Anime Purchasing Woes and Foes
I know I know its been said a thousand times, “The Anime Industry in the West is dying” , its all doom and gloom, there is no hope for this niche little hobby we enjoy so much and so on and so forth. Except I didn’t write this article to strike fear into your hearts, no I wrote it to simply put into context and examine or question exactly how it is we got to this point and how we as fans can possibly change it.
First of all lets jot down the hard facts:
The average age of the regular anime fan is 17 – 20 with an almost equivalent composition of both male and females. What does this mean? The average anime fan is just finishing high school or is starting college, in other words BROKE. Unless you have a wealthy background most of your first years at College are spent skimping and saving as much money as you can just so you can have 3 meals a day…and go out on the weekends.
The Fandom or fan base is growing. If you have attended the same convention two years in a row or more you know exactly what I mean. In 2004 Anime Expo, The US’s largest Anime Convention had a total attendance of about 15,250. This year they had 47,000 turnstile (came to the Convention on multiple days) attendees, in the space of 7 years the number of anime fans willing to spend more than $70 for a weekend of fun has more than doubled.
The Industry has “grown“. The pace at which new shows are getting licensed has increased exponentially. For example FUNimantion licensed Steins;Gate at this years Anime Expo, A show that is still ongoing at this very moment. The success of Crunchyroll has also lead to an increase in Legally streamed Simulcast shows, last season fans could legally stream more than 20 shows, more than 20!! of course this is a sum from all regions.
Okay Now that we have all the facts laid out before us let’s try to examine why it is that we let some of the bigger companies like Geneon and ADV die out.
All Jokes aside one of the best things the anime Industry (in the west) has done is not charge us the ridiculous amounts of money that our Japanese counter parts have to fork out with each volume.. well most companies at least, some of them are still catching up. Like our first fact established, the average Otaku is a broke college kid just trying to make ends meet. Asking that same kid to give you $120+ for a whole season of his favourite show is just not gonna fly. The average amount of a 13 episode anime season here in Australia is $56 RRP, its possible to get them for about $5 less if you buy online or pre-order but even that is rare. Personally I think that is a reasonable amount and as long as Anime fans can continue to receive the shows they want at a reasonable price they will continue to buy or buy more anime DVD’s in the years to come.
Most Nerds are collectors in nature, we love our posters, our figures and even our DVD’s so as long as the Industry can find a proper method to “fool” us into thinking we are getting our moneys worth we will collect more DVD’s.
Anime fans are the quickest adopters of new media in the entertainment industry, we currently buy 30% of all the Blu rays sold in most retailers.. yes we are in the future and we always have been. The Industry doesn’t seem to think we are smart and always stays left in the dark dusty old past. The reason why simulcasting has become such a big thing is because anime fans want their anime quick and on the go it took the industry a couple of years to figure that out and find a solution for it. Current anime fans now have solid knowledge of what shows are actually good and which ones are terrible. Companies like ADV Films exploited the fact that most anime fans didn’t know what else was being produced in Japan and released a whole bunch of mediocre titles that the anime fans ate up but eventually got fed up with, we are indeed smart.
Some of the recent biggest sellers are all “good titles” Eden of the East, Full Metal Alchemist and even The Evangelion movies are almost always at the top of Amazons Best sellers’ list. Anime fans know what is good and if they have an opportunity to get it they will, I’m not saying companies should stop licensing the more niche titles (if that happened how would I be able to get my K-on!) All im saying is if a company is looking like it’s heading in the red its best if they laid off the non “mainstream” titles.
This would work if the Industry knew just what kind of shows were In but that doesn’t seem to be the case, If you ever have a chance to meet up with some marketing folk from your local licensor ask them about what new shows they like, 9 times out of 10 the answer you will get will exude a substantial amount of ignorance. Not that I can blame them I think, THINK if I also worked in the industry my interest in anime might fade a little….naa never gonna happen.
Daryl Surat (A respected anime commentator) made a comment once saying most anime fans are Video Game nerds that just happen to watch anime. What he meant was that almost all nerds that watched anime had it as their secondary hobby and as such would not be willing to spend their hard-earned cash on it, they would rather buy the latest video game for over $60 each month than spend a single penny on cartoons. I have to say I somewhat agree with him, almost all the video game nerds I have spoken to have at least seen one anime show and given the chance would buy it, how else would you explain the never-ending popularity of Dragon Ball?
The people who play video games are the people that will most likely get into anime, the Industry needs to find a way to tap into this market.Funimation seems to have made the first move by creating their own original anime based off of the popular Bioware game Dragon Age. Hopefully that title can in the least do as well as or do better than Halo: Legends which was highly succesful by monetary standards.
The video game industry is now the biggest form of entertainment in the World, last year it was estimated to be worth just over $60 Billion and it is still growing. In comparison the anime Industry just scraped a measly $200 million last year and it does not seem to be getting any better too.
Another thing to consider is the fact that that College kid will grow up and have some disposable income once he settles down and gets a job. That disposable income is most likely going to go towards their favourite hobby which if they stayed anime fans will most likely be Anime DVD’s.
Why does this exist in 2011? This has got be one of the worst things in the history of the Entertainment industry. Sony paved the way for the future when they announced that their new console (PS3) would be region free (for games only). Thanks to the move that Sony made, video game fans are now enlightened and are able to stand up for their right to play whatever game they feel like. Movements like Operation Rainfall would have never come to fruition or gained the insane amount of numbers they have if they didn’t know that region free consoles work and are profitable for both parties (By the way Xenoblade chronicles is coming yay).
Most shows are licensed in the United States first. Australian or European licencors then have to wait for the Americans to dub the product, release it locally and then send them masters. In the case of Manga UK some of their masters are directly given to them by Australian publishers which means double the wait. At this point fans would have waited for their favourite shows to be available on their local DVD shelf for atleast over a year (in most cases) since it aired. The wait is frustrating and all the hype that surrounded the title just after it aired and just after it got licensed would have died down and the non hardcore fans would most likely have moved on to the next thing.
Japan has recently started releasing some of their Blu rays with English subtitles (and some with dubs) while this may seem to be a good thing at first it would indefinitely lead to the demise of local anime distributors, also those prices (thats for 2 episodes). I think if it was possible to universally acquire an anime licence, dub it and release it at the same time in all English speaking regions, Blu ray sales would rise through the roof. Heck, do away with region locking all together, how about we streamline the number of licencors to 1 per region which means put together all the revenue that FUNI, Media Blasters, Sentai, NISA etc have and compete for licences on a “regional basis.” I know it sounds far-fetched but its ideas like that that could help the industry from entirely collapsing.
The Bottom Line is the structure in which the industry is set up has a lot of problems and unless some drastic changes are made we will continue to see the demise of this industry we love and depend on so much. I also think the mindset of us, the consumers needs to change. We need to stop whining about the petty things and cut some of the publishers some slack, we also need to start buying more anime overall.
What do you guys think, how can we help the Industry overcome the downwards spiral it seems to have caught itself in?