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Siliconera Sounds Off: Talking Localization And Expansion With MangaGamer

By Ishaan . January 3, 2010 . 6:02pm

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Recently, I had the opportunity to talk at length with EvoSpace, localization editor on several of MangaGamer’s games, and moderator at the MG forum about some of their projects. What initially started out as a talk about localization eventually went on and on (and on) to cover marketing, relations with Japanese publishers, how they pick their projects, expanding beyond the niche audience and even the pricing of their games.

 

Some of it is stuff you might already know, but some of it was fairly insightful and showed me just how advanced some visual novel publishers are, when it comes to communicating with their fans and being open to suggestions that would help improve business. As always, since the unedited discussion in its entirety is fairly long, we’ll be posting it in installments over the next couple weeks.

 

Participants:

 

Localization Editor, MangaGamer – EvoSpace

Siliconera – Ishaan Sahdev

 

http://www.siliconera.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/sso_ishaan.jpg Ishaan: To begin with, could you give me some insight as to how MangaGamer is set up in terms of projects? How many people do you usually assign to a single project?

 

 

http://www.siliconera.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/sso_evospace.jpg EvoSpace: Currently, we have two lines of localization set up, working concurrently. They each consist of translators, scripters, editors, proofreaders, and testers. We have one or several translators depending on the project size. The scripters are the ones who convert the code of the original game to the visual novel engine we are using. Both of these first halves of the projects take about a month working concurrently, and then we get to the second half which is the testing and quality-checking stage.

 

Obviously, some people are required to multi-task and longer games take a longer time. There was a lot to organize in the beginning, but now, things are running smoother than ever before, including hiring translators who are knowledgeable about these visual novels.

 

Ishaan: So, you don’t recycle the engine the original developer used. Instead, you bring the assets into your own custom engine? Is it the same engine across all your games?

 

EvoSpace: Yes. We use a system based on the BGI (Buriko General Interpreter) engine for all our games so far. This is for smoother gameplay and maximum compatibility in the English PC environment.

 

Ishaan: Now, MangaGamer is an entirely solo operation, unlike JAST USA, Peach Princess and G-Collections. How’s that working out for you? Do you think there’s an advantage to being your own entity, or would you rather have the cross-promotion those companies do?

 

EvoSpace: I would say we are doing fine for now just under one single name. Since the English visual novel market isn’t as diverse as in Japan, we are getting fairly good exposure to the core consumer directly. But in order to reach out to the more casual fans, I think it is necessary to go over the border of just this market and do promotions with sites of bigger / wider areas of interests.

 

Ishaan: By "sites of wider areas of interest," do you mean more mainstream game sites or are you thinking beyond those to try and attract the attention of an even more mainstream consumer? I mean, I hate to be this blunt, but "sex sells," so there’s definitely a market outside of our niche. And even without taking that factor into consideration, these are called visual "novels" in the end.

 

EvoSpace: Maybe not towards the crowd who only plays western games, but I believe those people who play Japanese RPGs, watch animes, and/or read manga are all potential customers.

 

Yes, "sex sells", and I think it is an easy way to appeal to first timers, but it could be or not be the main appeal of the game itself. I’m hoping more people will grow to like other elements such as the stories, characters, and music of these titles.

 

Ishaan: So, the "casual-niche." People that are into Japanese entertainment media in general, but don’t actively seek out information on all the different kinds of products. Has there been any discussion as to how you’d go about that? Attending anime conventions is something you already do, for example.

 

EvoSpace: Since it takes a lot of effort to attend conventions throughout the world, we are starting from something subtle but specific like getting advertisement space on the pamphlet of the conventions. If there is someone from a similar industry having an exhibit, we would like to ask them to pass out free demo discs of our game.

 

Ishaan: What about getting in touch with anime publishers so you can arrange for pamphlets or free demos with their DVDs or maybe booking advertising space on fansub websites?

 

EvoSpace: Yes, I’m hoping we can definitely work with anime publishers. Maybe start from something small like a simple link exchange.

 

The fansub and fan-translation crowds are another group we would like to closely work with. If there is a translator who would like to work on our team, we could even offer them a position.


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  • 311

    “If there is a translator who would like to work on our team, we could even offer them a position.” That is very good, too bad Im still learning jap

    • It’s “Japanese” not “Jap”

    • minimoto

      As one of those fan-translators, I’m curious as to how they would work such things out.

