SakuraGame. If you have already heard about them you most likely know what this article will be about and you’re probably right. For those of you that don’t know, this article is meant to be as much a warning as it is meant to be information. ChuApp and LewdGamer and many others already wrote about them, but one can never have enough articles about pests. In case you are interested in video material the User „MusicalAntiHero“ has you covered.
Sakura Games is a Chinese publisher known for their cheap games and their infamous English versions. In all seriousness, the players should be the ones that get the money, those “games” are directly out of a masochist’s wet nightmare…
And to top evil with madness, they are also known for their use of questionable to downright illegal means to make their money.
But let’s not put the cart before the horse.
Who is SakuraGame
SakuraGame is what most people would describe as the embodiment of “made in China”. Best described with the same words one would use for inedible fast food: cheap, fast and unhealthy.
Not much is known about what or who Sakura Games were before, but the most likely guess would be that they started as “Chengdu Ai-Shan Technology Limited“ (电脑商情报游戏天地) in 2014. They flopped and restarted as “Blue Sky” but this time with public funds and turned the Chinese city of Chengdu into the Chinese Silicon Valley of mobile game creation. But sadly all produced apps are still “made in China”, cheap cash-grabs made to ride the waves of current trends.
Their first game
SG started somewhere around 2016 with their game “Super Star”, a game that was bare of original assets but so full of bugs that they should have sold them as a feature. The English translation was most likely written by a blind, drunken monkey throwing darts at a PC to type, a combination that makes SGs games unplayable, but nothing that would stop the “steam crowd” from buying anime waifu tiddies…
Many assets were stolen from pretty famous games like Konamis “Love Plus” so they were easy to figure out, unlike the English translations…
When asked about their stolen assets they answered they commissioned their art and that the stolen assets are by no means their fault and they even removed the stolen assets, but shortly after they took down all their current ways of contact.
But if SG is known for their scammy practices, why are they still around? Let’s have a look at this first:
Hi, SakuraGame is a video game developer/publisher, and would like to receive the rights to sell your game overseas. We would be willing to pay up to $30,000 for the rights.
And this would be for a random dlsite RPG Maker game, their price for better-known games could go up into the six-digits. To know just how absurd those prices are, the licenses for the whole Grisaia Trilogy were traded at around $50.000 and those are three(!) over-sized Visual Novels. And those are only the licenses, all other costs like translation not included. Hard-working legal publishers can’t afford those prices as they completely ignore the market prices and the demand while delivering a product that is causing a bad name for the developer that poured their hearts into their games. While the big bunch of bank notes might sound tempting… Developers should think twice if they want to partner for some quick cash and suffer the consequences of being labeled as badly written, unplayable junk with anime boobs or partner with some renown publishers for a little bit less money per game but a possibly longstanding partnership and an image boost for being open to the western market.
SakuraGames business practices are destructive for anyone but them. Buying high and selling low is a practice that is often seen by Chinese firms to oust competition and is only possible since those Chinese firms are subsidized by the Chinese Government. It is unknown if SG is still subsidized or if the money they made from their low-price-policy is enough to cover those hilarious costs as they avoid to give information about their monetary assets and situation, another thing most legal enterprises would have to do if they want to do serious business.
Next bad business practice: Low-price-low-effort-policy
They keep their prices and their expenses at a critical minimum. That means their translation is neither edited nor checked for quality or bugs. Either that or they pay trees and stones for those jobs.
And while their page at first glance doesn’t look as shady as it should, “We offer “specialized” “manual” translations at very competitive prices” does sound a bit strange. As well as the part about 200 million users, Steam has a few million user more and VNs and H-RPGs are still not selling as much as they should, so why should a chinese „Steam clone“ be more a more profitable alternative?
And did they really have to stretch the manual translation part?
Shouldn’t it be obvious that a proper localization will not be done by a machine translator? And what does specialized mean in this context, anyway?
And the second part “We now have a whole team ready for the job” If you want to localize, shouldn’t you have a full team ready before you try to go into negotiations?
And in the whole ad there is nothing about quality or qualifications, only big numbers to blind.
Next Bad business practice: The New Glass Incident
SG wrote one of those (most likely mass-produced) brib… offer mails to “New Glass” producer “tJAPAN” and they were kind enough to protocol the exchange.
