The visual novel community, for better or for worse, is one of the most vocal and dedicated communities that I have ever interacted with. The demand for high-quality localization and official licenses seems to be ever-growing as fans of the genre increase. However, while the demand is there, the idea of making a profit on these titles is often forgotten by some western visual novel publishers who must rely on other means to stay open.
New to the scene publisher, Sol Press, has released a number of titles in the west, and mostly without seeing any profit on their releases. CEO of Sol Press Michael Valdez let us know that every visual novel is released at a loss, stating that, “This is why conventions and shows are so important to see some type of return through physical products.” For Sol Press, their physical products have been their light novel and manga localizations which are doing well for them.
The main reason visual novels are released at a loss is attributed to game piracy. Michael gave us an example of this by saying, “In the games industry, typically for every 5 purchases, you have 1 person pirate your game, but in the visual novel industry for every 1 purchase, you have 5 people who torrent the game. You look at the number of downloads compared to sells and see that you have 1,000 sells versus 5,000 downloads.” He adds, “It’s tough to not get disheartened by the whole thing.”
From what we’ve seen, a visual novel is released and that same day it can be found on numerous torrent sites. Piracy has always been something that video game publishers and developers have had to deal with. But visual novel developers haven’t really implemented any techniques or processes to battle against it. The result can mean the closure of studios and lost wages for the publisher to pay for quality localizations. While these may not be directly related, it seems to play a role in the end result.
Michael mentions that it’s not really the fans who have to change, but instead, there are steps that the industry can take to ensure piracy doesn’t affect a huge percentage of sales. This could include quicker localization licenses with Japanese publishers and developers to release games and even manga/light novels in the west without a six month to a year of waiting for the rights to clear. In the end, Michael states, “Visual novel piracy is something that is affecting the industry in a huge way and that’s what we are setting out to fix.”
Sol Press is also working on several new initiatives to help other publishers create physical products for their manga, light novels, and doujins, which will be shared in our full interview soon.
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