Three quarters of eroge users are pirates, with otaku as dishonest and opportunistic as normal people, says a source privy to industry insiders.
From a Twitter based exchange with light novel author Asai Lab, who reports he has been asking around in the eroge industry:
I’ve been speaking to people in the eroge industry. The 2007 market was about 30 billion yen in size ($330 million), over 2 million users. But of that only 500,000 actually buy anything. 1.5 million are pirates. An industry with three quarters of the users being illegal is pretty surprising.
The next thing about the eroge industry: With 75% of users pirates, it’s a given that the people in the industry suffer – creators are paid less and some aren’t even paid on time. They also live in fear of second-hand sales at places like Sofmap.
On top of this, user numbers are decreasing. That is to say, the legitimate users are decreasing in number…
Another thing is that there are no titles which keep selling for years and years, so-called “long sellers.” Sales are determined on the three days following release.
Why? Because most users are nothing but pirates waiting for the release. A pirate release ahead of the legitimate release spells doom for sales.
People in the industry dismiss the notion that otaku are good people as a fantasy.
It’s the same for BL games – fujoshi are no different.
Makers try to stem the tide a little by padding out the games with dummy files, but they get circulated all the same.
The piracy numbers are clear from traffic analysis. Sengoku Rance sold 100,000 copies, but there were 1,000,000 downloads of the patch. So the amazing truth is that 90% of the users are pirates and now only 10% are legitimate.
The industry fights back with limited edition packages and download sales for older titles. Illegal downloads increase as well, even with serials, but it’s better than nothing.
They also put out consumer editions [non-ero console ports] – these increase brand loyalty. Merchandising also comes into play, which is low risk but also has triflingly small profit margins of 5-7%.
Mainstream PC gaming overseas is now also a pale shadow of what it once was, with publishers increasingly shunning it in favour of console releases and subscription based online games.
NPD statistics for US retail PC game sales show sales at $538 million in 2009, versus $1.6 billion in 2001, although this excludes digital sales from DRM reliant services such as Steam.
Pirates and most Internet media typically claim DRM itself depresses sales, but the DRM and lower piracy rates offered on consoles now easily guarantee sales which dwarf anything on the PC, and claims that easy piracy does not result in lost sales seem to defy common sense, although publisher claims that all pirated copies constitute a lost sale are hardly to be believed either.
Without access to consoles or effective technical impediments to piracy, it appears the eroge industry faces a bleak future indeed.