Tuesday, January 8, 2008

In My View: Brought to you by the land of suck, the new wave in releasing anime

So recently I came across two seperate yet equally disturbing pieces of news. First, Sony is finally going to release Blood + on DVD in March. It's planning on doing this in a single disk retailing at $24.96 (containing five episodes) and a box set retailing at $119.95. On a side note, I'd just like to say how really excited I am about finally getting this on DVD.

But the other piece of disturbing news is that Viz will be releasing Busou Renkin in a box set containing the first 13 episodes, retailing at $49.99. Oh yeah, and they're probably going to do it with Hikaru no Go and MAR. Now, I'll admit I don't really have much intention of picking up either of these series, but I'm starting to see a trend.

The Box set from the land of suck.

Now, I know that some very smart people have been advocating this move for a while. But I don't think those very smart people have really thought this through. Perhaps even more than that, I think those very smart people really need to figure out the economics of the average anime fan.

Okay, so I might not be the average anime fan. But at least I'm one anime fan. So let's take the Busou Renkin release as an example. I have $40 every two weeks to spend on anime. Now if that $40 isn't spent on anime, it will get spent on something else. But if I spend full retail picking up BR, then I'll probably end up spending an extra $5 to $13 after tax and shipping. And that's assuming I can get it on the cheap.

Also box sets devalue slower. So it's less likely that I'll be able to find a break on the price that will put it into the affordable range. If you want proof of that, the non-bootleg version of the Trigun box set is still more than $100 on Amazon Market place. This is for a series that came out almost a decade ago. Whereas the first disk of Eureka 7 is going for just under $10 for an actual R1 release. Granted, I could save the money, but if this trend continues what would I spend it on? Because it wouldn't be anime.

And the Blood + release is even worse. The economics for that release work out that even if somehow I managed to have $120 to spend on the box set, how much money am I really saving? Six dollars. So where I can afford the single disk release, the box set is set so far out of reach it's ridiculous.

I realize that anime distributors are trying to innovate and respond to the changing market climate, but this isn't the way to do it. If they're really concerned about average folk buying their DVDs, then they need to price them in a range where average folk can buy them.

So to the very smart folks who are advocating this, phooey on you.

7 comments:

CCY said...

I'm not sure if you know of this place yet - I didn't for a while - but I have to mention it to everyone who ever talks about buying anime - RightStuf. Learn it, love it, etc.

Although, it may not be what you're looking for in your post; it sounds like you would rather spend a small amount steadily, but my purchasing habits on RS usually involve large amounts of dead space punctuated by mass purchases when a good weekly sale comes around (which is why I patronize them so much). Your mileage, it varies, etc.

It sounds like your point is that box sets aren't a good purchase relative to the singles? Or is it just that R1 anime is on the expensive side as a whole?

Both true points, if not things that merit a sort of "what can you do?" shrug. On one hand, licensing/dubbing costs are pretty high, but on the other hand, sales are pretty low, so they can't cut into their profit (or revenue, at least)...I'm not wise in the area of anime economics, but I can say as a consumer that I'd like it a little bit cheaper, if only because American TV shows and movies are ridiculous bargains in comparison, and those have a lot of work put into them too.

(Of course, there's the flip side, where Japan's R2s tend to clock upwards of $40-50 for less episodes...)

Cameron Probert said...

Actually what I was trying to get at is that box sets are more expensive on the initial purpose and don't get less expensive as quickly.

Cameron Probert said...

err... I mean purchase. :)

Iknight said...

I'm no economist, so while I was aware that box sets have a high price and devalue slowly, I hadn't really considered the implications. I would whine about access to legal anime in the UK, but I've covered that before and no one likes a repeating record.

Cameron Probert said...

@iknight - To be fair, I'm not an economist either, which is why I don't write about this stuff too much. But it bugged me enough to rant about it.

And I suppose I understand the argument for it. If you assume that purchasing an anime series is a planned purchase and not an impulse buy then it makes sense. But generally boxed sets are priced a little out of my personal range.

Okina said...

This is going to be long, but I feel I should say this. I know I am not going to convert people one way or another but I do want to clarify/add to what was mentioned on this episode.

