Siliconera Sounds Off: The Visual Novel’s Barriers To Entry

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This week, we discuss barriers to entry to the visual novel genre such as price and art style with MangaGamer. Price in particular is something a lot of people around here have voiced concerns about, so we decided to get some answers straight from the horse’s mouth.


As always, keep in mind that participating publishers usually keep an eye on this column so your feedback in the comments does get read. Just remember to be polite.


Localization Editor, MangaGamer – Evospace

Siliconera – Ishaan Sahdev Ishaan: What about games with a slightly more…mature…art style? I don’t know if you’ve played Hotel Dusk on the Nintendo DS, but that art style was very appealing and I think it would catch the eye of a wider audience than simply your standard game and anime fans. Do visual novels in a less anime-esque style even exist? EvoSpace: Of course the majority of the visual novels that are sold and popular in Japan are in anime-esque styles, but there are certainly different styles. Last year, there was a mystery novel called Kara no Shojo (NSFW) which was praised for its story.


There are many kinds of genres to the story of visual novels as well, from simple school love story, to science fictions, to mystery, to action.


Ishaan: Do you think if you were to go with a more mature style, you could possibly attract a wider crowd that might otherwise feel the game was too "childish," judging from the artwork? I don’t know if you would agree, but I feel there’s room to actually market these more as visual "novels" and less as "games" to an audience beyond our niche. Of course, that would require a physical product…


EvoSpace: Maybe in the future, someone can make a mature styled visual novel specifically aimed for the western game market, but the Japanese developers are sticking to this anime-ish style because that’s what they like themselves.


It kind of defeats the purpose of localizing them if we don’t promote this style in a way so people would develop a liking to them.


Ishaan: Something that’s usually a touchy topic with MangaGamer fans is the price of your games. Do you ever feel this is another barrier to entry that needs to be lowered?


EvoSpace: The price of games is another difficult topic. I would certainly feel that it needs to be lowered so more people can afford it, especially because we don’t offer a packaged version of our games, but it’s also a dangerous business decision to do so. To put it simply, you can easily go from a higher price to a lower price at some point in time, but not vice-versa.


If every single person interested would purchase a game at a certain price point, we would gladly drop it, but it’s not easy to determine that. We also must maintain a certain value to our games as a piece of work.


At the moment, 36.95 Euro seems be the ideal price point. There’s a limit to the number of people purchasing, because it is a niche market after all. If we were to lower our price, it would be gradual as we gain more customers.


Part 1: Talking Localization And Expansion With MangaGamer

Part 2: Why Some Visual Novels Never Get Localized

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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.