MangaGamer vs Arunaru controvery

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#1 by warfoki
2019-10-25 at 03:18
I'm somewhat surprised that apperantly no threads covered this (or maybe I've missed it).

So, Arunaru broke ties with MG and is no longer translating Rance games professionally or otherwise and he made a long post on why: link

Bulletpoint version:

- MG is paying abysmal wages to free contractors
- most translators working for them are college freshmen, without work experience and a lot of enthusiasm towards the medium, which MG exploits
- MG cannot really afford NOT to exploit their translators, as their titles sell horribly (most releases sell a couple hundred copies, bigger titles, like the Rance series going over 1000, Sengoku Rance being around 2000, Evenicle sold about 15 000 on Steam, which is like record breaking numbers, but most other releases on Steam don't do nearly as well and Steam obviously takes a cut)

Do note that all this info is coming from Arunaru, as MG did not comment on it.

Someone from Sol Press have though, offering a pretty much opposite perspective, though corroborating a lot of Arunaru's claims: link

Apparently Sol Press is paying even less for translations.

This issue has come up about the release of Maggot Baits as well, where the project manager assured people that they personally had a positive experience and everyone was properly paid: link

Another translator came around to say that while the pay IS low, Arunaru is overdramatizing it: link

Basically VN translations in general pay the low end or below what you'd normally get for translating.

My opinion: it's a catch 22. It's a niche market, even in Japan, so localization companies cannot afford to pay more. But on the other hand by paying this low, highly experienced, professional translators won't stick around and bad translations most certainly won't help. A price increase is not a solution, since the main reason why VNs stay a niche, at least in terms of sales, is their asking price. Like, with the limited income I have I have to make realistic calls. Like, Maggot Baits is what, 20 hours, give or take? That's $45 and with these poor sales numbers, it pretty much never goes on sale. The best sale I've ever seen for a major translated VN release was the Steains:Gate sale last week on sale which was like 40% off. This competes with Steam sales where 1-2 year old games can go for 75% off, even outside of seasonal big sales. Like, I bought Elex about a month or so ago for about $17. Have 40 hours in it, nowhere near the end of it. Bought Bound By Flame for $4, 20-ish hours, nowhere near the end of it.

And this is the problem: there IS an audience, I've seen thousands of downloads for even trash nukiges from MG, potentially tens of thousands for stuff like Sengoku Rance on pirate sites. Very little if any of that translates to sales ever though, because compared to the stuff on Steam sales, it's a very hefty asking price. Even though these are chump changes compared to the Japanese prices, that can go up to $100 per release with major titles and are hardly ever on sale.Last modified on 2019-10-25 at 18:12
#2 by cyric
2019-10-25 at 03:29
I can talk a bit on the piracy bit. My background is being dirt poor most of my life. The reason I even fell in love with visual novels is having a really terrible computer that wouldn't run anything. So I gave visual novels a try. I think most of audience that pirates is from these countries like my own. Like somebody on /vn/ posted a picture of people downloading Maggot Baits torrent, country list. And most of the flags on the list were from countries where wages are fairly low so I think there is a connection there. I think honestly if (this is just speculation) but if the Vns actually went on sales I can see more people making the purchase. I would like to think most people are like me and when they like a story they feel some sense of obligation on paying for it, at least when it goes on sale. That's my two cents. Can't really talk much on the Arunaru situation because I'd like to hear Mangagamers side on this.Last modified on 2019-10-25 at 03:30
#3 by echozulu
2019-10-25 at 04:36
I don't really like Arunaru so both 'Good riddance' and 'Good for him' on this one. The Sol Press guy and Steiner have some well-thoughtout points as well. It's certainly unfair from MG's perspective since they can't comment on it without being unprofessional.

My two cents:

- We're told and advised at University (Translation Studies) that literary translations are the worst paying translation jobs you could ever take on and that we should avoid them if possible. Now factor in that most of the people saying this don't even know that VNs exist and you end up with this situation where VN translations are the bottom of the pile when it comes to wages. However, we still have people ready to go down the literary TL route, simply out of passion for the medium and I can't fault them for it. They'll still earn 2x or 3x that what VN TLs get, though.
- I can see why Arunaru is frustrated: shitty pay and ungrateful fans (all of us criticising his TL decisions) aren't nice things to have, ever.
- I would've recommended Arunaru reduce his MG workload to a reasonable amount, for himself, and take on smaller but well-paying TL jobs and manage his time and attention so that he spends 50% on MG/VN TLs and 50% on other TLs. I personally would never solely rely on a VN TL wage, unless all pirates suddenly become paying customers you won't make a lot of money for a long time in this industry.

