Interview with Dead or Alive Xtreme Venus Vacation’s producer—rising Steam popularity as the vacation enters its 5th year

Publication date of the original Japanese article: 2021-11-17 12:02 (JST)
Translated by. Braden Noyes

November 15, 2021 marks the fourth anniversary of the release of Koei Tecmo Games’ Dead or Alive Xtreme Venus Vacation. A spinoff of the main Dead or Alive series, the game continues the tradition of the Dead or Alive Xtreme titles of pitting the girls against one another in scantily-clad volleyball matches. The game has also been quite successful at incorporating social elements into gameplay.

So what sort of things are in store for DOAXVV’s fourth anniversary? And how has the game been received outside of Japan thus far? Well, we here at AUTOMATON had the opportunity to speak with producer Yasunori Sakuda and would like to share what we have learned. This article also contains a few screenshots of the new tennis outfits as well as a few of the four-year anniversary outfits.

*Note: Some elements have been cut from the original Japanese AUTOMATON article.

Dead or Alive Xtreme Venus Vacation producer, Yasunori Sakuda. Originally the game’s director when it launched in 2017, he was appointed producer in June 2021.

Nagisa and Honoka; Fiona and Sayuri – Regional differences

Nagisa is more popular within Japan.
Honoka is also more popular within Japan.

—Congratulations on the game’s fourth anniversary. I understand there are two separate builds for this game on Steam, one for Japan and one for international audiences. Could you explain what the differences are? (*1)

*1: The Japanese version was originally released via DMM GAMES in November 2017, then later for Steam in August 2020. The international version was released on Steam in March 2019.

The in-game events for the international version lag behind those in the Japanese version. Although they were roughly a year and a half behind when it was initially launched, they have slowly been catching up and are now only about a year behind.

I hope people won’t worry too much if I say this, but the Japanese development team works on an extremely tight schedule. (Laughs) It simply isn’t realistic for us to also include time for localization between the new content planning phase and the point where we release said content.

Japanese and international players have different preferences when it comes to game content as well, so we try to alter localizations for specific regions. Furthermore, we don’t generally reveal new content for the Japanese version until just before it’s released. I believe not knowing what is coming next allows for a nice sense of surprise for our players.

However, since the international version contains essentially the same content—just one year later—it means players already know what to expect. To combat this lack of surprise, we try to change things up every once in a while by altering the timing of certain releases, switching up which girls are available, or sometimes even releasing content for the international version first.

Fiona’s Tennis Outfit

—Is there a difference between the popularity of characters inside and outside Japan?

Some girls are popular in both regions, while others are more popular in one or another. For example, Misaki is popular just about everywhere. I think this may be due to the fact that out of all the girls, she has the closest relationship with the player throughout the course of the game. Other characters such as Marie Rose retain their popularity from the main Dead or Alive titles. Tamaki, for example, is another character who seems to be popular in every region.

As for which characters are more popular in Japan, the first girl who comes to mind is Nagisa. (*2) This may be more particular to Japanese fans, but I think players enjoy her somewhat rude personality and seeing what she will say and how she’s going to treat them. Honoka also jumps out as another character who is more popular in Japan.

On the flip side, characters such as Fiona and Sayuri who give off stronger maternal vibes and are more accepting of the player seem to be more popular with overseas fans. I find it interesting how the popularity of a character can vary so much from one region to another.

*2: Misaki’s older sister. According to the official website, she disapproves of the player, often calling him names such as Dirty Dog.

Misaki is popular both inside and outside Japan

—Would you tell us a little about the different player bases and regions when comparing the Japanese DMM GAMES and Steam versions with the international version?

In Japan, the overwhelming majority of players use the DMM GAMES version. This is also where the game was first released, so we spent time referencing DMM GAMES’s lineup and looking at what was popular at the time to make changes to certain aspects of the game. This is part of the reason why I think there are more players in this version.

This is of course just my personal opinion, but I also get the feeling those who play games on DMM GAMES aren’t very likely to also be big Steam users. This is one of the reasons we decided to release the Steam version in the first place, even if it was a full two and a half years after the first version. I think the number of players for the different versions is also influenced by the order they were released, as well as the various changes that were made.

Sayuri is quite popular outside of Japan

—Reviews for the international Steam version are good and the number of concurrent online players continues to rise. What are your thoughts on the overall positive response to this version? (*3)

*3: The number of concurrent players in the international Steam version of DOAXVV has been holding steady around 2,500. Average peak numbers and the overall user base continue to rise. (SteamDB)

I believe it’s a result of the changes we made for the international audience as well as the fact we delivered the content players were expecting to see. As far as reviews go, we of course wanted all our players to enjoy the game and leave positive responses. Such reviews are extremely important, as they help encourage others to try out the game as well.

