Visual Art’s President On Prospect Of Publishing Visual Novels Overseas

By Ishaan . June 27, 2011 . 11:59pm

Asked about MangaGamer publishing Visual Art’s games, the company’s president, Hiroshi Takeuchi, once revealed: “Visual Arts isn’t currently interested in the overseas market…but since their president is a business person, if there is a high demand for it…?”


It turns out Takeuchi’s guess was right on the money. This past week, Visual Art’s president, Takahiro Baba, left a few vague tweets on his Twitter feed, in reply to fans asking about the company’s recently released visual novel, Rewrite, produced under their Key label.


A fan tweeted to Baba: “When I tried to order Rewrite with Rewrite laptop, I couldn’t order thru VA [Visual Art’s] because I was in America. Can u change that?” To this, Baba simply replied (in English): “JPN sales only…”


Visual Art’s currently don’t even allow those living outside Japan to access their website, Visual Antenna. This block was implemented following the well-publicized Rapelay fiasco in 2009, after which several visual novel and eroge developers in Japan blocked outside access to their websites. Baba touched upon this on Twitter, too.


“Sory it’s a rule of Japan computer ethics,” Baba tweeted, after the fan expressed disappointment. Following a suggestion that fans would like for Visual Art’s to publish their games globally, he elaborated: “Ethics is different from country to country. So we are in our product abroad, I can not guarantee that the ethical concept is correct.”


Baba did, however, express admiration at Overdrive and MangaGamer’s efforts to publish more visual novels overseas and attempts at bringing more exposure to the genre. He later admitted that he was, of course, interested in the overseas market, but only if it would be profitable. A business person indeed.


Food for thought:

1. If you’re curious, the fan Baba spoke with eventually did manage to order Rewrite from an online retailer. Upon finding out, Baba replied: “ok! You are right…..if you are in the japan.”


2. Prior to this, a second fan joined in on the conversation at a later point, and began to discuss alternate ways to purchase the game with the first. Seeing their conversation, Baba jokingly replied: “Be alert! someone behind u!”

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  • katamari

    I think a Key title like Rewrite or Little Busters! would do well in the west. Key has many fans among the anime fanbase because of their anime adaptions of popular VNs like Clannad so I’m sure they would make some profit. However, it would probably not be enough profit for a high profile company like them. It’s a real shame.

  • Yukito

    I’d buy Air, Kanon, Rewrite….practically anything in a Heartbeat.  Key has always been my cream of the crop story group. I love them all…Maeda, Hinoue, the whole lot of them. Jeez, the day Key gets their stuff published over here…. boy, I dunno. I really want them though…….. ESPECIALLY AIR. Especially since the fansubbers have STILL been unable to get us that fully translated. ._.;

  • Oh man, I remember Rapelay.

    Anyway, I guess I can understand localization/publishing problems a little more now, considering the complications of ESRB ratings and things like that. Something like ecchi shows up often in Japanese media, even in anime for kids, but I’m assuming it’d be frowned upon in America.

    But what I don’t understand is why they can’t be ordered from outside of Japan. I would understand if it’s a game like Rapelay, but if it’s just a visual novel or some ero-game that’s restricted for adults anyway – I don’t really see the problem. Enlighten me?

    • blah blah

      Is Rapelay not restricted for (or to) adults?

      • kroufonz

        it is officially rated adult only in japan like any other eroge,

    • Guest

      Why would you understand if it’s a game like Rapelay? I don’t see the difference honestly.

      If the West tolerates censorship of fictional media that offends a group of people then it doesn’t really matter what the games are about because there are always people who are offended by something.

      Add to that the differences in sexual moral between East and West, caused by the West being brainwashed by Christian bigotry and feminism and you see why Eroge and Visual Novel developers are cautious when it comes to releasing  (or even selling) their games overseas.

      • BTA

        The issue with Rapelay is that it’s, well, about rape. I think the biggest problem that’s resulted from the controversy over that is that the companies in Japan don’t get that *that* was the real problem people had with it. Though it’s not like it’s stopped similar games from making it over here anyway…

        • I guess I wasn’t really clear with my post, but yeah BTA pretty much got my sentiment towards Rapelay. It’s not so much that it was an ero-game, but an ero-game about rape – that have some pretty in-depth gameplay settings.

      • A) Are you suggesting that the West has been brainwashed by feminism? That’s…quite a claim.

        B) So far as I can tell from the story, and from @JustThisOne:disqus’s comment, there’s no censorship, at least not in the government-imposed sense of the word. So far as I know, there’s nothing legal that prevents anyone from localizing and selling any of these games—even Rapelay—if they wanted to. Visual Arts has chosen not to sell, or even intentionally allow access to, their games outside of Japan, but that’s their own decision, and not censorship.

      • That makes sense, but it’s not like the West is forced to buy ero games and visual novels. It’s because people want them that they buy it in the first place. So if an overseas person were to order it from Japan, I don’t see why the Japanese developer has to be so cautious of that. Do the publishing problems still apply to imports or something?

