Sekai Project is the name in the English-speaking visual novel scene in the moment. Not only have they negotiated publishing plans for some well-loved Japanese titles but they have also provided a space for up and coming indie teams to get their games out there. Up to this point they’ve run eight visual novel Kickstarter campaigns and seven have succeeded. It was only with their latest, Witch Boy Magical PIece, that they finally experienced what a crowdfunding loss feels like. There are many potential reasons why that campaign failed which I wrote about previously. With that said, Kickstarter fans pointed out one big reason may in fact be the large backlog of titles Sekai Project is currently working through. This inspired me to take a look at each of their Kickstarters and see how far along they are, if they’re still on time, and various other aspects.


World End Economica

WORLD END ECONOMiCA -complete-
Backers: 1829
Raised: $94,835
Kickstarter launch: June 9, 2014
Original release window: May 2015
Current release target: Unknown – Episode 3 7.39% completed
So far: Episode.01 and Episode.02 out
Physical rewards: Rewards not shipped yet

Sekai Project’s first Kickstarter actually wasn’t for a video game at all, but their very first visual novel crowdfunding campaign was for WORLD END ECONOMiCA -complete-. Because episode.01 was basically ready at the time of this project, they had no issue sending out PC download keys for that. Of course, the series is more than just one episode. Episode.02 launched more recently on July 21. As for Episode.03, there’s currently no release window available as it is only 7.39% translated at this point. That’s unfortunately a big fail in regards to the initial Kickstarter suggested release window of May 2015 for the entire trilogy.

PlayStation Vita and mobile game ports were promised with this project and neither have yet come to fruition. As we will see, the Vita promise is Sekai Project’s kryptonite as it dogs them through many of their later projects. In any case, neither ports or even the physical editions are ready to go out to backers yet.

Now let’s take a look at backer updates within Kickstarter. 18 of the 30 posts were prepared during the campaign and were full of information and excitement. That’s exactly what you want to present during a campaign. Once it ended, July and August 2014 saw two updates a month each but then become much more infrequent. There was one update in November 2014, then nothing again until February 2015. This was a bit of a turning point as then backers received a post a month with various updates until July. After a bit more months of radio silence they picked up again in October, which as we will see, is a trend which has occurred with most of their projects.


faultmilestone

fault milestone one -director’s cut-
Backers: 1137
Raised: $34,662
Kickstarter launch: June 18, 2014
Original release window: December 2014
Current release target: Released – December 15, 2014
So far: Developer is continuing to make new episodes via Patreon
Physical rewards: Partially shipped, with more still in production

Sekai Project’s second visual novel Kickstarter is the only one which has the distinction of having been completed. Well, sort of. It appears that this project was only for the release of fault milestone one. With a predicted launch of June 2014, it actually slipped a fair bit until December 2014. Still, it launched! Since then, the developer Alice in Dissonance has moved onto Patreon and is continuing with the series. Sekai Project is also publishing these titles, such as the recently-released fault milestone two -side above-, but those were not part of the Kickstarter promise.

So why do I say that the project is “sort of” complete? Simple, some of the physical rewards still haven’t shipped yet. The artbook has a deadline of the end of 2015 so hopefully we’ll hear more on it soon. Of course, there’s also the matter of the PS Vita port. As with basically every other game they’ve promised it for, they are still in the process of making this happen.

16 updates were posted during the project’s campaign with 35 in total. After that, posts started coming in at around two per month each and every month until February 2015. That month received no love for whatever reason. Posts became a bit more scattered at this point, with one in April and July and then skipped months until this October where they provided the latest rewards update for folks to take a peek at.


WAS ~ The Hourglass of Lepidoptera is the latest Visual Novel from Sekai Project, and it's on Kickstarter

WAS -The Hourglass of Lepidoptera-
Backers: 1140
Raised: $59,740
Kickstarter launch: October 27, 2014
Original release window: April 2015
Current release target: Unknown
So far: Alpha available to backers
Physical rewards: Rewards not shipped yet

WAS -The Hourglass of Lepidoptera- is not an episodic title (well, not yet anyway!) and looks like quite the cue project. Unfortunately, it appears they definitely misjudged the release window. After all, it had originally been shared with backers as April 2015. That time has most certainly come and gone and now there is (as far as I can find) no current release window stated at all. That is, unless it’s written in these latest backer updates. If so, please post a comment to let me know! Luckily, the game is definitely getting somewhere as backers have had alpha access since May.

