The winds of change are blowing. A new bandwagon is getting loaded, and now is the time to jump on.
This refers, of course, to the rising movement that is the Western visual Novel market. Thanks to the wild successes of 2014, 2015 is already shaping to be an incredible year. Where it goes from here is anyones guess, but the facts are clear: money is flowing, and the smart will pay attention.
Visual Novels and the AAA Game
Or rather, what exists of it. The market isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with Western visual novels. Apart from the very select few smash hits, visual novels don’t garner a lot of attention.
But then again, maybe they do. After all, Steins;Gate shares the Metacritic rating of 87, the 7th highest among PC games in 2014. Dangangonpa 2: Goodbye Despair sold tens of thousands of copies in North America alone. JASTUSA, Mangagamer, Sekai Project, and other distributors continue to localize their niche’s products for the West.
Steins;Gate did so well, in fact, that publisher PQube decided it was worth localizing the PSVita version as a separate product. Even the Steam community continues to Greenlight visual novel after visual novel. And if the online distributor’s latest “anime sale” isn’t an indicator of their rising popularity, nothing is.
Will they ever be regarded as AAA titles, however? The easy answer is no. Despite the rise in popularity, the sales differences and potential profits of a game like Danganronpa or Virtue’s Last Reward is still several orders of magnitude below games like Destiny and Call of Duty.
But if you follow the money, there might be a different story.
Kickstarter Was Key
It goes without saying that Kickstarter was key for visual novels in 2014 and now. The World End Economica series. WAS – The Hourglass of Lepidoptera. Sekai Project is the publisher making the most use out of the platform, and it’s paying off – literally. Over half a million dollars up front to bring Clannad, already adapted into a hit anime series, sounds like a pretty good deal for them. And in a “niche” market, at that.
Steam is starting to garner more attention for its cache of visual novel titles. The anime sale proved that. But Kickstarter remains a solid way to ensure that there’s a viable market for the localization of such titles. Whatever limbo the final game in the Zero Escape trilogy is stuck in, it might be crowdfunded platforms like Kickstarter that get it out.