I love visual novels. being a long time fate/stay night fan and only having heard of mahoyo from hushed whispers about its cinematography, I was super invested when it was announced to be coming to the west and I could finally play an official version of it.
however, a lot of people interested in type-moon works had never heard of mahoyo, let alone it getting an official english translation. but how? aniplex is publishing the game and they’re one of the largest anime distributors in the world.
with the console release of mahoyo being almost exactly a year ago and the steam release being just 10 days away, I want to look over some of aniplex’s bizarre and nonexistent marketing for one of my favorite visual novels.
let’s clear up a few things, first.
mahoyo is the shortened form of mahoutsukai no yoru (not to be confused with mahoutsukai no yome, i.e. the ancient magus bride), which has been localized as witch on the holy night. mahoyo was a linear non-eroge visual novel released by type-moon in 2012, being one of the first scripts kinoko nasu (co-founder of type-moon) wrote back in 1996 and adapted into a VN many, many years later.
in April of 2022, a console release (switch, playstation 4) was announced with HD assets and voice acting, to be published by aniplex. notably, this console release would contain an english translation and was later confirmed in June to be sold in the west via online retailers. this was huge news, as this meant mahoyo would be the first type-moon visual novel (not including gameplay-oriented titles like fate/extella or fate/grand order) to be officially released in the west, as despite numerous fan translations, their more recognizable visual novels tsukihime and fate/stay night still had not received a localization.
type-moon is the developer behind mahoyo and aniplex is the publisher, meaning that type-moon made the game and aniplex is in charge of distributing (and marketing) the game worldwide.
- April 11 2022: Mahoyo rerelease announced for consoles (Switch & PlayStation 4), including English translation
- July 4 2022: Aniplex confirms Mahoyo will be available to the West, localized under the name Witch on the Holy Night
- October 14 2022: 2nd trailer released, more voice actor info announced
- November 3 2022: physical pre-orders launched, demo version available
- November 18 2022: Aniplex attends Anime NYC with Mahoyo
- December 7 2022: Mahoyo released digitally on Switch / PlayStation 4 (Dec 8th in Japan, Dec 7th in America)
- December 12 2022: Mahoyo reaches 110k units sold worldwide
- January 27 2023: Mahoyo physicals release
- July 5 2023: Mahoyo reaches 150k units sold worldwide
- September 10 2023: Mahoyo announced for Steam via a now unlisted Aniplex livestream
- December 13 2023: Mahoyo will be released on Steam (Dec 14th in Japan, Dec 13th in America)
some of the dates might be a little fuzzy, especially the release dates, as some sources go by japanese time and some go by american timezones, so just be aware of that.
now, let’s talk a bit about mahoyo itself.
mahoyo is a masterpiece. it’s a niche game not meant for everyone. its cinematography is top notch among visual novels. its writing style can be off-putting to people who want faster-paced stories. it’s one of my most beloved visual novels I’ve ever played, and I’ve been in this field for almost a decade and have played well over 100 VNs.
mahoyo is a completely linear visual novel—meaning it has no choices or gameplay—that follows aoko, a high schooler mage trying to balance her perfect school president facade with her secret life as a mage, something she has to keep secret at the risk of death. this is one of the lesser known type-moon works but it’s well beloved because of the care put into it.
if you’ve ever heard someone talk about it, it’s almost impossible for them to not mention the visuals. mahoyo is one of the most visually impressive visual novels I’ve ever seen, with its inspired use of artwork and in-game animations. I cannot recommend this VN enough if you like modern fantasy and don’t mind linear VNs.
before we dive into aniplex’s marketing, I want to clarify a few marketing terms for people who don’t market visual novels as a job. marketing is not just advertising—it’s everything related to how a product communicates with potential users, including its branding, its packaging, its everything. when marketing a game, you have several different avenues: social media, press & influencers, trailers, store pages, and more.
today I want to show you how, based off what I have researched after a long, manic day, aniplex USA has failed mahoyo on all of these accounts.
so let’s go back to its western release.
mahoyo has a few official english channels:
aniplex also has an official english twitter with almost 500k followers where they shared mahoyo very rarely—only 9 tweets about the game ever.
well, surely their other pages are more maintained right—
both accounts stopped posting July 10th/11th, with their last post being about mahoyo going on sale on consoles. let’s look at their posts prior to this, though, starting with the twitter.
we can see that the twitter account was made in december of 2022. if we scroll down far enough (it’s not hard, given they only have 33 tweets), we can see that their first tweet was on december 6th 2022:
let’s go back to our timeline. can you tell me when mahoyo’s remaster released digitally?
