Visual novels aren't a terribly new idea for smartphones and gamers on the go, but they still haven't gained much traction in the west.
One-half comic book and one-half choose your own adventure stories, these interactive works of fiction are hugely popular in Japan and are a ripe area for monetisation.
At least, that's what Pocket Gems is banking on with the launch of its new Episode app and platform.
Following a strong test period that saw over 10 million chapters played, Pocket Gems has finally opened up Episode to the wider general public.
We caught up with Daniel Terry, co-founder and chief creative officer of Pocket Gems, to talk Episode, monetisation, and what role the users will play in the creation of content.
Pocket Gamer: How would you describe Episode to a new player? Is it a game, a visual novel, or both?
Daniel Terry: Episode takes the best parts from animated TV shows, comics, and games to create a new kind of interactive mobile experience. Episode is also a platform that lets people create, share, and eventually distribute these animated stories.
Part of the draw behind Episode is that Story Writers can use it as a platform to release their own chapters. Who can become a Story Writer, and who curates what content is available to what players?
The writer's portal is open to everyone so anyone can create a story that's shareable through social media.
As we continue to build the platform out, we'll work directly with authors of popular stories to curate and distribute them on the platform to millions of potential fans.
Pocket Gems is directly curating the stories now but we're working on a more automated system where the most popular stories will rise to the top.
What steps are in place to prevent inappropriate content from being consumed by minors?
We're currently directly monitoring the stories that are being created to flag any inappropriate or offensive content.
We'll always have a monitoring system in place as we continue to scale the platform and more stories are created.
What's the business model behind Episode - and what monetisation opportunities do you see for it in the future?
Currently, we monetize Episode through a mix of advertising and in-app purchases.
There's a set number of free chapters anyone can read each day. Active readers who want to engage with more stories beyond that can purchase story packs to read more.
We see Episode growing into a major new content distribution platform which will bring about a new kind of storytelling that's tailored for a modern mobile audience.
Who is the target audience for Episode? Would you describe it as a game marketed specifically to female players or does it have broader appeal?
Episode is designed for a general audience.
We're launching with stories in the mystery, comedy, romance, and science fiction genres to name a few. Part of the beauty of the platform is that anyone will be able to make a story, so the sky's the limit as to how the content will evolve.
Are there opportunities for branded crossovers to feature established authors or IPs?
Branded crossovers and working with more established authors are both something we're definitely considering.
We're launching with a few pro writers and we believe the platform will be appealing to story creators who want to reach a new audience with a new kind of medium.
Thanks to Daniel for his time.