Friday, April 13, 2007

Bandai Visual's Pricing Policy DOA

During a routine panel at Sakura-Con last weekend, Tatsunori Konno, who is the head of Bandai Visual USA, got in a little hot water with fans who openly questioned him about Bandai Visual's new pricing and release policy. In a nutshell, Bandai Visual is attempting to do something no other company has ever done - to release their titles like 'Freedom' simultaneously on DVD in the US and Japan.

This has created a number of problems:

First, since the US releases will not see the usual lead time to market, they can only be made available initially in subtitled versions. This is a rather desperate response to the piracy and downloading that is killing the industry, as fans simply refuse to wait for properly licensed titles to become available on DVD.

(For an example, just look at how many people have illegally downloaded episodes of Haruhi Suzumiya prior to the upcoming DVD release. There are already more series reviews out on in the blogosphere than you can shake a stick at from folks that have downloaded fansubs and already seen all the eps. The number of these people that will actually buy the series on DVD is questionable.)

The second, and most relevant problem facing Bandai Visual is with the DVD pricing. The Japanese DVD market is vastly different from the US market, however, since the simultaneous release means that the R1 US DVD's will potentially compete (theoretically) with the R2 Japanese DVD's, thus the US DVD's need to carry a similar price point as their Japanese counterparts. That means the most of the R1 DVD's will have 2 episodes and retail for around $40 MSRP ($50 in the case of Galaxy Angel Rune).

The business practices at work here taken as a whole are sound, yet terribly flawed. The Japanese are doing their best to exploit the US Anime market, which they are finally taking seriously, and are also desperately trying to address the piracy issue but without do anything to threaten their core market in Japan, which is still an order of power larger than in the US.

The lessons of the US market have already been learned, yet these types of mistakes continue to be repeated. Think back recently to when ADV got crucified for trying to release the first season of Gantz as two eps per disk for $18 MSRP. We just rolled our eyes when they announced that move, and the blow back among fans was so acute that the folks in Houston quickly reversed the policy in subsequent DVD volumes. Still, the damage had been done and the lower sales of the single DVD's caused ADV to advance the release of the less expensive series thin-paks, decreasing their overall potential economic return on the license. Not to mention their loss of credibility (face) with the fan base.

In the US subtitled releases will mostly sell only into the hard core fan base, which is fine with us, and do allow the domestic release of some titles that may otherwise be marginalized by economic necessities. But Bandai Visual's new formula seems destined for failure as far fewer US fans, even hard core Anime fans, can afford to pay $40 or $50 for 45-60 minutes of Anime. Granted, we'll do our part to make these releases more affordable, but the pricing issues effect us as well, limiting the potential sell through for us on some of the best new titles booked to be released later this year. Bandai Visual is determined to carry through this new release strategy, even to the consternation of the fan base and their retail partners, so we'll just have to wait and see if we, as fans, can embrace these 'early releases at a price' or if we'll have to send Bandai Visual back to school to learn about how Anime fans do business here in North America.

My estimate from experience is that it will be the latter...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Updates - April 9th, 2007

I've found myself quite busy lately here at Anime Corner World Headquarters, with little time for diversions, and there is a stack of DVD's the size of Everest on top of my entertainment center. I did some catching up on some good old wholesome Anime viewing over the holiday weekend and finally started the Basilisk series. I have to far so good!

Boxed sets have been replacing previous Anime DVD releases, and as the older single volumes sell out we've been taking them down off the store. This past week we've cleaned up and updated about 165 pages on the site, mostly consolidating older single dvd releases into boxed sets pages. Since the Anime Corner Store site is some 7,760 pages it's a constant process of additions, updates, and subtractions. While you may not realize it, the store gets updated on a daily basis 7 days a week (and yes, the weekend duty falls to me quite often), so while the front page might only change every week or two, there are updates going on somewhere on the store every day. All new arrivals are consolidated on the store updates page, and this is the place to go for the latest info about what's new (and hopefully improved!):

