In a fascinating report released today, GameIndustry.biz reports that three visual novel apps generated $14 million in combined revenue in February 2018 alone. We rarely talk about the mobile market here, which must change sense we have far more data on its operations than we do the overall visual novel industry. So far, we’ve only covered it briefly and incredibly critically in our reporting on The Arcane. It’s methods of securing revenue are, well, highly questionable. But it is difficult to argue with the results. Here is a bit from the report on GameIndustry.biz.
Mobile research firm Apptopia studied the seven most popular titles in this category, including Choices, Episode and What’s Your Story?, and found they earned a combined $14 million in February 2018.
Combined with the $12.5 million taken in January, $12 million in December, and $10 million in November, that’s $52.2m in the last four months alone. Apptopia did not disclose which titles were the highest earners.
These titles are all built around a similar design: players read through visual novel-stye stories, then choose what they wish their character to do next. In addition to original stories, many have partnerships with IP holders to create adventures based on popular films and TV shows.
The revenues generated are partly from sponsorships for certain storylines and ads shown around them, but also from the sale of virtual currency which unlocks additional story choices for the player.
I encourage you all to read the full story on GameIndustry. At the moment I have no deeper analysis for you as that will take a bit more time and study. From what we have to go on now, there are two takeaways I have for you. The first is that the game structure and profitability go hand-in-hand. Clearly there is an audience willing to pay whatever they have to pay to keep exploring a story that they like. So, as much as it pains me to admit it, if there are EVN developers planning to break into the mobile market, then the best strategy is to figure out an in-game economy that utilizes the key plot points for their work.
The issue I have with this is that it skates so close to problems we’re seeing in the larger AAA gaming industry at the moment that looks to abuse addictive behavior and youthful indiscretion in the name of profit. Considering that that the biggest demographic for these mobile apps are teenagers, it’s easy to see small charges either from their own disposable income or what is allotted to them being drained at the press of a button without much second thought. The closer it edges to that line, the closer it gets to being caught up in the eventual regulatory net coming for DLC loot boxes and other revenue tricks by the larger industry.
The second takeaway is the increasing partnerships between larger media groups and smaller gaming companies to create visual novels of their IPs. Long-time readers of VNs Now know this is something I’ve been talking about for a while: nearly since the beginning. With the cost of producing a visual novel low, the issues was always profitability. Now that it has been show that they can produce revenue in the right environment, I can see more companies looking to leverage intellectual property in this way. The question will be who will strike now and begin making those relationships? For commercial EVN developers, it is something to consider moving forward.
Of course, the downside to that would be sacrificing their own work to do a project on someone else’s IP. It isn’t always a popular choice considering the current corporate environment (or lack thereof) in the EVN community. However, it is something to consider. So check out the articles and I’d love to hear your thoughts about the data. JP3: OUT.