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JAST needs to pay more attention to release dates

AldraAldra Lurker
in Your Suggestions To Us Posts: 20

So I just saw that JAST released Seinarukana Steam version on the same day as Tales of Berseria was released, aside from that Disgaea 2 will be out in 3 days as well.

You guys really need to pay more attention to release dates, maybe you are not aware of it but many VN fans are also gamers so releasing your VNs too close to other big games (especially Japanese ones that target the same audience) is a mistake. Since most people have a limited budget they won't be able to buy every game that comes out so you are likely to sell way less than you would with a proper release date. Also this is not the first time JAST did this, so please do a bit more research about upcoming games next time before you release a VN.

Comments

  • sanahtligsanahtlig MOD Hand of the King
    Posts: 2,884

    I agree that JAST needs to pay more attention to the marketing and sales aspect of publishing, especially strategically planning release dates and meeting that target. Currently, I think they're unable to predict or control their release schedule in any meaningful way, so no strategy is possible.

  • NandemonaiNandemonai Kohai
    Posts: 5,822

    If they can't even keep a project status thread updated, I doubt they're in much of a position to pick good release dates.

  • jacksprat1jacksprat1 MOD Hand of the King
    edited February 1 Posts: 170

    @sanahtlig said:
    Currently, I think they're unable to predict or control their release schedule in any meaningful way, so no strategy is possible.

    That's a concern of mine, too. I don't have first-hand knowledge of JAST's size as a business, but my impression is that their business model is a super-tiny group of full-time staff with a medium-sized network of contractors used for translation and possibly some of the testing. Relying that much on outside help is a pretty safe bet from an "overhead" perspective, but it does kind of leave them at the mercy of their translators as to when projects get finished. It's allowing competitors to run circles around them in terms of releases, which is frustrating, but on the other hand, it's hard to argue with the sustainability element of this approach. JAST celebrated a 20-year birthday last year, which is no mean feat in this business.

    Going back to Aldra's post, though, I think you're absolutely right. This is shaping up to be a lean year for releases from JAST unless they have some surprise cards up their sleeves, and throwing Seinarukana's Steam debut into the same five days we get a major Disgaea title and a new "Tales" game was unfortunate timing. They all share a similar gaming base, and "Eternity Sword" is at a deep disadvantage when up against that kind of name recognition.

    With that said--February may present a golden opportunity to pick up that fumble. Berseria and Disgaea will have had their opening weekends, and the Nintendo Switch won't be out until sometime in March. Seinarukana's chance at success isn't limited to its "opening weekend", so I hope they will take the opportunity to promote the release actively throughout the month and actually act excited about it. I'm excited about it! :)

    Post edited by jacksprat1 on
  • NandemonaiNandemonai Kohai
    Posts: 5,822

    Actually, it's pretty easy to argue with the sustainability of Jast USA's approach. They aren't releasing enough games. They have a sizeable back catalog, yes, but much of it consists of games that have been permanently reduced to very low cost, because they are really old and not so good when compared to modern releases. I'm not sure how much revenue their long tail can really generate for them. Plus, new releases generate buzz, which helps keep your products (in general) in the public eye and thus sales.

    I'm highly skeptical that Jast USA would have lasted for 20 years if it weren't being propped up by J-List (which is run by the same people). They don't strike me as financially stable on their own.

  • jacksprat1jacksprat1 MOD Hand of the King
    edited February 22 Posts: 170

    @Nandemonai said:
    Actually, it's pretty easy to argue with the sustainability of Jast USA's approach. They aren't releasing enough games...
    I'm highly skeptical that Jast USA would have lasted for 20 years if it weren't being propped up by J-List (which is run by the same people). They don't strike me as financially stable on their own.

    I don't argue one bit of that. Regarding the J-List thing, I feel like I have read Peter Payne basically admit as much in the past, saying that J-List was set up as a "side gig" to support JAST USA before he discovered that the profitability models were actually reversed; J-List is now by far the bigger moneymaker as I understand it. All I was saying earlier is that JAST seems to have a very conservative release schedule, and there historical precedents that argue for that being a good long-term survival mechanism. When talking about this stuff, I think of one of my favorite anime companies that went bust around 2008, ADV Films -- they were licensing shows left and right and had a spectacular release schedule, but that prolific output left them woefully overextended when the market went sour, and all that liability ended up killing them. With that said, as you say, creative companies can also wither from learning this lesson "too well" and under-producing.

    I do wish JAST could pick up the pace on releases and keep it sustainable. This seems to come in spurts, because they'll manage to really rock and roll some years (ex. 2014 and 2015 saw a lot of great games released) but then go mostly quiet on others. I can think of a number of solutions to this, though I have to admit some uncertainty about them being good solutions. One thing Mangagamer has done is to start publishing third-party indie VNs, which has resulted in some crap output from time to time, but also a number of decent or even good games that "pad out" their release schedule. That might be an option, although JAST would have to play catch-up in this market. It also seems like JAST has moved away from nukige toward flashier, more critically-shiny titles, and that may be slowing things down. There is a lot of pressure to get the translation and localization for games like Flowers or Seinarukana "just right," whereas the fanbase would probably forgive them much in the way of awkward translations on short nukige as long as they aren't buggy.

    But yeah, basically that's what I'd like to see JAST do: don't let up production on the high-quality stuff at all, but think about filling in the gaps with in the release schedule with nukige and third-party indie games where the expectations aren't sky-high. This seems like an area that would be "win-win" for both JAST and the smaller creative studios, since one would benefit from a steadier stream of releases and the other could sell their wares on a fairly large, well-established platform. Just my two cents...

