If you’re an otome fan, doubtless you’ve already seen Koei Tecmo America’s recent comments on the genre. Specifically, they noted that they were potentially interested in bringing more otome titles west — but only if the “demand” was there. They subsequently followed up with a tweet clarifying that “demand is determined by sales; if Touken Ranbu Warriors does well, there is potential for more #RubyParty” — Ruby Party is, if you’re unfamiliar, Koei Tecmo’s in-house developer that primarily focuses on visual novels and otome titles.
It might sound ideal, but there’s a lot wrong with this kind of approach. Despite all the pretty words being used, this is not the first time we’ve been given false hope that we might see more classic romance titles for women making it west, only to be left in the lurch. It’s especially egregious when companies like Koei Tecmo continue to make bold statements like this and then not follow up on them — despite the continuously growing otome fanbase, the loud-and-clear vocal pleas for much, much more in the way of localised otomes — or worst of all, bitter and angry reactions en masse for stunts like this.
The obvious issues
So, Touken Ranbu Warriors. The game in the spotlight of this particular issue, and one which makes the head scratching proposition by Koei Tecmo America all the more confusing and disheartening. Touken Ranbu Warriors is not a prime example to gauge player interest from the otome player base. It’s a Musou game, with no bit of romance or story that caters to this specific demographic; its sole appeal element in this regard is that its cast consists of various types of pretty boys.
Sure, this poses no problem to those such as myself who enjoy the Musou genre, but it’s not going to be for everyone, and especially not for the general otome player whose interests in gaming may never come anywhere near the action-strategy gameplay of your typical Musou.
But it also goes the same way for everyone else who may eye up the product without having prior knowledge of it. Those unfamiliar with Touken Ranbu, it being a joseimuke IP, may well buy it simply because it’s a Warriors title, not expecting the entire roster to be men. As such, its sales figures will likely not be entirely accurate in representing the interests of otome enthusiasts — since it’s more than likely that the majority of its players will be playing it for reasons other than its tenuous connection to otome titles.
I say “tenuous” because Touken Ranbu is not actually an otome franchise in the first place. It’s a joseimuke series, meaning that it does not feature female main characters, common routes and love interests – to put it another way, it’s just about those pretty men, not the act of romancing them.
In fact, the original game Touken Ranbu -ONLINE- is a collectable card game, and those who play this may well not be fans of the romance-centric otome genre themselves. Think of it along the lines of titles like NTT Solmare’s Obey Me!, Cyberbird’s A3!, and most other mobile games with the (often mistaken) “otome” tag that feature gacha systems and attractive 2D men to entice some poorly judged money spending.
We’ve also got to bear in mind that there’s already a lot of otome titles releasing this year from other publishers, and not everyone will have the budget for every single one of them. This means that Touken Ranbu Warriors will more than likely be way down in the priority list for those who are actually interested in otome titles. Even if they may want to buy them — or make a point by buying it, as Koei Tecmo America hopes — I suspect most players would rather put their hard-earned cash into pre-ordering or purchasing established otome titles that they actually want.
Let’s turn back the clock and look at some other relevant events that Koei Tecmo America appears to be missing. For example, Aksys Games has been putting out localisations of otome titles for seven consecutive years at this point, which should send a message by itself. They’re seeing results from the enthusiasm and loyalty of otome enthusiasts and their never-ending desire to see classics of the genre localised for a western audience.
Then there’s the simple fact that other companies who seemingly did not consider overseas players to be important in previous years are now happily approving their titles to be localised for the first time ever in their histories — eXtend’s BUSTAFELLOWS and Broccoli’s upcoming Jack Jeanne are just two great examples. This is crazy good progress for otome consumers outside of Japan — and surely it can only be good for the games’ makers, too.
Not long ago, we went through why 2022 is one of the most promising years for otome fans in recent memory. Not only are we getting a huge number of great games, we’re also seeing more and more from those aforementioned companies that had previously shunned overseas releases. It’s hard to imagine how otome enthusiasts could make their passion to see more titles make it west any more obvious than they already are, given that countless fans are doing their part on Twitter — and sites like Rice Digital are continually extolling the virtues of these games.
Koei Tecmo America’s approach here just feels tone-deaf, and it’s not the first time this has happened, either. For example, they ran a Twitter poll in 2019 to ascertain interest in localised Ruby Party games, and 82.3% of the 4,522 respondents were in favour of it. Nothing came of it, though, reminding many of the time that Spike Chunsoft teased players by asking if they might be interested in seeing titles like Kenka Bancho Otome localised, only for nothing whatsoever to come of it.
On top of all this, there’s the fact that the whole manga adaptation of ageing Koei title La Corda d’Oro was released in English between 2006 and 2013 by VIZ Media. What more evidence could they need for “demand” at this point?
Beggars can’t be choosers?
All this seems to demonstrate a lack of faith in the otome genre from Koei Tecmo America’s perspective, who are seemingly insistent on seeing large numbers of sales to make localisations worthwhile. This is not a good approach. The demand has always been there — even back when the genre was rarely seen in the west.
Right now, it’s never been so clear that the demand is at an all-time high, what with the number of players coming to the genre for the first time year on year, as the fanbase grows increasingly vocal and willing to part with their cash for more and more releases starring hot 2D men.
And yet, I must confess, despite everything I’ve just said, I still have Touken Ranbu Warriors pre-ordered, just to be another number in the unlikely hope that this time will be the time Koei Tecmo gets the hint and realises that people really do want to see Ruby Party’s games in the west.
To many otome enthusiasts, Ruby Party titles are the Holy Grail of otomes, and they deserve the chance to shine for an international audience. So I think it’s time Koei Tecmo America stops dragging its feet and actually gives the people what they want! That all-important “demand” has always been there.
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