  • keriaku

    I can’t wait till I can actually read this. Either localized in English so it’s easier for everyone, or once I’ve learned Japanese. These stories have emotional depth to them.

  • kroufonz

    nice article, I am also interested how other big Visual Novel developer like type moon and leaf/aquaplus see overseas release for both PC eroge and console galge??.

    especially how leaf/aquaplus stand is,llke key they have more than one franchise that quite big and known by overseas anime fans (thanks to the the anime), they also have non ero version of VN with gameplay or rpg element, they already have three PS3 title released (TtT,TtT avalon, white album) and have 3 upcoming for PS3 (to heart 2 dx plus, TtT2, utawarerumono 2), and both of their site can still freely accessed by foreigner (also both TtT and TtT gaiden avalon no nazo have region 3 asian version so i am assuming), all of they’re console title also published by them self unlike most of other vn dev.

    all of this make me wonder and i really wanted to know whether they are againts it or open to it?

    while key maybe still worry about that rp incident, key art are quite loli to get attacked by both general public and general gamer and some part of western core gamer(even if it is non ero stuff like clannad or their console port),but da capo is quite loli and so far it is safe so i just assume there is always possibility

    and all thing is still possible tough! like how minori finally make peace after that fans tranlsation war and will finally released their game overseas.

  • Crimson_Cloud

    I think this Baba fellow should browse through English forums and THEN see how much profitable would it be. 

    • Locklear93

      Well, that’s the thing.  Browsing English forums doesn’t tell him how profitable it will or won’t be.  Most forums won’t know what a VN is.  Almost any forum that DOES know what a VN is, is going to be a skewed audience, one that likes them, or at least is far less biased against them than average.  If he read Siliconera, and thought it was representative of the western market, he might think publishing would be profitable, when the truth is that MangaGamer is still not making money.  (The CEO of Overdrive recently said that MangaGamer was in the red.) 

      It’s an interesting fact (to me) that both significant commercial English VN publishers (MangaGamer and Jast) are units of companies that make  money by other means as well–MangaGamer as part of Overdrive, making and selling VNs in Japan, and Jast as part of Peter Payne’s family of companies, including J-list, which sells almost everything Japanese.  There is no commercial (English) VN publisher that isn’t part of a larger company that makes money by another means.  That alone says a lot to me about the profitability.

      Oh well.  I’ll keep buying ’em.

    • shuratan

      Just because there is a large amount of hype/interest in the online world of forums, how much of that would actually translate into real profit is questionable to say the least. 

      • Crimson_Cloud

        Isn’t that the same with almost any kind of game out there? There is always a risk, yeah, but he might try once or twice and see for himself. To me, he appears to be pretty sure that game won’t sell even if he never tried it before.  

        • shuratan

          True, if you were talking about the different sorts of games that everyone is familiar with. But we’re talking about visual novels here, and even if you were to categorize VNs as a games, it’s target audience is still very niche all the same.  We’re talking about spending hours upon hours just reading and making an occasional choice that pops up along the way of the story, depending which girl’s (or guys, can’t forget the otomes out there) route you want to go through. Ask anyone not familiar with Vns and I doubt they’d consider it a game. 

          Then we also have to consider the costs of localizing a VN covered in other posts above. So, niche market + high costs = high risk, businesses don’t like the idea of high risk and low return I would imagine. And this post doesn’t even consider all the morals and ethics crap that would come flying at certain plot settings and heroine character designs etc. With all these complications I can totally agree with these Japanese game companies that it’s just safer and simpler to cater just to the Japanese market.

  • I think Japan does not understand the difference between a game like Rapeplay and  most visual novels. A game like Rewite would be fine for most audiences right? It has no H scenes if I recall

    • Locklear93

      I’m pretty sure the bigger problem is that the rest of the world doesn’t understand the difference between Rapelay and most visual novels.  Out of an overabundance of caution, VN publishers clammed up some, not wanting the same sort of scrutiny that came about as a result of the Amazon/Rapelay fiasco.

      • Chippel

        Or that the Japanese companies don’t have the confidence that the rest of the world does understand the difference between Rapelay and most visual novels.

        Of course, it doesn’t help when people who truly do not can look at even ones with decent stories and see ecchi’d up youngsters. Even so, this stuff isn’t illegal in America (or most countries, I would assume, but I don’t know the laws in every country). Heck, we got Enzai which… =/… In any case, I think people overestimate how badly things like visual novels are judged.

        • Locklear93

          I’d honestly love to agree with you, but I just can’t.  The way I’ve seen people (parents, legislators, “concerned” citizens) lump things together anytime they don’t understand the associated medium, I don’t see any reason to believe people are any more capable of differentiating between content in a given medium, and the medium itself.  Comic books, rap, more mainstream video games, whatever–if a person doesn’t understand the medium and isn’t interested in fixing that, they’re prone to assume all are like whatever it was by which they were originally shocked/appalled.  That such a large portion of the VN market is full on eroge or galge (neither of which bother me any) makes being prejudiced that much easier.