yes they made both of the english mahoyo social media accounts the day before the game launched
we can very easily add up the entire social media posts for the game thus far:
- mahoyo english twitter – 30 tweets and 3 retweets
- mahoyo english facebook – 27 posts
- aniplex english twitter – 9 tweets
- aniplex english facebook – 2 posts
no other english social media accounts were tied to the website, so these are the only ones I looked at. this means in total, there were only 68 social media posts for the console release of mahoyo by the publisher for english audiences.
but what about the steam release? after the game sold over 150k+ units on consoles, surely aniplex was ready to market it a bit more for pc users—
neither account has made a post about the upcoming steam release.
if we look at the twitter, they have 3 tweets since July that do talk about the upcoming steam release- however, these are retweets from the japanese mahoyo account.
we know that this twitter and this facebook account are the official social media for mahoyo as they’re linked on the website, so they’re definitely meant to be followed for game updates in the west. well, maybe the english aniplex twitter has posted about it—
none of the english aniplex or mahoyo accounts have made a single post about the steam release
that’s right, the social media posts I counted above are the only posts for mahoyo on their english accounts, all dating back before the steam release was announced. since then, they have not made a single original post even mentioning the steam release.
meanwhile, the japanese mahoyo twitter has been hustling hard to promote the upcoming steam release—reposting trailers, character bios, and more almost every day with pretty good numbers.
in fact, the japanese mahoyo twitter did such a good job at marketing it that the aniplex USA twitter never mentioned the english mahoyo twiter, instead only @ ing the japanese one in tweets (despite the english one being linked on the website).
why they even bothered making social media accounts and then not running them despite being one of the largest anime distributors in the world I have no clue.
well, maybe they didn’t need to rely on social media presence. maybe they were going for the in-person approach and marketing it at conventions.
mahoyo had basically no anime convention presence
the only reference I can find to aniplex notably promoting mahoyo at any western convention is this tweet of them at anime NYC. from someone who was at anime NYC, I’ve been told that they pushed the game heavily at their booth with TV screens promoting the game.
however, anime NYC is only one anime convention. you cannot hope to sell a game by just attending one anime convention. mahoyo might have had a presence at other american conventions, but I’m unable to find any images or news about this.
maybe they don’t understand type-moon
aniplex is the publisher for fate/grand order, one of the most successful mobile games ever created. they’re also the distributor for a majority of type-moon related anime, ranging from fate to garden of sinners to side series. aniplex’s marketing team should have lots of experience with type-moon properties.
maybe it was promoted in other aniplex titles
I was also unable to find a news post in fate/grand order related to mahoyo’s release, despite news posts for other type-moon series (namely fate but also things like melty blood) getting news posts in fate/grand order. I might’ve missed the news posts when looking back through FGO but I don’t believe there was one.
maybe it sold well in other regions but not western ones
(I’m going to be referring only to the console release for these stats, keep in mind)
mahoyo released December 7th/8th 2022 with an english, japanese, simplified chinese, and traditional chinese translations. at the end of the release week, mahoyo’s japanese twitter announced the game had sold 110k copies worldwide and famitsu reported that 66,344 of these units were sold in japan. this means we have around 43k units unaccounted for.
we know the game was available in english, japanese, and chinese languages but we don’t know what regions. mainland china has a very large visual novel playerbase (I say this as someone who sells visual novels), which means if it were sold there then it’s easy to say that a big chunk of that 43k units could be attributed to them—this also means it would be easy to believe that aniplex saw mahoyo selling worse in western countries and took this as a sign to not promote the game any more there.
but was it ever sold in mainland china? from what I could tell—no.
looking at pricing charts for the nintendo eshop and the playstation store, china is not listed on either. furthermore, searching the game’s chinese title on the chinese playstation store does not bring back any results. it looks like the only predominantly chinese-speaking regions that were able to buy it are hong kong, taiwan, and possibly singapore (the playstation store page for it doesn’t look like it’s available for purchase anymore).
so what does this tell us?
without any other numbers it’s hard to tell how many of the 43k launch week sales came from english-speaking players, but even if we conservatively say that only around 20k of the 110k launch week units were from western countries, that’s still almost a million in revenue (and remember, the physical limited edition of the game was available in english for $60, which is $20 more than the digital base version).
maybe the store page is so good they don’t need to market it
here’s a little secret: store pages matter a lot more than you’d think. there are entire job positions dedicated to tailoring store pages (like a steam game page) to make it perfect for the game’s target audience. there’s a science to it that includes the artwork, descriptions, tags, screenshots, and more.
let’s see what aniplex did for the steam page of mahoyo.
A tale told with vivid colors and rich sound in a classic TYPE-MOON visual novel.
