Why I’ll Never Support Sekai Project Again

sekaiproject1

Preface:
This article has been a long time coming. My frustrations with Sekai Project as a company has been boiling inside me for the last 2+ years. However, time and desire to get burnt up writing this has kept me from doing so. The hope here is to inform people first and foremost. I want people to know what they are getting into if they ever want to back anything from Sekai Project. It’s a warning, and probably a terrible written warning, but take it as you wish. An account of a crowdfunding backer and why I will never support Sekai Project again.

Let’s Get Started..
I should have known better, and I should have realized it was a huge risk. All crowdfunding ventures are huge risks, and coupling in a name I’ve never heard of, it should have been a huge red flag. However, when Sekai Project announced that they would be crowdfunding the English translation of The Fruit of Grisaia, I admit that I let myself get caught in the hype of a company finally devoting itself to bringing over Japanese Visual Novels.

Back in 2014, Sekai Project was only known by my surrounding crowds for a handful of visual novels. One of the most well known was Planetarian, a title from the popular studio Key and VisualArts. Even still, while anime finds every season fully available for legal stream and manga was gaining popularity, Visual Novels being officially translated was still very unheard of.

Through my many years of podcasting, I’ve found myself surrounded by a crowd of great fans that love to support content creators. Be it anime creators, mangaka, writers, etc. For that reason, I was constantly calling for my podcast listeners to take note of this movement as it would open the door for all Visual Novels to get English releases. Something I would later regret as the thought that I put anyone through this train wreck of a project really does anger me.

e1grisaia1The Beginning
On December 16th of 2014, Sekai Project launched the crowdfunding attempt for The Fruit of Grisaia Visual Novels on Kickstarter. This would be “Fruit of Grisaia”, “Labyrinth of Grisaia”, and “Eden of Grisaia”, as well as a later goal of “Magical Chiruchiru.” The initial goal was $160,000 which was funded within 14 hours. This was a victory for both Sekai Project and the fandom as it was proven that the English speaking audience wanted these robust visual novels and are willing to pay for them. Especially since the visual novel had been available to pirate for some time.

Following this success, the campaign went on to gain 4,348 Kickstarter backers for a total of $475,255 pledged before its conclusion in January of 2015. One of those backers was myself for $239 gaining me the entire physical release and the uncensored digital release. The excitement was high, updates were pouring out from Sekai Project, and everyone couldn’t wait to see this project successful.

Clannad Debacle
Mixed in the middle of Sekai Project’s The Fruit of Grisaia release campaign, they hit us with another doosey. They sought to release all of Clannad to the west as well. Something that thankfully concluded within the same year! However, the Clannad release taught us one important thing: Sekai Project’s package design and fulfillment center needed some work.

The box design for Clannad’s visual novel was thin cardboard and terribly flimsy. Many of the units arrived with ripped insides that could barely support the weight of the plain, clear jewel cases. Not only that, but it was shipped in padded envelopes in order to ensure it would be smashed before arriving. Thankfully replacements were issued, but it didn’t stop the replacements from meeting the same fate. Yes, padded envelopes again.

Oh, and can we take a moment to sarcastically appreciate the choice to slap “Kickstarter” all over it? Did they get a kickback or something?

e1grisaia4No More Honeymoon
Back at the The Fruit of Grisaia project, It didn’t take long before things went sour for their backers as well. Despite the 4,348 Kickstarter backers awaiting their product, Sekai Project rushed The Fruit of Grisaia onto Steam in May of 2015 to get sales turning. The only backers that got any content were those that double dipped into Steam, or bought a censored version. Uncensored buyers had to wait until August, Physical backers until February of 2016.

I’d personally feel sad for anyone who double dipped on Steam as the price would quickly find itself discounted to 50% off within no time. So while backers patiently waited their turn to play their full price visual novel they paid for long ago, many are already enjoying it on steam for half the price.

This would only get worse as they later released Labyrinth on Steam in June 2016 and Eden in April of 2017. Uncensored versions would have to wait until January 2017 and December 2017 respectively. Physical releases? They claim will be April of 2018.

Now, this is a whole lot of dates I’m throwing at you, but the TLDR here is that they prioritized NEW customers over paid customers.

The Fruit of Grisaia The Labyrinth of Grisaia The Eden of Grisaia
Steam
May 2015
Steam
June 2016
Steam
April 2017
Uncensored
August 2015
Uncensored
January 2017
Uncensored
December 2017
Physical
February 2016
Physical
Undelivered
Physical
Undelivered

 


e1grisaia7Where Are Your Priorities?
What made matters worse for those waiting patiently for product they paid for, was that Sekai Project was turning out project after project on the side. From January of 2015, the point that they announced the start of work on the project, until the point of posting this on April of 2018, they have worked on and released over 40 other titles.

