MangaGamer announced today on their blog a collaboration with Hendane! to distribute a physical pressing of CIRCUS’s Da Capo through various outlets. The release will be a limited edition package with 24-page artbook and a CD of music tracks from the game for $55. Hendane! will be responsible for taking preorders for the release and can ship to some countries in Europe as well as Australia. MangaGamer will also be looking into somehow selling a few hundred copies to fans in Europe through other means. The limited edition package will not be reprinted, but if the limited edition does sell out, a slightly cheaper standard edition package will be made available, sans artbook and CD.
We had a chance to chat with John Pickett from MangaGamer and Chris Ling from Hendane! about how this collaboration came about.
encubed: So how did MangaGamer and Hendane! meet up originally to form this collaboration?
Chris: We really came together last year when I inquired with John Pickett over using images from a few of the games MangaGamer had licensed in our annual April Fools joke on the website. After that, John approached me again a few months later in regards to actually making what was supposed to be a joke… a reality.
John: Yeah, given the frequent requests from our fans and those who haven’t bought our games yet, one other employee at MangaGamer and I had been mentioning to the staff that it was something we really needed to do. However, we had two big questions that needed dealing with if we were going to do it:
- Would they sell?
- How would we distribute them?
Our digital distribution has helped us keep costs down so that we can focus on the localization and release of games, but if we were going to sell hard copies, then we needed to address the various new issues that come up with physical distribution, either by ourselves or through another company. It was then that I recalled Hendane and our previous April’s fools joke and decided to see if they would be interested.
encubed: What benefits did you two see in starting such a collaboration?
Chris: Personally, I saw a lot of potential in MangaGamer especially given their access to major publishing companies of visual novel games. Having sold many of these games in the past few years, I know of their popularity and I was willing to believe with proper marketing and a nice package, we could see a major success happen. And frankly, it would allow fans to prove that they really will shell out the cash for what they claim they want.
John: Likewise, our motivation was to see the success of these titles. Our fans have been asking for hard copies for a long time, and as someone who often pre-orders Limited Editions myself, I can understand why. If we could get hard-copies out and moving, not only would we be satisfying our customers, but we would be expanding our audience, reaching new people, and helping to cultivate the western market for these games. If these hard-copies prove to be a success then that means additional income that we can immediately turn around and use to finance the localization of more games, more of the higher-name titles our customers want to see. Koihime Musou is not the only game with an expensive voice cast, and we would like to release many of these titles in the near future as well. So a success with these hard copies is crucial for us in offering some of the titles we would like to be able to see released.
encubed: How long ago did you guys start setting the gears into motion?
Chris: Initial negotiations began during Anime Expo last July and have been ongoing for most of the fall as well. Despite the appearance of major personnel at Anime Expo from the companies MangaGamer works with, the negotiation was strictly between myself, one of the higher ups at MangaGamer, and John Picket, Head Translator.
John: Yeah, that initial meeting and negotiation merely covered the feasibility of this venture, though. It took many more months for both sides to work out the terms and agreements that would be satisfactory to all parties involved and hopefully would ensure a success for all.
encubed: Could you describe to our readers an overview of the process and the effort required to bring this plan into fruition?
Chris: A lot of effort was put into how to package the games in order to make it an appealing purchase to customers. In my personal opinion, you have two camps:
- Make it cheap,
- Pack a lot of goodies without raising the price too high.
Given my experience with selling limited edition printings of software, John and I pushed for producing something along those lines. In sheer numbers, we sell more titles that are cheap rather than those of higher quality. However, there is the consideration that within our inventory, there just happens to be more access to cheaper titles. But on the other hand, given the number of people who will throw down $100 for Fate/stay night (First Press/LE naturally) or $250+ for Tsukibako, I am willing to believe that a high quality package will still sell well. It’s a matter of balancing value and price.
John: This, and the fact that I wanted to see our initial venture into hard copies make the most of the unique advantage we have available to us and in turn set us apart from others. This line of thinking led to the decision that we would make our first release a Limited Edition, i.e. the second option in that list.
Once that was decided, a lot of work went into getting this started. Since we were initially a digital download only provider, we had to get permissions from the makers before we could even consider printing their product. Our obvious first choice was to approach Navel on selling a Limited Edition of Shuffle! … We are still trying to arrange for this to happen. In the meantime, OVERDRIVE, Circus, and NEXTON responded quite quickly and put their titles on the table. Then we had to go through and figure out which title would be best for this venture.
Kira Kira already had a hard copy thanks to AX, so that was out for now. The only other OVERDRIVE title we had that wasn’t a fan-disk was Edelweiss, which we were scheduling a re-translation for so we knew that was out until the re-translation was finished.
None of our titles currently offered which come from NEXTON really had a limited edition, so those wouldn’t suit the purpose of this initial venture.
That left Circus’s catalog, which at the time consisted of Da Capo and Suika. One look at our sales figures made the choice obvious. From that point we had to then discuss with Circus what we could use as extras for the release.
Chris: It was also important that bonus items could be made with assets that could be easily accessed. While new content would be nice, we did not want to go overboard and lose sight of the main goal — releasing Da Capo on physical media.
John: After spending some time in discussions with Circus and letting them dig through their files, we arrived at the artbook and OST combo.
Chris: Then of course came the issue of printing them. Printing costs were a major issue and we went through a couple of designs before coming to the current version in which we could make a good looking package without breaking the bank for anyone involved.
encubed: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!
UPDATE: Added an interview with the two parties.