  • keriaku

    Looking forward to the rest of this.

  • Reikon

    It almost seems like you guys are being paid by MangaGamer or something. You have so many articles about them and their games, but nothing at all on the games Jast releases.

    There’s no real cross-promotion between the Jast brands. They’re just that. Brands. Nobody really treats them like separate companies. It’s more of a promotion between their store J-list and their game division.

    • Uh… but didn’t you work on one of their titles, if I’m not mistaken?

      Naw, I don’t believe they’re buying out/getting paid under the table. Siliconera has integrity and from what I hear MG isn’t really isn’t in a position to do promotions other than what they sponsored at Anime News Network, so you got a lot of galls coming out with that, Sir. I mean, I would think you’d want any of these publishers to get their name out there to see this genre grow on the net, but I guess not?
      MG just seems to be really branching out with titles recently, which, personally, are more noteworthy than what the other companies have been doing lately. I liked “Do You Like (…) Bunnies” as much as the next guy, but to put it in perspective look at Jast’s upcoming release; Cat Girl Alliance. Is that really the highlight of our year?

      Don’t get me wrong, I love what these guys are doing and really hope they ALL stick around to see better times. Hey, if the word on the net is true about Saya no Uta then that’s fantastic – count me in, but if you read the article about what they’re actually doing here then what you’re seeing is *serious* potential.

      • Reikon

        Yes, I did work on one of MG’s titles, but I’m neutral and criticize both companies.I never said they WERE getting paid, but it ALMOST seems like they were since they’ve had so many MG articles lately and not a single one on Jast. Roughly around the time Siliconera started writing articles about MG, Family Project has been released and Demonbane has been announced by Jast, along with potential work on other Nitro+ titles. Are you telling me those are insignificant? If Siliconera does an article about upcoming games by MG, why not Jast?I see nothing in the article that indicates any potential other than working with fan translators, which Jast said they were looking into doing long ago. In fact, this article just makes me lower my faith in MG. They just admitted their translation and editing stage takes ONE month. One. You can’t expect quality out of one month of work, especially with some of their translators.

        • Family Project? Admittedly, I never touched that title and from what I hear I won’t anytime soon. Would you recommend it?
          That’s what talking about. Unlike MG, I don’t see or hear about what these other companies are doing unless I dip into the usual spots. You may as well shout at the rain if you’re going to work like that, but that’s just me. It’s like you got a golden egg, but keep the chicken on top of it. There are restrictions and circumstances that I understand why sometimes things don’t go well in the PR department, but here’s one opportunity to see one of them grow and that’s something I can get behind 100% ’cause that’s what I’m all about.

          I completely see your point about their quality work. Edelweiss? Terrible, one of the worst of any VN level I’ve seen. But, that doesn’t make me lose faith in what they can do. Look back at earlier articles here about KiraKira, a title I’m completely gaga over, and I even mention that they _need_ more editors to move forward to success. In due time, I can see that happening, so here’s hoping.

          Also, around the times VNs were brought here, even I didn’t know there was an interest in that in this community after the two years I’ve been here, so I really can’t fault the editor’s here for that. This isn’t a specifically catered VN based site or the Peach Princess forums exactly, but here’s just one perspective they’re presenting to the readers that they might might enjoy. Ultimately though, it’s their choice. Just know that once I hear Saya no Uta is “localized” I’ll be sure to send them a tip.
          Since you dipped behind the curtains of this genre and what goes on, I’d really be interested in what you have to say about it. I don’t know your business, but a great idea that these companies are doing are Staff Blogs, so I’d be interested in seeing what you’d have to say since you seem to be really into this subject.

        • manayagami

          Of course, that a company has forced deadlines unlike a fan project, and they lose money every time that they delay the launch of one of it’s projects. Given the fact that MG has managed to increase the quality of their translations and what they need the most at this moment is a bigger editing team, this in the 18 months since their first release, it’s a big accomplishment. And if it wasn’t the fact that they started pulling off some big names, JAST wouldn’t take the gamble to start releasing stuff from Nitro+ or other big companies that might get associated with them in the future, since they only released a big title this year, which is what they have been doing in the last years. The thing is, that the market has changed and they felt the need to change with it, even though they claim that MG wasn’t at their “translation level” while they were releasing Family Project. The translation was plagued with obvious errors even though it took 2 years to finish it. They have done better translations in the past, but they must have put the wrong translators on that project and there wasn’t such a thing as a 1 month time limit.

