Just before 2020 is over, we want to take this opportunity to summarise our activities over this year.
Note — this article is primarily intended as our record, as well as for the eyes of potential investors. The information below may be a bit dry for fans.
This year has been challenging, for a variety of reasons, not least the COVID-19 pandemic. Working in this background has been difficult, but we feel we achieved much despite those setbacks.
As we started 2020, we had only just finished the prototype of Nina Aquila: Legal Eagle, Chapter III’s race sequences, along with the draft written version of the case. As a result, the first half the year was mainly filled with development on Chapter III.
In addition, we continued to support the NALE Discord and Itch communities.
In May 2020, Chapter 1 of Nina Aquila: Legal Eagle made its way into Itch.io’s top 10 visual novels for the first time.
This led to an influx of new users, and a renewed interest in the game, which caused Chapter 2 to sell more copies after a brief period of low sales.
Towards the end of May 2020, we were highly aware of the George Floyd Protests in the US that were part of the wider discussion of racial injustices in the US justice system. In June, Itch.io chose to put together a large charity bundle for those who needed to pay for legal representation as a result of their actions in legitimate protests. We chose to put forward Nina Aquila: Legal Eagle, Chapter II for this bundle (Chapter I was not eligible, due to being free).
This bundle went on to raise over 8 million dollars for this cause, and we’re happy that we were able to contribute to this in some small way.
In August, we started the NALE Twitter, to provide a centralised place in which to post NALE-specific news and giveaways. At the end of 2020, this sits at ~200 followers.
In early October, we announced that we would be replacing our earlier, placeholder Nina spoken lines with a new set of lines by veteran voice actor Rachael Messer.
Rachael came to the NALE project from a long career in anime & videogame voice acting, and we were thrilled to integrate her interpretation of Nina into the game. This went further than merely substituting the lines; Rachael produced many variants of each soundbite, and the game randomly chooses between them, for a greater variety in the soundscape.
With November fast approaching, we opened pre-orders for NALE Chapter III. Interest was overwhelming, hugely outstripping interest in Chapter II.
NALE Chapter III released in early November, and we were stunned by the increase in traffic over previous releases. Very soon, NALE Chapter III outstripped the revenue of Chapter II (in part due to C2 being given away free as part of the aforementioned charity bundle).
Most notable among the launch success were the following metrics:
- #1 top seller in “interactive fiction”
- #1 top seller in games tagged “female protagonist”
- #1 top seller in games tagged “anime”
- #1 top seller in games tagged “RPG Maker”
- #2 top seller in the highly coveted Visual Novel category
By late December, Chapter III had finally paid off the debts of Chapters 1–3. While it would be improper to call the project a true “financial success” at this stage (as its earnings are still measured in the hundreds of dollars at the time of writing), the project has proven that it can “pay for itself” and future sales are now forming the production budget of the future Chapter IV.
Around this time, we uploaded Chapter I of NALE to Newgrounds.
We were pleasantly surprised to see that in just over a month, the Newgrounds version was viewed ~20,000 times, received ~400 review votes, over 200 faves and maintained a review score of greater than 4 stars.
Even bigger was the surprise to come from Newgrounds shortly after, when NALE was recognised in their “Best of November 2020” list.
This came with a prize money sum, which, given the proximity to Christmas, we decided to donate to the charity SpecialEffect. We also stated that this starts an informal arrangement, where if we have future opportunities to patronise SpecialEffect, we intend to do so.
Shortly after this, we launched Tanuki-sama Studios, and rebranded all NALE products under this new identity.
This recognises that the success of the NALE brand has outgrown the informal identity it previously had, and it has become necessary to establish a studio business to support it.
Following these events, we started a promotional activity where, due to an interesting quirk of Nina’s surname “Aquila”, and how players have questioned how it is to be pronounced, we have decided players can choose whether they wish to be #TeamAkwilla or #TeamAkeela.
This community activity involved both a pair of shirts for the merch store, as well as roles/specific chat channels on the NALE Discord, and the good-natured arguments that this point sparked were a high point of our community year, growing NALE’s followers via every media channel.
Our final addition to the NALE project in 2020 was a patch to improve accessibility for photo-sensitive users, as well as addressing several other accessibility concerns.
These changes resulted in a noticeable uptick in interest in the game; however, what’s more important is that this allowed us to address problems players had highlighted since early in the project.
NALE, as an anime-themed visual novel, isn’t necessarily “for everyone” from a thematic perspective, but, where possible, we want the game to be “for anyone” who wants to play it.
As we approach the end of the year, NALE’s itch community has grown to nearly ~700 followers, and the Discord community has more than quadrupled in size to ~125, and our Twitter community stands at around ~200 followers. The game itself has reached tens of thousands of users from all four corners of the globe.
Nina Aquila: Legal Eagle was recognised by a major online community as one of their favourite games of the year, and in turn, the game’s success has allowed us to raise money for charitable causes.
All three chapters have, at various points, reached the top 10 in the Visual Novel & RPG Maker categories on itch.io, with Chapters 2 & 3 reaching #1 top seller in various high profile categories, including spending time in the top 50 best-selling products on the service (irrespective of category).
Additionally, all three chapters, homed on itch.io, maintain a user rating of 5 stars, in over 150 user reviews.
Chapter III’s sales have made the project cost-neutral, which allows us to start accruing the budget to produce Chapter IV and future content.
Finally, and most importantly, we have been thrilled to see the personal reaction of our fans to our various releases and announcements.
We look to a bright future with the NALE brand, and are at present focused on the following:
- A Steam release of NALE, which will collect together the content of Chapters 1–3 with various improvements
- A Kickstarter to fund the above-mentioned improvements, as the art costs are expected to run to several thousand dollars
- Future work on Chapter IV (hopefully for 2021), leading to future chapters V and VI that will bookend this arc of the franchise
Thanks for reading, and we hope you’re as excited as we are to step out of 2020 and into 2021!
About Tanuki-sama Studios
Tanuki-sama Studios is a Brighton, UK-based developer-publisher of indie titles, typically with an anime-inspired theme.
TSS was founded in November 2020 by indie developer Ethan Fox, initially tasked with handling the wider release of Nina Aquila: Legal Eagle, after it became clear that the game’s success merited the formation of a studio to support ongoing development.
The studio is currently working on additional content for NALE, with a mission to develop & publish more titles in the future.
TSS are open to investment opportunities; serious applicants only. Information can be found on the above website.