Eroge Recession?

By bluemist on April 7th, 2008

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Well good riddance, I’ve started playing the game again. I heard there’s the new Da Crapo II Second Season anime, so I should pick up my slack.

On another note though, I think my likehood towards these games is slowly fading for some reason. I don’t think it’s because of my busy real-life schedule, and I recently got my copy of Another Days too. Is this bishoujo game/eroge/galge industry in some sort of recession? I don’t find any new game particularly exciting. I don’t see many posts about them in english anime blogs either. Somehow there’s doesn’t seem to be much energy in the game genre at all, and I would wonder why. Please read on for my random thoughts.

When I was in Japan last year, of course a lot of bishoujo game hype only happens around Akihabara. There are posters of them all over the place, and some of them sometimes too raunchy for the young or untrained eye. Being the outsider-foreigner that I am, I thought that eroge is king in this otaku town. Not quite. Around fall of 2006 Akihabara seemed to have Code Geass-mania. That Sunrise-CLAMP offspring sparked too much glare on my eyes, and it obstructs my bishoujo view. Personally I don’t like mecha anime so I kinda skipped on that. I thought to myself though… after the awesome Akiba coverage of Haruhi and even Lucky Star (which I thought wasn’t good at all)… where’s Kanon?

I thought that Kanon was Kyoto Animation’s return to form, after lazing themselves out of the simplistic art and animation in Lucky Star. This franchise is bigger than Air, and having the return of the major seiyuu from the 2002 version seemed like a very big deal. Where is it though? Everytime I go to Akihabara, all I see were Code Geass. Much worse, Kanon didn’t turn out to be as groundbreaking as Air. Maybe it’s the play-safe story modifications or the animation was still recovering from post-LS illness. Not just that, but the other bishoujo game-based anime weren’t up to snuff at all either. We had a string of forgettable anime of this genre. Though these anime properties don’t necessarily represent the bishoujo game industry itself, it does play a part in trying to promote that genre of gaming to the otaku or mainstream public.

More importantly though, there are the games. As far as I can recall when I was there, the sole bishoujo game with the most hype was ef by Minori. With that breathtaking opening sequence and a potentially awesome story and CG art I thought this would be the game of the year (2006). Actually it wasn’t. I read somewhere (lost the link though) that ef was a disappointment in terms of sales, and even Da Capo II sold better.

Now I am playing Da Capo II, and I tell you, there’s nothing special about that game. Pitching in bishoujos and a central magic sakura mystery sounded like early 2000 when the first Da Capo game came to be. Nowadays these game companies seem to only ride on their own waves, creating sequels/side sequels of their own games just to fuel a bit of hype. Da Capo II, To Heart 2, Fate/hollow Atraxia, Tomoyo After, Muvluv Alternative, Summer Days. You know something’s bad when you need to milk your popular franchise as your new game. It’s a bit like what Final Fantasy VII is right now. It was almost the greatest game ever made, and yet all these second-rate sequel/side games (and average anime and CG movies) coming out based on it is slowly degrading the godliness of that original game. Summer Days was also controversial in requiring huge patches just to be playable, that’s such a gross mistake.

While I’m far and away from Japan right now, it’s bad enough that I myself don’t even know a good bishoujo game from 2007… except for maybe Little Busters. Right now Key is the only prolific game company that seems to survive the recession, but even they have some problems of their own. Kyo-ani’s Clannad is not doing well again (too much filler, too less Kyou and Tomoyo), and it seems that they’re releasing another major game way too early. Either they need revenue, or Little Busters is not getting good mindshare.

What’s wrong? Where are the revolutionary stories and games of the bishoujo industry? Is there some sort of writers’ strike going on over there? Last year I was pondering on the sheer number of bishoujo games continually coming out, but if those thousands of games don’t have good stories, much less good moe~ CG art, I don’t think this will bid well for the industry as a whole. I think it’s at its saturation point already. With TONS of games around, you wouldn’t know where the real gems are. If it requires much effort to find a game with a decent story, you would tend to rely on the usual big-name companies. But as I said earlier, those big-name companies tend to go the milk-cow route, so their games will be a bit cookie-cutter.

Lastly, with the continual explosion of the doujin industry, things are worse than ever. Think about it, these major companies are being threatened by the little guys doing doujin software. Since Tsukihime, Higurashi and Touhou, doujin groups are continually upping the ante and are able to compete with the big guys. While some of doujin eventually go professional, I wouldn’t be surprised if a backlash happens, that when you can’t sell enough of your good game as a commercial product, maybe making it come closer to your intended audience (at otaku conventions as doujin) is better.

Clearly there’s something wrong with bishoujo gaming nowadays. I have outlined a number of reasons already:
– Other anime hype overpowering bishoujo games
– Average bishoujo game-based anime
– Hype disappointments
– Sequelitis
– Writers’ block
– Doujin vs. Commercial

Again, from where I’m sitting, I wouldn’t even know the whole story, but I can certainly feel the lack of energy from here. I’m still staying positive though that the genre can deliver good games once again. The anime side is in a bit of a recovery with nice stuff like School Days, ef, and Kimikiss. That new Key (and Type-Moon too) game seems to be generating a bit of hype. Another Days seems to be selling well too. I don’t think this industry is gonna fall, but I certainly hope things will get better this year.

4 Comments

Posted By: Koji Oe On: April 07, 2008 At: 2:14 am

Finally someone who agree with me that Clannad is worthless filler most of the time.

Anyway, I was never too big on the whole bishoujo game scene. I play most of the old games on the console systems than play anything on the PC since I find it easier to understand the console ones. Also, they add a little gameplay then just *click click click*.

I find myself being able to replay games like Tokimemo 2, True Love Story and Sakura Taisen over and over again despite I pretty much know the story. It’s just fun maybe because of the gameplay.

Not sure where I was going with this. I hope this was on topic.

Posted By: piyo On: April 07, 2008 At: 9:11 pm

I don’t see the word burnout on this page. Burnout. Burnout. BURNOUT I need to get Burnout Paradise. 🙂

Getting back on topic… I haven’t played a bishoujo game in a long while. Recently I bought Kimi ga Nozomu Eien Latest Edition (OMG 2nd DVD-ROM version of this 2002 PC game) just hoping to relive the magic one more time. It supposedly has some new scenarios, to go with the OVA series. This is another Milkin’ it series.

With food price hikes and general cost of living visibly increasing this year, maybe money’s tight on the entertainment front and everybody is just watching NNDouga.

Posted By: bluemist On: April 08, 2008 At: 9:52 am

I myself won’t replay any scenario I have played. I guess I can’t treat this like anime where I can rewatch stuff. So maybe it’s burnout indeed eh?

Also, people seem to record full or key scenarios in games over at Youtube and Niconico (Kimikiss more recently). If I don’t have the game or am too bored to install and play it’s kinda nice to know that those are available… although it defeats the purpose of playing in so many ways.

Posted By: FlameStrike On: April 13, 2008 At: 5:46 am

What how did Clannad turn into fillers? I didn’t see a moment of filler in Clannad and enjoyed the whole thing through and through… Sure there’s not enough Tomoyo or Kyou but considering their routes I’d rather NOT see Kyou’s route animated (waste lol). It’s a shame for Tomoyo but the conflicts with Nagisa’s awesome routes and AS are too much. Besides Tomoyo gets her own DVD ep to look forward to.

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