Boys Love fans love surveys too

Extracting valuable insights from the community in Naughty List News #49

Two and a Half Studios surveyed the community of Boys Love (BL) visual novel fans for their interests and posted the results, which should interest fans and developers alike.

Boys Love visual novels are games about men loving men, but that doesn’t mean that only gay men play them. In fact, the respondents on this survey are from a wide range of sexualities and gender identities.

Two and a Half Studios managed to get 571 people to self-report about their preferences for these types of games. This provides some unique insights into the audience for these games that I will dig into this week.

The results show that a majority of respondents identify as a woman, with everyone’s sexuality ranging from straight, to bi, to gay, to asexual. A large majority of players, some 66%, report having played between 2 and 10 of these games, while 30% say they have played 11 or more. 82% of respondents are between 18 and 29 years old, with only 2% admitting to being younger than 18.

It’s possible that these results are due to selection bias; why else would you fill out a survey about BL visual novels if you’re not a hardcore fan already? Nevertheless, I think it shows that there’s an audience for these games that is very diverse and hungry for new material. Which is great news for developers!


The most popular genre for BL visual novels is Romance (67%), followed by Mystery (59%), and Psychological (55%). The worst performing genre is Supernatural, with only 0.4% of respondents marking it as their preference.

How I would read this graph is that these players actually have no strong preference for the genre. Most of the options hover around 50% support, with only a few outliers above or below that line. I think even a supernaturally themed visual novel could do well as long as it ticks enough of the boxes. One response is, I think, especially telling when it comes to genre preference:

I’ll take just about anything if the premise is good

When asked specifically about darker themes in BL visual novels, the near-unanimous consent (98%) is that they either like or don’t mind them. So don’t be afraid to mix them into your game!

What the fans like

When players are asked to rank what they think is most important about a game, an overwhelming majority agrees that it’s the writing, with art being a close second. They rank voice acting as being the least important aspect. Respondents are ambivalent about whether a game should contain adult content.

Again, I think this is great news for developers. It shows that focusing on strong writing can pay off much more than opting for voice acting, which is often very expensive.

When it comes to tropes, there is a strong preference for both enemies-to-lovers and friends-to-lovers. The strongest dislikes are for the “gay for you” trope and non or dubiously consensual content.

I think these results make a lot of sense when you put them in context with the other answers. This is an audience that overwhelmingly favors romantic plots, and the tropes they indicate to dislike would work against that type of writing. Something to keep in mind for your own game.

Limitations of the methodology

Unfortunately, a limitation with self-reported user testing like this is that everybody lies, even when we don’t mean to. This shows up in the answers to the question about the preferred length of a game, for example. 97.1% say they prefer their games to be between 3 and 30 hours long. This may or may not be true, but a better way to get this data would be to actually measure it.

By inserting metrics into your game, or even using achievements at certain story points, you can get a much more accurate picture of how long a game should be before players lose interest in finishing it.

Just as an example of a game in the genre of BL visual novel that does this, the BL visual novel DRAMAtical Murder boasts 18 achievements on Steam. We can look at the worldwide statistics for achieving them to extract some interesting data. It seems that 26% of players achieved what is most likely the easiest ending of the game.

Now I’m no statistician, but I think that tells us that at least 26% of all players completed the game. The main storyline reportedly takes around 10 hours, so I think it’s safe to say that a majority of players actually think this game is too long.

The important thing to keep in mind is that a player’s behavior is what matters most. They might believe strongly that they should be someone who enjoys longer stories, but that may not be how they actually act.

Overall, I think this survey about players of BL visual novels is a very interesting dataset that provides valuable insights into this community. I would love to see more surveys like this!

Writing Wrap-Up 📖

Cheeky chuckle 🤭

Artist spotlight 💡

Thanks for reading this far!

If you want to help me compile the newsletter, feel free to poke me on Twitter.

Until next time!

-Mr. Hands