I think it’s hard to imagine that an industry with a very limited number of target markets can sustain itself. I’m talking about this whole otaku industry. Maybe let’s make it a little more specific… the bishoujo/galge/eroge industry. How, I mean… HOW in the world do the people who work in this industry ‘survive’?
Look at the main Getchu page (warning: NSFW) for PC games of this kind… no less than 50 “new” releases within the next few months. Who buys all those crap? Do they sell well? I bet some non-famous PC soft company releasing their whatever-the-name second rate eroge would only sell a few thousand of those things. This industry is so enclosed, so secret, and so freaking small as compared to the mainstream, people and companies who can’t make it big may be forced to close down quickly.
Was there ever a million-selling bishoujo game? If there are a million dedicated ‘game’ otakus around Japan, and probably a million more outside, chances of all of them buying the same bishoujo game are grim. I would bet they’ll have different facets of fetishes in that one single game can’t cater to them all. Currently maybe Fate/stay Night is hot property, but I saw a PS2 sales ranking list and I don’t think the game exceeded 200000 units of sales, correct me if I’m wrong.
And yet there are so MANY of them. Back when I was starting to like this genre I only know the handful from the big-name companies like Key, Leaf, Circus among others. Big-name scale is relative, because I know the likes of them can’t even compete with even second-rate crappy mainstream PC game companies like, er… Popcap Games? So much time and effort is being made towards these games, and yet the return-of-investment may be so little. I’m astounded by the passion they put into making games that are only played by a handful of people.
Or maybe it’s because they are really ‘cheap’ to produce? I wouldn’t know much really, but I would imagine the only expenses you have in producing game CG are paper, drawing materials, and a computer or two. Now, to make music you can merely synthesize from your PC or do real recordings using basic consumer market audio recorders. Game programming seems non-existent already. They probably have mastered the basic craft of ShowPicture() and Text() with Audio() in the background. It’s a very cheap type of game to make, as I would assume. Of course, the creativity is where the bulk of the efforts lie.
With so much bishoujo games around, I think I can assume by now that this genre has already delved on just about ANYTHING you can think of. Most of which have a love story of course, which is what most of them otakus want. So the game makers try to think of any possible situation, setting, plot and cute girl characters, mix them up together… and BAM! Bishoujo game. Simple. I also think they’ve exhausted every single facet of feminism in the millions of bishoujo characters they have created. Mix hair color, vital statistics and costume styles with whatever characterization (tsundere, girl-next-door, imouto-chara, onee-chan chara) they want… BAM! Bishoujo game character. Hell, mix them all up! This small loli meganekko girl who transforms into a super-tsundere-mahou-shoujo who wears meido fuku and works at this small joint in Akihabara trying to make a living because her imouto is sick in the hospital and so she falls in love with the dorky male lead (as they all are) and they have sexy time together obviously (enter HCG here) and then the epilogue where her imouto is well already and becomes her successor to the super-mahou-shoujo thing except that the imouto is actually a yandere. Did I just create a basic eroge plot over there?
In any case, there’s just so many of them that it’s really hard to keep track of the good ones. Usually I would rely on the usual big-names and stuff, but lately the quality of their works is running low. Makes me wonder if someday they have a bubble to burst in this industry. With so many games with so few people playing it, would there come a time where it would just crumble on itself? When creativity wears out, or sales fall down and those second-tier companies get really broke. It’s entirely possible with such a small scope such as this. I hope it wouldn’t though. I want more of those colorful bishoujos.