I even have a personal example as to the discrepencies between TL payment:
I'm still a University student but I've got my very first project not so long ago and I'm already getting paid top dollar (granted, it's a family friend but he's actually paying me 10-15% more than he would a professional TL) - meaning something like 4ct (€) per character (GER->ENG) or 2€ per line. That means if I put in the time/treat it like a 9-5 I'll make 280€+ per day. THAT's CRAZY! That's 7x what he made in the beginning of his career at MG and nearly 2x what he made with other companies - why would I or anyone else ever go into such a badly paid field? Because of passion and love for the medium. The TL I just talked about is a website localisation, no ecchi or moe lines, only business and ad talk, it's not too convoluted but not an interesting or fun translation like a VN one would be.

What can be done to solve this?:

- Get more pirates to pay for it. Most of them have the money, I know it, I've been one and I don't get how some of them are able to support 1-5 Patreon creators and a powerful VPN but not buy a single translated VN. People need to learn that they can't have everything, you can't play the newest CoD or BF on an awesome rig and have 100s of VNs as well, you don't even have the time or attention to focus on all of it in an equal manner. I completely switched from CoD/OW to VNs and it's probably the best monetary decision I've made yet.
- Produce high-quality translations. I think and hope that providing a hq translation will lead to better sales-numbers in the long run but you can only achieve this if you pay people a living wage. Embrace KS and other ways to generate more income.

P.S. Sooo, Warfoki, I see you've played Elex, played any other Piranha Bytes titles and if so, how'd you like 'em? (I obviously have to say that they've made some of the best RPGs [Gothic 1+2, Risen 1-3 and Elex] since they're a German company, and because they really do make good games with very interesting stories.)
P.S.S. I'll now resume my daily procrastination since there isn't a deadline for said project. Criminal Minds Season 7, here I come!Last modified on 2019-10-25 at 04:41
#4 by cyric
2019-10-25 at 05:12
Not all of pirates need VPNs man. In some countries like mine people have other cares in the world like staying alive and leaving the goddamn country to do so, my country doesn't care about illegal downloads, these parts of the world (the balkans) are pirate hotspots. Most of the flags I saw which is purely anecdotal I know were Russian. Plenty of world lives under the poverty line, and I cannot blame them for pirating, they're not in a situation to even buy vns at that point and I don't really see it as a loss in sale at that point. No real excuses for people that are able to buy them though.
Elex seems great though, I still haven't even finished Gothic 1 and I have it installed for a year.Last modified on 2019-10-25 at 05:13
#5 by forever-here
2019-10-25 at 06:20
If its not on steam then you'll be hard pressed for me to buy anything. steam wallet works wonders and maybe why the trend of all-ages steam version coupled with an off-site 18+ patch is selling very hot. Evenicle selling 15k units and Sengoku Rance selling 2k units is evidence in itself.
#6 by rampaa
2019-10-25 at 06:37
Even if I had to take everything Arunaru said at face value there's only one matter which I'd blame MangaGamer:

That became an even worse salary once they decided to pay less than initially agreed to after I had already moved to Japan.
**If** this is the whole truth without any omissions, then shame on MangaGamer.

Apart from that, I don't think there's anything MG has done wrong. They don't force people to work with them, do they? As long as MG does not lie about the wages, whether or not those wages are low or high is irrelevant. If someone thinks those wages are unacceptable, they are free to not work with MG. Knowingly agreeing to some conditions and then shitting on the company publicly because of those conditions is ridiculous.

Also, honestly, good riddance. Never liked his marginal translation choices.
#7 by warfoki
2019-10-25 at 08:48
Off topic: I loved the first two Gothic (wasn't too hot on Gothic 3), played them a lot. Would replay them, but they crash on startup, no matter what I try, so there's that. I also love Elex. Sure, it's flawed, just like any other Pyranha Bites game: kinda wooden voice acting, stiff animations, buggy, silly AI... But it has a unique charm to it. The fact that everyone's an asshole, but the writing still manages NOT to be edgy or cringy. The unrelenting difficulty, where you can be killed by the weakest monsters that give you 5 xp on kill. I can't remember how many times i just ran the hell away, or lured away monsters to get the quest object or loot behind them and then get the hell out. The fact they are doing open world right: I find trinkets and lore pieces in the most obscure places that at first I was sure wasn't supposed to be approachable. The jetpack is a nice touch, gives so much freedom... and possibility to bug out AI and cheese enemies I have no business beating. :P

On topic: Steam is nice, sure but it's not like MG has the option to put everything up there, unless you want them to limit translations to moeges and all ages stuff. No way in hell that Maggot Baits would ever be on Steam for one.