As the genre has expanded over the last few years, Anime prices have come down rapidly. Even though lots of people still say Anime prices are too high, let me give you an example to put this into perspective. Back in 1999 the few anime titles that were available on VHS cost around $8-$12 per episode for the dubbed version, and around $12-$15 per episode for the subtitled version. The original release of Evangelion from ADV was on 13 VHS tapes, and the Subtitled videos were $30 per tape (2 eps per tape), or about $15 per episode in only one language and few or no extras. Back then, if you wanted the series in both languages you had to buy 26 video tapes at a cost of around $650.00, or about $25 per episode. The original tapes ADV produced were fairly low quality in terms of materials, and the transfer for the VHS version was shaky and rather poorly done. Theb kicker is that hard core Anime fans lined up to pay those prices back then. I know I did! Now you could not imagine paying that kind of price for one series, but back then we sold hundreds of those $350 Eva VHS bundles.b Today you can buy the whole Evangelion series in a premium Thin-Pak DVD boxed set from us for $67.98 (remastered) which comes in both languages and has tons of extra's. That's a cost of about $2.60 per episode, about 1/10th the cost it was 7 years ago. Just a little food for thought. -_^

I have no date bumps or delays to report this week (can you believe it!). We did get a grocery list of 196 mostly older items that are being discontinued by Bandai, and I'm glad for it. Most of these titles are just older versions of stuff that's been re-released under the Anime Legends label, but included some series we've been wondering about like Pilot Candidate. We're sorting through the list now and I'll let you guys know next week if there is anything else of interest that's going away.

Illumitoon announced this week that they are finally getting with the program and getting out of 'dubtitling' their DVD's. In fact, fan feedback has been so adamant that they have decided to offer an exchange program for their current DVD's in circulation. Anyone who bought BoBoBo-Bo, Beet, or B'tX can now have their 'dubtitled' DVD's exchanged for properly 'subtitled' disks. Thank goodness!

More info can be found on Illumitoon's exchange page.

I talk about logistics alot here, and I often wonder how many times a new figure or toy ultimately gets cancelled because of some accident, like a container full of figures washing overboard during a storm. Accidents in transit happen more often than you might think, as these incredible pictures demonstrate.

We have an excellent batch of new arrivals for you this week in just about every category. We have new DVD's like Hack/Roots 1, Elemental Gelade 6, Solty Rei 3, and Nerima Daikon 3 just hit the dock and will begin shipping today. We have 36 new manga volumes, including some of those late Del Rey titles like Genshiken 8 and School Rumble 5. We have a new CD shipment in from Tokyo which includes some great new arrivals like all 3 Basilisk soundtracks, and the gorgeous new 9 disk sound box from Kingdom Hearts that was just released in Japan a few days ago! We have two new figures from Disgaea that came in from Enterbrain, and the latest Bome girl which is a beautiful version of Kasumi from Dead or Alive. She's only $26.98, so I doubt she'll last very long.

We have some new DVD bundles from Geneon that are so cheap, they're wholesale, if you get my meaning. While they last, you can pickup Ai Yori Aoshi, Gatekeepers, Cardcaptors, or Heat Guy J for up to 80% off the MSRP. Check below for details.

And finally I've setup a great Easter sale for you! The savings will last all week, but the big savings is here for the weekend only. Saving this big across the store are rare, so take some time over the holiday and grab some of that Anime stuff you've been wanting!

From now until Thursday, April 12th you can save up to 7% off every product on the store. Coupons can be applied to any items on the store, including pre-order and sale items. The more you order, the more you can save. US customers can combine this offer with our free super saver shipping option to save even more!

To save 3% off any order over $37, use the following coupon code during checkout:


Or, to save 5% off any order over $137, use the following coupon code during checkout:


Or, to save 7% off any order over $337, use the following coupon code during checkout:


Coupons are valid ONLY for NEW orders, and are good through Thursday, April 12th only.