Disclaimer: speaking with some friends who knows more about statistics than me, they said that the data collected might be not really reliable. I know, I made it mostly for fun with no intention of providing the “ultimate guide to make visual novels” for game developer
However, from my personal experience (I’ve made many VN/Dating Sims in past 3 years) I have to admit was quite surprised by the results, because they match completely my experience regarding which games sells more. The data collected comes mostly from Lemmasoft, Amaranthia, my own twitter, my forums, and indiegamer forums.
The total people who answered is 126, but recently has been progressing of only 1 new person a day, so I guess is time to draw conclusiong and post results.
I’ve made a PNG image of the final result, so anyone can link to it or share it easily, look on the right side of this post for the clickable thumbnail. As you can see, the standard Otome and Bish?jo are the most popular genres (well, no surprise here). As for art-style, detailed manga (I suppose like Heileen, Bionic Heart) wins hands on over all other art genres. People don’t like american comic style and cartoon style (I wish I did this survey before making Vera Blanc, I would have used manga art for that game too!).
As for setting, again no surprise: fantasy settings are always the most popular in any kind of games, not just VN/Dating Sims, so really I expected that. The other settings are more or less equivalent, only the modern drama/slice of life is slightly more popular (and yes, sci-fi isn’t much popular!).
Sexyness in games is a bit surprising, and probably the result less reliable IMHO. From my experience is always safer to go with family friendly (if you’re interested in maximizing revenues) for the simple fact that most big portal/sites wouldn’t accept your game otherwise. If you are making the game just as hobby or with direct sales in mind only, then you can ignore it So far most of my games fall into the 2nd category from top, sexy stuff, but I have many family friendly games coming out next. One day I would like to make a very sexy, almost erotic game though. Maybe when I have enough funds to make Bionic Heart 2 as I have in mind of doing it.
The extras question is really a surprise. And I believe is very accurate: Most people don’t want to mix genres. If they want to play a minigame, they can find plenty of them in casual games. I really think VN/dating sims should focus more on typical dating sims elements and statistics. Or just let the players to read the story. You can also argue that if you put too many minigames in a VN, then it isn’t a real VN anymore but a “game with a story” 😉 It’s somewhat hybrid territory here.
“What is most important” result is also interesting. The most important thing is WRITING! Not art, as I was always thinking. Also, the starting idea, and I agree completely. If the starting idea is good, and the writing too, you have all the elements needed for a good VN. That’s the reason why I’m not personally writing my future games anymore 😀
Also is interesting that most people don’t care about voice overs. I had already given up on that because of too many unreliable voice-artists, and the result somehow comforts me. People don’t seem to care too much about the number of endings as well. Maybe better to make a more linear story, but longer to play ?
Based on the next question, “Do you really replay dating sim/visual novels to see all the possible endings?” it really seems so. Not many people are obsessed about unlocking all endings, apparently. I sort of agree since I do the same. I did the same also for AAA titles like Dragon Age / mass effect 2. I simply went to youtube and looked for videos for the other possible endings
About the remaining results, people seems to like game series (after a slow start I am now getting good results with Heileen 1+2 bundles), most people use a PC to play, and they don’t seem too much enthusiast about the idea of having to be connected to play a game.
That’s all! Again, this is not the holy-bible-of-VNs, but I found the results quite interesting and in many cases matching my own experience.
It means that you should all make fantasy based VN with stats and RPG elements? Well no, I believe that any game that is GOOD can sell: is your choice if you want to try to appeal mainstream (but have more competition) or niches (smaller market but much less competition). Personally I’d like to see more horror VNs, for example!