5pb’s Founder On Why Chaos;Head And Steins;Gate Are Successful

By Ishaan . April 20, 2011 . 1:45pm

5pb have been publishing games since 2007, but it wasn’t until the breakout successes of Chaos;Head and Steins;Gate that they really put themselves on the map. Developed in collaboration with Nitroplus, both games have gradually grown into strong brands with anime series, novels, and all the merchandise you’d expect to see associated with a recognizable hit.


We asked 5pb founder and executive director, Chiyomaru Shikura, why he felt the two games have managed to find success when so many other visual novels in Japan have had a hard time getting off the ground the same way in recent years.


Shikura believes this has to do with relatability. “The Japanese may like fantasy, but actually they also love reality,” Shikura said, speaking to Siliconera. “If you can create a story, complete with terror and joy, within the confines of reality, you can make it feel more relatable.  The setting and situations are events that can happen in everyday life. “


Shikura says he personally has a hard time buying into fantasy, and he isn’t necessarily convinced that other people can be excited for exaggerated fantasy stories either.


“I don’t believe anyone who says they can become passionate over a super, over-the-top fictional story ‘taking place in Year XXXX, on Planet Y’. (laughs) It just means that there are an unexpectedly large amount of people who share my opinion,” Shikura says. 


He added: “Chaos;Head takes place right here [in reality] in Shibuya, and Steins;Gate in Akihabara. I hope these games function as travel guides too!”

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  • There are two reasons why they both are successful, first it’s Nitroplus, they make fabulous stories and worlds, none of their VN’s disappointed me yet. Second it’s the simple fact that both are good novels, not as cliche as the most others are who only concentrates on sad fanservice instead of a good scenery, characters and a plot, mixed with the terror of imagination and all.
    It actually has nothing to do with reality or fantasy as far as it concerns me, Utewarerumono was very fantasy and is still a damn good VN(with actual gameplay mind you), there are quite a few other fantasy oriented VN’s which are very good, though my memory fails me again~

    • Ren

      The fact they can pull stories with a bigger female to male ratio that doesn’t dissolve into mindless fanservice and create actual strong and likable heroines are a testament of their ability to do decent writing at worst and beautiful writing at best.

      • They’ve gotta leave something for the spin-offs ;).

        • Ren

          And that is the best part, those who want a serious story get one and those who want to fool with the heroines get to do it too.

          • Win win situation for everyone, more companies should learn from them. :D

    • Aoshi00

      I think Chiyomaru made a very valid point that the series is grounded in reality so it adds an extra depth to the story.. All the locations are real first off.. and the time traveling concepts are really detailed they’re quite mind boggling, it’s evident they did a lot of research.. and the fantasy element that revolves around the existing time space theories is very exciting and scary.. There’s the fun kind of Time Traveling like Back to the Future w/ the paradox, but Steins;gate really tackles this subject in a serious manner… namely the Butterfly Effect aspect.. I’ve been playing this for the last couple of weeks, I can’t believe how heart wrenching some of the scenes are, it’s actually hard to press the button to go on.. I’ almost done w/ this and just had to get Chaos;Head since most people say it’s almost as good as Steins;gate..

      Butterfly Effect was actually one of my favorite movies.. and the other game I liked was Shadow of Destiny.. Steins;gate is definitely in its own league compared to things like Time Hollow…

      Also the way how the story unfolds in S;G, it really makes you question yourself what if this scenario happens to me, what if I have the ability to this and that, what would I do, would I still be a moral person, etc.. anyway, the game is freaking amazing.. and I agree w/ the CEO, the reality aspect really helps a lot for these science fiction story.. it is the mix of reality and fantasy that makes the world and scenarios so intriguing, after all that’s what science fiction is about.. I would go back to play Chaos;Head and look forward to Robotic:notes, I’m not sure if my heart could take it though..

      • I can’t comment much about Steins;Gate as I have yet to play it, and I haven’t started to watch the anime either. But that does sound super exciting, I always loved science and this seems to have lots of them, if they are true to the reality I can not comment~ :P

        I really liked Butterfly Effect myself, I had a big headache the first time I watched it, ’cause I had no plan what was going on though. xD

        That’s what I wanted to say with the terror of imagination, you begin to question yourself and actually feel with the hero/heroine, lol there even were times I had to stop playing Chaos;Head as the main reminded me too much of myself..that was too much for me..
        I don’t disagree with him, but the way he said it it sounded like fantasy stories wouldn’t sell good no matter what, and that’s not true, but I agree reality aspects in science fiction and psycho stories works better.

