Saturday, July 30, 2016

KARAKARA, Dovac, Twitter wars, and Overcharging for adult content

A Twitter dispute highlights the lingering tensions between Sekai Project and the adult gaming community.

You'll be excused for not following Dovac's Daily Drama feed, but I thought I'd share this since it's causing some controversy.

First of all, Dovac is the CEO of Sekai Project, a VN publisher focused on non-adult visual novels and indie games. Imouto Works is run by a single person who makes patches that add adult content to Steam releases of eroge. He makes these patches by combining files from the adult and non-adult versions; these patches don't work without the original Steam version as far as I know. His Steam restoration patch for Littlewitch Romanesque was endorsed by JAST, but Dovac regards Imouto Works as a warez site. I've contacted Imouto Works in the past to advise him on ethical practices, and he seems to be willing to listen to reason.

Sekai Project released KARAKARA on 6/28/16. This was a simultaneous ENG/JP digital release of both the adult and non-adult versions, and also a DLC patch that added the adult content to the Steam version.  Sekai Project appears to have started offering these patches specifically to forestall Imouto Works, which had been "undercutting" Sekai Project by releasing "free" patches that add the content from the adult version of games like Nekopara Vol. 1 to the far less expensive Steam version.  Sekai Project seems intent on charging hefty premiums for the privilege of accessing adult content, with the adult versions selling for as much as double the price of the non-adult versions sold on Steam.

For whatever reason, Imouto Works was not deterred.  He continues to make his own "patches" that clearly ignore Sekai Project's desire to charge a premium for adult content, and he released his patch for KARAKARA on 7/29/16.

Dovac and a few others leapt on him on Twitter, and a skirmish ensued.  Tears were shed and Dovac ended with his usual laments that everyone is out to get him (tweet deleted) and he never wanted to get into the visual novel translation business (tweet deleted).

So what to make of this?

Beyond a doubt, Imouto Works is infringing on copyright here.  Worse, he's offering someone else's product for free--the exact same product they were trying to sell (adult content DLC).  That's the definition of warez.  If he doesn't want his site labeled as a warez site, he needs to take this patch (and the patch for Neko Para Vol. 2) down.

Dovac's response however wasn't ideal.  Rather than try to reason with the guy, in trademark Dovac fashion he peppered him with sarcasm, as if his goal was simply to condemn him rather than work something out.  Why is Dovac still doing PR for Sekai Project?  He should leave these matters to the people with competence in the area.  He simply doesn't have the temperament for it.  Now Sekai Project could be sucked into a legal dispute over a trifling matter that could've been easily solved with a short e-mail exchange.

Personally, I recognize Sekai Project's right to set the price for their content, but I view their attempts to scalp the eroge fanbase for double the cost of non-adult versions (an "ero tax") as cynical and disrespectful to their audience.  It makes us feel like second-class customers, which I'm sure is exactly how they view us.  I don't approve of what Imouto Works is doing, but I see why others might cheer him on--and that is squarely Sekai Project's fault.

My challenge to Sekai Project is this: charge proportionately for the content that is added in adult versions, and demonstrate your efforts to do this on store pages.  For example, if the adult version adds X number of lines and Y CG, list that on the store page and compare with corresponding values for the non-adult version to justify the increased price.  Do this and eroge fans won't think you're just trying to pay lip-service to demand for adult content by trying to gouge them.

Edit 7/31/16: In response to criticism here and elsewhere, Imouto Works has removed the KARAKARA patch from his site.

Edit 8/5/16: Dovac has deleted all tweets back to Nov 2015 and erased much of his Internet presence. Out of respect for his privacy, I will not try to reproduce the deleted tweets.  Be aware that I used a degree of hyperbole in my descriptions of the links.

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