And a lot of pirates can't pay. I try to buy VNs and less popular entertainment media as often as I can, but the reality is that I quite simply do not have the money for it. Considering that my country doesn't give a rat's ass about software piracy as the gov is too busy stealing EU funds and taxpayer money AND that we have very good internet speed dirt cheap (we pay like $20 a month for a 50 Mbit down and 30 Mbit up speed with unlimited bandwidth, and we could upgrade this to 100 Mbit for free if we cared enough to do so) it's obvious why we have a ton of piracy.Last modified on 2019-10-25 at 08:50
#8 by echozulu
2019-10-25 at 09:07
Off topic: I recommend Gothic 1+2, no, all old games that might not run on a modern PC (Anno for example) to be bought from GOG. They make sure that these games run as smooth and on as many platforms as possible. Only problem will be that they don't have Steam's regional pricing.
#9 by lucumo
2019-10-25 at 13:52
Dunno, personally, I think that translated VNs are super cheap (talking about physical ones here, I wouldn't buy digital). However, that doesn't mean I would buy those. Most of the time, there is no love put into those physical versions. They look cheap and ugly and are cheap and ugly. On the contrary, if I buy a VN from Japan, the game box is actual quality with, typically, a clean cover and such. So, of course, I always go for that one. So I would rather pay 8500 Yen + shipping + customs over the 40€ (or whatever) it costs here...well, I guess an awful lot of shipping, considering it comes from the US, so add like $40. I guess the difference wouldn't even be that large anymore even.
Then there is the issue with subpar translations and I would rather get the original language.
Money isn't that much of an issue since, thanks to the shift to digital and DRM, I don't really spend money on "normal" games anymore (some exceptions on GOG aside).
So I'm technically target material but all their decisions are basically a turn-off.

Off-topic: Gothic 3 wasn't complete, JoWooD forced Piranha Bytes to release it like that which really pissed them off and they cut their ties with JoWooD. However, those had bought the license for some time and as such released the Gothic 3 addon and Arcania: Gothic 4 without Piranha Bytes's involvement.
#10 by funnerific
2019-10-25 at 14:51
Off-topic: I played Gothic 3 some time after release, after most bugs I hear about were fixed. Spent hundreds of hours on it, and while it's not really better than Gothic 2, the amount of playtime it offers is really nice.
#11 by encrypted12345
2019-10-25 at 17:53
@1 What Arunaru claims has been rumored for a while now. Not the specifics, but it's been common knowledge that the breaking point for a hard copy is around 1k and that most VNs sell way below that, translation fees range somewhere between 1 to 2 cents per character max, and that you could make way more money in a translation gig unrelated to visual novels. I think the fact that Arunaru frames it in a way where there are 0 positives to the shit pay is misleading though. It comes with having an extremely lax schedule, just look at how long the 5th WAB game took to even start translation. Yeah, having such a lax schedule to justify the pay disparity with similar jobs isn't good enough for most people, but it is a tangible benefit that shouldn't be ignored. Arunaru deciding to quit because of the low pay is perfectly fine, but you don't have to raze the bridge while you're at it.

There's a weird sentiment of "I consent to a deal, but feel like I got ripped off, so the company is to blame". If someone gives you a deal you don't like, don't accept it and complain about it later. Either negotiate or go to someone else. It would be a different case if the only translation related jobs out there were for visual novels, but that's not the case at all.

@6 Yeah, that would be dirty of MG if it were true, but I honestly can't trust that Arunaru is telling the whole truth when it comes to that.Last modified on 2019-10-25 at 18:14
#12 by sanahtlig
2019-10-25 at 19:15
A point of consensus from Arunaru's message here and the interview with Sol Press a while back is, "An industry this unprofitable shouldn't exist." All of the particulars of MangaGamer and Sol Press's situations may not generalize, but it seems safe to say that the VN industry as a whole doesn't pull in enough money to pay its workers normal wages. There is no simple solution to this problem of underfunding, but probably the most intuitive answer is to only work on games where costs are covered upfront (crowdfunded), or with good prospects for profit.

Unfortunately, improving the situation for industry workers (without fundamentally changing the way these companies do business) could have serious drawbacks for consumers. The proposed model would result in fewer releases with restricted content that could be more easily marketed or sold on major platforms, such as Kickstarter or Steam. Since prices and volume sales don't scale well with length, games would have to be shorter. Since niche content has a smaller audience, the variety of content would likely suffer as well, as niche games get passed over for games with more mainstream appeal. Ironically, this could mean that classics like Family Project or Damekoi could get passed over for the likes of Nekopara. Conversely, restricting releases in this way could restrain long-term market growth, as the pace and variety of releases diminishes and some users lose interest.

