the option of Japanese dialog with the subtitles using the proper names. Which is why I've been looking into purchasing the movies and TV box sets. I like the option.
 
If the content isn't being altered it should be supported. Which is why Del Rey is one of my favorite manga publishers. I don't know what kind of translator MangaGamer is, but if they aren't altering content. I don't see why they need to be taught lessons. Publishers that strive to be as accurate as possible need to be supported as examples to others.
cfatalison March 8, 2010 at 1:29 a.m.
there's only one VN worth that ammount of money
 
and that is demonbane, and that one is half VN rather than a complete one, it's coupled with a mecha action game, a really nice one
CharredKnighton March 8, 2010 at 2:15 a.m.

@FoxxFireArt:
I should point out that Volume 16 of Negima is edited, in the American cover Ayaka's outfit is a whole lot less revealing, guess you better start pirating Del Ray manga now. 

Seriously, people need to learn that while the core audience in Japan is what keeping it a float, the core audience in America simply pirates their anime.  That's why Kyoani series, and Nanoha series while popular are also poor sellers.  Simply put their is no market for this type of things in America, because people such as FoxxFireArt are not just going to stop pirating their stuff. 
 
That's why funimation has survived since they loaded themselves with things such as Fullmetal Alchemist, though I question some of their recent decisions that seem to be courting disaster.

crusader8463on March 8, 2010 at 2:27 a.m.
@FoxxFireArt:@Konanda: The problem is not with the content of the product, as by downloading/buying it you are acknowledging that you want it, the problem is with how they price the product. Even if it is an amazing story with high production values people are still going to look at it from a purely money spent to use ratio. By your logic to go see the movie Avatar people should have had to pay $20 a ticket instead of the usualy $10, becasue it cost almost double of what an average movie costs to be made. However if they did do this very few people would go see the movie because from there point of view why should they care how much it cost to make? All they care about is that some one made a movie they want to see, and they go in expecting to pay the same amount to watch the movie as if it were any other movie. They don't, and shouldn't have to care that it cost twice as much and three times as long to make when compared to most other movies.
 
My point is that while after looking at the numbers on how much it costs for all the various aspects of its production that went into getting it released over here, the price per unit maybe on average a high number, but they need to take into account the market they are going into and the competition of similar products. While it may be unfair to liken them to the billion dollar video game industry, as soon as you stick a price tag of similar value to that of a video game on your product, a product that for all intents in purposes is a rudimentary video game, people are going to expect a certain level of production and interactivity. When
    I can buy a brand new story book, minus fancy pictures, for $10-$15. So why then does it cost $50+ to buy a story with fancy pictures to go along with the it?
   I can buy a brand new story book, minus fancy pictures, for $10-$15. So why then does it cost $50+ to buy a story with fancy pictures to go along with the it?
you put a box on a shelf next to story driven games like Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Heavy Rain, or even full fledged novels with a similar, or cheaper, price point people are going to be upset when they get home and find that they just bought what amounts to a choose your own adventure novel with a very slow moving picture slide show playing behind it.
 
While you can argue that it was there fault for not knowing what they were buying ahead of time, or that it's just how much it costs so you need to deal with it, but that's a very short term point of view. If the same games had been released for $15-$20 they may very well have sold three times as many than when they were priced at $50 each; which means even more profit for the same product at a cheaper price. Of course by selling at the lower price point there may be a percentage of people who buy the product at the cheaper value and decide its not for them, meaning you lost $25-$30 that you would have made on that same sale at the higher price point. However, you will also get a percentage of people interested in buying more of your products that would have other wise passed on even looking at anything else you have for sale because of the high cost of entry. These same people can potentially become life time customers who will end up buying even more of your products for years to come, all because of that initial $15-$20 product. By introducing them to you line of products at a reasonable price point you can potentially make even more money by using the low price of entry to get people interested in buying other products that you are selling; which means in the end you will make back the loss of profit on the initial sale by all the other things they buy from that point on. 
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 8, 2010 at 3:03 a.m.
@CharredKnight said:
" @FoxxFireArt:

I should point out that Volume 16 of Negima is edited, in the American cover Ayaka's outfit is a whole lot less revealing, guess you better start pirating Del Ray manga now. "

Might want to check again. Open Negima! Vol. 16 cover and that image is there unedited, in full color with no alteration.

