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  #1  
Old 2010-04-27, 08:40
kouryuu
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Default Fan-translations: Going the way of fan-subs?

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People are beginning to worry this may be the end for Visual Novel fans in the west. The Japanese companies seem to finally be realising we've been screwing around with their works without permission for so long, and are starting to fight back. The timing of the three Cease and Desists all together seems a little too perfect, I wonder if we are starting to see a coordinated effort from Japan to stop Visual Novels coming to the west.

I think people are being a bit melodramatic when they say that this is "The Death of Visual Novels" and suchlike, but it is certainly scary to see the direction many of the Japanese companies are going in regards to fan translations.
I don't think it's the end for VN fans in the west at all. Here, let me open a thread for the lengthy discussion of this that's likely to ensue.
I would like to believe this is far from the end of Visual Novels in the west. In fact, I think this may simply be the chance for a key turning point that benefits us all.

Perhaps I'm just too old-fashioned, but I remember when anime fansubs were distributed by friends on copied VHS tapes, and poor Real-Time video clips sent via Kazaa on dial-up internet. Back then, the anime fandom was small, nothing had really taken off. Anime was liked more as 'another good cartoon' or 'a cartoon that's awesome' rather than as 'anime'. Back then the Japanese companies knew little about us, and probably didn't even realize there actually were anime fans in the west. During this time, fansubs were a god-send. They helped spread awareness of the genre, expand people's interest, and really helped it grow. However, the most important out-come of that fan-sub age was the emergence of people who thought to themselves, "We could do this legitimately, and actually make money off of it while also giving the Japanese companies the proper support they deserve." Leading to various localization companies like ADV, Funimation, Pioneer/Geneon, and many other companies, some of which still live on, and others which died as broadband became prolific and streaming video became normalized. The industry went from being fans sitting around copy-decks hoping for it to go faster and gathering to exchange tapes, to being well, an actual profitable industry that earned money for everyone involved and allowed us to have the current breadth of availability that exists now.

The Visual Novel scene, though about a decade or so behind, has followed a similar path. People like Haeleth and insani worked on fan-translations, promoting the genre, expanding it's interest, even creating a community such as this one where people could talk about it. It started growing into an industry worth delving into, and JAST group's various companies began localizing games for legal distribution. As it continued to grow, the Japanese developers have also begun to take notice, and are now trying to turn this into a legal, productive industry in it's own right. Nitro+ has signed with JAST to legally release their games; Circus, Overdrive, Nexton, and Navel worked together to create MangaGamer, hoping to create a legal venue for their games.

This is why I think the Visual Novel scene isn't ending; it's trying to evolve into a proper industry. Some Japanese companies are using an established vendor, others are taking a personal risk, and ones like minori are probably just doing what they can to leave the possibility for a legal, profitable venue open as a future possibility.

The problem is that at the same time the visual Novel industry is trying to evolve, other problems are complicating the issue: Rampant piracy is making legal distribution extremely difficult--even more so when the people pirating the game call themselves 'fans' and convince themselves that they're still doing something good; because it's quite the opposite, the media frenzy of Equality Now and other resulting legislation are sparking fear--companies want to legally release their games in the west, but they also don't want to be forced to stop making them because someone with a loud mouth gets a hold of them (as can be seen from Minori's stance, I would estimate), and as the response to some of MangaGamer's own polls have shown: fan-translation is now becoming a hindrance to legal releases. With the release of fan-translations and the resulting piracy that usually ensues, a lot of people become satisfied with their enjoyment of the game while never giving anything back to the original company or a company trying to localize the games. Not only that, but they completely lose interest in seeing them properly localized. (I offer some apology to those who actually imported the games--you have at least given something back to the original companies.)

But just as fan-subs are now hurting both the American and Japanese anime industry, I suspect, nay, I believe that fan-translations of Visual Novels are starting to do the same.

I can't blame the companies for their Cease and Desist orders. In fact, I think there's some hope behind them, since it suggest the Japanese companies are showing interest and concern in the western market. I suspect many of them are probably watching to see how JAST continues to fare and whether or not MangaGamer will be able to survive for the long-term.
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  #2  
Old 2010-04-27, 09:40
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tl;dr: BUY FROM MORE STUFF FROM MANGAGAMER
Real subtle.
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  #3  
Old 2010-04-27, 09:56
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1. minori doesn't give a shit about you, how much you suck their cock
2. minori doesn't want any kind of shit to deal with the rest of the world
3. you're dumb
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Old 2010-04-27, 10:02
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Wow, what intelligent answers we have had so far...

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Originally Posted by kouryuu View Post
and as the response to some of MangaGamer's own polls have shown: fan-translation is now becoming a hindrance to legal releases. With the release of fan-translations and the resulting piracy that usually ensues, a lot of people become satisfied with their enjoyment of the game while never giving anything back to the original company or a company trying to localize the games.
It is sad that this happens, but this is only a problem if MangaGamer or any other localization company for that matter doesn't manage to expand their market share beyond the type of people who would have already heard about and would have played a fan translation if there was one. I know advertising and marketing can be annoying and expensive, but I fear that the only way to get out of this rut is to push forward into a bigger market.