I don’t know how to describe this short description charitably other than to say it sounds like a person who’s never heard of a visual novel has been tasked with describing a visual novel.
this tells me nothing about the game other than it’s a visual novel. I hope you know what type-moon is, because if you don’t then you’ve learned nothing else from this. alright, well, let’s look at the screenshots—
there’s only 1.
currently as of writing this, there’s 10 images uploaded as screenshots (no trailers, they keep adding and removing the trailers for some reason). 9 of these images are just the full artworks from the game while 1 is an actual screenshot.
I really hate this, as you’re not actually shown what the game looks like unless you look at the very last screenshot. this will absolutely lead to some people not understanding what they’re getting into. what’s worse is that some of these CGs are spoilers, especially one in particular featuring my wife touko.
why are we spoiling people instead of showing them screenshots? why not show people what mahoyo actually looks like??
there’s also absolutely no use of the announcements section on steam. each game on steam can post announcements related to the game, including upcoming releases, new updates, and more. it’s customary to post a steam announcement when a game has a release date announcement. mahoyo’s steam page has none.
well they probably released the trailers in english for hype
I wish I had that much hope.
on mahoyo’s english website, all of the videos listed are from the official type-moon youtube, which is their japanese channel. type-moon went through the effort to translate these videos. aniplex didn’t upload these to their own youtube, where they already upload everything related to the fateverse and nasuverse.
searching up witch on the holy night brings up no results for the trailer—aniplex never uploaded the trailer to their channel.
maybe they got influencers to play it
according to steamdb, the max amount of viewers mahoyo streams have had on twitch was 71 viewers.
furthermore, if we check twitch and look for vods attached to mahoyo, we only find 4 videos total, all of which were posted in the past week. it looks like they didn’t even reach out to streamers to play the console release, much less pay them.
over on the press side, it does look like they reached out to at least a few reviewers. for example, on the review by noisy pixel, they clarify that a review copy was provided by the publisher for review purposes. we can add that to the bare minimum of marketing—reaching out to press.
however, they did get for some other influencers to share the game! …twitter game sale influencers, that is.
there’s actually a lot more of these types of tweets for mahoyo than I was expecting when I searched it on twitter. as a friend pointed out, just because it says “#ad” doesn’t necessarily mean these were paid for by aniplex—a lot of these links look to be referrals, which means they’re getting a cut of any purchases.
mahoyo released over 110k copies in the launch week for it’s worldwide console release despite very, very limited marketing efforts from its publisher aniplex. now that the game has proven it can sell very well despite being a lesser known linear visual novel, aniplex has done no marketing for the steam release- no tweets, no influencer outreach, no localization of trailers, no announcements via steam, nothing.
why does aniplex want mahoyo to fail?
even after all of this, I still do not know why. to me, it’s clear that the marketing team at aniplex were (most likely) given no budget for this game and just couldn’t do anything with it, deciding to spend what little money they had on press outreach and an anime NYC booth.
but why? why didn’t aniplex give them a budget, even a small one? why was their budget so tiny they couldn’t even afford to tweet? to RT more posts from the japanese twitter? to share the already translated trailers to their own accounts?
I’ve heard a few excuses like “type-moon hates western fans and probably caused it” but this doesn’t make any sense either. why would you authorize a translation of your game and allow your publisher to sell the game overseas but specifically make them not market the game (and what publisher would agree to that)? I’ve even heard excuses like “they just forgot it was coming out”, to which I ask “how does an entire marketing team (a company the size of aniplex absolutely has a team(s) for marketing and not a singular person) forget a release for a game that’s already sold over 150k copies?”. the only excuse I’ve seen that I somewhat buy is that they did not have much faith in the game and relied almost entirely on fans doing word of mouth marketing for the game.
I don’t think we’ll ever get an answer. while I do believe the marketing team at aniplex was most likely given no budget for mahoyo, it still begs the question of why. why did someone at aniplex not want to give mahoyo a marketing budget? why are the japanese accounts for mahoyo and type-moon the only ones doing the marketing?
I hope the information I’ve provided here is accurate—if it’s not, I’ll try to update with corrections. I don’t want this piece to cast hate towards the staff at aniplex or anyone involved with this projects, I’m just trying to assemble the pieces on what feels like a game being left to word of mouth. I’ve tried to include as many links to my sources as I could so you could come to your own judgements about what has happened regarding mahoyo’s worldwide release.
mahoyo is a visual novel that’s dear to me and will absolutely sell well on steam—with an estimated 50-80k wishlists, it’s going to have a solid launch despite the zero marketing for its steam release. if you love other type-moon works or want to see an absolutely visually stunning visual novel, please check it out.