In the end anime DVDs in North America have to compete with domestic DVDs. In the end, anime DVDs as we know them are actually TV series, and the marketing of DVDs of TV series in North America are multi disc sets, not individual discs of 3-5 episodes. Add to that the anime consumer mentality of waiting for the end of release box anyway (a situation the industry has made for themselves). I advocate first release boxes mainly on this point. That and the known mentality to want as much as possible, as soon as possible.

As for the devaluing price points between singles and boxes, Cam seems to be willing to play a waiting game more often then not. Speaking for myself, it would depend on the title, so it's case by case for me. Can't speak for everyone else though. But to be honest, you play that game all the time with most things you're looking to purchase. Some instances I'll wait for a price drop or sale, others I do want the minute they come out. Just be ready to pay appropriately.

As for the actual prices right now. Yeah, I'd prefer them cheaper too. So how do we get to that point for consumers? The industry has been trying to figure that out right? In the end I see a chicken and egg type discussion here. But CCY hinted at the bottomline, it's still better than in Japan itself. And that's the bigger picture here.

Is this a minority view amongst anime fans in North America? Perhaps. I know I consider myself very lucky in terms of what I can and cannot afford to purchase at this point in my life. Ultimately that's just part of the decisions we have to make. We can't get everything we want.

I do see Cam's logic in what he's said here, and I actually agree with it all things being equal. But the key point in Cam's logic to me is "time", and the last couple months (and days) in the anime industry have proven that's something anime doesn't have much of right now.

I really feel for those in the Geneon group during the pull out, or Mar, Hikaru no Go, or Full Moon fans who are likely to be cut off of individuals this week.

I never suggested that we had the solution either. And I don't know how many times we've talked about it on my show, but I know we're not close on anything. And we're not the people to ask anyway, but that doesn't mean we can't express an opinion.

Cam, I respect your opinion if not agree with it. But the individual disc of a TV series just doesn't work here. And I really wonder if it would at any price.

I'll certainly place a link to this discussion on my show blog. And thanks for the links from yours.

Cameron Probert said...

@Okina

Thanks for replying and providing probably a more well thought out opinion than I originally had.

Add to that the anime consumer mentality of waiting for the end of release box anyway (a situation the industry has made for themselves). I advocate first release boxes mainly on this point. That and the known mentality to want as much as possible, as soon as possible.

To be fair on principle I agree with you. But there's a couple of counterpoints to that. First, by making it a boxed set release you eliminate the impulse buy. People simply aren't going to pick up a $50 box set on a whim. Let alone a $120 box set. Now if you assume that people don't buy these series on a whim then that's fine. But it makes it harder to purchase even the series that you may want to purchase.

Second, I don't think we're really talking about the same demographic that purchases NA TV series is the same demographic that purchases anime. If you assume that the target audience is 15 to 20 something, that audience has less disposable income at any particular moment. So having a box set, which is harder to get on the cheap and is a larger initial investment doesn't seem like the way to go for me.

Cam seems to be willing to play a waiting game more often then not. Speaking for myself, it would depend on the title, so it's case by case for me.

To be fair, sometimes I am, sometimes I'm not. But more often than not I go through Amazon Marketplace. Generally the initial discount is about $5 to $10 US. Sometimes more, sometimes less. With a box set, that initial discount is usually closer to MSRP. And again devalues slower. Generally (even with NA DVD releases) the price has dropped by 50 percent after six months. The same is pretty much true with anime DVDs. Whereas with box sets, they maintain that value for longer. (Although with some thin packs you do see a little steeper of a curve downward). This in general is regardless of the actual series. For example ROD TV is still close to $100. And it wasn't THAT popular.

As for the actual prices right now. Yeah, I'd prefer them cheaper too. So how do we get to that point for consumers? The industry has been trying to figure that out right? In the end I see a chicken and egg type discussion here. But CCY hinted at the bottomline, it's still better than in Japan itself. And that's the bigger picture here.


To be fair, I agree with both yours and CCY's points here. The industry is trying to do what it can. And as you state later on, it's running out of time to do that. But... I think it's a question of pricing the struggling anime fan out of the picture. Or at least cutting further into their budget. As I stated earlier the amount of disposable income for the average anime fan, might be larger as a percent, but is still smaller in actual dollar terms.

And everything being equal, I actually do like your show.