The DOAXVV development team is split into two sections; one handles the domestic version and the other handles the international version. The international team often makes proposals specific to their version, adding to its unique playability. I think this is something that’s only made possible due to the fact we operate as two separate teams.

This is also just my opinion, but I think the appeal of the girls is the reason players from every region enjoy the game. New players come into the game not really knowing what it’s about. Their main expectation when they first start off is to see a ton of cute girls, and that’s definitely something we deliver on.

—Are there any particularly memorable moments that made you feel how large the international player base was growing?

The international version sees a large number of new players starting out every single day, so I’m constantly being reminded of just how impressive the size of our audience is. Of course, not every new player continues to play long-term. We’re always discussing the fact that many players inevitably end up leaving us. However, we did announce our milestone of reaching two million users, and that number continues to grow. That was certainly a moment that drove home the scale of this game for me.

However, it’s not as though sales overseas are overwhelmingly higher than those here in Japan. It’s actually the Japanese players who seem to have more passion when it comes to playing long-term. There are also a large number of players who continue to purchase their favorite swimsuits, all of whom we are truly grateful for.

—Is it possible for you to give us a rough idea of what your sales look like?

Our four-year anniversary is coming up here soon, but we had our highest grossing month on record just this past year. So despite the fact it’s been so long since it was first released, I can confidently say our players continue to demonstrate passion for the game.

Seeing our work pay off like this gives the entire team motivation to continue working and trying new things. Sales aren’t everything, of course. Our main goal is to make sure the players are enjoying their experience so they will continue playing. We’re also aware there are still many aspects of the game players are waiting for us to improve. My hope is to continue doing what we’re doing so the players can continue enjoying the game for a long time to come.

Girl #24, Koharu

Additional functions support new content development

—One of this game’s greatest appeals is the excellent visuals. Are there any visual elements that have evolved since the original release?

The most easily noticeable upgrade was the addition of 4K support back in March 2018. Highly requested by the players, we decided to go ahead and implement it. Thankfully, the fact this game runs on PC made it relatively simple to do so.

We’ve made a lot of other minor changes and additions as well in order to better express the girls’ charm and their swimsuits. One such example is the addition of a feature that makes certain swimsuits partially transparent when getting wet.

Also, instead of simply adding content on top of what we already have, we try to implement new techniques and technologies in order to show off that new content.

—It certainly does feel as though small updates are constantly being released such as the new character animations that come along with each new event. Have any of these recent additions required extra work on a technical level?

In the last year or so, we’ve added the ability to give the girls manicures. The manicure function required quite a bit more work than you might expect, as the change affects the entire 3D model.

We were very careful when first looking into whether we would even be able to implement this function or not, but we eventually decided it should be possible based on previous additions we had made to the game. Before the manicure feature was added, we implemented a few similar features such as the zombie skin for April Fool’s Day and the “Bloody Makeup” which turns a girl into a vampire. The ability to add manicures was something we arrived at after successfully figuring out how to change elements that alter a girl’s outward appearance such as skin color.

We do our best to put a lot of thought into each and every new feature we implement into the game. We don’t want players thinking, “I didn’t ask for this,” or, “How is this supposed to be fun?” We try to keep this in mind while planning the overall design of each event and deciding what sort of swimsuits to include. An example of this can be seen in the Halloween event when we added the Dracula swimsuit and the Bloody Makeup. Coming up with the best presentation is often the most difficult part of the process.


—Speaking of the system side of things, both the auto skip feature that has been available since the game’s release as well as the recently implemented autoplay feature are quite important for players. Would you share some of the details about how these elements came to be?

As much as it pains me to say so, we realized players probably aren’t going to want to spend long periods of time just playing volleyball. That being said, due to the nature of the game, it didn’t seem quite right to just give an option to skip the volleyball matches altogether. Instead, we wanted to find a different way for players to participate while still enjoying watching the matches. So when the game was first released, we thought it would be better to give players the option of whether to skip only single rounds or the entire match. As expected, players responded positively at having this choice.

However, after a year or two passed, we started getting more comments from players saying it was tiring sitting through each match and having to tap the skip button all the time. In response, we implemented a new feature that automatically skips for you at the end of each round. We also cautiously added new items which allow players to automatically play through entire matches. We had to be careful with this feature, however, as there are some events which are ranked.

