Keeping things informal as well as infernal

"For Sale in Japan Only": A Japanese Developer's Perspective on the Eroge Embargo


I previously wrote about a display bug in Dual Tail’s strategy eroge Venus Blood -Hypno- that prevented interface text from displaying correctly in non-Japanese Windows. Fan hacker binaryfail generously donated a patch that fixes the issue . I sent this patch to Ninetail (parent company of Dual Tail) via Twitter, requesting that they include the fix on their official support page. Project manager and game designer Keimaru responded to me in broken English. His response, edited by me, is as follows.

Thank you for the patch you’ve provided that makes Venus Blood Hypno display correctly in non-Japanese Windows.

However, Japanese eroge are limited to sale in Japan only. As hosting this patch on our site would imply that we endorse sales of these titles overseas, your request puts us in a difficult situation.

We are very pleased that our game is loved by overseas players.

However, as we have to conform to industry standards that regulate sales of these titles overseas, we can’t officially recognize this patch.

We’re perfectly fine with this patch being used and distributed unofficially by fans. Thank you for your love of our games.

I thanked him and went my way. A commentator on Reddit later informed me that Keimaru had posted a much longer comment in Japanese. This comment showed such sincere and thoughtful consideration of the issue —  from a Japanese developer’s standpoint —  that I decided it needed to be relayed to the English audience.

Japanese eroge developers are well known for their reluctance to get involved with the Western market. Packaging and splash screens prominently declare “For sale in Japan only”. Westerners tend to dismiss this policy as apathy for foreign fans, even regarding the practice with contempt as just another manifestation of Japanese isolationism and xenophobia. When eroge companies block foreign IPs, they automatically assume that the company has closed its doors to Western release (despite evidence to the contrary). “The companies are just being xenophobic,” they say with bitter contempt. “Might as well just fan translate their titles, since they’ll never officially release their games in English. They don’t want dirty gaijin playing their games.”

It’s about time that we get the other side of this story, and who better to deliver it than a prominent and well-loved Japanese developer: one puzzled about how to respond to a bug that prevents foreign fans from playing his games? I’ve provided my translation of Keimaru’s Twitter comments below. I regret that my translation skills could not fully convey the honest simplicity of the original message, but I did my best to at least get across the ideas and intent.

We’ve been aware for some time that Venus Blood Hypno has a bug affecting users of non-Japanese Windows. This bug causes Japanese characters to display incorrectly, making certain interface elements unreadable. We had reports very early on from users of non-Japanese Windows about this, but we weren’t able to resolve the issue. Today however, a DLL file that fixes the issue has been sent to us from what appears to be a user from overseas.

On one hand, we’re incredibly thankful! On the other hand, this presents a bit of a dilemma…

In the past, certain distributors bought up Japanese eroge and sold them overseas without consulting Japanese developers. This led to an international scandal, causing considerable turmoil within Japan as well. Since then, we’ve been obligated to display warnings like “For sale in Japan only” during game start-up and on the packaging.

This user’s request raises a worrisome issue. While there’s no issue if users want to play these games in Japan on a non-Japanese OS, if this is a request from overseas to support foreign OS’s, then that’s an entirely different matter. At that point, isn’t it no longer just our company’s problem?

Should we respond to this request and support users that we were never supposed to be selling to in the first place, since selling to these users risks another incident? Is it even ok to support them? I’m not sure…

Honestly, I’m torn. What to do…? If we officially support this patch, that would have to be our decision as a company [our stance on the matter]. To be honest, we could just leave things in a gray area, where we let good-intentioned users do as they please in the shadows while we stay silent on the matter…

To be blunt, when we received very early reports of the bug from users we believed to be Chinese, our user support team felt they were really skirting the line with regards to the JP ONLY clause, thinking ‘I hope these people are playing within the country.’ They puzzled over how to handle the issue.

If a user buys a game in Japan, returns to his home country, and plays it on his own PC purely for his own enjoyment–is that ok? Where’s the line? As just one company of many in this industry, it’s extremely hard to make such a decision.

This nagging feeling… is there anyone who could resolve this issue? No, there probably isn’t.

A conclusion arrived at after some debate: after things have settled down let’s quietly fix this. The issue seems like it would be resolved with the previous version of the KiriKiri engine. It–it’s not like we’re fixing it because the overseas user told us to! We’re doing this voluntarily, because we feel like it (guh). However we’re pretty busy so it might be a while before we get around to it.

I don’t know about you, but Ninetail just earned one new (and very loud) fan.  For an example of Ninetail’s outstanding work on games, see my Venus Blood -Gaia- review! (NSFW version , SFW mirror)

A safe-for-work mirror of this article can be found on my personal blog.

Special thanks to those of the Fuwanovel community who provided feedback on the translation, especially Majikoi fan translator dowolf.

Original English quote:

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Original Japanese quote:

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