Eroge Market Victim of Moe Boom

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A frank interview with an eroge industry insider reveals some interesting tidbits, with the demands of moe marketing evidently precluding much in the way of innovation.

An abridged version of Siliconera’s lengthy interview with an anonymous eroge distributor is reproduced below:

You said that the market is flooded but also that there are a limited number of customers actually making purchases.

Do you think this leads to a tendency on the part of developers to make the same kind of game over and over again because there’s a higher chance of selling product this way?

For instance, it seems like we’re seeing a lot of moe style games these days…

Yes, I see the developers making the same kind of game over and over, because that’s actually what the consumer wants and what sells.

One game developer we work with is well known for their school adventure title [probably the endlessly rehashed Da Capo]. Now, they have been releasing many versions and expansions for this series.

However, if you were a fan of any series, wouldn’t you want to enjoy the same characters and world setting rather than putting in the effort to move on to a completely newer series, and risking not enjoying it? (This is called “hitting a landmine” in eroge purchase lingo)

But its not like some companies aren’t trying other things out. For example, some companies are trying out different genres within the bishoujo game market, such as a RPG-styled adventure games.

Even though people put in quite an effort to develop and promote these games, the demand for known franchises is still much greater.

The word “moe” is pretty broad, but it is a necessary element in an h-game that sells. You can even say that a game didn’t sell because it wasn’t moe enough!

Enjoying a fun time with the characters during an awesome story could be one type of moe, but some people prefer titles where they put forth a certain fetish (such as younger sister, childhood friend, etc.) before anything, and that’s moe to them. Nevertheless, it’s certain that the ones with the prettiest art style have an advantage.

One factor you can’t forget in the h-game market is that the games are expensive. A normal full price of a game goes for 8,800 yen (that’s 9,240 yen with tax included). That’s over 100 U.S. dollars with today’s exchange rate.

That’s why the consumers can only purchase a limited number of games each month, even making use of the second-hand market. Not to mention, these games take time to beat.

Recently, it’s not uncommon to see developers making smaller games that come out at a faster pace, too — sometimes in increments of 3 months.

It may sound weird, but in this industry, unless the game is superbly good and receives perfect reviews afterwards, the number of pre-orders determine the value and life of a title, because that’s the only time we can actually borrow the space to promote the game at the stores and media.

So, if reducing prices and making smaller games isn’t an option in your opinion, what can you do in order to expand the audience for the genre? Japan isn’t reproducing at a very high rate.

In this situation, when the existing market is so saturated, what measures do you think can be taken to help make the niche more profitable? Are the publishers you’ve worked with thinking of long-term plans in this regard?

Actually, I personally think this industry has reached its limit in terms of the consumer fan base.

We’ve done everything in terms of marketing, and now companies are simply eating into each other’s profits, in which case its maximum size will never grow bigger. Not to mention, the same customer base is usually also a fan of console games and anime.

The developers’ goal is still to make a good and attractive game, but now they are putting in more effort than ever to keep the fans they gained entertained as long as possible, so they will be interested enough to try out their future titles.

An almost total lack of innovation, whether technical or narrative, and an evident lack of interest in new markets, domestic or international, seem more of a barrier to expansion than the tiny core of established fans the industry has so carefully served all these years.


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    Comment by Anonymous
    09:38 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Y not just put every genre on 1 game?

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:59 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Oh sankaku I love your yellow journalism writing and crazy exaggerations.
    I hope 2010 is a good year since the world is so going to end because of the global warming in two years, anime and eroge will be dead before though because of the moe virus.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:26 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Anthropogenic global warming was a hoax and 2012 is going to be a regular year. I can't wait to see what date crackpots will label as the next apocalypse in 2013.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:20 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Moe kill the Eroge Star?

    Avatar of Benskiman
    Comment by Benskiman
    05:21 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I don't get it. Are they saying that moe is hurting the industry, when they themselves said that it is a very broad term, so it has no absolute meaning to everyone. I don't see how it can be a sure problem if it don't even have a a real meaning just something that changes with each person you ask.

    Avatar of The Grey Ghost
    Comment by The Grey Ghost
    05:36 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The insider mentioned that the price of games are expensive, not the production costs. So why is it assumed that reducing the games' prices aren't a reasonable option?