We wanted to avoid giving unfair advantages to paying players, which would form a divide between paying and non-paying  users. Therefore, we had to carefully consider how best to keep things as balanced as possible. That being said, we don’t wish for our players to feel as though playing the game is some sort of tiresome chore. Part of the game’s appeal is its light, easy-going experience, so we decided to implement changes to accomplish just that.

—The DOAXVV team tends to be rather generous when giving out V Stones to players. Could you tell us a bit about the reason for this?

It’s not very much fun when you don’t have the resources to perform gacha pulls every once in a while. Therefore, we want to make sure players have plenty of opportunities to earn free V Stones. We generally try to give out enough for players to do around 40 pulls during each event.

While giving away loads of V Stones makes it easier for players to save up and get the units they want, it’s unfortunately not a very sustainable business model. We therefore made the decision to have certain items only available by using paid stones. We make sure to provide exclusive experience with these paid items. Another reason for giving away so many V Stones is because drop rates are on the low side.

Patty’s Tennis Outfit

Striving to provide the best vacation possible

—Is there anything you can tell us about what you’re currently working on or planning for future updates?

There is one personal opinion that I’ve been discussing with the director lately. I keep telling him how troublesome it is having to clear an event all the way to the end before being able to use the Auto Festival Tickets. (Laughs) I’ve been asking for Auto Festival Tickets to allow you to continue automatically up until the point you’re about to lose, so I have a strong feeling we will see this implemented in the game before too long.

One more thing I can mention is in regards to the long-ignored Appeal stat. The development of the Donketsu Festival event was a direct result of our decision to finally give this character stat some overdo attention. However, while there are plenty of players who were pleased with this addition, there are still many others who would like to see us build upon it even further. We’ve recently been putting a lot of thought into ways we might add more fun to this aspect of the game.

—Is there anything you’d like to say to players who used to play DOAXVV that might encourage them to return?

It’s gotten much easier to obtain SSR swimsuits. I have a feeling many of those who stopped playing early on did so because they weren’t getting the SSR swimsuits they wanted. Now, however, players are guaranteed to receive the SSR swimsuit of one of the two girls they recruit during the initial tutorial.

Players also receive a second fairly soon into their progress through the main storyline, so obtaining SSR swimsuits has become much easier. We also give away two SSR suits during the live broadcasts we hold about every month or so. While the chances of winning one of these may be on the slim side, we do make sure there are plenty of other opportunities to obtain SSR swimsuits. I feel like as long as you continue playing, it’s possible to collect all of the girls before too long.

At its core, the game only really requires the player to have two girls. By choosing two and focusing on them, it’s possible for newer players to progress relatively quickly to a point where they can compete with long-time players. Of course, this fact has the potential to be both a good thing and a bad thing from the developer’s perspective. (Laughs) So while there may be differences in the various swimsuit abilities and a gap between paid and free content, I still feel as though things will work out just fine as long as players dedicate themselves to raising two of the girls really well.

There have also been quite a few new girls added to the game since it was first released. In fact, we just recently introduced Koharu, bringing the total number of girls up to 24. With so many, there’s sure to be one to match your preferences. I encourage everyone to give the game a try to discover which girl you like best.

—Before we end, is there anything else you’d like to say to the players out there?

Thank you all so much for playing and supporting this game over the past 4 years. When we first launched, there weren’t many who thought we’d make it this far. (Laughs) It really is thanks to all of you that we have. Back before the initial release, I assumed that because this game would only be available for PC, that it would mean the majority of players would be online only during the weekend. However, that didn’t prove to be the case at all. I’m constantly reminded of the passion our players have for the game as I see so many of you take the time to sit down at your computers and log in to play every single day.

Along with my recent appointment to the position of producer, we also have a new director and a load of new staff members. Personally, this makes me feel somewhat like I did back during the first year the game was out. We still have many checkpoints to reach, improvements to make, and challenges to overcome, but in that respect, we would be grateful if we could get feedback and opinions from our players. We are also aware that many players have requested the ability to strengthen bonds and form deeper relationships with their favorite girls. Although I can’t promise anything, I assure you that the director and I are discussing future updates and looking into ways to implement such features down the road.

We still have a lot of growing to do, and while there’s no way to give each and every player exactly what they want, we hope to continue developing content that will allow everyone to enjoy their island vacations to the absolute fullest. Thank you all for your continued support.

—Thank you very much for your time.