[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]ekai Project is a visual novel publisher in the West who appeared rather suddenly in 2013. At the very start, the community didn’t know quite what to think of them. It’s incredible how much they have accomplished in so little time. Since their founding, Sekai Project has become a known name that is securing partnerships with Japanese developers left and right to get their games officially localized in English.
Sekai Project has taken the extremely unique stance of regularly crowdfunding for titles. If you know about visual novel localization then you’re aware it is a very expensive process. You’ve got to not only translate, but carefully localize every game to make sure the writing is top notch. Of course then there’s the hefty fees of paying for famous voice actor performances where required. With that said, so far it looks like Sekai Project is the only visual novel publisher sourcing their fees through Kickstarter.
We’re going to briefly discuss each visual novel campaign Sekai Project has personally launched and try to assess why exactly everything crowdfunding this company touches is such a resounding success.
Campaign End Date: July 2014 – Episode One available
Funding Amount: $94,835 (431% funded)
This episodic game tells the story of a young man named Haru who is simply obsessed with becoming rich and powerful. He chases this goal by playing the stock market. Lucky for him he’s something of a prodigy and is able to do quite well for himself. The concept of doggedly chasing capital doesn’t provide for the most likeable protagonist but all the same people poured out their wallets for it.
It seems that a lot of this attention was centered on the doujin group behind World End Economica. Developer Spicy Tails includes such impressive names as Isuna Hasekura (Spice and Wolf), Kishida Kyoudan & the Akeboshi Rockets (Highschool of the Dead), and Taira Katou (Blazblue Continuum Shift). Such heavy name recognition for anime, manga, and game fans is a big deal. People love to back campaigns with people whose work they enjoy because it provides a sense of assurance.
Campaign End Date: July 2014 – Available now
Funding Amount: $34,662 (693% funded)
Fault Milestone One is the game with the lowest Kickstarter goal Sekai Project has launched yet. Requiring only $5,000 it managed to receive far over that by the end. The story, focusing around a princess and her royal guard, has incredibly gorgeous artwork – a surprise considering it was doujin team Alice in Dissonance’s very first title! Now, why did people go gaga for this game?
Unlike before, this campaign did not have any super obvious big names presented for prospective backers to drool over. Instead they simply had a ton of fantastic art and a great premise. It’s also worth noting that this was early in Sekai Project’s crowdfunding life so there was definitely still an air of excitement about visual novels being localized. This one proves how great a push screenshots can give to visual novel campaigns.
Campaign End Date: Funded: November 2014
Funding Amount: $59,740 (579% funded)
WAS ~The Hourglass of Lepidoptera~ is a very unique name (and no, not just because of that strange-sounding name). Set in Tottori City, a real location in Japan, the goal was not only to provide a nice setting for a visual novel but to show players what the developer’s hometown is like. This was described by doujin circle SRL as “content tourism” and is a pretty cool concept for games to employ.
Why did this game sell to backers – especially when it’s likely many of them had no clue about the city in which its set? From an analytical perspective, the campaign page honestly looks a bit jumbled. The best reasoning I can surmise is that fans of voice talents Rie Murakawa, Sayaka Ohara, and Rina Satou were in heavy attendance. Or maybe it’s the fact that there was a playable demo available. Or heck, by now people knew Sekai Project was a legit company and were happy to support anything they put out.
Campaign End Date: January 2015
Funding Amount: Not yet finalized
Clannad is still funding but saw success very quickly. Unlike the previous projects with more obvious doujin routes, Clannad’s something of an icon in the visual novel community. Since its launch in 2004 fans across the globe have fallen in love with Key’s game and the cast themselves. The most amazing thing is that Sekai Project was the one to acquire the license for this game rather than any more “established” publishers.
Any visual novel fan would immediately see how Clannad’s campaign was such a success. It is a modern classic of the entire genre that nearly everyone wants to play. Heck, even though so many have already played it via fan patches this Kickstarter is monumental enough to support. At this time funding is increasing at a very slow and steady rate but since it already succeeded long ago this is all just icing on the cake.
Campaign End Date: January 2015
Funding Amount: Not yet finalized
The Grisaia Trilogy (The Fruit of Grisaia, The Labyrinth of Grisaia, The Eden of Grisaia) is also still being funded and is one of the most impressive campaigns yet. This is not because it includes the world’s longest visual novels. It’s simply because the scope of this campaign showcases the first time Sekai Project has agreed to localize three (now four) distinct games. This could be comparable a bit to World End Economica’s trio of episodes, but all together those are definitely shorter than the three Grisaia games.
Why have backers gone gaga funding The Grisaia Trilogy? By this point, Sekai Project have seriously stepped up their Kickstarter presentation. Not only do we get a look at some lovely screenshots but we’ve also got easy access to each game’s OP video as well as graphical reward tiers. Disregarding the various drama which has occurred during the campaign, funding still overshot $160,000 within 24 hours. It seems this publisher has very little to fear with continued success crowdfunding.
[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]t’s worth noting that Sekai Project does not use crowdfunding exclusively for their projects. Games such as Narcissu 1st & 2nd, Nekopara Vol. 1, and Planetarian appear to have been localized purely with the company’s own funds. Will they continue to do so? Considering the spread out nature of each of these three titles then it looks likely. The most notable aspect for these non-crowdfunded games is that they’re all fairly short (between 2 and 10 hours). This cuts down on costs significantly and may explain why there was no Kickstarter campaign launched for any of them.
In another interesting twist, Sekai Project also appears to be making a name for themselves as a publisher of crowdfunded visual novels by other groups. So far they have published Sunrider: First Arrival by Love in Space on Steam. They’ve also brought Rising Angels: Reborn Extended to the service. Now, this game actually wasn’t on Kickstarter but its sequel Rising Angels: Fates was. Chances are this partnership will extend to their upcoming title. The same also seems to hold true for their relationship with Winged Cloud, the name behind non-crowdfunded Sakura Spirit and Kickstarted otome game The Guardian’s Spell.
Will we eventually see other visual novel publishers such as MangaGamer and JAST USA on Kickstarter? There’s no doubt that they’ve seen the massive success that Sekai Project continually has with each new visual novel. With that said, Kickstarter is likely not in the cards for these companies. Why? Simple: Kickstarter’s rule against pornographic content likely scares them away. We have examples of ‘adult’ media being accepted and other times it is shut down. This unreliability is not worth staking your game’s future on.
With that said, MangaGamer have done something unique and crowdfunding-esque lately. This year they announced that they would bring Eden* to the West, but more than that, funds from the game would be poured straight into getting Supipara – Alice the Magical Conductor to English-speaking gamers. In Japan, the episodic game didn’t sell particularly well. If this works out though then fans will “crowdfund” (via purchases of Minori games) the continuation of this visual novel – and get new chapters before Japan. It’s an unprecedented move and an interesting way to crowdfund without Kickstarter or IndieGogo.
Sekai Project is simply a company doing a ton of things at once. In comparison to most other publishers it seems almost impossible that they have ushered out so much content with regularity. Genre fans should definitely keep an eye on the company as they continue bringing us more visual novels in the future. Let’s just hope they grow in proportion to all these projects lest they get in over their heads! All I know is I cannot wait to see which games they’ll bring over next. It might not hurt them to slow down though, as my wallet is already crying out from all these hefty tier pledges.