Paying For Each Individual Route – The Future Of Visual Novels?


For once, this is actually a serious post. I’ve had this thought it my head for months, although with this trend continuing in some recently announced otome games, i think it’s time to consider this as a possible direction for visual novels to move in. Good Or Bad?

For a while, bishoujo games have been produced where there is obviously a “main” heroine and all the other heroines feel like sub-characters. For example, in Nanatsuiro Drops, Sumomo is obviously the main heroine. And in the Tiny Dungeon series, where each of the games focuses on a different heroine.

However, the main difference with this new trend of visual novels is that only one character is featured in each game. This poses the question of  whether the said game actually a visual novel rather than a kinetic novel. My answer to this is that it depends on the game. In my perspective, the difference between a visual novel and a kinetic novel are the choices. So, technically speaking, if one of these new “one route” games has some form of choice and more than one ending, it is a visual novel.

The most unusual of these type of visual novels is “Imouto Style“, an imouto-ge by C:Drive. Basically, this was released as a full game where there were 5 routes, however, there were 6 download editions released (the complete game + 5 individual route packages). I believe, in the individual routes, the short common route was cut out, and the games started at the point where the routes split, which wasn’t that far into the game since there was only one choice that separated the routes.

The other bishoujo game i can think of like this is “Seifuku Tenshi”, the first game by the commercial company Sherbert Soft (they did release some other games as a doujin company). Basically, this was meant to be a series of games, each one focusing on a separate girl while still having an overall storyline. This was a clever ploy to make the user buy all the games in the series since there were some plot holes in the first game, while being able to have more in-depth stories and character development as the games are longer than what a heroine’s route would be in an average eroge. I don’t know if this has worked out for the company though, since instead of releasing or announcing a game for the other main characters in the first game, they’ve added some downloadable content featuring a new heroine who only adds some S H scenes. Smart move? No.

Now onto the otome game examples, Shinohazu Seven is the first otome game by company Hituzigumo (who usually only make drama cds) and it’s pretty much an adaption of the Amemakura drama CDs but focusing on the school festival. Each of the 6 characters will have their very own game where there’ll be no common route. BlackButterfly will be releasing the “Dousei Kareshi Series”, each featuring one of three characters with riduculous names.

While this is an interesting idea, there are both pros and cons to having visual novels being released like this.

Pros

More Character Development

In my opinion, this is the best thing about having one character per game. Typically, one of these games will be around 6+ hours, whereas i find a normal route in a visual novel rarely exceeds 3 hours. This means that there is double the amount of time for the game to develop the characters and make their stories more interesting, while including more icha icha for people who like that.

Don’t Have To Suffer Through Characters You Don’t Like

Don’t you just hate it when there’s a character that you don’t like in a visual novel? For me, i hate “Yamato Nadeshikos” and “Do-S” characters a lot, so i would love to just pick the routes of the characters who i like, while not having to pay for routes that i wouldn’t enjoy.

Cons

Price

SImply put, having games released this way is expensive – or is it? One of these games is around the 3000 yen mark, which is considered a “low price game”. Now, most full VNs are 9000 yen. Hence, buying individual games in a series would cost more if there are more than 2 or 3 games. However, for otome games moreso, Drama CDs are very popular. These usually feature one character, typically last for 2 hours and cost, on average, between 1500-2000 yen each. Now, compare these to the individual character games and you see that it is “better value for money” to play the game since it’s longer and features artwork. I know it’s not completely fair to compare drama cds and VNs since they’re different mediums but isn’t buying these single route games not too much different from a Drama CD version of a VN?

No Common Route

I would say that this is another important reason. In a lot of games, the common route is the best bit of the game since there’s usually some good character interactions and some comedy. Examples of this include Natsuyuki, Poco A Poco & Denkoi. So having single route games with no common route means that we’ll miss out on all this too.

No “True End” build-up

This only applies to VNs with a true ending (Rewrite, G-senjou no Maou, ect). because of the structure of these games, it is impossible to have any build up to a true route without having to buy a load of games. This does ruin the story element, especially if there are things you need to know from other routes.

I know i have just covered a few of the points in this debate. And while i feel that having a single route VN is nice once in a while, i wouldn’t like every visual novel to be like this. Although, i’d love to be able to avoid those S characters for good! I’d love to hear other people’s opinions on this topic though.

11 thoughts on “Paying For Each Individual Route – The Future Of Visual Novels?

  1. I have to agree that this is a pretty radical new strategy, but I don’t think most producers would bite at it because the market won’t be as receptive to it. Especially with cost issues, it would be taxing to both the consumer and the producer.

    I personally won’t mind this kind of setup in the future, but if there’s one group of people that will suffer the hardest if this were to become standard, it’s the scenario writers. They’ll have to adapt hard, especially if there’s a clue and foreshadowing basis on the continuity of the scenarios that they write for the game.

  2. Spotted this over twitter, sorry for the sudden intrusion. \o/ This post is indeed timely lol. Tbh I see Double Score similar to the above mentioned games (even if it’s two characters in a game and not one), and Moneybee being the origin in the otome game field – but that’s not the point.

