sobota, 1 czerwca 2013

Interview with MangaGamer

MangaGamer is probably most profilic company at western visual novel market. With lot of games translated into english, they have a wide catalogue of titles, from kinetic novels like "Higurashi" series to funny, non-h tiles like "My first trip to Japan". But they're well known because of their "big" games like "Koihime Musou", "Otoboku" or "Kara no Shoujo". Here we talk with MangaGamer's translator Koryuu about begginings of the company, troubles with censorship, process of choosing new titles and some other thing you might find interesting.
Arkon: Hi! At the beginning -  how  everything started? I know that MangaGamer was starting as a company created by guys from Japan to sell their games overseas. But how’s today? Most of the people in the company are Europeans or Japanese?
Koryuu: Yes, that’s right. MangaGamer was originally created as an initiative by several different eroge developers in Japan, namely OVERDRIVE, Circus, and Nexton, with the goal of opening up and expanding the western market for visual novels or eroge. Since those days our company has certainly added a lot of English speaking staff, but we’ve also added a lot of new partners to our endeavor as well. Today our staff is fairly spread out. Our heads of business are all still based in Japan where they work closely with our partners and other developers, but all of our localization staff is located in various parts of North America with the exception of a few European Beta Testers.

Upcoming English release of “If my heart had wings” caused lot of controversies. Why did you agree to release this game as incomplete? Are there any chances to get fully, uncensored edition of “If my heart had wings”?

I think this question might be a little misdirected, but let me clear that up. First of all, MangaGamer has not been a part of the localization for If My Heart Had Wings. This game is being localized by Moenovel, a brand new localization company for visual novels who has been working with Active Gaming Media to help bring this release to the west. All of the various localization decisions have been made by them, in accordance with their goals and objectives.

As for our involvement with the release, we at MangaGamer know first-hand how difficult it can be for a new visual novel publisher to reach their audience in the small, niche market. We wanted to offer our platform as a means to publish their game so that they can reach visual novel fans and others who might be interested in their product. We’re happy to see another publisher entering this market, and we’d like to help see them succeed, because we believe this will also help further our main goal of expanding the western market for visual novels.

I’m still curious, why “Ryoujoku Guerilla Gari”was translated as “Suck my dick or die”? Was it translator’s idea? And, speaking about this game, it has three sequels.  Is it possible to see any of them in MangaGamer’s offer?

The title was decided by one of former localization staff members. With nukige, or straight porn titles like Suck My Dick or Die, it’s often a catchy or unique title that really grabs attention and draws people in. That, and a more literal translation of Ryoujoku Guerilla Gari (Guerrilla Rape Hunt) would have posed its own publicity issues at the time.

As for the sequels, it’s certainly possible. We don’t have any plans for them at the moment, but if fans want to see more from this series, we’ll be happy to try and deliver.

Asking in the name of the female players – have you ever thought about translating otome or yaoi games?

We have thought about it, yes. Both are something we would definitely like to look into. Our main concerns at the moment though are how well they might do. The market for visual novels is already small as is, so we’re concerned that such games for women only might be targeting an even smaller niche. We’ve heard from our fellow publishers in the field that their releases didn’t do as well as hoped, so when and if we do attempt to pursue either of these games and their audience, we want to make sure we pick a good title to make our attempt with, but it’s hard for us to know what kind of title that would be since we don’t get a lot of input or requests for specific otome or yaoi titles.

The other issue with otome and yaoi games is the lack of availability. There is a big market for visual novels and eroge in Japan with lots of companies and titles to select from, but when it comes to otome and yaoi games, there simply isn’t that wide a variety to work with. In Japan the market for such games is only 1/10th the size of the eroge market, and it’s a big concern that it might be the same way here in the west.

Did you have any problems with censorship? I remember that “Suck my Dick or die” and “My sex slave is a classmate” were removed from MangaGamer’s site for few months in 2009. Why?

2009 was the year of the Rapelay Incident. With the outbreak of the Rapelay Incident, both foreign and internal pressures to censure and restrict the content in adult games in Japan reached an all-time high, and a vast majority of eroge publishers were forced to take various actions to try and protect their livelihoods.

With a strong base in Japan, we were sadly no exception. We’re happy the political pressure let up, allowing us to bring these and other games back to our audience.

My favorite MangaGamer’s titles are “Koihime Musou” and “Otoboku”. They both have sequels. Do you have plans for them?

At the moment, no, but that doesn’t mean we won’t in the future. Koihime Musou’s sequel, Shin Koihime Musou, poses some significant logistics problems with the sheer length of its text. Shin Koihime is nearly 6.5MB of pure text, which, to put in perspective, means that it’s longer than all of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy combined, and nearly as long as the current Game of Thrones volumes combined.

Otoboku 2 on the other hand, is a much more feasible option, so if our fans are interested in this sequel, it’s definitely something we can consider.

