E3 2016: Sitting Down with Sekai Project

If you’re a fan of English-language visual novels then you’ve probably heard of Sekai Project before. Heck, you may have even played few (or nearly all) of their releases over the past few years. It’s hard to not be at all aware of them at this point because of high profile releases such as The Grisaia Trilogy (still a work in progress) and Clannad. For some, this is a fantastic company which is practically granting dreams. For others, Sekai Project is the enemy — hoarding every visual novel they can and never releasing much of anything.

Of course, both these perspectives are not reality. For one, wishes cannot be granted with the ease of a fairy godmother. Each acquisition and partnership requires business dealings, much of which have an expectation of privacy. From the outside looking in all we can do is assume what Sekai Project’s next moves are and hope everything works out. Speaking with project manager Samuel Munson and public relations manager David Bruno, I was able to get an even better understanding of the company despite obsessively following Sekai Project over the years.

clannad

When it comes right down to it, a company like Sekai Project would never exist without passion. This does not appear in any way to be a company founded with the expectation of riches. Instead, its goal is to bring visual novels to the people (as well as other indie games that deserve a wider audience). So where does all that anger come in which is sometimes directed at them? In large part it seems to be due to the desire from outsiders to really see what’s going on behind the scenes. Sekai Project has made multiple steps toward transparency, and continues to do so with a project tracker, blog posts, livestreams, and more. Still, some key decisions simply cannot be shared with the public – even if doing so would likely calm down folks from raging against them specifically.

One thing that stood out to me in particular is that the company appears secure with the idea of 18+ content. When Denpasoft first arrived on the scene it felt a lot like a tepid move that might disappear at any point. However, now they’re content to add adult versions of Steam releases to the storefront. They’ve even got some more exclusives on the way. That doesn’t mean they are ready to shout about Denpasoft from the rooftops either. The label may be distanced from Sekai Project yet again now that they’re finally getting the ball rolling with Vita releases. After all, Sony (as with basically all console developers) have a stance against 18+ sexual content.

faultmilestonetwo3

There is a belief by some that Sekai Project just does what they want without listening to fan feedback whatsoever. That’s obviously not the case, but I was given a look specifically at just how much they do listen. David, for example, briefly showed off his Google Alerts for Sekai Project which he keeps an eye on constantly. Yes, the company is super aware of what is being said on forums and does attempt to clarify whenever they’re able to. As for “never finishing projects,” well, that’s pretty easy to disprove with a simple look at their library on Steam.

Of course, some may now be saying that it isn’t a complaint about things not being released. Instead, the complaint is actually about the speed of releases when it comes to Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects. Sekai Project acknowledges this sentiment but shared that their crowdfunding projects have completely different time frames than other releases. It makes sense, as generally these projects require new or modified translations and are often quite massive in scope compared to their smaller doujin releases. Then there are the EVNs which don’t require translation at all.

There are still areas in which I feel Sekai Project can improve, but they’ve been making moves to better themselves in quantifiable ways. Honestly, it’s amazing to step back and realize just how much they’ve accomplished (and released) in just a few years. Regardless of your opinion on the company, it is impossible to ignore that they have brought some incredible visual novels to Steam and have even more on the way. As the appetite for visual novels in the west increases we will see more companies come into the scene alongside Sekai Project, MangaGamer and JAST USA — and that’s a good thing. In the end, gamers are the ones who benefit most from companies such as Sekai Project bringing a regular stream of new releases to us.