If you build it, they will cum

Following its 30th anniversary, 3D eroge brand Illusion announces termination of services.

Illusion has announced the end of its activities and termination of services. The brand plans to discontinue the development and sales of all its products on August 18 of 2023, at 10 AM JST, or 9 PM EDT. The news was issued today on Illusion’s main website, Twitter account, and on their Steam page. The end of support will include the end of sales on official platforms, including Steam. However, those who purchased games before then will retain access to the products, albeit they will no longer be updated or supported.

The devastating news took many eroge fans by surprise. Illusion has just finished its 30th anniversary celebrations, which began on April 28th and led to the renewal of the brand’s website in June.

In their official statement, Illusion thanked their fans for continued support over the past decades. While no official reason was provided as for the decision, the company explained it sought ways to continue its services but found no solutions, prompting it to end the brand.

Illusion began in 1992 as a new brand of Heart Electronics Industry. It debuted in 1993 with Angel Army. The turn-based strategy game had the player square off against female generals from various countries. Defeating the enemy generals awarded the player with scenes of conquest expected of an eroge title. Unlike the future games they’d become popular for, their first entries were standard 2DCG titles.

In 1996, Heart Electronics Industry ended operations. In its stead, two new companies were created: I-One Plus Co., Ltd. and Interheart Co., Ltd. Illusion became part of I-One Plus, while Interheart continued the works of its sister brand, Heart Soft. Interheart would go on to make its own entries on the eroge market, eventually establishing another well-known eroge brand, REAL.

It was under I-One Plus that Illusion created its first well-known series, Des Blood. It was a third-person shooter adventure similar in gameplay to Resident Evil, spiced by erotic scenarios taking place as part of its story. The series was widely popular in Japan, with six entries being developed in total. The latest one, Des Blood VR, came out in 2007.

The use of 3D graphics was what made Illusion recognizable as a brand. In the 2003 interview for the now defunct galge.com, Illusion’s spokesman Makoto Nakaoka explained that they pursued this niche because no one else had done so before them. He cited the lack of tools for making 3D art as the main challenge the brand faced in the beginning. Much of the hurdle came from a language barrier, as 3D software at the time only supported the English language, which included a lack of Japanese manuals.

The studio would continue its dedication to 3D art for most of its existence, with their games being regarded as some of the most beautiful on the market, provided users had hardware capable of running the games at full detail. Oddly enough, the studio managed to pursue both great realism with titles like Honey Select, as well as cell-shaded anime aesthetics. The latter was used in games like Artificial Girl, its successor Artificial Academy, and, more recently, Koikatsu.

In the West, Illusion gained notoriety in 2009, three years following the release of its rape simulator RapeLay in Japan. Keith Vaz, a member of the British Parliament, was informed of the game’s existence due to its circulation among Amazon resellers. While rape stories in Japanese adult media have been common, the idea was preposterous to most of the western world. The game was publicly boycotted in many countries, ending up officially banned in the UK, Australia, Argentina, Indonesia, and New Zealand.

The outrage over RapeLay was loud enough to cause the Japanese Ethics Organization of Computer Software (EOCS) to prevent manufacturing of the game in Japan itself. The decision was criticized by Yasuhiko Tajima, a Japanese jurist, and Masahiro Uzaki, a legal scholar, who expressed a need for adult media to be self-regulated.

The incident baffled Illusion itself, as the game was never planned for a release outside of the Japanese market. While the controversy halted sales of RapeLay, the game would receive a spiritual successor in 2017 in the form of PlayHome. The game shared a similar premise of raping a family as a means of taking revenge.

While at first Illusion made traditional eroge, the company slowly shifted its attention towards simulation games. Most of their titles provided players with a robust tool set for customizing characters and creating their own erotic scenes. Their games often provided small worlds players could populate with customized NPCs.

A large part of the popularity of Illusion games came from their support of modding. Users could easily create their own 3D models and scripts to enhance the possibilities of Illusion’s games. The company itself would frequently support its games by providing means for players to share content, including their custom characters. At the same time, some of these games would fall victim to piracy. Indie developers would use the tools provided by Illusion to create commercial visual novels, something which the Illusion didn’t condone.

For most of its existence, Illusion provided games for the Japanese market, with western fans creating their own translations and patches to enjoy them. The first official English release from Illusion took place in 2018 with FAKKU publishing Honey Select Unlimited. Later on, Illusion would create a Steam profile as well, using it to publish VR Kanojo, Koikatsu Party, AI * Shoujo, and HoneySelect2Libido DX. Sadly, the latest game from Illusion, ROOM Girl, never received an official localization. This might’ve been due to lukewarm reception the game received in Japan.

For much of its existence, Illusion worked with just 26 employees. During its lifetime it had many sister brands, including Illusion Core, Illusion Pro, Vision, MOTION, Dreams, mixwill soft, TEATIME, and FULLTIME, all of which are already inactive.

Throughout its 30 years of existence, the brand created outstanding works, bringing life to the eroge community and sparking creativity among many modders and content creators. Its departure doesn’t necessarily mean the end for I-One Plus itself, but there have been no announcements for new brands from the company. Another outlet, ITmedia, reached out to Illusion for details, but was declined interview at the time.

Once again, Illusion’s titles will no longer be available for sale beginning on August 18, 9 PM EDT. For a closer look at some of their games, you can check out our reviews of Play Club and Premium Play Darkness.

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