Sekai Project is a visual novel publisher that have not been around for all that long but have quickly become the go to company for many English-speaking fans. As many are aware, they put a lot of focus on running Kickstarter campaigns for their visual novels (though, it must be noted that the majority of their projects are not run through Kickstarter). Basically every visual novel campaign has been made focusing in on PC. After all, this is a massive audience and where a great deal of visual novels are initially developed for to begin with. With that said, over multiple projects the team have promised ports for PlayStation Vita.
We’re here now to take a look specifically at that Vita commitment in light of the fact that Vita seems to be what saved Root Double’s Kickstarter from destruction. If you would like a more comprehensive look at how Sekai Project are performing on their various Kickstarter projects then please check out this article. We are focusing exclusively on Vita with this one.
WORLD END ECONOMiCA -complete-
Launched: June 9, 2014
World End Economica served as both Sekai Project’s first visual novel Kickstarter and the first they decided to promise for Vita. At that time, they announced it as a stretch goal for $100,000 and that they would use Unity to port the game series over. They created a $30 Vita-exclusive tier and stated they would bring the games over via PlayStation Mobile. Luckily, they were quickly approved for a PSM license by Sony (then again, PSM was a very low barrier solution to begin with). Due primarily to the fact that PSM did not service all backer nations, Sekai Project took the extra step to try seeking official PlayStation Network licensing as well once the stretch goal was finally unlocked.
By November, they reported good progress on the Unity port, enough so to have it ready once World End Economica episode.02 was ready on PC. By February, they announced Episode.01 now was in alpha status on Unity. By this time, however, Sony had announced that PlayStation Mobile would be closing later in 2015. At some point, Sekai Project pivoted from their PSM goals to PSN proper, but it was never specified in an update by them when this occurred. As such, their game would not be ready in time to make use of the last few months of PSM so their successful application for it was useless. By May, that darn Unity port was still in progress as the alpha for Episode.02 came out.
In a backer-only update in June, Sekai Project re-announced that World End Economica would be coming to Vita as a single package (rather than three distinct games). At the point that all three games were ready they would then send them off for approval to Sony, basically. By October, they revealed they would stop fussing with Ren’py and go straight to Unity with their ports. The confusing line to me is “…we will start the porting process of getting all 3 games on to Unity” which implies that none of the games were ported to Unity. This makes no sense given their continuous chatter of Unity porting since 2014. I’m not sure why they stated it this way in this late update, but no matter what, it meant that fans would have to keep on waiting.
In November 2015 an update came which addressed Vita once again. This time it shared the news that they were now waiting for The Grisaia Trilogy to be accepted by Sony before sending in another proposal. Why did The Grisaia Trilogy get to cut in line? Probably because it made far more money off way more backers than World End Economica did… Or that it is somehow easier to port/translate a much longer trilogy than this trilogy. So far, the latest update is from February 2016 which shared that they will “start working on console port” only after their new translator group looks over Episode.01 and Episode.02. As before, I’m utterly confused. So what happened to the Unity work that had been going on for a year before this? “Start working” is a very different phrase then “resume working,” but I’ll have to assume Sekai Project just misspoke.
fault milestone one -director’s cut-
Launched: June 18, 2014
Fault Milestone One started off on the right foot indeed. Funded nearly immediately, backers soon got to work completing stretch goal after stretch goal. One such goal was for a Vita version at $30,000. By July 11 the goal was met and Sekai Project shared it would be a PSM release until they “become a PSN developer.” Again, PlayStation Mobile is a service which was for very small indie games that was shut down in 2015 (of course this wasn’t known yet in 2014). PlayStation Network is the main storefront for games on Sony platforms. Folks could then nab themselves a promise of the Vita copy at the $10 tier.
Months, and around ten updates, went up after that point — none of which addressed Vita. Finally, on the eve of Fault Milestone One’s launch in December 2014, we got word from Sekai Project founder Raymond Qian himself. He shared that the process of porting to Unity was underway and that they were seeking PSN certification. This is the first moment they pivoted away from PSM to PSN proper in an official update. In July 2015 they responded to the fact that many fans were asking about the status of Vita. At this time, they announced they were pursuing two plans: one of porting Fault Milestone One to Unity and the other of looking into how to bring Ren’py directly to Vita. Ren’py is an engine many PC visual novels are made in, and as such, would be an easier porting job if it could go straight from it to Vita rather than Ren’py -> Unity -> Vita.
But wait, hadn’t Sekai Project just shared in June 2015 that they planned to forgo Ren’py entirely on World End Economica in favor of Unity? Yes. Then again, World End Economica was not made in Ren’py so that would have been an extra step whereas it makes sense for Fault Milestone One. By the time October rolled around they shared a new update to keep folks up to date. There they linked to a The Grisaia Trilogy update in order to explain Vita’s continued slowness. They were “had hardships in getting games approved.” But we’ll go into more detail about that once we get discussing The Grisaia trilogy proper.
Again, despite the fact that Fault Milestone One was funded prior to that project, Grisaia is the one getting the most fleshed out updates on Vita (due to a larger backer base, presumably). By November they restated previously known facts. They needed Grisaia taken care of before addressing any other games on Vita, and were still apparently still in the research stages of how to port Ren’py to Vita four months after first starting to look into it. There’s no doubt that porting is hard, but it’s a shame they could not reveal any fruits of their labor regarding if they discovered anything or not yet. There was (as of so far) a final update in February 2016 that promised “some news about PSVita soon.” Please!