It’s visible that from some time MangaGamer is trying to translate games that aren’t only visual novels, but have some real gameplay as well. Are those titles selling better than “normal” visual novels?

It’s still a bit hard to say. We haven’t released many visual novels with gameplay yet, and we haven’t released one focused strongly on it gameplay either, so we don’t really have reliable sales data to say one way or another. We do know our fans have been requesting more gameplay titles, so we are hoping to license one in the future.

Can you tell us about the process of choosing new titles? Japanese companies are suggesting you any of their games or it’s your choice only? I know that in the manga business western companies sometimes have to buy a few titles at once to get the series that they want.

It’s a bit complicated actually. We start out with our list of companies and titles that we’ve composed using the feedback and input we’ve received from our fans and our own sales data. From there, we have to try and find ways to approach and get in contact with the companies on that list. You’d be surprised how often one simply never receives an e-mail reply or a callback.

Once we actually manage to establish contact with a company, negotiations begin. If we can get them to gain interest in seeing their games localized for western release, then license negotiations begin. A lot of times these small businesses can be really busy with their own day-to-day development, so when license negotiations are going well, it’s not uncommon to try and license multiple titles at once. We’re never forced to get more than one title at a time, but if we think the company and its games have promise it’s often a lot easier to work several titles into the final contract to ensure smoother progress later on.

As for licensing titles from existing partners, it’s often a lot easier since we can usually apply the same terms as before to the new license, but it can still take time to arrange for the meetings since time is usually a rare commodity for most eroge developers.

When we can expect “Harukoi Otome”? It’s been long time since you announced this game and it’s still in translation?

Well, Harukoi Otome is a long game, one that’s just as long as Koihime, so it’s taken us a while to translate it all. Right now though, all the translation, editing, scripting, and testing are finally complete. Once Nexton finishes applying all the corrections it’ll be ready for release, so we hope to have it out this year.

I remember that in 2011 MangaGamer annocunced that there plans for adding adult manga and anime titles to your offer. Are those plans still alive or not? I’m asking, because Kira Kira already got an OAV anime, so…

The plans are active, but they’ve been set back a lot. There were some internal issues with the staff who had been working to advance these projects, so we’ve had to restart from square one. Still, we are continuing to pursue these ventures, so hopefully we’ll have news sometime in the future.

It’s easy to notice that MangaGamer is the one western company that released not only full games, but also fandiscs. Gonna stay with that politics?

Correct. If our fans want the fan-discs to games, we’re happy to release them. They’ve been selling just as well as our regular releases for us, so we do plan to continue doing so.

You’re selling very different titles – from those with deep plot, like “Kira Kira” to nukige, like “Conquering the Queen”. Which ones are selling better?

Well, the numbers are actually interesting. In terms of raw sales numbers, a story-centric game like Kira Kira or Kara no Shoujo tends to sell slightly more than shorter nukige like Conquering the Queen or Super Secret Sexy Spy. However, the story-centric games end up costing a lot more to produce due to their length and the volume of text to be translated.

What are your current plans? What new titles can we expect in upcoming weeks?

Recently we’ve begun opening up our sales platform to OELVN (Original English Language Visual Novel) developers and other localization companies who focus on indie and doujin games from Japan in an effort to help these games reach more people as well. As we mentioned before, one of our goals is developing the market for Visual Novels in the west, so we’re really glad to see lots of new developers creating these games here in the west as well. We’ll be adding a few more of these to our lineup in the next few weeks.

At the end of this month we’ll also be releasing our own title, Throb! The Greatest Inventions of the Sexy Era!, a great nukige from softhouse seal full of wacky inventions, hilarious hijinks, and good, sexy fun. As for what we have in store after that, well, Anime Expo is just around the corner, so I won’t ruin the surprise.

Something more personal at the end – any chances to see any games of Lilith Soft in your offer? I’m asking because they’re my favorite visual novel company.

Stay tuned to our upcoming announcements. You might be surprised.

Do you have any personal favorites in your titles? Which ones and why them?

Oh, definitely. As a translator, there’s always a little place in my heart for each one of the games I’ve personally worked on, but Soul Link stands out most among those. Soul Link is a great, action and suspense filled game from Navel (the makers of Shuffle!) so it’s a really exciting game to play, but for me Soul Link was the very first game I worked on as a fan and a later as a professional. I don’t know if I’d be where I am now if it weren’t for that game, so I really do love it. That and I’ve always preferred Suzuhira Hira’s artwork over Nishimata Aoi’s, so I love the character designs.

Aside from the ones I’ve worked on myself, I really loved Kara no Shoujo. It’s by far one of the best games on our catalog in terms of story and drama, so I really want more people to play and enjoy it too.

Lastly, I would have to say Koihime Musou is definitely the title I’ve fapped the most to on our catalog. We Love Master would’ve come close if it was equal in length, though.

Thanks a lot for interview, good luck!

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