Analysing EVN and JVN fans on Steam

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#1 by bunnyadvocate
2018-09-12 at 20:42
I wasn't sure whether to append this to my last discussion post on Steam VNs, but that seems to have become a bit of a general discussion on Steam news, so I hope nobody minds if I start a fresh topic to discuss the JVN/EVN overlap. As I can't embed images in a vndb post, I'd recommend reading this analysis here instead.

To what extent do JVN and EVN fans on Steam overlap? How many VNs do they buy? Who spends more? Which fandom is more elitist? As an update to my last analysis post on VN sales on Steam, I trawled 100k Steam profiles to find out. Here are my results~

Data collection and definitions

Using the Steam API, I checked over a million steam profiles and collected public game lists on just under 100k users. I then used Steam's "Visual Novel" tag to identify which of those games were VNs. As Steam tends to be more lax on its definition of what a VN is, I cross-referenced this with VNDB.org and only included those games that had a VNDB entry. VNs were then split into three categories:

* JVNs: non-free VNs created by a Japanese company.
* EVNs: non-free VNs created by a primarily English speaking developer.
* Free VNs: free VNs created by either a Japanese or English developer. Unlike the non-free categories, users are only counted as "owning" a free VN if they have logged some time playing it.

Those of you who follow my twitter may notice a few of these graphs are different to what I teased earlier. When investigating the overlap between VNs, I consistently found one group of VNs that were an outlier in terms of their fanbase overlap with other VNs, their userbase size, and their average price. It was always the Chinese and Russian VNs. So in the interests of better analysing the English language VN fandom, I restricted the dataset to only those VNs developed originally in English or Japanese.

Results

Let’s start simple and just see how widespread we VN fans are on Steam:

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While VNs remain a niche, they seem to be widespread enough among the Steam userbase that most users should at least be familiar with what they are. EVNs are penetrating Steam better than JVNs, perhaps due to bundles and lower prices. But they’ve also been on Steam longer than JVNs, with Analogue: A Hate Story being released back in 2012. Overall, 37.9% of Steam users either own or have played a VN of some kind. But owning one VN doesn’t necessarily make you a fan, so let’s see how many VNs these users own.

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The dramatic drop for free VNs show how dependent it is on a few VNs that reach more mainstream attention. 26.5% of free VN users have only played Doki Doki Literature Club for example, and only 53.2% of free VN players have ever bought a VN. This suggests that free VNs might not be an effective strategy for promoting a later commercial release as so few of these users buy VNs.

EVNs drop at a faster rate than JVNs, showing that EVNs’ wider userbase doesn’t necessarily mean they have more users who would identify as VN fans as they tend to only own a couple of VNs. However once we get past the casual crowd, we see EVN owners seem to be more prolific purchasers than JVN owners. EVN owners purchase more VNs on average (5+ EVN owners own 23.7 EVNs on average, whereas 5+ JVN owners own 17.1 JVNs each). This may be because there are 66% more commercial EVNs on Steam than commercial JVNs so there’s more to buy, and they cost far less (the average EVN is £7.31 vs £14.00 for JVNs). So let’s try comparing the average spent on VNs next.
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link (These prices assume users paid full price so are overestimating the total spent, but the relative value between JVNs and EVNs should be fairly accurate).

Here we can see the influence of those higher JVN prices. While EVN fans may buy more, they spend less. On average, EVN owners spend £60.87 while JVN owners spend £81.12. The richest 10% of spenders have a disproportionate influence on the industry, accounting for 60% of all EVN revenue and 53% of JVN revenue. This is broadly in line with the Steam average, where the top 10% of spenders account for 61% of all revenue. So far we’ve been treating JVN owners and EVN owners as distinct entities, as if they were two warring tribes. But are they actually the same users? Let’s investigate the overlap~

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Given that 86% of free VNs currently on Steam are by English developers, I expected the free VN fanbase to overlap more with EVNs, but it’s actually JVN owners who play free VNs more frequently, as 62.1% of JVN owners play free VNs but only 52.9% of EVN owners do too. Perhaps it’s because there are more EVN owners who are only lightly into VNs so are less aware of other free VN releases.