It would help if you got your facts straight. =P
CharredKnighton March 8, 2010 at 4:13 a.m.
@FoxxFireArt:
I have it right here in front of me, while the illustration of the cover right before the table of contents  (which is always black and white) is uncesored, the actual cover is clearly censored.  So by your own theory you now have the right not to pay Del Ray for any of their material.
FoxxFireArt moderator on March 8, 2010 at 4:47 a.m.
@CharredKnight:
    
Cover and Sub-Cover for Negima! Volume 16
CharredKnighton March 8, 2010 at 4:58 a.m.
@FoxxFireArt:

Mine doesn't, and we could continue our battle here, but frankly this isn't the topic to continue this in
Konandaon March 8, 2010 at 8:03 a.m.
@crusader8463:
The thing is as has been said earlier the amount of content in the average visual novel is much greater than an average book. Also that is just about what the cost is when you figure in how niche the market is for visual novels, even in Japan you aren't going to get a ton of people going out to buy such a thing because they simply are not interested in it not because it's too expensive. They have to have enough people interested in buying it first before they can sell something that costs as much as a visual novel that cheaply otherwise they go bankrupt. The thing is visual novels are just not popular enough to warrent the costs of localizing them, granted they might get more people if they advertised it more but being a small I'm guessing fairly independent company they propably don't have the funds to do so.
giaon March 8, 2010 at 8:18 a.m.
@FoxxFireArt: IIRC, they can't sell the adult games on the PS2, and it's not a matter of setting up the tech. PS2 versions of eroge in Japan are edited for adult content. If Sony won't sell 'em in Japan, you can bet they're not going to risk it in North America.
HSaabedraon March 8, 2010 at 12:33 p.m.
@gia: 
VN's are indeed adapted for all ages on consoles in Japan because of content, although there is a substantial library of "gravure sims" where video of (insert popular gravure idol here) is transposed against a rudimentary menu of selections (images can be taken and saved into galleries, additional video is unlocked etc.) and these are sold openly without issue, creating an interesting double standard.
crusader8463on March 8, 2010 at 12:51 p.m.
@Konanda:  As i said in my previous post, that is a very short term point of view. I will repeat what i said before; If you lower the price of the product, even at a lose to profit, you can potentially make it back by the growth of your user base. Yes it has a small audience, yes it costs a lot to translate and make them, but your never going to get a larger customer base if you keep the price of entry so high. By lowering the price point you will get more people buying your product then you would have at the higher price point, because most interested parties see the price tag and just walk away without giving it a try. If you sell ten copies at $15 each that's $150 profit, but if you sell two copies at $50 that's only $100 profit; that's $50 less money you could have made. By selling them at $15 each those same people are going to be much more likely to end up buying $50 worth of your other products if they liked what they saw in the first place, but they would never have considered doing that because the price of entry was so high they couldn't be bothered looking at what other things you sell. 
 
Like it or not when they try to sell these products in this market place they need to look at there competition. While it's unfair to compare them to video games and books that is the competition they are fighting against in this market by selling there products here. When people look at them they ether see them as novels, and wonder why they cost so much more than a novel does, or they see them as video games, and they wonder why there is next to know interactivity or game to it. If they want to make profit in this market place they ether need to raise the interactivity to be more like a video game, or lower the price point to be competitive to novels. Like it or not that is there competition, and if they cant offer something similar to them then it will always stay as this niche thing only a handful of people buy.
wwfunderakeron March 8, 2010 at 2:15 p.m.
I got Shuffle! of them, it was pricey but worth it.
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