          In terms of updates both companies also fail, since Family Project’s update was supposed to fix several errors and the only thing that people noticed was that the “over 9000” reference was removed, while Edelweiss is still in pure Engrish even though it was supposed to have been completely edited, again.

          I’m not being in favor of A or B, which is understandable from what I wrote. The thing is that both companies need to improve in several aspects and both of them need to be pressured for it to happen or they will keep making the same mistakes and won’t listen to the customers when they have something to complain about, since they get used to the fact that they can do what they want that people will keep buying their products. That’s how MG’s Staff Blog finally opened. There was a greyed out button on their site for it, but only after people started flooding their forums to ask for more information regarding Soul Link and Higurahi’s release, that they finally opened the blog.

          • Reikon

            MG does not lose money from delays since their staff is paid by the project, not by a salary. At least that’s how it was until at least Higurashi. In fact, most translations I’m aware of are paid by the project, not by time (else the translator would just spend forever perfecting it…)

            Jast failed even more on Family Project since they just admitted that a second patch isn’t really in the works, despite the fact it was promised when the first one was released. Again, I’m perfectly willing to criticize both companies. Siliconera just needs to cover both companies.

            In fact, Ishaan’s insistence that Siliconera is trying to cover more visual novel news just emphasizes how the absolute lack of Jast coverage is a major issue. They’re still the dominant company in the business. It’s pretty much akin to Siliconera deciding not to cover Nintendo news because they can’t contact anyone in the company.

            Again, you do NOT need contact with a company to cover news or discuss their release schedule and products.

          • manayagami

            That reminded me of a bad PR move by Nintendo, here in Portugal, with a magazine that criticized harshly one of their major releases for the N64. Nintendo’s representative asked them to return every console and game title that they had provided to the magazine in question for reviewing and testing.

            On topic, regarding the lack of coverage, I think that’s really needed. Even though they’ve been pulling some stupid moves, like lieing unnecessarily about this or that aspect of a title, they are who introduced most of us to visual novels and, even though Family Project deserved a better release, it was one of the major releases of 2009 in terms of visual novels in the West.

    • Actually, it’s more of a question of which publishers will talk to us. Something you might not get to see on the outside is just how hard it can be to talk to certain companies, even about the smallest of things. Trust me, I’ve tried getting in touch with G-Collections etc. and I’m still hammering away on that front.

      • Reikon

        The thing is, I’m not talking about interviews. It’s coverage of their products. You have news about the release schedule of MG, which is easily available from Jast.

        You have write ups of MG’s games. There’s absolutely no reason why you couldn’t do the same for Jast’s games.

        That’s stuff you can easily do without talking to anybody from the company, but you don’t do it. You only do that stuff for MG.

        • Actually, we’ve had a playtest of Saya no Uta lying in our drafts for MONTHS now. The only reason it hasn’t been published yet is because there are rumours floating about that JAST USA is localizing the game…so, out of respect for them, we’re holding off.

          But you’re right in that we haven’t covered the schedules of other publishers as much as MangaGamer. Thing is, we don’t have a dozen editors at Siliconera, and neither is this our fulltime job, so we focus on the most important stories first. More vnovel coverage is definitely coming. If you look through our post history, you’ll see lots of Type-Moon coverage, Cross Channel coverage etc.

        • ZeroBlitz

          Perhaps you haven’t noticed but JAST and the other main publishers don’t release much. We’re lucky if they release one visual novel worth reading in a year.On the other hand, MangaGamer released Da Capo, Suika, Kira☆Kira, Shuffle!, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Soul Link in just 368 days and apparently have plans for at least seven major titles this year.I’m not trying to downplay the work of other English Visual Novel publishers as they mostly focus on a different target audience (knowing that it is a more risk-free approach to making money) and MG is in a far more advantageous position with their major connections to Navel, Overdrive and Circus. Hopefully JAST’s newly formed partnership with Nitro+ will lead to an increase in the rate at which they release notable titles.

  • CLANNAD please!!! :P

    • minimoto

      Already has a fan translation done.

  • CLANNAD please!! :p

    • ponyo

      urusai

  • odyssey

    Suprised this wasn’t picked up, even if it may just be a colossal coincidence:
    http://www.andriasang.com/e/blog/2009/12/29/tetsuya_nomura_true_intentions/

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