In short, be careful what you wish for. What's good for the industry is not necessarily good for fans--and vice versa. And conversely, what's good for the industry short-term may lead to long-term stagnation (case in point: the JP market).Last modified on 2019-10-25 at 19:24
#13 by forever-here
2019-10-25 at 19:26
@12 sooo, we're back to just fan TLs?
#14 by kiru
2019-10-25 at 20:39
I mean. It's not different in Japan. Doing work at VNs is something you do because of passion. Every writer getting successful enough mitigates to LN sooner or later if it's not for the simple passion for what the medium entails. Artists go to console games. Voice actors to cds, anime and whatnot.
There's exceptions to this, but the majority will be rather badly paid. That's why padding and all that crap is so frequent. Wanna earn a decent amount? Better write fast.Last modified on 2019-10-25 at 20:41
#15 by dk382
2019-10-25 at 21:26
It's important not to take the current drama as representative of the industry as a whole. Not every company offers pay as low as what Arunaru described. If you take away anything from that fact, it should be that it's possible to survive in this industry while paying more.

There's a weird sentiment of "I consent to a deal, but feel like I got ripped off, so the company is to blame". If someone gives you a deal you don't like, don't accept it and complain about it later. Either negotiate or go to someone else. It would be a different case if the only translation related jobs out there were for visual novels, but that's not the case at all.
The avenues available to prospective translators (and editors and QA) who want to break into this industry are much more limited than you seem to think. In case you missed it, there was some similar twitter drama last year over Crunchyroll, a company who is definitely NOT small or in a struggling industry (they're owned by fucking ATT and have *millions* of subscribers), yet are paying what is basically barely more than what Arunaru said MG pays. There are companies that do pay more out there, but for most new prospects, it often feels as though you have to send yourself through the wringer and get heavily exploited just to have a chance at better opportunities. That is not a fair deal for them, and they often take these unfair deals because they feel as though they have no other choice, not because they want to.Last modified on 2019-10-25 at 21:27
#16 by encrypted12345
2019-10-25 at 23:07
@15 Not that I'm a translator, but working for Crunchyroll seems like hell since the nature of simulcasting means strict deadlines. At the very least, they should pay more just for that. Sadly, while Crunchyroll seems like it's doing well, they are probably not doing as well as it seems. Most likely, they'll be rolled into HBO Max as the streaming wars wage on.

Also, I would concede if the LN localization industry weren't booming right now. As far as I can tell, LN translators are about as entry level as VN translators with the caveat being that LN translators are paid more per word. Unlike VN translators, LN translators probably have a more concrete deadline, hence some of the pay disparity.Last modified on 2019-10-25 at 23:21
#17 by dk382
2019-10-26 at 03:10
@16 Regardless of whether CR is or is not in the black (they are private and don't disclose financials, but we've seen no sign of them doing poorly afaik), a very generous estimate, looking at the number of shows they sub with the overall costs of localization per episode as well as how many paying subscribers they have, puts total localization costs for them at less than half a percent of their annual revenue. That's nothing. They could double that number and their books would hardly look any different. Obviously they have other costs as well, but an ethical company would worry about paying their workers fairly first, not second (or in CR's case, third, fourth, maybe fifth).

As for LN localization...
As far as I can tell, LN translators are about as entry level as VN translators with the caveat being that LN translators are paid more per word.
It depends. I won't name names, but basically the easy to get into LN localization companies pay about as much as most VN companies. The long and short of it is that there are many translation jobs that do pay a lot better than VNs, but almost all of the entry level jobs I've seen across all mediums have been egregiously exploitative and shady (as in, pay at or below US minimum wage is not infrequent). And these are almost never different pay grades within the same company. These are just different companies who value labor differently, and you have to get shitty jobs with shitty companies in the hope that your experience will help you get better jobs elsewhere eventually, maybe. It's a real nasty, dark side of the industry.Last modified on 2019-10-26 at 04:46
#18 by tows
2019-10-26 at 05:57
Well, as much as I pity the whole industry, it still doesn't change the fact that the Rance Quest translation is going to be delayed. Again.

Goddammit.
#19 by dk382
2019-10-26 at 06:38
Rance Quest was done by a different translator. This shouldn't affect that, but who knows.
#20 by tows
2019-10-26 at 06:46
Ah, my bad, I forgot that translation was over a long time ago, it's just still being polished for a few months now.

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