The Effect Of Piracy On English Visual Novels


Recently, Siliconera had a chance to interview JAST USA founder, Peter Payne, also responsible for founding online retailer, Jlist. One of Payne’s primary jobs for the past several years has involved publishing visual novels in English, primarily of the adult variety.


Recently, JAST USA published an all-ages version of visual novel RPG, Aselia the Eternal, following which we got in touch with the company to learn a little more about what makes them tick. Naturally, the question of piracy and profitability came up, and Payne gave us his thoughts on the former.


According to Payne, while JAST USA don’t allow piracy to deter them from their goal of publishing more games in the visual novel space, it does make negotiations with Japanese companies far more difficult.


“A word on piracy. Obviously we’re against it, being a tiny publisher of very specialized “indie” PC games as we are,” Payne said to Siliconera. “Piracy will obviously exist for every kind of “soft” media and we make sure we don’t let fear of it stop us from moving forward, but it is a huge frustration all the same.”


“People who are passionate about something, as I know many eroge fans to be, should be purchasing the games they want to see more of so we can make more and better games in the future. When I see extremely knowledgeable fans who follow artists, voice actresses and scenario writers of visual novels posting on pirate sites, it really gives us pause.”


“Bottom line, companies like [Kikokugai: The Cyber Slayer developer] Nitroplus are very focused on the raw number of copies sold as a bellwether to success, so fans who fail to cast their “dollar votes” for titles they want to see more of in the future will be sorry later.”


This shouldn’t come as a surprise to fans that keep up with visual novel news. The difficulties of working with Japanese visual novel publishers have been documented before, even by MangaGamer’s president, Hiroshi Takeuchi, who has pointed to companies such as Innocent Grey and Visual Art’s being skeptical of actual sales opportunities in the west.


You’ll be able to read more about the negotiation process with Japanese companies and the day-to-day workings of JAST USA when our full interview is published later this week.


Thanks to Siliconera reader MiauMiaut for contributing to this feature.

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.