Idea Factory International is scheduled to have their first ever press event sometime next month, and I’m crossing everything that can be crossed in hopes that they announce an otome game localization for the PS Vita. It’s been a little over a year since they first commenced operations on September 30th, 2013, and despite a wealth of otome games in the Otomate line at their disposal, they have yet to release, let alone announce, a single title.
But why haven’t they? Comments from publishers in the past have alluded to the immense amount of money and work that goes into localizing the book’s worth of text in the usual otome game, but dialogue-heavy RPGs such as Idea Factory International’s Hyperdimension Neptunia must be a similarly text-heavy affairs. Of course, there’s also the argument that series such as Hyperdimension Neptunia already have an established audience in English, whereas many otome games do not, but Idea Factory International has already had relatively good success with a number of games in their Hakuouki otome game series on various platforms (most recently smartphones).Idea Factory International has already published a number of games from one of its subsidiaries, Compile Heart, so it’s not a stretch to assume that it could just as conceivably work with its otome game subsidiary, Otomate, to bring one or more PS Vita games to an English-speaking audience.
I contacted Idea Factory International regarding the inclusion of certain Japanese games on the site, but was told by Marketing Coordinator David Alonzo that it did not indicate an intent to localize said games. If nothing else, however, it shows that Idea Factory International has some interest in informing English-speaking fans about their otome games, though they haven’t kept their site up to date with every single release.Looking at the game section of Idea Factory International’s website, it’s interesting to note that there are two listings for Japan-only PS Vita otome games, Hakuouki SSL ~sweet school life~ and AMNESIA World, both spinoff titles for their respective series. With new games coming out from Otomate nearly every other month, it’s noteworthy that these are the only two Japan-only PS Vita otome games listed on their site.
It’s also worth mentioning that a new company called Otomate World recently launched a website, Facebook, and Twitter account. So far, it has only been used to promote iOS and Android versions of Hakuouki, which currently only appear to be available in Asian markets (when I attempted to view Hakuouki in iTunes, for example, it asked me to switch to the Vietnamese store). These smartphone versions of Hakuouki do not appear on Idea Factory International’s website.
But is it necessary to appeal to a broad audience for an otome game to be successful in English? While smartphone games are certainly easier to get into people’s hands due to nearly everyone owning a device that can play them, the fact that the Shall We Date? series and others have seen so many installments suggests that there is definitely a market for otome games in English. Unfortunately, most console otome games over the past few years have been released for the PSP, and it’s not a stretch to say putting the effort to localize and release a PSP otome game in English in 2015 would be financial suicide. However, the PS Vita is seeing more and more otome games, particularly from Otomate, and while the install base is but a fraction of the smartphone market, have Hakuouki and Sweet Fuse not proved that there is room for otome games on underdog handhelds?In response to my request for a comment regarding the potential of Idea Factory International localizing an otome game, David replied, “I will say that we’ve heard a lot of requests from people to bring over certain otome titles, and I think it’d be awesome to do so! Hopefully we can do so in the future, but for now we don’t have any news about that.” Notably, the company has a section in its forums for localization requests that features an otome game thread that was created in November 2013 and remains relatively active. Otome game fans seem particularly interested in AMNESIA, which was also one of the top requests in Aksys Games’ forums (which are currently down, so unfortunately I can’t provide a link to that thread). AMNESIA, Diabolik Lovers, and Hakuouki are undoubtedly Otomate’s most popular series in Japan currently, but the fact that Hakuoki is the one to have received an English release suggests that AMNESIA and Diabolik Lovers might not have as wide-reaching appeal (as someone who has played both, I can attest to that).
I was originally going to make this article a list of otome games I would like to see announced at Idea Factory International’s press event, but in all honesty, I don’t care. There are so many Otomate titles to choose from on the PS Vita now, from AMNESIA and Diabolik Lovers to Code: Realize ~Sousei no himegimi~, Binary Star, RE: VICE[D], Kokuchou no Psychedelica, upcoming Shinobi, Koi Utsutsu, and more, that I would be happy to support whatever it thinks will be most successful. But if Idea Factory International announces the rest of its lineup for 2015 and chooses not to include an otome game, I feel it will be making a clear statement that handheld otome games are not an avenue it does not consider worth exploring.I don’t profess to assume anything about the business end of games localization, and don’t want to sound like I am dismissing the risks involved with localizing games with very niche audience. However, we have seen time and time again that western publishers are happy to take risks with titles that will appeal to the hardcore “otaku” crowd, such as Idea Factory International with Monster Monpiece and NIS America with Criminal Girls, both of which required editing out potentially offensive content in order to release in western markets (it’s worth noting that despite getting a European release, Monster Monpiece never made it to Australia).
I really hope, for the diversity of niche Japanese games in English, that my cynicism is proved wrong.
Update: IFI announced that they’ll be localizing AMNESIA under the title Amnesia: Memories!
Note: I don’t intend to discredit the importance of smartphone otome games, but rather assert that there is a wide range of quality games being released on the PS Vita that would be great candidates for potential English releases.