VHS and Game crossover

So last night I was watching a Devil Hunter Yohko VHS tape. It doesn't age super well, but it got me thinking about something. What was stopping a company like ADV from extending their licensing deals to cover anime-based games and putting them in rental shops?

A property like Sailor Moon would've been too much, but consider Devil Hunter Yohko. There was a genesis game published by Masaya, which had no US distributor. If ADV had secured this license they could've cross-promoted the vhs tapes in the back of the game manual, and the game on the back of the VHS tape.

This would be especially effective in that time period. There weren't many anime you could get commercially at the time, and they were all grouped together in one small section of blockbuster or wherever. Many of us (of a certain vintage) have seen every anime that got a promo on an ADV or Manga or Century Park Media tape because that was basically the main way to even know what anime was out there! A game promo in one of these tapes would've been gold. Imagining myself as a kid watching these things, I would log this stuff away as "things that exist that I can look for." If there were a genesis game among those I'd have been like - oh, there's a Yohko game!? You can bet I would've gone out and gotten it or rented it or something else.

My assumption is the difficulty stemmed from three things:
1) rights for the games were probably more complex and included multiple companies
2) the tape localizers had no dev experience of course.
3) nobody tried hard enough to make it happen.

I'm leaning on 3 here because #s 1 and 2 are solvable, and somebody trying hard enough would've figured it out. I wonder, maybe this happened in countries outside america? I could totally see this going down in Brazil or France or somewhere that had anime in wider syndication in the 80s/90s.

It makes a lot of sense, no?

I am always curious about how the Ranma 1/2 Hard Battle for the SNES deal came together because I bought the came new and it game with a card to send away for the first volume of the manga from Viz. I still have that volume all these years later as it was the first Manga I ever read.

I dunno, I was SO desperate fro anything with the Anime aesthetic back then I would have jumped all across the properties. Funnily enough I had the Devil Hunter Yokho game for Genesis back in the 90's because someone tried to sell it at the Funcoland I worked at along with a Honey Bee adapter. I must have sold it at some point, but having rented the VHS tapes around the same era, that cartridge was a welcome surprise.

Ah, I forgot about the Ranma snes one, even though it's been mentioned here! Really seems like there would have been more of that

My very limited understanding, based on what I‘ve heard from people whose games went direct-to-rental back then, is that it was only ever regarded as a last resort for games that were on the hook for minimum-order print runs that the publisher and/or wholesale distributor had lost faith in, and that you’d be lucky just to break even if you took that route, so I don‘t think it would’ve made financial sense for an anime distributor to enter the games market, which was not cheap and by no means easy to waltz into at that time, with direct-to-rental as a primary market.

Incidentally, for those who might be interested, I recently went over a ton of comments from the planner and lead sprite artist on Ranma 1/2 Hard Battle, Hitoshi Ariga: https://twitter.com/gosokkyu/status/1301116687912108032

I‘m not sure if it counts 100% but here in Spain it was very normal to find cross promotion between, for example a game magazine advertising an anime OVA or a comicbook promoting some videogame or another. The thing I can’t really remember is if one product promoted its analog (a Dragon Ball VHS promoting the Dragon Ball videogame). But I would be willing to bet in the case of stuff like the X-men or Spiderman games on the 16 bit era there was some sort of promotion of the comicbooks themselves in the game and vice versa, but I have no ways to check it other than go to the loft where I put all this stuff and try to find it.

Hmm, while the cartridge/manual/etc expenses would be higher, ADV would be already distributing to a lot of the places games are sold, so it doesn‘t seem so outlandish to me - I didn’t actually mean it‘d go direct to rental, more that the the idea would be with the cross promotion across tapes you’d get “free” advertising and could enter the rental market later with a strong proposition.

I'm sure there are indeed limiting factors, but this all still makes sense to me - diverting one's licensing budget from one anime OVA to someone like Masaya who would probably love the extra money from a Yohko US release seems totally doable to me. Though given hard battle had to be reskinned, maybe the anime producers really thought they were sitting on gold at the time and the prices were just too high?

[edit] Part of this comes from a conversation I had with Manga Entertainment about a certain property of theirs and whether it would be possible to license it for a game, even though they only have western distro rights, and the answer they came back with was "we can work this out." It might be that things have just changed a lot since the 90s, BUT that agreement of theirs dates back til that time, so... hmm!

I think things just weren‘t that organized. The publishers of VHS tapes were often companies that grew out of fan efforts of Gen Xers, or weird partnerships with people in japan, like, individuals, and I don’t think they had the expertise to do anything more ambitious like spread out, probably. Even viz was very home grown in a lot of ways based on what I've read about its history and kinda sorta remember.

The only company that I can feel like there's some kind of missed connection is maybe AnimEigo - Robert Woodhead was a game developer (Wizardry) before getting into anime. But I don't know how much of a "company" it ever was, in the sense, now it's just like him and his wife, who is Japanese, personally brokering deals and shipping boxes. Was it ever much bigger?

In a way, Working Designs was like the flip side of that kind of company -- home grown by a dude and very idiosyncratically fan-focused. As I think this whole topic through while writing this post on the fly, I think the 90s companies were probably hamstrung by:
• fannish/amateurishness
• lack of connections into the industry, both in Japan and the west
• lack of technical know-how
• lack of capital to get into manufacturing of cartridges
• gen X disinterest in console games as a medium, or japanese console games

I think any or all of that is contributing but this is just some educated guesses held together with chewing gum. Would be a fun topic to research. All this said, I'd be very very surprised if none of those companies actually tried to dip their toes into it one way or another but then got their toes cooled chopped off! I'd love to hear those stories.