        • Aoshi00

          I think it’s pretty real, as real as things could get when it comes to the idea of time traveling anyway… it made me wiki a lot of things lol.. and makes me contemplate traveling backward or forward in time, etc… but the scary thing is IF time traveling is indeed possible (in the game there is a lot of restraint and limitation), there would be a lot of undesired consequence due to the tiniest change.. and the conspiracy theory is cool too.. remember how SERN was doing some particle beam experiment in a very long underground tunnel a couple of years back in Europe and the news talked about how potential black hole could swallow the earth or something.. in the game the organization is called “CERN”… it uses the existing ideas but adds a different spin to it, I’m really amazed they thought of time traveling that way, that is quite different than how know it in other movies..


          Also cellphone is a very important aspect of the story as well.. so it really makes the game feel contemporary..

          I just bought Chaos;Head, I hope I’m not too thrown off by the extreme gore.. Steins;gate has a bit of that but not too much…

          Of course straight fantasy stories could be really good too, but if you add stuffs based in the real world w/ careful research, I think it makes the fiction all the better and even more relatable.. frankly I have a hard time relating to teenage chars now because I’m not at that age anymore.. but Steins;gate’s hypothetical scenarios based on reality and science fiction is really amazing..

          Best of all, the story takes so many twists and turns I never saw it coming.. some devastating result really has an impact.. Steins;gate does have it humorous parts that makes you laugh out loud w/ its barrage of otaku references (some could argue too much lol, the Jpn net slang is all new to me), but it’s a mix of both fun and dead seriousness that makes the game such a roller coaster ride..

          • PrinceHeir

            where did you bought Steins;Gate and Chaos;Head? is it both translated?

          • Aoshi00

            Nah.. I’m playing Steins;gate in Jpn on the 360.. the physics mumble jumble and net slang aren’t the easiest thing to read, but they have a helpful glossary.. I’ve been playing it for the past 2-3 weeks bit by bit and am almost done w/ it now.. I actually got the game in Jan but just let it sit there.. and now I want to finish it first since the anime just started airing..

            I just bought a used Jpn copy of Chaos;Head off of ebay for around $45, it’s the regular edition, I can’t stand platinum re-release.. So has Chaos;head been translated to English? I never picked it up because I don’t like extreme gore for shock value, but now I’m curious because I realize Steins;gate is as good as everyone said..

          • PrinceHeir

            ohhh yes Chaos;Head has been translated into english, PC version that is.

            if your using a PC version i could give you a link on the patch and how to apply it :P

          • Aoshi00

            I see.. Thanks, it’s okay, I bought the 360 ver alrdy, I’d just play that w/ the achievement :) I was never big on playing anything on PC.. the graphic violence would probably disturb the heck out of me judging from all the blood :(…

          • Wow, that does sound interesting, and I’m amazed at how much they seem to thought about all this.

            Yeah, the bit with the cellphones is actually all I know of Steins;Gate~
            And as much as I can tell for now, it seems that Chaos;Head has quite a bit more gore in it, but it’s more about your imagination of the situation, in combination of the soundeffects and music, instead of pictures.

            That I cannot disagree with, I feel the same way on the point, that’s one of the reasons why the main reminded me of me, the world was the same as ours, and he was a simple “Otaku” teenager, like myself. As for Steins;Gate I thought the main is an adult, doesn’t he fit you?

            That’s what I wanted to know, does Steins;Gate has parts where you have to decide on something, which later has impact on the whole story? Simply said, does it have more than one ending? And, lol I couldn’t ask for more funny references in a serious plot~ x3

          • Aoshi00

            You should watch the anime, it just started airing, the pacing is a bit faster and the story might “diverge” (key term in S;G) from the game’s, but it looks like a good and faithful adaptation so far, despite the different art style..

            The main char Okabe is a college student and self proclaimed mad scientist who at times could get quite delusional w/ his otaku antics :).. I’m way past his age.. but yea, I could relate to older chars w/ real life problems better..

            The first half of the game doesn’t have much option to affect the story at all other than answering e-mails from other chars.. but the 2nd half does have a lot of branching out depending on some major decision that you make.. there’s one main ending and 6 different char endings, so 7 in total I think.. so far I’ve gotten 3 alternate endings and haven’t finished the main one yet.. this story could get really emotional at times it’s just heart wrenching to see some situation unfold… lots of unpredictable plot twists it’s pretty crazy..

            I wonder if I would like Chaos;Head though, looks like there’s a lot of gore w/ its Z-rating… Steins;gate has a bit but not too much (I haven’t seen the ending yet though, almost there)..

          • Minor nitpick but the organization is actually CERN in real life. It was originally short for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, but after their name change to Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire, they felt the resulting acronym was awkward so they stuck with CERN.

