Now, there's plenty more we could've said on the topic of Sekai Project, though at twenty-one minutes and forty-two seconds this was the longest video on QuQu's channel not counting livestreams. So there wasn't time to talk about the other aspects of the company.
But before I get to that, I do want to reiterate one point brought up in the video. It's obvious that Visual Novels as a medium have grown much more in popularity over the last few years, and this is all happening as the mainstream entertainment companies have decided to put making as much money as possible, often through globalization, before the quality of the art they're selling.
Because of this, many people have moved on to other interests, myself included. Why, I would go as far as to suggest that Japanese Animation and Comics and Video Games might one day overtake American entertainment, leaving the Big Six media companies crumbling under the weight of all that gray goo they keep pumping out. Time will certainly tell if my predictions are correct, but there's no reason why we can't help things along by voting with our wallets and suggesting to our friends that they do likewise.
Anyway, one thing I find interesting in regards to Sekai Project is the data that Steam Spy has provided us with. Unlike MangaGamer, Sekai Project only uses their personal store page for the titles that they're unable to sell on Steam due to age restrictions. Because of this, we have somewhat of an accurate idea of how well their digital products are selling with the data on their Steam Spy page, something which cannot be said for MangaGamer.
Now obviously, their most popular titles are the ones available as a free download. But what's odd is how popular titles such as Nekopara, which have Adult versions on Sekai's Denpasoft digital store page. This brings some doubt as to the possibility that the unrated version of Fruit of Grisaia sold any better than the one sold on Steam, though I suppose we'll never know for sure unless Sekai releases their sales data. Regardless, I think that much of Steam's userbase has decided that $40 is far too much for Fruit of Grisaia, despite the high reputation for quality and length that the series has.
The title has already been on sale multiple times already, though it still has yet to break even twenty-five thousand owners. This leaves me to assume that many who wanted to read the VN have chosen to download a pirated copy, with maybe some importing the Japanese release to support the original creators. I suspect this is what happened with Clannad as well.
The thing is, I can understand charging $40 for each of the Grisaia VNs, since the last novel in the series came out only three years ago in Japan. Clannad, on the other hand, came out in 2004 before Half Life 2 was even released. The original anime was one of the most popular shows back when it came out, so there's no excuse for its poor sales. Whoever decided that it should be sold at a $50 price point, whether it was someone at Sekai Project or Visual Arts, didn't know what they were doing. Certainly, one could argue that the price is worth it for the quality and length of the story, though it would seem that most don't agree given how the title has sold. But I suppose Clannad is just another victim of the J C Penney Effect, where Steam many users don't buy anything unless it's heavily discounted.
The thing that I find troubling is that high profile titles like Grisaia and Clannad are more than likely not making anywhere near as much money as fluff like Sakura Spirit and Nekopara (though later Visual Novels in the Sakura franchise don't seem to be doing as well as the first two.) This backs up my suspicion that Sekai Project is bleeding money, which explains why they still need to resort to crowd-funding projects to continue bringing titles over to the west. Such a business model is unsustainable, and will likely result in their ultimate demise as a company.
If you look at the video's titlecard, you might notice an odd face in the background, one not from any Visual Novels. That's one of the main characters from the anime Heat Guy J, a show that Geneon paid one million dollars an episode for, and as you can guess, the show didn't do all that well for the company. Now, there's a very specific reason why I chose to feature him in the video's titlecard.
When Geneon collapsed, a number of anime titles went out of print that had to be license rescued by other companies, though some are still are still unavailable in an official re-release like Strawberry Marshmallow. It would be best to avoid a repeat of this with visual novels; we have the history of companies licensing anime for English distribution to look back on, and it would serve us well to learn from it. Otherwise, we're going to find ourselves in a similar situation to the time after the anime bubble popped, before online streaming took off.