    Related/Unrelated: I wonder what's taking "Nympo Sensei Ryoko" so long. Unless I'm sorely mistaken, it sho' doesn't look like War and Peace!

    Post edited by jacksprat1 on
  • GobboGobbo Hand of the King
    Posts: 94

    @jacksprat1 said:
    One thing Mangagamer has done is to start publishing third-party indie VNs, which has resulted in some crap output from time to time, but also a number of decent or even good games that "pad out" their release schedule. That might be an option, although JAST would have to play catch-up in this market.

    First rule of business; "don't do what the other guy is doing."

  • sanahtligsanahtlig MOD Hand of the King
    Posts: 2,884

    JAST's release schedule resembles a developer's more than a publisher's. Their main platform (the JAST USA download shop) doesn't seem very popular, as their selection is somewhat limited and their marketing budget is nearly nonexistent. The solution, other than to invest heavily in your own platform and have a steady stream of releases, is to find an established partner and let someone else market your games for you. Then the pacing of releases doesn't matter quite as much because the (larger) partner has constant traffic anyway. Nutaku is a good candidate to be that consolidated partner that brings increased attention to the entire eroge market. Steam is also an option, but it's so big and this genre is so niche that it's easy to get lost in the noise unless your game has a lot of hype behind it.

    JAST's situation actually resembles my own in some ways. JAST seems keen on releasing a slow trickle of top-tier content, which is the model I try to follow with my blog. I've come to realize that it's much more efficient to find a larger partner who will bring your content before their established audience, and if my only goal was to get more eyes on my content, that's what I'd do.

  • NickNick JAST USA Barrel Haxor
    Posts: 122

    This is such a good thread of questions and assumptions. We're not a very transparent company (ごめんなさい) so its interesting to hear how people view what's going on. I will do my best to shine some light onto some of these topics.

    @Aldra said:
    So I just saw that JAST released Seinarukana Steam version on the same day as Tales of Berseria was released, aside from that Disgaea 2 will be out in 3 days as well.

    You guys really need to pay more attention to release dates, maybe you are not aware of it but many VN fans are also gamers so releasing your VNs too close to other big games (especially Japanese ones that target the same audience) is a mistake.

    You are correct. People often have two limiting factors, time and money, and VNs are more than just a game, they are an investment by fans to set aside both of those resources to be dedicated to a title. When talking about scheduling releases, we do need to look at what we're competing against. From a business perspective, we should hold onto a title until we have the "right" time to release it. From a fan perspective, we feel guilty if we delay the release of a title. It's rare for these two worlds to meet and have a "perfect" launch.

    @Nandemonai said:
    I'm highly skeptical that Jast USA would have lasted for 20 years if it weren't being propped up by J-List (which is run by the same people). They don't strike me as financially stable on their own.

    JAST & J-List are different entities. We do exchange people, and their talents, but we don't share money. JAST is a very lean company, which is why we're financially stable.

    @jacksprat1 said:
    I do wish JAST could pick up the pace on releases and keep it sustainable. This seems to come in spurts, because they'll manage to really rock and roll some years (ex. 2014 and 2015 saw a lot of great games released) but then go mostly quiet on others.... There is a lot of pressure to get the translation and localization for games like Flowers or Seinarukana "just right," whereas the fanbase would probably forgive them much in the way of awkward translations on short nukige as long as they aren't buggy.

    A release schedule starts when we get a license. Sometimes we get lucky and get more than a couple excellent titles in one year, which was the case with Steins;Gate and Shiny Days, so we had to push aside other titles to elevate time for these projects. Sometimes we'll have projects working in parallel, and other times back-to-back. This depends largely on the team for a project.

    And it's true, different games requiring different levels of quality. A mediocre translation for a nukige is more forgivable than for a story-driven title, so more time is required before a title like Seinarukana or Flowers is considered "ok" by fans. These economics were the driving force behind the eroge industry in Japan for a long time.

    @sanahtlig said:
    JAST's release schedule resembles a developer's more than a publisher's....

    JAST seems keen on releasing a slow trickle of top-tier content, which is the model I try to follow with my blog. I've come to realize that it's much more efficient to find a larger partner who will bring your content before their established audience, and if my only goal was to get more eyes on my content, that's what I'd do.

    Perhaps this is true, or I like to think it is. It's hard to have a balance between spending time on content creation, and spending time on audience growth.

    @jacksprat1 said:
    Related/Unrelated: I wonder what's taking "Nympo Sensei Ryoko" so long. Unless I'm sorely mistaken, it sho' doesn't look like War and Peace!

    Ah, yeah... So sometimes a title can be small in scale but still be difficult. Nympho has some technical complexities that make it comparatively more difficult to debug. It's typical for the last 20% of a project to take 80% of the time, but this title blew past that.

  • jacksprat1jacksprat1 MOD Hand of the King
    Posts: 170

    Nick, thank you for taking the time to respond at length. That's interesting (and impressive, for that matter) that you guys and J-List are totally financially separate -- not what I had long thought. Thanks also for taking our questions / suggestions in the right spirit. If people's main complaint is that they want more of what you're selling, that's not the worst problem in the world to have.

    Also, Gobbo:

    Posted by @Gobbo (Feb 22, 2017 at 4:40 PM) >
    First rule of business; "don't do what the other guy is doing."

    Very fair point! Just trying to brainstorm ways to boost output in a way that won't break the bank, and that one is a method that's succeeding elsewhere. But agreed, chasing a trend a competitor has already established is not necessarily a good business strategy. Look forward to seeing what kind of titles you guys will be focusing on publishing in the near (and far) future.

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