Hey everybody! So last night (or very early this morning if you’re European…), MG’s awesome Japanese producer bamboo came on ustream to talk to foreign fans. For those of you who missed it, here are some of the things which were discussed. Remember to thank Evospace, Kouryuu, Agi, and Shini for their help in translating, organising the event, moderating chat, and so on.
First off, we had 170 unique viewers watching the channel, maxing out the Ustream limits. If you couldn’t make it in, we’ll be attempting to hold another event in the future. We’re still working out how/if we can show the recording.
At the start, bamboo gave an introduction, and apologised for the delays on certain games such as ef.
First and most frequent on the agenda was the nature of acquisitions, stated that MangaGamer choose titles “based on companies that are interested overseas and who are willing to invest in the project”, and mentioned that “the most difficult part of my job is negotiating with the game companies.” In response to a question on where MG begins, he said that titles are pursued “based on user opinions and also companies who are interested”, but pointed out that “it still takes a long time till we can convince the game companies to make them interested in the overseas market.” Despite MangaGamer being in business for around for three years, he predicts it will still be a long time before more companies fully are on board.
Taking questions, bamboo first addressed the issue of getting titles with interactive gameplay, citing the difficulty in porting them over: “Games with gameplay are difficult to develop at this time. We need a lot of cooperation with the game companies to make it a reality.”
Responding to a question on bamboo’s taste in Western games from the team at Inside AX, he replied that he plays quite a few western games, but his favourite is Fallout 3, comparing it to the current situation in Japan.
bamboo followed up by asking his own question, asking the fans what they call our genre: Bishoujo games? Visual novels? “Visual Novel” and “Eroge” won out on chat, but please continue leaving your opinion in the blog comments.
When asked if he’s ever cried over an eroge, bamboo confesesd that “Yes, I cry a lot when I play these games~”
Responding to multiple questions about simultaneous releases, bamboo expressed his desire to release games in Japan and the west at the same time, “except we don’t have the money to do that yet”, confirming that doing so would be incredibly expensive. Discussing the nature of negotiation, he also pointed out that most VN companies in Japan are quite small, with most only having about ten full time staff, hence the preference to focus on Japan and the difficulty in appointing staff to focus on deal with overseas licensing.
When asked if Japnaese companies are pleased with the sales of Western editions, bamboo confiessed that they still aren’t selling up to expectation, and the companies “are practially doing it as a free service atm. [Games] need to sell over 2000-3000 [copies] to make an actual profit. […] It might still take time to make [MangaGamer] into a [profitible] business, but sales and members have been steadily increasing.” Currently, MangaGamer’s best selling title is Koihime Musou.
Taking a break from questions, bamboo announced that MangaGamer is currently negotiating for Navel’s Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai, and that negotiations are “going steadily.”
Getting back to acquistions and release plans, bamboo fielded a question about low price bargain titles, to which he replied: “Depends on the titles and its contents, but if the game companies are interested…” and pointed out that while he’d like to create a Steam-type service for VN distribution, the market isn’t large enough to support it, and that while otome games are a possibility, they aren’t his expertise and would require further research. Likewise, if demand was high enough, it would be possible to see doujin games coming out from MangaGamer in the future, reminding viewers that “MangaGamer is still small, so what we negotiate depends on demands from the fans.”
Fans with Android phones will also be pleased to note that while there are no plans for MangaGamer to begin releasing on the Android marketplace, OVERDRIVE will be releasing the English edition of KiraKira on the platform in-house.
When asked where he sees MangaGamer being in five years, he replied: “It might be gone, or it might still be here five years from now. If it is, i imagine there will be a lot more titles by then.” (Those of us on staff hope so too!) He also touched on the costs of localisation, pointing out that testing and voice licensing are the most expensive aspects, and that they can often cost more than everything else combined, depending on the contracts.
Touching on the tenuous subject of fan-translations, bamboo feels that they have just recently begun helping the industry, starting with NNL reaching out ot minori regarding ef, and the success of the MG/Minori/NNL deal shows that “cooperating with fan translators is an effective way to develop the market” though he still feels negatively towards those working entirely without permission.
Discussing development at OVERDRIVE, bamboo confirmed that he’s had a great experience with all of his writers. He’s also currently promoting the upcoming Japanese release of Dengeki Stryker, a comedic superhero action themed VN, and mentioned that the West was kept in mind during its development. (editor’s note: A couple of us on staff have played through the demo. It’s frickin’ brilliant.) When asked about a rumour that DEARDROPS was less than successful, bamboo quickly pointed out that the game was profitable and OVERDRIVE were happy with its performance.
On the subject of character goods, bamboo stated that COSPA are already doing international sales for most game publishers, but MG may make a few of their own exclusives in the future for conventions, but there’s nowhere to really ship them from long term. There will also be more hard copies coming soon from MangaGamer, though bamboo can’t announce what the titles are.
In terms of expanding the market, bamboo says it’s unlikely to make a sudden expansion, but he hopes that a low price all-ages title like Go Go Nippon (OVERDRIVE’s Western exclusive) will be a good place to start. He also confirmed that Go Go Nippon has been delayed, and while it will not be available in time for AX and the summer convention circuit, it should be ready in early fall. His recommendations for people looking to start playing eroge? OVERDRIVE games, of course!
Once again, bamboo repeated tha “Sales of English VN’s are steadily increasing, but it’s not enough to convince the companies. We aren’t getting paid to do this by the way ><” (Editor’s note: He’s referring to the executive level. All the MG freelancers *do* get paid.) Case in point, Bamboo confirmed that “Visual Arts isn’t currently interested in the overseas market… but since their president is a business person, if there is a high demand for it…?”
On a personal note, bamboo likes natto and prefers breasts (ideally mid-sized) to butts, but does not like yandere girls as he’s afraid of ending up like the MC at the end of School Days.
In terms of MangaGamer’s profitability, bamboo said: “Titles like Shuffle and Koihime were pretty profitable. So I guess well known titles do better. Kira Kira surprisingly did well too.” Regarding pricing, “We are adjusting the price of the games based on the price of the original and in consideration of costs. Of course, if the market expands, we can set it lower… ”
Bamboo also confirmed that while he hasn’t been to Otakon (but would like to), he will be attending this year’s Anime Expo (albeit with fewer guests this year) and hopes to answer more questions in person, confirming that he wishes to be more hands-on in dealing with the Western fans as well as continuing with Ustream chats about twice a month.
Wrapping things up, bamboo thanked everybody for participating, and reminded the viewers that “Like I said before, Japanese companies are small, so its hard to answer to demands such as, “Release the games quicker!” but we are working hard on it!” and reminded the viewers to support MangaGamer before asking where everyone was from and signing off.