By Benny Carrillo / January 16th, 2017
“Willing to Localize”
In Japan, Otome games are a big business, just like Anime aimed at a female demographic. It’s a successful and established genre. Because of this, companies can take chances with developing new games, franchises, and even unique takes on the genre. In short, there’s an established status quo. The same cannot be said here in the West, however.
For years, the Visual Novel market has been propped up by the likes of JAST USA, MangaGamer, and various small fan groups who would translate titles that weren’t picked up by those publishers. However, these were all mostly 18+ Eroge titles and even then, barely any Otome titles outside of fan translations were seen. In fact, the first major Visual Novel I remember even being localized for consoles was Sakura Wars: So Long My Love for the PlayStation 2 and Wii. In the last few years, we’ve seen a surge in Visual Novel popularity with publishers like Sekai Project reaching out to try and highlight certain titles, and other major VN companies like Frontwing and Visual Arts even starting to handle localizing and publishing themselves. However, these are Visual Novel companies and many of them still publish exclusively for PC and Steam. In the console marketplace, things have been slower to change for a very simple reason: economics.
Companies like Aksys Games and Idea Factory International need to sell a title to as many people as they possibly can in order for it to be financially successful. That means you need to hit as much of the available market as possible, and it’s here where I need to bring in that point regarding Otome novels being primarily aimed at a female demographic. While we can certainly argue that a game in the Senran Kagura or Hyperdimension Neptunia franchises are primarily aimed at males, I’m willing to bet it has a healthy fanbase of female fans as well. As such, you can hit a large amount of that niche install base and the game has a better chance of being successful. In the case of Otome Novels, the crossover probably isn’t the same. You’re already limiting the install base to, let’s say, roughly half, and not all of them are going to pick up the game, either. In short what I’m trying to say is that localizing Otome novels presents a greater financial risk than a normal game, and Japanese companies hate risk. They don’t like doing something unless it’s pretty much a surefire thing, which makes Otome games a hard sell to the parent companies in Japan. Which is exactly why I used the words “willing to localize.” What we’re seeing is a shift in what Japanese companies are willing to allow their subsidiaries to bring over. Which means this is great news for niche gamers even if you aren’t excited at the prospect of IFI localizing Otome games and just want more Neptunia. How? Well, let’s talk about Visual Novels as a whole for a sec to answer that and touch upon my last point.
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