Given that WAS -The Hourglass of Lepidoptera- isn’t even out yet, it makes sense that the rewards have not shipped yet. Unlike many of their other visual novels, it appears they did not promise a Vita or mobile phone release. Why was that not the case for this title? I don’t know! In any case, that certainly makes this Kickstarter a bit of an “easier” one for Sekai Project to close the book on once the PC release and rewards are out.

11 of the 20 updates for this project were posted when the campaign was live. November and December posts kept fans updated, but 2015 saw months pass between updates. There was one in February, April, May, and September before the latest October posting. Some posts are definitely better than none, though, as we’ve seen other developers and publishers go years without a single note to backers on Kickstarter.


Clannad is a classic Japanese visual novel that's been re-launched on Kickstarter in hopes of getting an English translation.

CLANNAD
Backers: 5819
Raised: $541,161
Kickstarter launch: November 10, 2014
Original release window: October 2015
Current release target: November 2015
So far: Editing in progress
Physical rewards: Rewards not shipped yet

CLANNAD is a huge deal in the visual novel fandom. As such, it makes sense that it saw the largest outpouring of support of any of Sekai Project’s titles up to this point (and set a benchmark for Kickstarted visual novels in general). Although CLANNAD itself is just one game, we’re also getting the side stories on PC.

The original release window was pegged at October 2015. As you can probably tell, the game didn’t launch. The same holds true for the bevvy of physical goodies. Apparently the rewards are currently being prepared as far as T-shirts, tapestries, and the like. There’s not really any word yet as to when the disc version will be prepared, though. If it’s anything like The Grisaia Trilogy then it appears it may be months after the current reappraised release window of November 2015.

23 of the 34 backer updates were prepared prior to the project’s successful completion. That is a heck of a lot, but it makes sense given how quickly the game was funded. A month after, January was still lively with posts, but that quickly quieted down. There was just a single post in March 2015, May, and July. Things perked up around August due to DRM concerns though not much else was shared. September was a quiet month and then October saw a post just as almost every other one of their projects did which brought about news of a later release window (though, interestingly, not in the main post itself but as a response in the comments).


The Grisaia Trilogy is a visual novel being released by Sekai Project that's smashed its $160k Kickstarter in less than 24 hours.

The Grisaia Trilogy
Backers: 4348
Raised: $475,255
Kickstarter launch: December 15, 2014
Original release window: October 2015
Current release target: Unknown for next two games
So far: The Fruit of Grisaia is available
Physical rewards: Rewards not shipped yet

The Grisaia Trilogy was another blockbuster success for Sekai Project. Yes, there was a bit of an issue related to a pillow cover but even with that setback the project was fully funded with ease. This also marked the return of Sekai Project translating/publishing a series of games. This Kickstarter is for The Fruit of Grisaia, The Labyrinth of Grisaia, and The Eden of Grisaia. Oh, and the additional Idol Magical Girl Chiruchiru Michiru.

Thus far, The Fruit of Grisaia and Idol Magical Girl Chiruchiru Michiru launched. The release window was originally stated as October 2015 on the Kickstarter, but it’s hard to parse what exactly that was for. After all, these two releases did make it out earlier this year (May and July respectively), but the two main Grisaia games are still far off. So far off, in fact, that we don’t have a release window for either of them as far as I can tell. Oh, and the Vita version of anything is still pending due to overall Sony-related things. Rewardwise, it appears nothing has shipped yet — not even the boxed first game which was originally promised to launch close to the Steam version.