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:09 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The profit margin for eroge isn't very high for several reasons: 1. They only publish in small volumes(overstock is very bad because the games only have a shelf life of about 2 months). 2. PR cost is high if you want some decent publicity for the product. 3. There are several other games from other companies(each month) that falls in the same genre. Unless the demand for the genre suddenly increases, they are basically carving out from the same pie.

    And price reduction won't work because it will basically deteriorating into a "price war". Small and upstart companies will be driven out of business because of the lack of liquidity and cash flow to sustain loss. And the consumers won't be too happy when the price starts to go back up again.

    - Ex-eroge critic

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:45 12/11/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    >only have a shelf life of about 2 months
    Considering that they cannot physically go bad, this alone is proof enough that there simply are quite simply way too many on the market.

    Avatar of Danmaku-Brotha
    Comment by Danmaku-Brotha
    08:55 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Moe is not simply based upon the way that something looks or behaves, nor dose it have to exclusively tie it self down to the same standard that something is cute. The Japanese slang term moe (literally meaning budding) refers to the characteristics of something that is growing, developing, evolving or just basically a diamond in the rough. Moe is also interpreted as a burning passionate sensation branched off from the term "moeru" (burning). When applied towards anime, manga, video games (or really just any form of entertainment) moe is a emotionally positive reaction towards observing the dynamics of a character, relationship, or situation in the the way it reflects upon the viewers key feelings to evoke upon a change within themselves through inspiration or to maintain there own self worth. It really is just a exuberant, sincere and honest feeling as well as a form of appreciation, affection, and admiration towards a character that they are emotionally moved by. There is no style or genre that best represents moe since it is a sensation and is subjective to whatever someones moe feeling happens to be. What I have noticed is how the term moe has been modified as some sort of convenient "catch all" word basically referring to anything cute, loli, ecchi, slice of life, slapstick or even sometimes porn, even the terms hentai (weird person) and otaku (maniac) are grossly misinterpreted when carried over to different cultures.

    Moe as a fad or as a trend in Japan is mainly due to whatever generates the most moe feeling within that time or era of what becomes most relative towards what people feel more in need of reflecting off of the current climate or environment that they are situated within. Its whatever is felt as moe that becomes popular over time and not actually moe the feeling it self, since what it is that encompasses the literal meaning that the more recent slang term moe is structured upon has always existed through out entertainment. One more thing I've noticed is that whats rarely taken into account within many English speaking fandom communities are the Japanese sensibilities vs. Non Japanese sensibilities and cultural differences in what become least or most appealing towards demographics. Just because something is popular in Japan it doesn't have to hold to the same standards that apply towards whats popular in your own culture. Say, for example, what the Japanese fans think is moe or interesting doesn't have to mean that the Americans fans would have to find it the same as well because even Americans can have there own "moe sense" that is entirely alien to the Japanese. Sometimes I fell its almost as if some people just want to imitate the Japanese in what they say and do (even I'm using too much Japanese slang...lol) but I suppose it can be more interesting to go along with the flow from the influence of things that are foreign. In the end moe is only a feeling that is based upon personal preference and whatever it is that works for someone won't necessarily work with someone else.

    11:22 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    You have my whole respect, sir.

    Finally someone who's aware of and doesn't fall into these whole "moe" misinterpretation and blind blaming.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:33 04/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Omg *bows* Master!!!!

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:42 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Not the first time that the industry was in crisis. Back in 2003-4 there was a boom in eroge publishers because the "moe" culture started to take off and demand surged, much like the video game crisis in 1987. And then the market simply couldn't sustain all of them, over-speculation bubble burst and many of them fold. Unfortunately eroge is such industry that if you can't adapt to the taste of the crowd, you will be phased out. There are a few companies that I considered still making innovations within the industry. But most of them have already resorted to cookie-cutting and starting to saturate the genres. As gloomy as the outlook of the situation is, there will always be some demand for such product. And as long as the anime sector still stands, there will be some synergy with the eroge business. But this should serve as a wake-up call to the keymakers to the industry of how dire the current situation is.