Equally surprising is how many JVN owners also own EVNs: 75.2%. Despite the reputation of JVNs being the elitist community, it’s EVNs owners who are less likely to try JVNs where only 52.4% of them own a JVN. "But what about bundles” I hear the comment sections cry. Perhaps some EVN/JVN owners just picked up one in a bundle and aren’t really fans of them? OK, let’s retry this overlap with only those users who have at least 5 EVNs/JVNs/Free VNs in their library.

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The biggest drop in size is the free VN category, who lose 88.5% of their users. Meanwhile, the overlap between EVN and JVN fans has only grown tighter; with 60.1% of those who own 5+ EVNs also owning at least 5 JVNs. So it doesn’t seem like bundles explain the strong overlap between JVN and EVN fans, but let’s try another test. If someone picked up a VN through a bundle that they aren’t interested in, they probably wouldn’t play it. So let’s try only counting VNs that have been played:

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There’s been a slight drop in how many JVN players also play EVNs, at 67.6%, but it’s still a significant overlap. So while bundles likely do inflate EVN numbers slightly, there’s no denying how linked the fandoms are. Overall, 59.3% of owned JVNs were played, while 56.2% of EVNs were. The lower EVN percentage is perhaps due to user’s owning more EVNs on average. Although both played stats were higher than the Steam average, where only 49.2% of owned games have any recorded playtime.

So what explains the lingering lower JVN ownership among EVN fans? Are EVNs perhaps catering to a wider audience? One thing the EVN scene is known for it its profusion of otomes (VNs with a female protagonist pursuing male love interests), so let’s compare their overlap.

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Rather than being more insular, otome fans are even more willing to try VNs developed in another language, with 81.2% of EVN otome owners also owning a JVN, and 90.3% of JVN otome owners also owning EVNs. However the overlap between otomes fandoms is smaller than EVNs/JVNs overall (68.6% of JVN otome owners also own EVN otomes, and 37.9% of EVN otomes owners own a JVN otome). Something that especially stands out is just how many otome fans there are in the VN market. 33.1% of EVN owners and 42.1% of JVN owners own an otome. They make up a significant part of the fandom, but many online VN community hubs either ignore or are outright hostile to them.

So it otome’s don’t explain the EVN/JVN gap, what does? To further investigate we’re going to need to delve into individual VN statistics and look through a lot of lists, so I’ll keep that for my next post in a week or two.

Potential issues

We’ve been basing these statistics on public user profiles, however only 7.4% of Steam users have their game list public. So it’s possible we’re undercounting the more casual userbase who are less likely to have configured their profile to be public.

This has been an analysis of only Steam users, and while Steam is a major part of the game industry, it’s not the only source of VNs. JVN fans may prefer to stick with Mangagamer/Denpasoft etc, while EVN fans may prefer itch.io. So it’s possible the JVN/EVN fandom splits more than these figures would imply.

Conclusion

In my experience, the popular image of the VN fandom is of a male JVN elitist who hates EVNs and would never read an otome, but that really isn’t representative of the customer base. The majority of JVN fans also enjoy EVNs, the average JVN owner owns more EVNs (10.9) than JVNs (7.6). The same is true of EVN fans, who while preferring EVNS (8.5 owned on average) still frequently own JVNs (5.0 owned on average). So the canny VN developer would do well to advertise in both EVN and JVN fandom communities.