    I think that you’ve pointed out fair pros and cons. Though I can’t help but feel that companies want to go with this way not to try something new but to earn more money. I do understand that it’s about the bottomline at the end of the day. But I think I feel very similarly to like how you compared them with the drama CDs. I know it’s not a fair comparison, as you’ve pointed out. I mentioned it on my own post but Dousei Kareshi REALLY feels like a drama CD scenario. And many drama CDs out there have similar material so I’m wondering what else do they have to add by releasing the game in this manner? For now it’s the dummy head microphone effects and well, more money for them. Of course, I don’t know how they’re going to price it yet but it’s likely that it will be pricey. I’ll just hope I’m being overly-pessimistic at the moment haha.

    I agree with your other two con points. When done well, a common route can provide great character interaction. I suppose by splitting the characters up it’ll really feel more like a one-on-one romance game. It depends on what people are seeking I guess. Your “true ending” point reminds me of games which require you to finish all the characters’ routes to unlock it and I feel it will be unfair if you have to buy them all in order to access it somehow.

    As for your pro points, so far I haven’t been faced with the situation where I really want more character development. Maybe I’ve been fortunate to either get one where I’m satisfied, or just want the route to end already ‘cos I can’t take it anymore lol. Haha, I’m the type who will plow myself through a route of a character I don’t like ‘cos I want to complete the game 100% so I can relate to the second point. But sometimes the characters do have an important role in the game (depending on how they structure it) so I wouldn’t like to skip them over either. Hmm~

    Having split releases also seems to mean that companies can release them one by one so I suppose they’ll stretch the projects over longer periods? I’m not too appreciative of this ‘cos I guess at the end of the day I’d rather have the full package altogether – and I’m the type who loves character dynamics in the group and how all the routes fall in place in the bigger picture. Perhaps they can achieve this as well with split releases but hmm I doubt that it can be done better with split releases.

  3. It all comes down to the market. there is no substitute for effort. And if users find out that all it is is a substitute for less content for more money, they will bail out. I think it is as simple as that.

    If the content is great ppl will pay. In fact if you let the users directly sponsor & determine which games get made in what ways & by who, you will see the most efficient market yet – i.e. the best translation of our dollars and yen into great creativity. but for so long as u have to needlessly route the entire process through publishers (who fund the projects instead of us funding the projects), there will be market inefficiency.

    Actually the whole pay per heroine idea is a strange beast. the heroines are an infinite good. They can be used by every single human being in this world at exactly the same time without the original authors not being able to do the same. When will they recognize that the thing that is valuable to users, is the act of coming up with the heroines themselves, that creative act itself? why can’t i pay for the heroines to be made and then have them all (and share it with my friends for free)?

    Copyright is a type of industry regulation that retards innovative business models because it assumes that it is the only way to monetize art. It is inefficient because it is monopoly for ‘Printers’ (not artists, but printers) to physically remove ‘Competing Printers’ wherever they see fit.

    Monopoly does not work. They replaced it with Capitalism because monopoly is inefficient. in a 100 years time, there will be no such thing as copyright. People are starting to realize this and there is a Massive abolition movement happening on the internet.

    whoops i always end up spouting economics. ive been reading a lot~~

  4. I prefer things how they are now only because i’m a pretty generic guy…I have my preferences but i don’t really “hate” any type of heroine…and i’m also a completionist so same as above.

  5. The only problem I see: The character you like has a crap route. This is not uncommon.

    Also some of my favorite VN characters were side characters that didn’t even have a route. Note: traps. It also makes no sense for them to have one.

    Now if the route quality shot up a thousand fold, yes this does sound interesting.

    I remember seeing Prism Rhythm and was like yeah, can I just buy Lia’s route for a fraction of the game cost? That’d be nice. Hence the post does not come as a surprise.

  6. This already happens on iOS. Many of the PC ports there have free versions that can be unlocked by route via IAP.

  7. This is terrible. The “more character” development argument by the people behind this is moot because the amount the of writing on a particular character in a VN with one route vs five routes is entirely arbitrary.

    It’s just a way to increase sales.

  8. lol you beat me to the punch as I was going to write a similar post. This pisses me off to no end. I’d rather pay for a full game with good and bad characters than “buy blindly hoping I like the character I buy”. Such a waste of money sigh. As far as Shinobazu 7 I MIGHT buy Taku’s but I’ll prolly look for download versions of the others as I am not paying $222 to buy every single game what a joke honestly.

  9. There are two translated visual novels for iOS and Android devices in which the reader pays for each individual character’s route. These are “Pirates in Love” and “My Forged Wedding,” reverse harem stories created by the company Voltage Inc. In both, the player gets the prologue for free, and can buy as few or as many routes as desired.

    I’m not sure if this is a good idea. But I know that publishers have to monetize their content. And I’ve heard that except for the few companies who are good at generating publicity, and who have earned a lot of positive press, it’s difficult to make money with games on iTunes and Google Play.

    Over the last few years, “downloadable content” and “freemium” have been buzzwords in the video game industry. There are many recent instances of games with mandatory updates, bonus content, and online-only modes. It seems like fewer video games are still being sold as complete packages. I suspect this trend will continue to influence how visual novels are created and sold.

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