The Grisaia Trilogy
Launched: December 16, 2014
Fast forward past the Kickstarter campaign for WAS -The Hourglass of Lepidoptera- and CLANNAD and we land at The Grisaia Trilogy. For a while it seemed that Sekai Project were done adding new Vita projects onto their plate due to getting stuck with both of them. However, this project revealed they were more than willing to increase their backlog more. It’s not as if they really needed that push either, given how incredibly successful this project ended up being. At the launch, there was a stretch goal of $240,000 for ports of the trilogy to Linux, Mac, and Vita using Unity. This time they noted that this was “pending Sony approval” and that nothing was assured.
On December 18, ports were unlocked but Vita tiers were not added because they needed to get everything “organized with Sony ASAP” first. It definitely seemed that Sekai Project had learned from their previous stress with Vita that you can’t simply promise it — you need official acceptance first. By January 21, they had still not received any word back from Sony. It made sense, given the holiday season timing of their Kickstarter (among other things). Instead of offering Vita tiers, they simply added a $1 “waiting for information” tier which many Vita fans pledged to. The idea was that, if Vita became possible later, they could then upgrade in BackerKit for a copy.
January 30, a few days before the campaign ended, Sony asked them to reapply for PSN. And so they did, and continued to accept $1 pledges from hopeful Vita owners. The curious thing to me is that I am not quite sure what Sekai Project meant when they were saying these things. Apparently they did apply before for PSM, so was The Grisaia Trilogy the first time they tried applying for PSN rather than PSM? I simply can’t tell for sure because their statements have often been very short with regards to this information. All I know is it would be super odd if they waited until this point to apply for PSN after having two games pending for the platform.
Whatever the case, by February Sekai Project finally became a PSN developer! It only took eight months (which is not horrible when you consider how many people must be trying to get on Sony platforms). With that said, there was still a “substantial application process.” Later in the month, they began “exploring the technical work” needed for a port of The Grisaia Trilogy. They also shared that, even though they were now registered with Sony as a publisher, they did not have the okay to publish The Grisaia Trilogy on Vita. So, folks had to keep sitting on their $1 in BackerKit.
In April, BackerKit was soon to be locked down but Sekai Project unfortunately still had no news regarding the Vita version. That came and went with no news… In May 2015, The Fruit of Grisaia was released alongside some news. Due to the complex engine the series uses, they would be porting to Unity for Vita (if approved, of course). Throughout all this (on all their Vita-related campaigns) backers had been asking time and time again about more information on Vita. It was in October 2015 that Sekai Project finally provided a rather large statement about the matter for backers via a The Grisaia Trilogy update.
Basically, it shared that there is a lot of effort involved in getting games approved for Vita, more so than most gamers realize. There’s no doubt about that! One important line from the post was as follows: “we been able to mostly clear up all obstacles that stood in the way of getting this game and the others we got in the pipeline onto the PSN service.” It was outrageously reassuring to know they were finally almost in the clear to start chugging away with Vita stuff. A post in November shared the simple note that they were needing to prepare their documents in the proper order for Sony. Hey, any update is better than none. A few days later, they teased there would be Vita news “very soon.”
Orrrr not? In December they explained they were now working on a Unity port because Sony required a working version to look at as part of the approval process. Now, that just seems like something Sony would tell you upfront, but who knows? Maybe they do honestly keep everything a big secret so developers are forced to take months to get things on their platform. Okay, I’m being facetious, but it seemed a bit embarrassing to me honestly. So far their latest update is from January 2016 and brought back discussion of Vita. They’re still working on getting that first build ready to send to Sony.
Root Double- Before Crime * After Days- Xtend Edition
Launched: January 5, 2016
After all that transpired in their past Vita-enabled campaigns, I was of the belief that Sekai Project were now finally laying low with regards to Vita promises. After all, it has been a year and a half since they first uttered the word Vita and have still been unable to get a single game confirmed for the platform. When the Root Double- Before Crime *After Days- Xtend Edition Kickstarter launched I found my beliefs validated. In the questions part of the page they stated plainly that there were no plans for a console release of any sort. But, fans demanded Vita, and so Sekai Project gave them what they wanted.
Well, it took a while for fans to truly get what they desired. As my post campaign analysis discusses, at first there was just access at the $225 tier and above before they finally dropped down to offering a $50 digital Vita copy alone. To me this came across as extra strange given the strong reasoning initially revealed for why it *had* to sit at the $225+ tiers. Basically, they wanted to guarantee this reward was possible. After all, up until now Sekai Project offered Vita versions as part of a stretch goal. Here they had to fight hard just to reach their funding goal itself! With no “extra” money for Vita, they needed to keep it priced high enough to get them some concrete funding.
Their next issue was that they didn’t want to offer a digital Vita game all by itself in a tier… but in the end the parties involved changed their minds regardless (likely due to fair of a failed Kickstarter). Their latest update in February confirmed that Root Double will be coming to PC in March and on Vita “eventually.” They’re darn right with that choice of word.
As far as has been officially shared via backer updates, we are still at a point where this publisher have not prepared a build for Sony to look at for approval yet. So far we only know that The Grisaia Trilogy is currently getting the hustle treatment for this process but the same cannot be said for any of the three other titles with a pending Vita release. It seems Sekai Project have gone from doing any porting work on other projects to simply researching the best methods of porting (which, to be fair, should have been the first step). At this point, I sincerely expect that any upcoming Kickstarter by this team does not include a Vita copy — even if fans beg for one. They simply are not ready to make this promise after having nothing to show for it as of yet.
Once The Grisaia Trilogy is finally approved (provided it is) then they should feel more comfortable promising Vita again. It just hasn’t been fair to Vita backers to force them to wait for this process of approvals which should have been instigated prior to ever deciding it would make a good reward for Kickstarter. Well, live and learn, right? Backers of World End Economica, Fault Milestone One, The Grisaia Trilogy, and Root Double will need to suffer a bit longer, but hopefully future projects will go far smoother.