Looking at backer updates, 15 were posted during the project’s lifetime (of a current 39). Unlike any of Sekai Project’s previous Kickstarters, The Grisaia Trilogy received preferential treatment with weekly updates coming in until the end of April when the update timeframe was reduced to monthly. After August this dried up, however, until October 2015 as we’ve seen as the “return of updates” for the company.


memorysdogmalogo

Memory’s Dogma
Backers: 2203
Raised: $88,636
Kickstarter launch: June 2, 2015
Original release window: December 2016
Current release target: December 2016
So far: Game in development
Physical rewards: Rewards not shipped yet

Memory’s Dogma is yet another long-term project that Sekai Project is overseeing as publisher/translator. You see, this is a brand new game by developer LizArts which means it needs tons of development work before any of us can expect to play it. With that said, they’ve planned accordingly with a release window of December 2016. As that hasn’t occurred yet, there’s no way to know if it will meet that date or not. Here’s hoping!

Given that the game is in development, it’s obvious that rewards are not out yet in any capacity. Potentially due to the realization of Vita complications, or because the developer wasn’t interested, there are no ports to worry about with this Kickstarter. We’ve just got to wait on the developer and Sekai Project to see this one through.

13 of 18 updates were posted during the Kickstarter’s run. So far this year we’ve seen a few posts in July, one in September, and two in October. This performance sounds a fair bit better than the previous projects, but then again, it hasn’t been around for that long yet. The trend appears that Sekai’s posts start in earnest before dropping off after a few months so we’ll be sure to see if this does or does not occur with Memory’s Dogma.


thehumanrecognitionprojectlogo

The Human Reignition Project
Backers: 1406
Raised: $47,993
Kickstarter launch: June 12, 2015
Original release window: December 2016
Current release target: December 2016
So far: Game in development
Physical rewards: Rewards not shipped yet

Unlike Sekai Project’s previous efforts, The Human Reignition Project was the first time they were directly supporting a Western indie visual novel developer via Kickstarter. Given the high quality of Alienworks’ concept and visuals, it made sense. As far as anyone knows at the moment, this is going to be a singular release on PC with no push for mobile phone or Vita ports.

Just as with Memory’s Dogma, which also hit Kickstarter in June 2015, The Human Reignition Project was given the release window of December 2016. This game is also one which is being developed from the ground up rather than just requiring translation and editing. As such, if it ends up taking a bit longer than next December it wouldn’t be surprising. No rewards have been shipped yet, but that just makes sense at this point.

During the campaign, 6 posts cropped up and there have been 14 total thus far. Since then, there was a very active July and August for backer updates but it appears things may be slowing somewhat. The last post at this point in time is from September 29 — not October like many of Sekai Project’s other items. The lack of an October update may be due to the fact that there was already a pretty recent post up, meaning there was less to brief backers on after an absence.


It’s worth nothing that I have not backed every single Sekai Project campaign. Although I have certainly followed each of them, my personal investment is only tied to CLANNAD and The Grisaia Trilogy at this point. I’ve done my best to draw an accurate picture of what’s going on with each campaign, but there were some backer only posts I could not access. If you have more information and would like to share then most definitely post a comment.sekaipledges

Thus far, $1,342,282 of backer funding has been raised between these seven projects on Kickstarter (this does not include money raised by their PayPal funding initiatives). As a whole, Sekai Project is a tremendously well-liked company thanks to the multitude of visual novel franchises it is helping to bring to English-speaking audiences. They have also proven to be incredibly savvy with running Kickstarter campaigns in most circumstances, with the Witch Boy Magical Piece being a very uncharacteristic fumble for them. However, it’s once the campaigns are over that things begin to get a bit dicey. I’m not suggesting anything Sekai Project is doing is inherently wrong, but there is most certainly room for improvement!

The main thing I would love to see out of Sekai Project is a greater focus on sticking to release windows whenever possible. I acknowledge that delays happen, especially in the video game world. Heck, look at all the big titles which were supposed to come out this holiday and were pushed to 2016. With that said, if a date cannot be honestly estimated, then do not estimate one at all. Yes, Kickstarter requires a date for reward tiers… So why not place a date far enough out that you can almost guarantee you won’t miss it?

