Update 4/29/20: Voltage has stated in the comments of their Facebook post that the title will not be Love Choice. It will, however, have new episodes to read “weekly,” suggesting that instead of waiting five hours, players will have to wait a week before continuing the story. No word if this will still be set in place for players who start later on when episodes are available. Original post is below.
So as it’s been teased, Voltage Inc. is going to release Court of Darkness (魔界王子と魅惑のナイトメア) in English.
On Love 365.
As a completely free game to play.
This highly implies that it will be a Love Choice title if Voltage doesn’t change anything.
What. The. Heck.
I barely even know where to start.
Let’s start with why Love 365 has received a bad reputation among mobile otome gamers.
Once upon a time, Voltage released their titles in individual apps. While it was free to download the apps and play their Prologues, continuing to play the stories costed real money. In USD, it was $3.99 for Main Stories/Sequels, $1.99 for Epilogues/Sequel Epilogues, and $2.99 for Sub/Special Stories. It was a one-time payment to play as much as you wanted, whenever you wanted, with no barriers.
Few things changed over the years, but that was pretty much how it always worked.
When the library app Love 365 was released, Voltage purged all individual apps and migrated everything over to Love 365. Right off the bat, players were upset. The main reason is because a lot of players already knew what bringing over Love 365 meant from either playing the Japanese version of the app or seeing others play it: the introduction and inclusion of the Love Choice mechanic.
“Love Choice stories,” as they’re called among players, are stories that are “free-to-play” as you don’t need to pay upfront in order to play them.
Unfortunately, there’s a catch here. While the stories are “free-to-play,” the only way to get the best ending (and many illustration CG’s) is to use the implemented Hearts currency. Some choices in the stories are locked, costing Hearts in order to make them. Voltage made it so that Heart-locked choices are necessary in order to get the best ending of the Love Choice stories.
Not only that, but Love Choice stories are also time-locked. You are made to wait five hours between Episodes before you are allowed to read the next one. You are also unable to go back and re-read previous Episodes until you complete the playthrough.
All this unless, of course, you’re willing to pay even more to override those limits.
O-nigiri over on Reddit did the math on how much a Love Choice story costs to get the best endings and… it’s costly, especially for a story with so many limits.
Voltage’s social games run differently than their pay-to-play games, however. Social games aren’t new to the time-locks. They even now have paywalls for the story CG’s.
But here’s the difference: Voltage’s social games don’t lock their endings behind a paywall. You are completely capable of completing the stories without forking over real cash to get there. You can if you want the pretty CG illustrations during the Special Stories (in Be My Princess: PARTY’s case, you get a more romantic story), but it’s not necessary. It’s costly, too, as in Samurai Love Ballad: PARTY you’d have to pay about $18USD to get all the Special Story CG’s.
But it’s entirely a choice. Opting to not pay for the Special Stories with the CG’s won’t make it impossible for you to get the best endings.
Love Choice doesn’t give you that option. You need to unlock those Heart-locked choices to get the best endings.
And here’s what angers me: This isn’t the first time that Voltage has taken one of their free-to-play games and re-released it as a pay-to-play game.
Anyone remember this?
ゴシップガール～セレブな彼の誘惑～, an “Another Story” retelling of the American TV show Gossip Girl that adds Voltage’s heroine into the story, was originally a free-to-play social game. It was later re-released as a pay-to-play app following Voltage’s old pay model: $3.99 for Main Stories/Sequels, $1.99 for Epilogues/Sequel Epilogues, and $2.99 for Event Stories.
Voltage had even released a few stories from the 恋に落ちた海賊王 social game on their 恋cafe library app before. At a one-time fee, you were able to play the stories whenever you wanted like the old pay model.
Voltage can release 魔界王子と魅惑のナイトメア in a way that will make players happy. Most players would be more than happy to spend money on this game if it followed the old pay model. Heck, players would still be okay with playing if it followed the social game model of wait times, paying for CG’s, etc.
But making it Love Choice? Locking the endings behind a paywall when the original game didn’t?
I get it. As a business move, it makes Voltage more money.
But it’s a scummy way of doing it. Everyone can see that.
I can only hope that Voltage doesn’t take the Love Choice path with this title, but at this point I just don’t trust Voltage anymore.