In that time, they also worked with Frontwing to crowdfund and localize the sequel visual novel Phantom Trigger. An entirely new series that is almost completely released and it began in March of 2017!

I will admit that I did laugh each and every time I received an email telling me about Kickstarter #23 that they wanted me to pay into.

It Was Already Nearly Done?
To add to the confusion, Sekai Project hired in people from the fansub team and gained most of the Visual Novel’s translation from day one. This is why the first volume hit Steam within months. Yet, even with the entire thing nearly complete, they still took forever to complete this project.

Bad Customer Relations
I’ve always seen myself as a very patient person. It takes a lot to really get me to a breaking point. Even still, Sekai Project is one of the few companies that has managed to turn me from a supporter, to an opponent. This isn’t due to their delays, it’s due to their handling of their delays. Instead of keeping users updated and informed, they chose to demonize and even attack their supporters.

Kickstarter updates went from weekly, to monthly, to bi-monthly, to at one point, silence for 4 months. Their response to criticism on Twitter was met with silence or employee accounts discounting legitimate concerns. But the worst was the response to refund requests.

e1grisaia5The Refund:
When I had met my final straw, I contacted Sekai Project about options for refunds. Sitting on nothing but a dust collecting box set after 2 years, the response from Sekai Project was both alarming and comical.

First bit of humor was their claim that they were close to completion. Summer of 2017 was their claim at that time (it is now April of 2018). The second bit was the alarming bit as they claimed that delays were all a part of the campaign.

The third was both demonizing and laughable as they claimed they would bar me from backing anything Sekai Project again if I got a refund. As if this whole thing is my fault. Why the hell would I ever wish to back anything Sekai Project again? To wait 3 years for my purchase while it sits on Steam for 2+ years at 50-95% off? You have got to be joking.

The final slap in the face was that if I DID get a refund, they would nickel and dime every bit out of my refund. First off was that instead of refunding the digital version, they would be charging me for the full retail version of it because digital copies can’t be returned. I paid $40 for the series, but they would be charging me $70 from my total refund. This is while the game sat on steam for mere pennies.

Along with that chunk gone, I would have to ship the chipboard box and Fruit of Grisaia physical goods back to Sekai Project and ensure it arrived in condition that they approve for resale. If it did not, they would deny me a refund at that point. No guarantees and I would be in their hands. Following some heated conversations, I wouldn’t trust them with that choice at all.

In the end, if I was lucky, I would receive roughly $150 back of my $240 spent. Which is utterly ridiculous.

e1grisaia8Let’s be reasonable!
I’m not an unreasonable person. I understand products have issues, bugs need fixing, and more importantly, things have to get approvals. There are quite a few people that believe most of the delays were due to Frontwing holding it back. However the delays between Steam releases and Physical releases mean that those delays rest completely on approvals of physical goods.

With this possibility in mind, my issues rest once again on communication. Why weren’t physical goods backers given more notice? Why weren’t physical backers given digital codes to hold them off? Why were backers in general just not kept in the loop? Do you not realize that holding onto people’s money with literally no sign of return is a bit bothersome?

Three Years Later
Yes, it has been 3 full years since Sekai Project charged their backers and set out to translate and release these 3 Visual Novels (4 if you count Chiruchiru). Many companies can make full open world games in that time. Thankfully, they have finally shown physical copy backers the product on pallets ready to ship out. The end is finally in sight and all I can say is “Thank goodness I can finally be done with Sekai Project.” Well, that is assuming the product arrives safely. If Clannad is any indication, their Fulfillment Center is not the best at packing.

While I want to praise Sekai Project for helping show Japanese visual novel creators that the west wants their creations, I cannot ignore what an absolute nightmare it has been to back their project. Though there can also be something said to oversaturation with their unlimited flow of Kickstarter campaigns.

Hey, Sekai Project, it’s about time you invest your own money now instead of living off the plates of fans!

So what does this all mean? Obviously, as I stated at the beginning, this is all why I will NEVER back anything of Sekai Project’s again. I hope to all that is good that they never get their hands on Fate/stay Night visual novel. But even at that, I know full well I’ll be able to wait and get it for 95% off after it is backed.

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Co-Founder of OtakuSpirit.com and Co-Host of the OtakuSpirit Animecast. A huge fan of anime since the early 1990s, consuming over 800 shows. While he's late to the collecting scene, he's found a lot of joy in filling his DVD/Blu-ray collection as well as collecting figures. Once a week, he posts unboxing and feature videos on anime goods to YouTube.