    • I imagine they see the company as the RapeLay’s ceator?

      Like, if a sportsman once took drugs or something, that will mark him for the rest of his life, no matter if he becomes 100% clean later on

  • This was interesting to read…. It’s truth there are just way too stupid closed minded people sometimes, and i agree people that has never played a game of course cant understand it’s just a game, so is better to just block people’s that have other ethics and believes to not have any further troubles.

    But, i dont think internet should be blocked. It’s just a matter of being STRONGAH!. (Rapelay did made a lot of noise tho) but Overdrive did a great job with KiraKira, and it was released with and without ero, both english, and it seems they did well enough, get some valour back baba san!!

  • I love VNs as much as the next nerd, but they just don’t sell well here. I can’t think of any way to change that, either. Maybe if they were sold as polished mobile apps instead of full-fledged PC games at full price…?

    • The problem there is going to be turning any sort of profit. From a localization standpoint, visual novels are a ridiculous amount of work. If you’re selling them as mobile apps, for mobile app prices (i.e. $1-$5), to a tiny niche market, the chances that you’re going to make a profit—or break even, at the very least—start to get pretty slim.

      A little math:
      I’d say a fairly decent-sized visual novel is going to be in the realm of 800,000 to 1 million Japanese characters (which, lacking a better metric, is usually how we figure out the scope of a localization project). Plenty are going to be much, much, longer—428, for instance, is something like 5 million. A decent translator could probably finish 800,000-1,000,000 in just under 6 months, and a decent editor probably in about the same time. Let’s say you’re a jerk, and you pay each one about $9000 for that contract (that’s assuming a 40-hour work week at $10 an hour), and you managed to get the rights to the game for, say, 50 grand. So far, your game is costing you $68,000. Even setting aside any other operating expenses, or the cost of debugging the game, and assuming you only have to give something like 15% of every sale to the app store that’s selling your game, you’d have to sell 80,000 copies of that game at $1, or 16,000 at $5, in order to break even. Selling 16,000 copies of a $5 niche game in a market that is already flooded with an insane about of rubbish is extremely difficult, as this guy’s experience suggests:

      I don’t mean to say that there’s no hope for visual novels, but I don’t think mobile apps are going to be the solution.

  • Darkrise

    It’s sad to see that most of the west are so biased against visual novels, especially ecchi stuff from japan but not fanservice from within America. Even sadder still when you explain it to your friends and they’re still biased about it.

    • Crimson_Cloud

      That reminds me, I have one of my friends who played ”Do you like Horny Bunnies?” and he automatically labels every VN like that. But he has no idea that half of them have an engaging story and superb characters that are good as or better then real books out there.

      • malek86

        “half of them have an engaging story and superb characters that are good as or better then real books out there”

        Let’s not fool ourselves here. Try to take a small tour over sites like Getchu or D-Dream, and you’ll see that 95% of the new releases are the typical hentai stuff that only exists for the adult content, with little care for either engaging stories (well, unless you count “the little sister wants to get naughty” as engaging) or superb characters (especially not when they are always the same).

        I don’t know how the VN market used to be in the past, but right now it certainly isn’t much more than hentai for the sake of hentai. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (supply and demand: they are simply giving otakus what they want), but VN apologists seem unable to accept that the average quality is a lot lower than they believe.

        Nowadays, the actually good titles are very few and far between.

        • Crimson_Cloud

          Alright, I may have overreacted a bit, but still there are quite a few jewels in the sea and which I played multiple times solely because of story and character interactions. And that is how I buy them, not for eroge scenes. VN’s like Muv-Luv doesn’t need any hentai to be good, in my opinion anyway.

        • Nei_chan

          “Nowadays, the actually good titles are very few and far between. ”

          just like with pretty much everything in the world

    • Guest

      The awkward eroge and loli Hentai doesn’t help any

  • While I would like to see more VNs here (I really liked Ever17 and the translation of Clannad), it seems like it’s been a lot of trouble for the companies who have tried.  Couple that with the whole Rapelay and, as disappointing as it might be for VN fans, I understand Baba’s attitude.  The way he probably sees it, these VN companies have been burned more than enough by the West.  If I remember correctly, back when all that hubbub was going on, didn’t some journalist actually seek out the game from the company, just to get it and tear it apart?

    It’s interesting to see this article a day after the ruling in California about first amendment rights and violence in video games.  I don’t know where peoples’ perceptions will go in the future regarding this, but it will be interesting to watch.

  • JustaGenericUser

    Man, soccer moms ruined everything for us.

    I wish America was more interested in visual novels, too, there’s quite a few still in japanese I would like to see released here. With everything intact, of course.

  • Souji Tendou

    Come on Baba-san, I’d love to see your studio works get translated to english.

  • PrinceHeir

    hopefully there will be a time where visual novel games could sell around 100,000 on a daily basis.

    if doesn’t work, i’ll just import them and download fan translations ^^

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