MangaGamer Rely On Fans To Figure Out What Otome And BL Games To Publish


MangaGamer have recently expressed an interest in publishing “otome” (targeted toward women) and “Boy’s Love” (focusing on gay relationships) games within the visual novel genre. Otome game localizations are something of a rarity in the West, while official Boy’s Love releases are an even more rare event, but MangaGamer will address both genres with Ozmafia and No Thank You, respectively.


Siliconera caught up with MangaGamer’s Head Translator, John Pickett, to ask him what made the company look into these two sub-categories of visual novels. What we learnt was that it came down entirely to fan feedback and interaction.


You’ve shown an interest in the otome and Boy’s Love market with Ozmafia and No Thank You. How did you decide that now was the right time to try and make headway in those genres?


John Pickett, Head Translator: Well, we’ve always had some interest in otome and Boy’s Love games. For one thing, it’s the first natural expansion point in terms of broadening our catalogue and our audience outside the regular catalogue of adult games targeted primarily at men. As we’ve expanded our coverage of conventions, our various staff members have been noticing that in each and every area we attended, there was usually still a significant portion of women interested in our games. Seeing it in person and meeting the fans who are into these genres really helped drive home the fact that demand was out there, even if some of our staff members had always believed that was the case all along.


Still, there were several reasons we didn’t approach these genres immediately. One was the fact that no company had displayed prior success in releasing titles such as these in any form. It was clear to us through conversations with fans of the genre that there was some general discontent with the choice of titles previously localized by other companies on the BL front, and outside of Animamundi, there wasn’t any real discussion that we could see on the otome front prior to Hakukouki’s release, so we knew it was going to be hard to make our forays into these genres a success if we weren’t very careful about choosing good titles.


This leads to the second reason it took us so long to actually make the leap of faith—we didn’t know which titles otome and BL fans might consider good choices. Most fans of these genres tended to stay away from our forums and social media and so forth, making it extremely hard for us to gather information on what would be a good choice of titles.


There are obviously differences when editing otome or yaoi work. In a lot of cases, the dialogue tends to be less crude and there’s a greater emphasis on storytelling, which means more dialogue to localize and more work for your team. With that in mind, do you have any ballpark sales figures in mind that you’d like to achieve?


Actually, I would argue that it’s not necessarily as different as you might expect. Certainly, if you’re comparing them to a nukige like Armored Warrior Iris, that may be true, but compared to normal story or character focused stories like Otoboku, Da Capo 2, and Princess Evangile, it’s actually quite comparable in terms of language. Games like those three, often called ‘moege’ by many fans, tend to focus on the romance between characters, much the same way otome games do.


In fact, games like those are what we have found tend to draw interest from the same women who are interested in otome games. So there’s actually more overlap than one might think at first glance. Moege also tend to be heavier on dialogue as well, since their focus is on the characters and character interactions more than other adult interests. Even in terms of length, Ozmafia and No Thank You are equal to several games that already exist on our catalogue. So in terms of sales we’d like to see them achieve, we’d honestly be perfectly happy if they prove to be capable of performing on par with the rest of catalogue.


Why pick Ozmafia and No Thank You, specifically?


This is a good question, and there are actually many reasons. As I mentioned before, we wanted to be very careful about our title choices when jumping into the otome and BL genres, but originally we had no way of figuring out what those might be. It was while we were at that impasse that something changed rather fortuitously.


I still don’t know what in particular sparked it, but one day around June 2013, we very quickly started having a rush of female fans visit our forums to respond and post in our regular Title Request threads. When we caught on to what was happening, our staff quickly took steps to give those requests their own thread as they deserved, and spoke up to encourage them to keep coming and keep speaking up. There were some comments from our regulars we had to moderate, but we were finally getting the information and the data we needed, so we looked into the titles that were being requested the most.


There were some that were out of reach, but two of the most requested titles were Ozmafia and No Thank You. Ozmafia in particular had ties with Hobibox, one of our partners, and No Thank You was actually produced by a sister brand of Clock Up (who was then a recent partner we had licensed Eroge from). This made both of the developers very easy for us to approach and request the games from.


For Ozmafia in particular, one of the key points that drew our attention was the art style. It’s a very pretty piece to look at and play, but there were more reasons of course. The fact that it was all-ages meant we could try and promote it on various websites that usually didn’t cover our other adult titles, and coming off the heels of Higurashi getting greenlit, it meant we could try and push to get it on Steam as well. The tale of warring mafia gangs with fairy tale overtones is something we think even some of our regular audience will enjoy as well.


No Thank You is a very unique piece of work even in terms of BL games. One thing we wanted to keep in mind is that there are men who enjoy BL too, of all sexualities. A lot of common BL games tend to push tropes and stereotypes that, while wonderfully appealing to women, can turn off the men who might have been interested. No Thank You, though, was clearly a title made with more than women in mind, and it’s something you can see even in the art. The men look like men, and act like men. They range from classic handsome men to the kind of men fans of bara can enjoy as well. Also, No Thank You avoids a common trope of BL games—using excessive euphemisms for sexual acts—and gets pretty darn detailed and dirty. Although, that’s probably partly due to the protagonist Haru having an interest in medicine and anatomy.


That brings me to another unique point of No Thank You—the protagonist, Haru, is the seme (“top”) in the game. Typically, a lot of BL games have the protagonist as the uke (“bottom”) in their pairings, largely because they’re sharing in a pattern seen in a lot of visual novels focusing on romance—having the protagonist be the center of attention for several heroes or heroines who want them. In No Thank You, though, the protagonist is the active pursuer of the relationships, and you, the player have to decide where to draw the line and say “No, thank you.”


A lot of otome and BL games tend to pick very interesting settings. You have Lucky Dog, which is set in the 1940s. There’s one called Bloody Call, which takes place in a fictional town and has a race of super-powered people trying to honour your father’s legacy. That sort of thing tends to stand out. Are there any companies or games that you’ve got your eye on, that you can talk about?


Well, I don’t want to jinx anything, but we recently finished updating our company’s ‘wish list’ of brands and licenses we’d like to work on obtaining. Let’s just say there are more than four entries on that list for BL and otome games. Who knows if we’ll manage to acquire any of them, though? Surprises may await us all.


Do you have an estimated timeframe for when you’ll be releasing Ozmafia and No Thank You?


Ozmafia has only recently started translation, so it’s likely to be in that phase of development for another 6-8 months before moving on to scripting and beta-testing. No Thank You, on the other hand, we do hope to potentially have a demo version of out before the end of this year. Given our current release schedule, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to release No Thank You in 2014, but early 2015 is a definite possibility.


Images courtesy VNDB.org.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.