I may have mentioned this before, but nailing down the impact of anime on video games (released on irregular timetables and with less baseline-dependent variance in stats) is much harder than ballparking the same effect for manga or light novels (where volumes are released at regular intervals and can generally be seen to follow a pattern in the absence of strong outside stimuli). Too, while sales tools exist for measuring the success of console video games in Japan, those tools are much less viable when it comes to measuring the effects of typically PC-based visual novels. Still, roughly 10 anime are adapted from games every year, and it’s a very important part of the market to understand.
In order to get some idea of how existent and/or strong the video game franchise popularity -> anime popularity -> added video game franchise popularity chain is, I pulled a pair of stats for each of the 9 video game adaptation anime made in 2011 that I have data for. The 2 stats I chose to measure video game popularity were maximum yearly rank of the franchise on popular VN retailer getchu (mildly NSFW) and total console game sales for games released within one year of the anime’s initial airdate, via vgchartz. While it should be noted that this was a small sample taken in a year with slightly fewer new shows, the results are potent fuel for speculation. Data is archived here, and summarized on the chart below.
-Starry Sky actually sold fewer units with releases made after the anime came out, but the games released immediately before the anime (in the second half of 2010) saw about half of their total sales accumulated in 2011. It might have been that the anime inspired people to start buying the series from the beginning.
-38th place on getchu may have been the only available data on Steins Gate prior to the anime’s release. All the recorded console sales happen for releases after the anime had been airing for several months (the PSP remake and the X360 bundle edition).
-G4U bundles are included in the Idolmaster unit sales average, and thus don’t get counted twice for game sales. The brand strength there comes entirely from Idolmaster 2’s PS360 releases in February, prior to the release of the anime.
-Uta no Prince-sama picked up nearly all (~95%) of its brand strength on releases made after the anime aired. This is one case where I feel calling the anime the main catalyst of those sales is fairly accurate. Sweet Serenade, released in February 2011, sold 14,000 copies. Repeat, released in August 2011 (one month after the anime started), sold 142,000 copies.* The next two releases in the series both sold over 90,000 copies.
-Majikoi and Mashiro Iro Symphony, 1st and 3rd best sellers on getchu in 2009, did not perform as their number suggested they would. The sales of PSP/PS3 games in proximity with the anime are potentially significant (games cost about as much as an episode of anime, so you could add up to 33,000/6 to Mashiro’s average if you want to stretch that as far as it’ll go), but many of those sales likely would have happened without the anime; 27,000 of those 33,000 Mashiro PSP units were sold before the anime even aired.
As I said before, this is a small sample, and I’d be hesitant to make to broad a statement based just on this. That being made clear, I do have a theory as to why getchu placing seemingly has very little correlation with anime success. Game adaptations do face arguably the most significant hurdle in development of any source material. Namely, they’re coming from a medium that has less cinematic/storyboard grounding than manga, so it takes a greater degree of effort from the staff to make things work within the new medium. And that usually involves having to cut large amounts of content from the original game, since even the 8 hours a two-cour anime gets is significantly less than the playtime for a triple-A game. Dating-sim PC VNs get hit by the content removal especially hard, since the two main mechanical advantages of the medium are the ability to choose how the game ends and the seeing characters date for a significant period of time once you’ve picked the ending.** And there are also the actual H-scenes, which get taken out for obvious reasons. So it’s reasonable, to me, that their anime adaptations would suffer for that loss.
The really popular anime adaptations of PC VNs come from series based around a dramatic story that works regardless of which pairing the audience likes the most (i.e. stuff by Key, Total Eclipse, Steins Gate), coupled with a very solid staff/vocal cast effort. Same deal with more-mainstream-by-default console games. At any rate, I’ll have a slightly better idea when I add the 2012 data. Until then!
*Between that and Blue Exorcist, that’s two shows in two seasons that multiplied the source material sales by a factor of ten. Rock on, best 6 months of anime since 2008.
**100% my personal opinion, of course. I’ve (probably) played enough VNs to have that one.