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Published March 26, 2020

Welcome to Section A where I report on Visual Novel and Interactive Fiction news. I will also discuss gaming news that I believe impacts developers. Like with the Visual Novel Review Digest, Section A is a new approach to familiar features on this website that will also include Section B and Calcutta Club. Your input will help bring out the full potentially of these features so feel free to give me your thoughts on them in the comments or at jp@vnsnow.com!

Anaplex.EXE Makes Its Official Launch

The big story is the official announcement of Aniplex.EXE as well as its launch slate. As the name suggest, this will be an imprint of Aniplex which is a subsidiary of the Sony Corporation. While it was originally believed the brand would stay in the Japanese market for now, the official launch explained that would not be the case and Aniplex.EXE will also enter Western markets through Steam. Aniplex is now poised to play a pivotal role in Sony’s mobile strategy as well since this subsidiary is also the publisher of one of the most successful mobile games of all time:  Fate/Grand Order. The new imprint will launch with ATRI -My Dear Moments-, developed by the creators of The Fruit of Grisaia, Frontwing and Makura; and Adabana Odd Tales, developed by Liar-soft, the makers of Gahkthun of the Golden Lightning and Kindred Spirits on the Roof.

It will be interesting to watch how Aniplex moves forward with its imprint. They have a rich catalog to use as well as connections with other local visual novel developers. I will not go too deeply on how I believe this will affect the Western market, but I do believe it pushes a bifurcation point closer for EVN developers who want to remain hobbyists and those who want to commercialize their work. The last few years have seen a lot of developers tread water in that area: straddling the line between both as they develop their craft. However, as distribution is more refined and Japanese developers star to remove the middle men (Sekai Project, MangaGamer, et al) from between them and their customers, I believe this will cause Western developers to either make the leap and put together an operation that can deliver a consistent commercial product for a growing, but far more casual audience or let VN development remain a hobby and accept their already niche audience become more sectionalized.

For the record, neither choice is ‘wrong’. However, it is a choice that is coming closer with each month as more media companies realize how cheap it is to monetize the visual novel format. THAT I will get into a bit more with Section B because Aniplex may not have moved into the market had it not been for the resounding success of a certain Kentucky Colonel. For now, we will keep an eye on Aniplex.EXE and their release titles as we get closer to a potential release date.

 

COVID-19 Cancels E3

Segueing from Sony, we turn to the global news which means the continuing effects of COVID-19 AKA Novel Coronavirus. While I’ve gone over my thoughts of the various political approaches to confronting what is now a full-blown crisis, including here in the United States, the fact is that there is no corner of commercial or private life that won’t be affected somehow during the next few months; possibly for the rest of the year. We have already seen how this has affected sports with English Premier League, Major League Baseball, the recently returned XFL, the PGA Tour and Formula One suspending or outright cancelling their seasons. This has spread into the convention schedule with the larger gaming convention in North America, the Electronic Entertainment Expo AKA E3, cancelling for the year.

Upon the announcement, I saw a few tweets from various developers and artists assuring their audiences that not only were not that not affected by the cancellation of E3 and downplaying the importance of the event. I did not take it well, to say the least. Sure enough, this week we are learning that smaller anime and gaming conventions are reacting to the threat of COVID-19. As of this publication, SakuraCon in Seattle, A-Kon in Dallas and Anime Boston in Boston are cancelled along with a slew of other conventions. Alongside the impact this will have on vendors, artists and other entrepreneurs who rely on these events, we cannot underestimate the impact COVID may have of visual novels. Developers and publishers frequently use anime conventions to promote their upcoming releases similar to developers at E3.

An abundance of caution may get us out of this mess sooner rather than later. Until then, though I will keep an eye on the convention schedule and will be keeping track of the conventions still running with VN developers and producers and those that cancel. Until then, people keep an eye on your favorites and look to support them where you can.

One developer that has already stated they’re having issues is Sakevisual. They regularly do convention tours and with the outbreak and subsequent panic, those plans have been put on hold. Sakevisual is an essential piece of the EVN market and I want to encourage everyone reading this to check out their store and if you haven’t played the classic Jisei Murder Mystery series or Backstage Pass to pick it up today.

Muv-Luv Developers Reclaims Western Localization Rights

Another shift happened in the VN landscape in February when it was announced that aNCHOR, the parent company of visual novel developer age, has reacquired the publication rights for the Muv-Luv franchise. This includes the editions of the game that have already been released under the Sekai Project banner. The Muv-Luv franchise was amongst a net of acquisitions made by Sekai Project early in its existence along with Frontwing’s Fruits of Grisaia series and Key’s Clannad. Unfortunately, like the aforementioned, Sekai Project has seemingly lost the rights to their three major licenses despite solid crowdfunding and public support. Here is the announcement from the Kickstarter page:

Steam publishing rights for the following titles will transfer from Sekai Project to aNCHOR on Monday, February 17th, 2020:

  • Muv-Luv
  • Muv-Luv Alternative
  • Muv-Luv photonflowers*

This transfer will have no effect on customers who have purchased the game, and no action is required on the player’s part. Please continue to enjoy your games without interruption.  

Thank you for your continued interest in our franchise.

Sekai Project has been questioned for years on the management of their crowdfunding. From poor translation to not delivering physical and digital rewards promised to backers, there are a lot of grey area on the matter of the company’s finances, if the company has kept all of its stated promises and how much should the group be held responsible for nearly a decade after it first launched.

For now though, I think it is in our best interest to keep abreast of any changes and look forward to see how aNCHOR will handle Muv-Luv in the Western market. I will also be sending questions to Sekai Project in the near future on the matter, so please keep an eye out for that.

 

Ratalaika Games Announces Console Ports

I had the privilege of getting a heads up on Ratalaika Games’ planned video showcase. This is a Spanish outfit that grabbed media attention last year when it ported the instant classic One Night Stand to consoles. On the back of that, Ratalaika has announced a slate of English Visual Novels they will be bringing to Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. It should be noted that those plans may change later this year if Playstation 5 and Xbox Series One remains on schedule. However, that’s another article for another day. Here is the list of EVNs heading to consoles:

  • Angels with Scaly Wings from Radical Phi
  • A Summer with the Shiba Inu from Quill Studios
  • Blind Men from Man-Eater Games
  • Jisei: The First Case HD from SakeVisual
  • Long Live the Queen from Hanako Games
  • Syrup and the Ultimate Sweet from Nomnomnami
  • Tales of Aravorn: Seasons of the Wolf from Winter Wolves.

The showcase itself was very well done. Clearly the company has been watching how Nintendo, Devolver Digital and other corporations have promoted their products outside of a convention platform. The only thing I would have liked in addition to the showcase is something like Nintendo’s Treehouse where they have people playing the demos of the game and talking about what features appeal directly to them. Other than that, this is the best path forward in terms of promotion and I commend Ratalaika for putting this slate together. If you haven’t seen the showcase yet, you can do so here.

 

And finally for those of you participating in this year’s NaNoRenO community event, this was put on the Itch.Io page for it.

UPDATE: In response to several requests for an extension in light of our current global circumstances, I’ve moved the submission date back two weeks. Please do not make your VN any bigger. In fact, you should probably make it smaller. All those things you were planning to cut before you found out about this new deadline? Cut them anyway. 

So that’s really good advice in general, but the news bit there is that the new deadline is April 14th. I’m looking forward to seeing what projects make it over the finish line and wish everyone luck in these final weeks.

That’s all for now. JP3: OUT.