The problem can simply be boiled down to the fact that official products have competition with respect to a particular potential customer. There is no competition if that particular potential customer has not heard of or know how to use fan translations. There is also an incentive to buy the official product if the official product has added value beyond what a fan translation can provide (whether it be timelier translation or physical goods). Sure, you can guilt people into buying products on moral grounds, but that only really works if they're totally oblivious to the moral issues and are willing to side with you.
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  #5  
Old 2010-04-27, 10:22
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I agree that at some point fan translations will become a negative influence, however I do not think we hit that point yet. At this time, only a small fraction of Japanese companies show ANY interest in selling their games outside of Japan. Until the majority of the Japanese visual novel companies realize that there is a growing market for their games outside of Japan, fan translations will still continue to have their place. What better way is there to encourage a company to take their foreign fans seriously than to have their stuff being translated without them getting a cut? If every fan translation stopped in place right now, it is unlikely the western visual novel community would continue to expand in terms of the number of companies involved. Until the point is hit where the majority of companies consider having at least part of their libraries getting official translations as being the norm instead of the exception, there will be a place for fan translators. If I may remind you, with the exception of Higurashi (which is a special case since the fan translation is legal), there has not been a single release of a title that it looked like was getting an official translation. You listed the companies that MangaGamer has contracts with, notice how there are ZERO fan translations ongoing of games from their companies.

I will say though that there are indeed localized cases where fan translations can cause damage. You guys hinted that you might get a contract with Key, a company who has seen the majority of their stuff fan translated. I can't say I feel too sorry for Key though, since they were approached by an official company years ago and Key requested an unreasonable sum of money for a license, and most of the fan translations of their stuff (if not all) only began well after this. But at the same time, this creates a serious issue for them trying to enter contracts now, since many of their games have a smaller market than something not fan translated. This is farther hurt by the fact that MangaGamer does not offer something over what a fan translation gets, they only release a digital download. The R1 anime companies can successfully sell anime that has been fansubbed in the US, not by guilt tripping people into buying it but because they offer stuff over what a fan translation gives you. A more extreme example of fan translations hurting official translations would be trying to get a contract with Type Moon, as pretty much all their stuff has been fan translated with the exception of F/HA. It would be quite difficult for their old games to get official translations. Though one could argue that this would likely get them to consider official translations of their future games quicker.
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  #6  
Old 2010-04-27, 10:44
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Fan translation interfering with MangaGamer? Higurashi is probably the only case where that could be considered a problem but I don't think its that a partial patch is dissuading everyone from buying the MG version. In my case I haven't bought into MG's higurashi translation yet because my Japanese CD versions work on Macintosh beautifully (with ONScripter) while I doubt MG's DRM would work at all. Otherwise I would abandon any interest in the fan patch and go get the official release.

I doubt that anyone who pirated a fantranslated game would have bought a MangaGamer release had the patch not been out previously. Pirates are pirates and most of them would pirate the official one with out hesitation (being download only doesn't help).

In the Type Moon example above, couldn't Mangagamer try to acquire the fan-translation itsself to lower production costs? Essentially just become a retailer of the patched game. That way people who wished to play the game before but couldn't afford to import it can buy it, people who pirated it previously can decide if they want to pay for it (I doubt the existence of this group but..) and a new audience can be exposed to the work. Also you don't have the case of "oh this translation is 'better'".

Because of the nature of patches, (that they require a separate decision on whether to buy or pirate the work) fan-translation can still exist without being completely harmful I think. It is easy to compare these to fansubs (which have no doubt harmed the anime industry) but I don't think the markets are similar enough yet. (Personally I think fansubs should shift into softsubbing (just distributing subtitle files) but that's for another day.)
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Old 2010-04-27, 10:48
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Originally Posted by jyuichi View Post
In the Type Moon example above, couldn't Mangagamer try to acquire the fan-translation itsself to lower production costs?
I think TYPE-MOON would want more control over the stylistic aspects of the script than the usual company, so having a fan-translation available wouldn't necessarily lower the production costs by that much.
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Old 2010-04-27, 11:02
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If I may remind you, with the exception of Higurashi (which is a special case since the fan translation is legal), there has not been a single release of a title that it looked like was getting an official translation.
I thought demonbane had a project before Jast partnered with Nitro+, or am I thinking of something else?

Visual novels are a niche within a niche. We probably feel that there's so many of us because we go out of our way to find people with similar hobbies. The only real way more companies will "see the demand growing" is if someone else actually makes some decent money off it and they want in on the action. That's how it's always worked.

Frankly, I feel that the only way that the VN industry will see any kind of boom in NA is if they had some sort of celebrity endorsement or at least tried to go retail (and those would most likely have to be non-ero).