    - Ex-eroge critic

    Avatar of N.R.
    Comment by N.R.
    19:18 04/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    An anonymous site interviews an anonymous developer. Sadly this is not much by means of concrete information.

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:02 03/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    This is why I decided to start working on my own series of Visual Novels; for the Source Engine. You simply can't expect translation groups to deliver English Translation. My options are to make my own novels, and release them for free; or to learn Japanese.

    Both options are difficult but atleast one gives me the opportunity to set up a small business.

    Avatar of ntbxp
    Comment by ntbxp
    23:31 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Moe is good, but more BOOBs please.
    Flat chest is not for me.

    Comment by Anonymous

    Fuck you. Flatchest is win.

    You want boobs go play RapeLay.

    Avatar of Danmaku-Brotha
    Comment by Danmaku-Brotha
    15:18 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    If there is any kind of virus or cancer that has crippled Japanese markets within perpetuated decline and stagnation it would have to be the long term effects of the "Japan Syndrome" that they have still been suffering from since the 90s. In ways very similar to America's economical crisis Japan has been and is still constantly devastated by cronyism, predatory banking and predatory loaning activities (like the consumer lender Aiful corp. and their debt in abusing too many Credit-Default Swaps) which could very well place them in a situation potentially worse than the 90s. There is no silver bullet solution that is just going to magically pull Japanese industries out of financial turmoil and eroge, anime and manga markets are most certainly no exception. Almost all major profits are used to pay off debt accelerated by all sorts of structured finance vehicles, hedge funds, fractionally reserve banking and long term deficit spending that just keep increasing more and more. So it really comes as no surprise as to why staff are severely under paid and companies can only retain the vitality of a weed. Probably Japans biggest problem is how The central bank of Japan has horribly exploited the Japanese yen almost just as badly as America's Federal Reserve has exploited the dollar where it would almost seem as though both organizations are virtually carbon copies of each other in the sense that they both manipulate the issuance of their currency on any given whim with absolutely no transparency. Having a fiat based currency, nothing intrinsic to back it and printing it into oblivion is why all the prices on commodities are skyrocketing, so people would rather back their savings into something more tangible than to go around splurging if they're smart. This problem as well as many situations like it all around the world can only be solved incrementally in exposing these plutocrats, criminal investors and banksters that make Madoff look like a Akiba maid, cuz seriously the government ain't gonna do shit since thats who they get provide them immunity out of fear and greed.

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:11 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    "An almost total lack of innovation, whether technical or narrative, and an evident lack of interest in new markets, domestic or international, seem more of a barrier to expansion than the tiny core of established fans the industry has so carefully served all these years."

    I don't think this is terribly fair. If getting a "landmine" costs a gamer 100 dollars of wasted cash, then /producing/ a landmine, and promoting it could very well put a game-maker out of business, or close to it. It doesn't seem like the kind of risk most companies would be willing to take.

    "A bird in hand is better than two in the bush," so to speak. They have a known market, they know what they have to do in order to sell to it, and they're content not to risk going out of business to go after that other "bird" - a bird that may not even actually be in the bush in the first place.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:47 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    What does "moe" stand for?

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:34 18/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It stands for DAWWW HNNGGHH I'M-GONNA-DIE.

    Comment by SnooSnoo
    22:25 01/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    There's a solution to all this.
    English.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:42 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    have you guy forgot about feminist?

    they can't figure the difference reality and games. So if the games has a bad ending(which usually RAPE) they demand ban.

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:50 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Needs prohibitively large PR investment.
    There are many companies translating eroge, but they do not seem to swim in cash. Also, several western companies have been trying to make western-style porn games - and no one of them makes much money as well...
    So it seems, that at moment the English eroge market is much smaller than Japanese one. The only way to increase this is through huge investments - and the industry is not in the position to throw money around.
    Also, as soon as eroge would start becoming more mainstream in Western world you can expect Equality now & co to start real crusade.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:00 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yup, that's the ticket. Translating into foreign languages is the most effective way to multiply your potential audience by a huge factor.
    And another idea: provide a non-hentai option (some already do this). There are a lot of people out there who like the general principle of the thing but who are simply not looking for porn.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:25 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yes, that's what Illusion sort of tried. But you all know what happened because of that.