No speck of professionalism to be found in this exchange, SG would be sued for it in every first world country. Must be pretty nice to make money with stolen goods and to get away with it because no one can sue you…
Youtuber MusicalAntiHero talks about this case and Sakura in general in a pretty in-depth series.
Next Bad Business Practice: The Steam Conspiracy
And while this one is more a gut feeling than a proven misbehavior, let us look at the facts: SG has released more than a few dozen games, all full of bugs, stolen assets and gibberish as text. And even while we know that the target audience are horny teenager that only care about their anime boobs, the steam reviews are waaaaaaaaay too positive. Almost every game is at least positive.
Unreadable games that are full of bugs. Full Of Positive Reviews. On Steam.
Nope, not buying this. There has to be at least some sort of fraud involved. And sometimes the numbers of people playing their games spike at five-fold the normal numbers for a few hours before going back to normal. Most likely the result of cooperation with illegal bot farms. We are not gonna talk about the dark side of steam as this is another beast entirely. Of notice is only that this too is illegal.
They also use Steam as a plattform for lotteries to push the numbers of players. This one is explicitly forbidden by Steam. Sakura Games says everyone that plays one of their games for more than two hours has a chance to win random steam keys or even whole gaming consoles IF the account is based in China. Another point that shows that SG could not care less about the Western Fanbase.
Bad Business Practice Nr. 5: Intentionally wrong tagged games on steam
When the game “Mirror” released, which looked like a cheap Huniepop clone, it was tagged with “Cute”, “Nudity” and “Sexual Content”, but no age filter. And they just so happened to forget to tag all the dark content like “rape”, “bestiality”, “descriptions of childbirth”, torture”… They just conveniently forgot to tag the disturbing content and as conveniently forgot to tag it as 18+ work, so even little kids could get in contact with the game.
Final Bad Business Practice: They admitted that they have no frigging clue what the hell they are actually doing!
During their “translation” of Fortissimo, their translation machines seemed to have hit their best-before date. To be honest, except for the chuuni staple of a few words that are a seemingly random combination of cool looking kanji that have random-ish Latin/English/German sounding names that have hiragana above them for at least the first few dozen times, nothing was really difficult to read and understand, even for people that used a parser for it. But if you use a machine translation, the Sakura Game translation problems is exactly what you get…
“It is to our acknowledgement that a lot of you are concern about the quality of the translation. But due to the limited of time and resources, and the text is written in Japanese that is very hard to understand even for pro-proofreaders, we haven’t done proofreading the entire 1,190,000 words in this game. We’ve about 1/3 percent finish and the estimated playtime of this game is about 10 to 12 hours, so you should have a solid 3 hours of play time. We’ll update the proofread text later. “
Another point of notice is that until today NO game EVER got their translation fixed by Sakura Games.
SakuraGame on Fortissimo tl: "As professional* game localizers, localizing games is too hard, so we're just going to release an unfinished product hehe! UwU"
*using this term very loosely pic.twitter.com/7zJTKkjOR8
— Meru | メル ⭕ TGS 20/21 (@merumeruchann) August 24, 2018
this is pretty next level "race to the bottom" stuff. slash-and-burn localizer sakuragame now just getting the games partially translated and saying "hey, you've got a good three hours in there, it was worth it!" https://t.co/gPo9w5XVvU
SakuraGame scored themselves another few titles that will bring their machine translation tools on their knees, Cabbits “Midori no Umi” and „Hakoniwa Logic“, multiple route mystery Visual Novels. The irony of having a title with „Logic“ in it’s name being unreadable gibberish turns this game into a tragedy, no matter the contens… But more and more Japanese publisher seem to notice that a SakuraGame release might not be the best for their image in the English community (understatement of the year), as some publishers that had contact with SG stopped in their transactions after heavy backlash.
Sakura Games practices are unethical, illegal and destructive.
Their actions show a hate for the Western Fanbase that almost seems like a personal vendetta. They show no respect for their western fans and keep them waiting with empty promises.
We wish that everyone will be made aware of this and stops doing business with them. They spit on the developer’s works with their nonexistent effort. They spit on their fans by publishing buggy and unreadable games that deserved better. And they spit on the industry by releasing games dirt cheap, destroying the financial balance and thwarting competition.
We beg of you to think twice before dealing with them. Would you give money to someone that lies, steals and is the worst kind of person in general? No!
So we beg of you once again: Do not support this bane of the industry.