Last edited by NTX; 2010-04-27 at 11:16.
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Old 2010-04-27, 11:11
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I thought demonbane had a project before Jast partnered with Nitro+, or am I thinking of something else?

Visual novels are a niche within a niche. We probably feel that there's so many of us because we go out of our way to find people with similar hobbies. The only real way more companies will "see the demand growing" is if someone else actually makes some decent money off it and they want in on the action. That's how it's always worked.
The Demonbane team stopped their non completed project shortly after Jast announced their deal, and then Jast hired them.
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Old 2010-04-27, 11:15
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The Demonbane team stopped their non completed project shortly after Jast announced their deal, and then Jast hired them.
Right, but anon was saying that there weren't any projects for stuff jast/mangagamer were interested in besides higurashi. Was soul link the same? It feels like ages ago D:
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Old 2010-04-27, 11:17
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Right, but anon was saying that there weren't any projects for stuff jast/mangagamer were interested in besides higurashi. Was soul link the same? It feels like ages ago D:
Good point, I think there was a SL project (I don't know if they actually released any patches though).
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Old 2010-04-27, 11:21
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Right, but anon was saying that there weren't any projects for stuff jast/mangagamer were interested in besides higurashi. Was soul link the same? It feels like ages ago D:
Kouryuu from this thread was translating Soul Link, and then was hired.

I think that anon was saying that no one intentionally is translating something licensed or something likely to be licensed. Demonbane stopped as soon as their was an announced license.
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Old 2010-04-27, 11:37
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Ah, I didn't know the sonozaki futago-tachi were still at it.

Is this thread about expanding the industry now? >.>
If you want to talk about how fan-translations would hurt the industry, then you can argue that people new to it would be less sparkley-eyed and motivated to buy their first taste of it if twenty free fan translation releases are already out there. Just a possible line of thought.
I'm personally not against fan translations (obviously), but if I knew a group of guys in Japan were translating a story I worked on for 3 years and distributing it over the net for free, I'd C&D them in a heartbeat

Last edited by NTX; 2010-04-27 at 11:45.
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Old 2010-04-27, 11:44
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I don't socialize much and I rarely go outside so I might not know much.
Something I would like to know though is what people who complains about piracy think "pirates" use their money for.

If I am to speak for myself I can say that really don't need clothes, food is a necessity and either way I can only eat so and so much and I need a place to stay. And here is the thing, Visual Novels and the like is what lies within my interest, why wouldn't I spend money on it?
Lets say I use a fair share of my income on basic necessities, now what should I spend the rest of my money on? I could save the money but what for? Visual Novels and the like is what lies within my interest, it is only natural that I spend money on it, and as it is an interest of mine it is also excpected that I pirate it, you know because it is what I am interested in.
I could pirate everything and pretty much never use money on anything, but why would I when I can use that money for something and get real physical products that I can look at and hold in my hands and store in my shelfs. It's fun to have physical products, it makes you feel that you actually owns something and combined with the collectors value of the real thing you can no longer really compare it to a digital product (pirated or not).
And sure even if that may be the case I still do pirate things, I only have so and so much money after all but that doesn't mean I don't use the money I get.

So yes, I do pirate, I pirate because I don't have enough money but I don't see how it harms anyone as I still use the money I get and there is no way I could afford to buy everything I pirate, I do pirate because I don't have enough money after all.
In the end my piracy doesn't change anything other than allowing me to experience more titles from more developers, I still spend the money I get and I can't spend more money than that either way.
If I can only afford X titles, and I buy X titles I have still contributed as much as I could. If I also were to pirate it wouldn't change anything as I would still buy X titles again later when I have gotten the money for it.

Also, I know Mangagamer have discussed the issue regarding physical vs digital products, I think it's sad really.
I do use my money on titles I like, I buy them because I like them. I can't ever see myself ever buying anything from mangagamer though as sad as it is but where is the collectors value? And sure the prices may have improved some, there are titles for € 19.95, but there are still titles for € 36.95 and € 49.95 and frankly I must say I would feel ripped off if I were to spend that money and in the end only get a digital copy not that different from a pirated one.
It would feel like buying air, where is the collectors value? Sure you could feel somewhat good by having a legitimate copy (in a way, it still feels like nothing though) and for a price that could be compared to physical products.
I bet you have reasons for those prices, but why should I spend my money on your products and recieve a digital copy (aka air) when I could use that money somewhere else and recieve actual physical products?

I am sorry, I do hope things go well for Mangagamer but I can't see myself buying the products (even at cheaper prices) if they are to remain nothing other than digital, I feel that I do need something physical if I am to spend my money on it, in fact I would rather import japanese products than buying digital ones, they still look good on the shelf even if they are japanese.
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Old 2010-04-27, 11:59
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Realistically speaking, how many english VN readers would you say there are? Would anyone argue that there're less than 80k?
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