A changing industry
The hentai game fans I spoke with while researching this article had varying ages and gender identities, but they all had one thing in common: they’re sexually interested in women.
Today, most hentai games feature feminine love interests, usually for an intended masculine audience, though a few assume a female protagonist, too. MangaGamer is one of the few publishers to also feature titles targeted at players interested in men. Sekai Project hopes to join that trend with its new brand, Maiden Voyage, which will be focused on releasing games for anyone attracted to men.
Nutaku’s own diversity push means allowing fans to vote for diverse games with their dollars. Last year, the portal launched the first crowdfunding platform dedicated to 18+ games, Kimochi Red Light. One of the earliest games-in-progress on the platform is tailored for an LGBT audience, and several live projects follow suit.
Industry players are also focused on seducing an ever-wider audience from a localization standpoint, by choosing games that focus on different sexual preferences and identities.
A hentai game editor who asked to be referred to as Ryechu, who has worked with MangaGamer, Sekai Project, and other publishers, works mainly on visual novels. These interactive dramas rely on art and an engaging story to keep readings clicking through, and he said that he’s been increasingly called upon to work on more diverse games.
“Just as I have specific fetishes and characters I like to work with, readers also find certain things appealing. For some, the more taboo or impossible the situation, the better, whereas others prefer a cheesy rom-com that’s a lot more vanilla in terms of content,” he said.
However, standard hentai games that feature a male protagonist and a female love interest sell best. Why? It’s a fetish that appeals to many people, not just a few. “People always clamor that they want less vanilla titles, but it’s still a hard sell as a whole.”
Sex is an extremely personal topic, and MangaGamer has struggled in the past to promote certain kinds of couplings and fetishes without alienating other members of its audience. “For everyone who enjoys a particular kind of sexual expression, there’s bound to be someone who doesn’t care for it or even finds it upsetting, so there’s a delicate line we need to walk when promoting games with sexual content and not always a clear one at that.
The solution? Describe the sexual content in plain but unoffensive language so gamers don’t assume before they buy. “Our goal is to provide as wide an array of content as we can while providing potential players with enough information to make informed decisions,” he added.
As game topics expand, so do regions. Nutaku’s latest effort: to expand the cultural footprint of this Japanese-originating porn variety so that it resonates with more people in more places.
“Nutaku is currently working with over 30 development studios in 17 different countries. Our newest games will have western themes, characters and storylines,” Wilson said.
As publishers and portals alike explore the sexual limits of the gaming genre, the hentai games of the future may have something for everyone, including you. Pickett notes that the genre’s audience is only growing, and more and more “regular gamers” are checking out the adult side.
“We’re proud to see how much bigger and more diverse the audience for adult games has grown over the last few years, providing opportunities for more creators and players to express themselves and hope that we can continue to be a part of bringing more perspectives to a wider audience.”