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Old 2008-08-27, 11:44
GreatSaintLouis GreatSaintLouis is offline
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 807

I think the problem with English acceptance (from a market perspective) of visual novel games is that the companies who are/were trying to release the titles--Hirameki, a few releases by Peach Princess and some of the stuff from MangaGamer--are doing so in a market where a strong misconception has already been formed about the 'hentai games'. Anime is a very small niche in the general entertainment industry, and visual novels are--for better or for worse--a very small niche in the anime industry, as far as fan demographics can be considered. Thus far, the perception of the genre has been, thanks to Jast/Peach Princess/G-Collections etc., that they are simple porn games not too dissimilar from porn anime such as Bible Black, La Blue Girl, etc.

The basic assumption that you'd get from a general anime fan most likely goes something like this: 'anime-styled' character designs + PC software = hentai game. The problem is now that companies are attempting to release these same types of titles that are either not porny or have the adult-oriented stuff relegated as a minor part of a larger and more engrossing story. The public perception is already well set, and if the market for visual novels is going to open up, it's going to have to take some different marketing and a hell of a lot of word-of-mouth to get the casual anime fan to revisit PC titles in this field.

To be fair, I think Hirameki was the only one doing it right. While Peach Princess made an excellent choice in the aquisition of Yume Miru Kusuri (and could have a more lighthearted hit on their hands with the upcoming Princess Waltz), they didn't bother to market it as anything different than any of their other releases. The reality of their back catalog, fanboy frothing about Kana aside, is that most of their titles with the supposed emphasis on story are simply second- or third-rate games that lack the writing or polish of things like Yume Miru; let's not even think about things like all the X-Change games and whatnot. They do know how to cater to their established market very well; it's just that titles that would have an appeal beyond diehard fans of the Jast are not made out to be much different than the company's typical offerings, and so in a nepotistic cycle only people occupying this very niche of niches--that is, people with an interest in the Japanese visual novel scene beyond "lol, hentai maid catgirl!"--are aware of these first-rate titles that squeak out between the cracks, and that's because we're looking for them.

Mangagamer seems to be making a similar mistake. Games like Suika, D.C., and even Edelweiss are listed right alongside Tasty Shafts and Suck My Dick Or Die; to an unknowing anime fan (as in the English-speaking world that's the closest thing to a target demographic we have) they're going to see those titles, think "Oh, another hentai game company" and probably not give the time of day to a handful of titles they see as trying to tack an unnessicary story onto the porny bits. Obviously, it's a real challenge--how do you make a point that despite the adult scenes the real emphasis is on the story, especially in a market where an inflexible duality of "porn/not porn" is the only reality? Hirameki was coming the closest to breaking out of the current conception of visual novels in the fanbase with their emphasis on under-18 releases that were sold in the anime section of places like Suncoast, but they shot themselves in the foot with that terrible DVD format, and before you knew it the company had imploded leaving titles like Hourglass of Summer and Ever 17 largely unknown. They could have been a sort of gateway drug for the casual anime fan into other (not necessarily under-18) quality releases; if Mangagamer plays their cards right I could see them possibly doing something similar on the strength of Da Capo alone, but it'll take some marketing work on their part.

So to get to an inevitable point that I think I was trying to make, at this stage in the game thanks to marketing, I'm not sure the casual anime market is even a viable one for visual novels at this time. The hardcore porn game market, yes, because as I said before you'll have people picking up the something like Yume Miru because they loved Narcoleptic Catgirl Maid Screwtoy 3, but most of the casual anime market will just pass them by as "oh, those hentai games." And for all one could tell with the marketing, it's hard to fault them for that.

I think I just rambled a lot.
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