Okay, not something crazy like 2030, but 2018 for example would not sound horrific. Then again, it’s totally possible that dates spaced too far from the date of the campaign may decrease backer excitement. As someone who has watched Kickstarter campaigns push their release dates out months and years later than they originally promised, it just sounds like the fairer thing to do. All I do know is that they’re currently slipping on a handful of original release windows and delays (whether stated or kept silent) eventually cause backer annoyance.

vitaimage

Then there’s the whole Vita debacle which still impedes the company. I wish that more research had been done into what is required to become a Sony partner and get a game accepted for release on the PlayStation Store. Sure, there’s very little room to compare against other visual novels, as few “indie” ones are on there. There still should be developers which could have been consulted about the time and documentation required. I have no doubt that some time was spent looking into the feasibility of it, but apparently not enough. With knowledge that Sony may in fact be super slow, they would have been able to state that Vita ports would be a long way away, not at all close to launching around the PC versions. Since that wasn’t stated upfront, backers who pledged specifically for Vita are having to wait excessive amounts of time.

One other aspect that requires mentioning is the amount of projects Sekai Project currently has  under its wing. As we can see, none of these Kickstarters have been fully completed as of yet. Fault Milestone One is close, but the matter of rewards still hangs over their head. And this is just the list of crowdfunding games. If we were to take a look at every title they are named the publisher of the number of in-progress projects is higher than 50. Now, some of those games just require advertising and Steam publishing assistance from Sekai Project, but others are full on translations. A small team handling just a few Kickstarters is enough work — but managing dozens of projects at once? That sounds like a nightmare for most involved.

It’s important to note that I have absolutely no knowledge of the inner workings of Sekai Project, or video game developers/publishers as a whole. I’ve never worked with such a company, after all. I do listen to a lot of banter from folks who do work within the industry and of course follow Sekai Project’s Twitter where they regularly reveal new titles they’re publishing. From the outside looking in, it appears that they are supporting so many projects that it makes total sense that release dates are skipped and that there’s a lack of strong updates on most of the titles.

sekaiprojecttumblr

With that said, the fans should not be denied their right to information because Sekai Project has chosen to become the ultimate visual novel publisher in the span of two years. They did recently hire a new public relations person so hopefully they will be able to help create a better presence online. The company also recently started accepting any and all questions about games on its Tumblr. However, fans shouldn’t have to speak up in order to receive information about games they’re excited for. It should be enough to see at least one post a month which answers key points fans have chatted amongst themselves publicly about as well as any pertinent updates.

Even when there are no updates to speak of, a regular post saying “hey, we don’t have anything exciting to report but here’s a game screenshot” may help. Also, it would be fantastic if the Tumblr posts could be corralled into the most important informational bits and shared with the appropriate Kickstarter pages when applicable. An interested backer shouldn’t have to check every single source (Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, forums, etc)  just to grab the one piece of info they’re looking for.

This may all sound rather rough, but it’s my best attempt at “tough love” for a company that I desperately want to see around in a few years. I don’t want them to burn out spectacularly under the weight of all their projects. If things don’t go the right way, though, I could see that occurring even despite the devotion of their fanbase. More visual novel-focused publishers should seriously exist. Sekai Project has their own business plan and probably already have means in place to address many of my comments, but plans are meaningless until put into practice.

As luck would have it, just as I finished up this article Sekai Project launched the Narcissu 10th Anniversary Anthology Project Kickstarter. Expect to hear more analysis of Sekai Project, their games, and more here on Cliqist in the future.


How often would you like to see a check in on Sekai Project? Once yearly or every six months? What other companies with multiple Kickstarters would you like to see similar articles for? Let us know!

Marcus Estrada
Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come.
Marcus Estrada

@BackerMarcus

Writer for @Cliqist - This is my new ''PROFESSIONAL'' account. Yay, crowdfunded video games!
Glad to see the BL visual novel Sentimental Trickster was funded. How about those #Kickstarter stretch goals? https://t.co/AEU8LaeD6M - 4 years ago
Marcus Estrada