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.
Localization Editor, MangaGamer – EvoSpace
Siliconera – Ishaan Sahdev
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.