Arunaru · @Aru_Naru

23rd Oct 2019 from TwitLonger

Why I'm no longer working with Mangagamer

Well, I'm not working on Rance 10 anymore after Mangagamer abruptly backed out of a deal we had regarding payment, so I won't be working with them in the future. But before we can get to how that happened, we have to talk about how Mangagamer is an absolute shitshow.

You can probably guess that most MG releases are niche products that don't sell well, but I don't know if people are aware of exactly how poorly they sell. Most releases on the MG store sell well under a thousand copies, and it's extremely rare that something goes over 2000. The Alicesoft games generally sold 1500-ish on the MG store, though Sengoku is close to 2000 last I heard. Evenicle has sold closer to 15000 total thanks to being on Steam, although Steam takes some of that profit, and most games don't do that well on Steam either.

The amount of labor involved in localizing a visual novel is naturally very high due to all the text, but despite the high labor demand and low profits, Mangagamer is able to employ a startling number of freelancers and may run up to dozens of projects in unison. This is only possible because everyone in every role on every project is drastically underpaid. The maximum rate for a translator at MG is currently 1.75 cents per character, a raise from the previous max rate of 1.5 per character back in 2016, as I recall. What many would consider a normal, comfortable rate for more ordinary fiction translation jobs is 4000 characters a day, at which rate you would be making $70 a day and something like $17000 a year if you dared to take vacations. The rate I received when I first started with MG was 1 cent per character, so $40 a day and maybe $9700 a year, which would be below what you'd make at a minimum wage job. For reference, every project I've taken from another company, even back when I was fairly new at it, paid at least 4 cents a character.

Translation is the main service that MG provides, so the rates for translators are actually better than most other roles. Editors seem to make half a cent per character for the most part. 'Project managers' make a flat fee of at most $100 for a project that may go on for years, so there are no dedicated project managers, just people in other roles who take that position as well. Testers previously made a flat fee of $50 a project and got a free copy of the game, but I'm told that just recently they may make up to $200.

Translating demands a lot of involvement thanks to the amount of text in each game, but if you want to do that at a normal speed, then you're making close to poverty wages. Translating isn't exactly something that everyone can do, either, so who does MG hire? Mostly fan translators, because they tend to be:

1. Young people who don't know what they're doing
2. Passionate enough about working on games that they'll accept anything

I was both of these back when I started. I hadn't quite left college yet back when I began my first project with them, and I didn't have any rent to pay at the time. I had also gotten into the habit of translating very quickly when I was fan translating in college and only had so much time for it. I carried that over to my work with MG in an effort to turn their rates into something less abysmal. My output during that first project was something like 14000-15000 characters on most days, which is absolutely insane. But I was committed to it because I cared about Alicesoft games that much, and there was no other way I could afford to work on them unless I wanted to live with my parents or something.

This was obviously really stupid of me and I regret it, along with so much else I did for the company, but it's the kind of mindset that allows MG to exist. Beyond just the actual work MG hires for, many workers will provide free additional labor because they want to see their project succeed. MG is also more than willing to take advantage of that passion if you show it. I went on to work as an inhouse translator at MG's office in Japan after this, for which I agreed to a terrible salary to translate 12000 characters a day. That became an even worse salary once they decided to pay less than initially agreed to after I had already moved to Japan.

Eventually I began getting work elsewhere, starting while I was in Japan because I had less income from MG than I was expecting when I got my apartment. For an hour or two of additional work a day working on random mobile games and the like, I was making as much as Mangagamer was paying me, effectively doubling my income. That's when I realized that I was good enough to get fine work that didn't have me killing myself, so I made plans to leave Japan and started working on MG projects as a lesser source of income while there wasn't better work available. I was trying frantically to at least finish the rest of the Alicesoft games I wanted to get out, so I was still working at a pretty unreasonable speed.

During Rance 10 this started to become unfeasible because of how massive the game is, so while I was working on a large and much more profitable project for someone else, I asked MG if there was any way they could give me a modestly higher rate just so I could make it through Rance 10 without losing money doing it. MG refuses to give a better rate than 1.75 cents per character to any translator for any reason, so out of total desperation to somehow finish the game, I proposed that a second translator be brought onto the project and we edit each other's work, meaning I'm doing both translating and editing for a higher rate. They initially agreed, then decided months later that they don't, apparently thinking that getting rid of me will be fine after I've translated 30% of the script and most of the other games. So, here I am now. And when it's all said and done, it probably wasn't even worth it to take MG's work on the side. That's time that could've been spent looking for better work.

Now you might ask, what is Mangagamer supposed to do about this? They don't make a lot of money as it is, so maybe they simply wouldn't be able to function without paying poverty wages. And to that I say, a company that can only function through exploitation of its workers shouldn't be allowed to exist. They're a failure of a business by any reasonable metric, but they can coast by indefinitely because there will always be new people to exploit. It's also worth mentioning that MG is extremely risk-averse and has constantly been resistant to things like Kickstarter, for example. Say what you will about Kickstarter, but at least it makes it possible to pay your workers a decent wage. But it's pretty evident that MG doesn't view its wages as a crisis like they should be. It's their model working as intended.

Maybe you don't really care that MG operates like this, that you just want the games they put out and it's the workers' fault for taking their work in the first place. To that I say fuck you, but also, consider that this setup naturally produces a shittier end product. I think I did a pretty good job given the circumstances, but it's not like I could take my time, so there are rough patches all over the place. This is to say nothing of the tons of truly shoddy work that comes out of the company. Few projects come out better, and if they do, it tends to be because someone's passion is being exploited for free additional work.

Anyway, tl;dr: Don't work for Mangagamer, you're better than that.

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