          • Aoshi00

            Wait, sry.. I meant the real life organization is CERN and in the game it’s SERN, I probably switched it around.. like the retro computer IBM5100, they just called it IBN500 or MewTube for YouTube, they just slightly modified the names of the real world counterparts.. It’s like in anime, they often have W for WacDonald’s instead of M for McD’s w/ the arch upside down.. I like the conspiracy theory though.. Also another major reference used in the game was John Titor, supposedly a real life self proclaimed time traveler back in 2000 who made some big predictions on the internet but didn’t come true.. I don’t remember hearing about him though.. thing is I have always been fascinated by the idea of time traveling, I guess most people are.. but they explain it in terms of reality w/ fiction, it sounds pretty scary..

          • Oh, I get it. I let out a little chuckle when I ever see writers/animators do stuff like that. Mewtube makes me imagine a video-sharing website exclusively for Pokemon fans though.

  • malek86

    “I don’t believe anyone who says they can become passionate over a super, over-the-top fictional story ‘taking place in Year XXXX, on Planet Y’.”

    Well I don’t know about Japan, but in many countries, Star Wars and Star Trek were some of the biggest things around, and Star Wars still is one of the most influential movie series in history, with way too many fanboys to count.

    At the time, Japan wasn’t into the whole Space Race thing, so maybe that’s why?

    • Guest

      Space Battleship Yamato
      Galaxy Express 999
      Mobile Suit Gundam

    • Don’t think so, there is also a lot of people like this here.
      Thing is, works like steins;gate get everyone who is fed up with star wars and the likes. And it’s an huge number.

  • PrinceHeir

    aww man i need to play more of these type of games :)

    already have Chaos;head, will play it soon along with Higurashi(recently finished watching season 2, it was awesome)

    • You should try the game and the “”””sequel””””, Umineko, later. They are also quite good.
      Umineko-anime is terrible though.

  • john411

    Wait, did you guys interview Chiyomaru? Can we expect more fruits of your discussion at a later date? ;)

  • I kinda wish they’d release Steins;Gate over here in the US.

    • Considering that Jast [they own the rights to N+ in US] hasn’t even managed to release Chaos;head [they are working on it, righttt?][despite having obtained a fan translation], there really isn’t much hope for a release any time soon.

      Unless of course there’s an extremely low key group working on it… :/

      • LynxAmali

        JAST is BS. You cannot deny it. Demonbane comes to mind. Delays everywhere.

      • Skua

        Chaos;Head has not been licensed for overseas release.

        The reason the fan translators pulled the patch is that they’re holding out on hope that they might get an official deal later. That’s it.

  • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

    The story is really good. I’m watching the anime now; it’s only on episode 3 but i’m really intrigued already

    • Aoshi00

      The anime’s art leaves a bit to be desired (Kurisu’s anime design looks a little weird) and the story was a bit rushed, but still a good adaptation so far.. also it’s interesting to see how things are presented because for the most part the game only has still shots and dialogue.. but man.. I’ve finally been playing Steins;gate for the last couple of weeks.. the story and chars are absolutely amazing, some scenes are just so heart wrenching it’s tough to go on.. I’m on Ch 9 now, think it’s the last chapter.. I love SG so much now I have to get Chaos;Head.. The time traveling stuff based on existing theories really adds an extra layer of depth.. made the story really gripping.. I love it so much I went and bought the OST and the 3 drama CDs as well.. this is one of the best visual novels I’ve ever played in my life.

      • I hope you will not be disappointed… I love chaos;head, but a LOT of people hate it because of some cliches. To me, it’s quite necessary in ANY work, but still. The anime adaptation and the game are quite hated here for this and because people only understand half of the scenario..

        • Aoshi00

          Yea, so far the setting and chars seem a bit hard to get into (the MC is a majorly pathetic and delusional otaku hermit), I mean some scenes are funny.. it’s very slow paced.. but if it leads to something big I want to go on to see how the mystery turns out, like what’s the deal w/ Shogun and all those girls w/ invisible swords.. I really can’t guess where the story is going at all.. It’s especially hard for me because I beat Steins;Gate first and it was so good.. and I’m not seeing that many similarities btwn the two except they take place in real location and the net slang thing, also the user interface is not as refined as Steins;gate.. I’m very early though, beat chapter 3? When he got to the deserted crosswalk and saw this old guy in a wheelchair.. creepy.. I would go back to it later, just so many games I got sidetracked, just beat Alice Madness Returns last night, loved it, and finally finished Uncharted 2 ready for 3… I still don’t have time to touch Pandora’s Tower yet…

  • You know what would make them even more successful? Official english localizations.
    *hint hint*

    • yeah. About time, too.

    • Support JAST USA’s official localizations of Nitro+ games! –TinFoil 21:24, 7 July 2009 (UTC)

  • Darkrise

    I think it’s just because the stories were actually really good and original, and they didn’t even need fanservice to attract people or keep the game interesting. Also, that unexpected large amount of people could also be interested in fictional fantasy AND reality fiction stories. =/ The also unique thing about it was that the protagonist actually had a presence within the story since he has a voice unlike most visual novels.