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I hope you enjoyed the analysis. Please let me know what you think and share any alternative theories you have on these stats. If you’re interested in more, check out my other posts on tumblr, watch for updates on my twitter, or give me a yell on Discord (Sunleaf_Willow /(^ n ^=)\#1616). Special thanks to /u/8cccc9, Part-time Storier, and Lunaterra for help with the analysis.Last modified on 2018-09-12 at 20:43
#2 by encrypted12345
2018-09-12 at 21:50
One factor is that someone focused primarily on JVNs may simply not buy them in Steam in the first place. It's impossible to tell what percentage buy outside of Steam though, so it's probably a good idea to advertise to both in general rather than assume that the two fan bases are completely disparate.
#3 by being
2018-09-12 at 22:35
Yeah, it's important to remember that this is a Steam analysis, so I'm not surprised the "male JVN elitist who hates EVNs and would never read an otome" is underrepresented here. It'll probably look differently if you look at a less mainstream platform. I imagine many of the JOPs wouldn't be caught dead reading EVNs and don't buy VNs on steam.

I'm pretty openminded but I actually have no idea what Otomes are all about. It's not that I would be opposed to trying one, but I always have another kind of VN that I am more interested in. EVns are in a pretty similar position, It's not that I discriminate against them just that I know very few that I am interested in
#4 by kominarachromer
2018-09-12 at 23:44
#3 I, personally, don't read otome for a few reasons:

-I'm a (fairly) straight male.
-Generally, they're console exclusive.
-Far too many are kind of "rapey" and I think that some glorify abuse.

Those tend to be the reasons, at least. I dropped Susanghan Messenger because I really didn't like the interface, I dropped Dot Kareshi -We're 8bit Lovers- because it was garbage, I'm slowly working my way through Collar x Malice and enjoying my time so far, and I'm planning on reading Black Wolves Saga -Bloody Nightmare-, Ken ga Kimi, and Clock Zero ~Shuuen no Ichibyou~, since they're all acclaimed titles that look somewhat interesting. Other than that, the genre just doesn't really interest me, and I know most VN fans have even stronger feelings against them than I do.

I like yaoi, though. Only the ones with a seme protag, of course.
#5 by bunnyadvocate
2018-09-12 at 23:59
#2 Yep I expect JOPs are more likely to be using Mangagamer/Denpasoft/JAST or just pirate stuff, whereas EVN-only readers are likely to stick with itch.io which has far more VNs available than Steam does. I'm not disputing these JVN/EVN only fans exist, it's just that I don't think they're as large a part of the customer base as most VN fandom communities would imply.

#3 Like any other genre, otomes can be a bit of a mixed bag. Coming from the more traditional JVN fandom, I'd recommend Amnesia: Memories (link) as quite a good first taste, as each route is dramatically different and it includes a great mystery element running through it.

#4 I agree a lot of JVN Otomes implicitly support an unhealthy view of relationships, much like many Hollywood romances treat stalking like behaviour as being OK. I think it's less of a problem with EVN otomes as there's a greater awareness about toxic behaviour. In terms of "rapey" type stuff, I found that's really common with yaoi content unfortunately, it put me off a lot of JVN BL VNs (that's a lot of acronyms).
#6 by ramaladni
2018-09-13 at 11:54
I don't think JOP is the correct term for people who only play translated eroge. If you mean people who prefer to play untranslated eroge, it's more likely they get their games on DLsite and such.

It's normal for otome games to be underepresented as most eroge are geared towards a male audience.
#7 by bunnyadvocate
2018-09-13 at 23:23
#6 There are certainly a lot more non-otomes than otome VNs out there, my stats had it that around 1/3rd of VN owners also owned otomes. But can you say that otomes cover a 1/3rd of VN discussions? Ozmafia and Amnesia memories are two of the biggest Japanese otomes, Ozmafa doesn't have a single discussion thread, and Amnesia has 2 posts with zero replies. This is what I mean about them being underrepresented.
#8 by kiru
2018-09-14 at 17:04
Given how the otome and bishoujo "fanbases" don't exactly overlap, there's no reason for them to discuss at the same place either. In fact, that'd only be disadvantageous.

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