Today Mr Aldo Donnaloia was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his hectic day to speak with me about Hirameki International. Hirameki publishes interactive visual novels, and they’ve been in business for six years. Some of their titles are Animamundi, Phantom of the Inferno, and the just released Yo-Jin-Bo.
I asked Mr Donnaloia how Hirameki decides which titles to license. He shared that cost is, obviously, a factor. Some of the better known titles are financially out of reach, so they are trying to build a relationship with new, smaller companies in Japan. They had success with the title Ever 17, but the company that created it went bankrupt, ending what might have been a promising relationship. This is just one of the many frustrations that they’ve endured the past few years.
The biggest problem facing Hirameki International is getting their product out in front of the public. The concept of visual novels fascinates me, and I have been aware of Hirameki, seeing their displays at several cons, but none of their titles caught my eye until I saw Animamundi listed at The Right Stuf. I have only seen their titles at TRSI and cons, and until Animamundi, I mistakenly believed that their releases were all dating sims. Animamundi is gothic horror, with yaoi elements tossed in. Yo-Jin-Bo is a time travel adventure, and the cover impressed me enough that I added it to my con purchases.
In marketing the titles, Mr Donnaloia indicated that they were having a great deal of success selling their products through Musicland. Unfortunately, another bankruptcy would sting Hirameki. They have tried to get their product into Best Buy, but buying policies are frustrating their efforts. Because they are PC titles, the DVD buyer can’t buy them, and the PC buyers seems uncertain of what to make of them. Efforts to bundle titles together, with the DVD titles on top, have proven unsuccessful. With the success of manga and anime in general, I am amazed that the larger retailers are so hesitant to give the titles shelf space. Price may be an obstacle, but I don’t think that 39.99 is unreasonable for a product that offers 20 hours of entertainment. It’s about what I would expect to pay for a video game, and with the right push, I think these titles would appeal to both gamers and anime/manga fans.
Maybe the concept of visual novels is too alien for US retailers. If so, I remind them of the Choose Your Own Adventure books that were once wildly popular. These are interactive stories with colorful graphics, music and voice acting. I think there’s a market for these titles, and I will be disappointed if Hirameki is forced to abandon their efforts to bring them over for our consumption. Have any of you read any visual novels? What’s your take on them as a viable seller in the US?
X-posted to the MangaCast.