Over at Mania.com, Chris Beveridge posted an insightful article about the failing of the American anime licensees and publishers in 2008. Presumably soon he will follow up with a "top 5 things done right" post before the year is out, but there's a lot of food for thought in this post.
Chris poses a question with the last "bonus" section and asks: we enjoy cheap and widely available anime as much as anyone, but does it come with a hidden price? Are cheaper anime releases forcing companies to cut costs, and producing products at lower quality? Are we fine with cheaper, but lower quality products?
The thing is, Chris explains that how over the past half a decade, anime has become cheaper, more prevalent, and easier to get. What used to take years from first seeing it on fansubs to seeing it in the stores now only takes 9 to 12 months. When we used to have to wait at least a year to see a thin-pak or a season box set release from the end of the single-volume DVD release, now there's almost no wait at all.
In a way, the different anime companies are fighting for our dollars, and bidding down the price. Media Blaster's Sirabella noted earlier this year that a growing group of anime buyers are people who don't have that much money. Having a cheaper release, ultimately, reaches a wider group of potential buyers who may be able to afford $30 a month for a series instead of $20 for 4 episodes on DVD. Given the struggles the American anime industry has been going through this past two years, that extra capitalization becomes all the more important.
But what does that do to those of us who have a real income? If the people who enjoy buying high-quality special edition sets, high-def releases, and creative bonus and extras with their anime DVDs are being marginalized, what does that mean to the industry who used to make large margin dollars over a small volume of sales off these releases? Chris belongs to this category, perhaps, and maybe this is a minority voice. What does that mean to the rest of us?
I think, it can be cause for concern to all of us when companies cut costs to meet lower price points. The hardcore collectors are the canary in the mines, so to speak, as they are the first group of people who may be feeling increasingly left out with more dub-less release, cheaper packaging, glitched discs, and dropped releases. And it seems, according to Chris, that the companies aren't doing a good job communicating with their fans too. This can affect everyone, hardcore collectors and everyday Joes alike.
In the backdrop of all these issues is the looming economic downturn the world is experiencing this past year, as well as lower level of consumer spending. We are all getting less money and consequently spending less on goodies like anime. Perhaps this is just a tough year, and companies and the fans are doing what they can to cope with it all. Still we need to remember while the markets may go down today, things will look up eventually. We are still going to reap what we sow, what little it may be.
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