    • Aoshi00

      yea, I don’t like silent protagonists at all from most other VNs, that’s one thing that turns me off. I can’t project myself as the main char, especially when their personality is horrible and rotten, I can’t think of myself as him.. it’s the same I prefer TPS to FPS, I need to see the main char on screen..

      Miyano Mamoru (Light from Death Note, Elza from Last Story, King from Ouran HS Host Club) did a excellent job as Okabe.. the voice acting is really good in this game..

  • MrSirFeatherFang

    This has nothing to do with the games, but with what is popular in Japan and how to get something to work (specifically manga)

    To my understanding (I have no idea how magazines actually work anywhere, so bear with this amateurish comment) for a manga series to mantain its stay in a magazine, the is a popularity poll every week to rank each manga in the magazine? The ones I primarily remember were 2 manga called Double Arts and Mx0 which had strange endings because they were canceled… (I heard Psyren was canceled but I didn’t finish it yet). Okay, so I think I got this down…
    Assuming that One Piece, Naruto and Bleach and others top manga are always almost never to ever be canceled by the magazine company, doesn’t this lead to… I dunno less creative manga that is popular resulting in mangakas to make cliched manga just to stay popular in a magazine?

    There is also something else I don’t get, if you (a mangaka with a serialized series) present something to your editor and he doesn’t like it, fall away from the meaning of your own creativity?

    I guess with my little knowledge of things I will probably never understand this world… No need to bash me or anything, I think I’ll eventually figure out how this system works and why it is good.

    What made me think of this was his quote:

    The Japanese may like fantasy, but actually they also love reality. If you can create a story, complete with terror and joy, within the confines of reality, you can make it feel more relatable. The setting and situations are events that can happen in everyday life.

    I had assumed that most (especially those who vote in those polls for the manga ranks in a magazine, which I assume are children and young japanese people.) people would like a slightly interesting, but cliched shounen story…

    I know not everyone is the same and I kind of wrote this in a rush to express my opinions. This is by no means to offend anyone (like those people who vote in those ranking polls) and if I did I didn’t mean to (me and my horrible grammar and communication skillz lol)

    Thanks for this article!

    • Aoshi00

      Well, there always need to be a compromise for manga, movies, or anything that need to sell, that’s entertainment.. If it’s too indie, then that’s just that, indie, too artistic and not commercial enough.. Still, w/in the confine of business, I think there still leaves a lot of room for creativity… as evidenced by so many classics created over the years, all gone thru years of being serialized in a magazine.. A tantou is someone who bounces ideas back and forth w/ the artist though.. so that partnership is very important too.. Even book or novels, before a writer is famous and becomes a guaranteed success, his work is probably scrutinize when submitted to publishing companies too.. A guess Bakuman could shed some light on that issue, w/ the behind the scene stuff being a manga about the Shounen manga business.. I haven’t read a lot of it though..

  • Aoshi00

    I so want to get the CRT Moe T-shirt right now :)…


    Steins;gate’s story is amazing and so sad at times… the dating sim sequel (like Chaos;Head Love Chu Chu) is coming out in June as well…

    If one could play the game, play it now, if not watch the anime.. I think the seiyuu cast deserves some praise for this as well.. very good voice work.. the anime is interesting because the VAs portray the chars and read their lines slightly differently due to the faster pace..


    It’s kinda funny, cause I was talking to a friend about why Steins;Gate was popular and good, and we both agreed that the inclusion of reality made it really good, like it could really be happening now. Steins;Gate is definitely my favourite Vn

  • Good writing always helps.

  • Joanna

    I’m going to side with the minority here and say it is ALL about good
    writing. Something like Steins;Gate couldn’t be as good as it is without
    all the effort that went into it going by Aoshi’s comments and all that
    effort is what differentiates the pros from the amateurs.

    The thing with fantasy is, VNs aren’t a good medium for it because VNs
    are about role playing or telling a story from a very fixed perspective
    and that really causes a lot of the elements for a good fantasy (well
    developed world with history and social structures and laws of nature)
    to be glossed over because you simply cannot fit them into the VN
    formula without it being odd or boring (characters giving you history
    lessons for no reason). So stuff more based in reality doesn’t have to
    worry about this because all the history and social norms and the like
    are already there without the need to do extra work and thus there is a
    much fuller experience without the effort needed if one were to set the
    story up in a fictional world. That and most amateur writers tend to
    favour fantasy because it’s easy to write stuff in since they don’t have
    to account for all the stuff about our world, especially stuff having
    to do with impossible feats. Well that’s just my take on it. Not to say
    there is anything bad about having all creative control….just, you
    can’t use it as a license to write whatever you want. :)

  • This is so true.
    It’s no wonder I am an huge fan of 5pb.’s games, apparently they think exactly like me over there.
    I wish there was more games from them…

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