Crowdfunding is an interesting phenomenon that has really come to prominence in the last year or two thanks to high-profile Kickstarter projects from teams such as Double Fine and Obsidian. But the majority of the projects we hear about are of Western origin; what does Japan think of it as a business model?
Visual novel fansite Visual Novel Aer reports that Japanese PC developer Bamboo has decided to experiment with the process as a means of remaking Green Green, its visual novel from 2001. Green Green previously proved popular in its native Japan, with over 80,000 copies sold, but by virtue of being 12 years old, it does not run particularly well (if at all) on modern systems. The remake involves completely redrawn graphics from the original artist (who later went on to work on publisher Overdrive's popular music-themed road trip visual novel Kira Kira), remastered music, rerecorded voices and new opening/ending videos.
Like many Japanese visual novels, Green Green has some erotic content, but is primarily a story-based dating sim rather than simply being interactive porn. Such was its popularity on its original release that it later spawned its own anime TV series, two sequels and two spin-off PlayStation 2 games -- neither of which featured erotic content due to Sony's restrictions on what was allowed on its platform.
Due to the erotic content in the original, however, Bamboo is unable to bring the proposed remake of Green Green to any of the established, popular crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter or Japan's equivalent Campfire as it would breach their terms of service. As such, the remake project will be crowdfunded via Bamboo's own website.
Bamboo is looking for a total of ¥25,000,000 to fund the remake of Green Green, which amounts to a little over $250,000. The crowdfunding drive offers all the usual perks and rewards for backers, including various special editions and bonus items for those who pledge more money, but differs from the usual Kickstarter model in a couple of key ways: the team will receive money directly as pledgers pledge rather than when the campaign ends, and they will keep the money and continue creating the game even if the target is not met completely.
Dating sims and eroge remain popular in Japan and make up a significant proportion of what is regarded as "PC gaming" in the region, so developers such as Bamboo having a new means of raising the funds needed to create or remake games will help that particular part of the industry thrive. Adults-only content is somewhat marginalized -- even ghettoized -- in the West, meanwhile, with most retailers and digital distribution platforms refusing to stock anything that would net anything higher than an "M" rating from the ESRB. At present, it's largely up to specialist, niche publishers such as JAST USA and Mangagamer (as well as the fan translation community) to bring these titles to Western players, but crowdfunding provides a good means for fans from all over the world to make it known that they want to see more, and are willing to pay for it. This, in turn, may end up being a positive step forward for the overall "maturity level" games are willing to tackle in the long term -- it remains to be seen how successful this first step proves in Japan.