    Avatar of grgpsunk
    Comment by grgpsunk
    05:28 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Illusion never tried, dumbass. It was just some guy that sold a Japanese copy of Rapelay on the English version of Amazon.com. Illusion was never interested in the English market, and they've been hostile to companies like JAST who were interested in localizing their games in English long before the fiasco even happened.

    Get your facts straight, moron.

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:42 04/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    About this translation thing...

    as a literate of a Japanese kanji, I still think that some games are best in their original language.

    I mean, sometimes the Japanese in story-oriented galges are so poetic and beautiful that I doubt that any translation can fully simulates the feeling I get from it.

    Games like Little Busters, Fate, and many more. In fact only ero-oriented games use plain Japanese nowadays.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:29 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    lmao so true.
    why can't they realize that by simply translating some of the eroges to other languages they'll be able to sell them to the untapped markets in other countries? especially U.S dammit...

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:15 01/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Moe sucks. Moe is pure crap. Everyone who likes moe is a fucking faggot! Mom+shota-son FTW!

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:57 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    u aren't the entire user base fucknut

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:33 01/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    add to that that the cosumer base isn't breeding and goes for extinction :)

    Avatar of grgpsunk
    Comment by grgpsunk
    05:29 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Otaku are not born--THEY'RE MADE. Otaku have been around for nearly 3 generations now. How else would they manage to exist so long if they can't breed?

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:15 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Exactly I once went to an anime convention and there I saw a guy in jeriya costume with his 10 year old son in a naruto one.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:21 01/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I prefer eroge that have great storyline like Fate Stay/Night than a moe eroge.

    Avatar of Sukunai
    Comment by Sukunai
    21:58 01/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Heheheheheheh

    It's no different than any other VERY finite market that's selling over and over to the very finite market.

    Hey, just because you released a game last year, doesn't mean you can expect to sell a game this year and the next and the next.
    The gamers are merely a year old this year. We haven't necessarily expanded in numbers magically. It's not like there is magi cal growth in the market, even if there is magically more in the industry.

    I see the same thing in the wargame industry (which is also brutally small in customer base numbers). If this year the number of game makers were to increase for wargaming, it will just mean they will all be selling fewer wargames to the same number of wargamers.

    Some demographics don't increase, sometimes they just age.

    If they are stupid enough to just continue on or are just too chicken to take a risk at being the next great thing, then let them suffer the lame sales.

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:34 04/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I imagine the potential fanbase eroge could attract is a fair bit wider than war games, but still, you made a good comparison there.

    It could very well be the future of this industry.

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:46 01/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Why use the non-moe Ino art for this?

    Comment by Anonymous
    Avatar of A_Moose
    Comment by A_Moose
    Comment by Anonymous
    21:04 01/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    more MOE more BETTER

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:38 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Moe money, moe problems.

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:10 01/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    More moe = more slice of life = no more anime with story = utterly pathetic shitty decade if not more with no good anime whatsoever.

    Mark my words.

    Avatar of A_Moose
    Comment by A_Moose
    09:56 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    +1. I find slice-of-life to be soul-numbingly boring.

    Comment by Anonymous
    21:06 04/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well that's a good way to put it but that's not all there is to it. Personally I think moe could make a character more human and believable rather than make him/her all perfect boring. But there are other ways to do this than moe, and not all forms of moe do this.

    I guess it all depends how you use it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:52 03/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It's not like moe must be slice-of-life.
    Tears to Tiara was fantasy, yet the characters were moe. Especially Llyr/Suiru.

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:51 01/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    someone got butt hurt

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:56 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yes. I am butt hurt that this shit will kill anime..

    Avatar of JSRF
    Comment by JSRF
    21:04 01/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Its just a phase you'll grow out of it within the next decade.

    Avatar of aarond12
    Comment by aarond12
    04:09 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'm probably twice your age and I enjoy moé. It's not an age thing, it's your preference. I like the whole ideal of moé -- it's cute and appealing if done properly.

    Comment by Busy
    21:41 01/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Actually moe kills mosttimes the whole storyline...

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:44 02/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Lazy writing kills bad stories. Moe is not at fault; it's simply a style. It's lazy writers that copy the style, and use it as a crutch, who give it a bad name.





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