So with all that's been going on this year for the North American anime market, I thought I'd blog on it.
So early this year news came in that Bandai Entertainment was basically shutting down. This didn't really come as a shocker to many as we knew for years Bandai was having problems. They weren't doing all that much. As a result, some things they had picked up like Turn-A Gundam, Nichijou, and Gosick went back to the Japanese licensors, frustrating the fans who really wanted those shows.
Soon after, Media Blasters announces they're laying off 60% of their staff and people started to freak. People freaked out even more when months later, Sentai Filmworks snatched up Queens Blade Rebellion, a sequel to basically the only thing Media Blasters was releasing these days.
Just when people had enough, news came in that FUNimation Entertainment sued Sentai Filmworks. This one really enraged people as no matter who wins, we the fans will lose. The court case begins this October.
Things just got so bad in January, the first three weeks we got those three stories. Many were saying the sky was falling
Though the thing is, this market has been dying for years. It hit it's peak around 2003 during the Anime Boom.
Some factors that basically are going into why sales keep falling, especially that 35% drop between 2009 and 2010 are (In no particular order):
1. The economy
3. The stuff getting cheaper, and the number of people buying not increasing enough to justify said lower price
4. Many people falling out of the fandom, many being buyers
5. People finding anime to be overpriced, and not buying as a result
Reason 1 makes sense, but I feel it's not as big of a factor as people make it out to be. Sales were declining well before the recession of 2008. We also saw in 2011 how this thing sold out before it's release date when there were 800 copies.
(Please note it was priced at $400 not $500 before it sold out)
Reason 2 is one that I consider a major factor. Piracy has basically become more of the mainstream thing to do, and pretty much everyone these days knows how to pirate things. Many people these days simply ignore legal options they have in their region completely, and fail to see the point in buying anime. When I go to places that aren't ANN, Fandom Post/Mania, forums for anime licensors, it becomes pretty tough to find people who will not pirate, or those that pirate, but will go back and buy the show in the end, which basically cancels things out.
Considering I have even been laughed at various places for buying anime (R1 releases, not the expensive R2 releases), it's a bad sign.
Now I'm not saying you have to buy every single show you like, or every anime you've ever watched, however I feel you should at least support your favorites, or at least make miniscule sacrifices like watching legal streams (If available). As many people say, if you love something, you should support it.
Now reason 3 probably seems strange for many people. Why would the stuff getting cheaper lead to less profits? Well the thing is, the anime fandom can be a weird one in how many people who'd pay $20 for a show are the same people who'd pay $100+.
One great example is how for years Geneon Entertainment priced their complete series box sets for 24/26 episode shows at $200 (Which was still cheaper than buying 7 $30 singles). However they stated when they later lowered prices to around where everyone else was at, sales did not increase for them much. There simply just weren't enough more people buying to justify the price drop.
This sort of thing is true also in Japan. If you weren't already aware, Japan prices their anime at fairly high prices. Your average box set is at least $150, so that $370 price tag for the Fate/Zero Blu-ray Box I believe it or not is completely normal to them. For singles, they release stuff in two to four episode singles, with the price running from about $60-$100, so your 12 episode show will cost around $600 to own, and the real kicker is their cost of living is much higher, and their salaries are much lower than over here.
The reason behind the high prices was explained best in this ANN article a while back. The unfortunate fact is they have to price this stuff that high to turn out a profit as when they lower the price, sales hardly increase as the otaku completely defy logic. There have been tons of cheap re-releases where the prices can match our prices sometimes (Which in Japan is a massive bargain), and more than 90% of them sell absolutely horribly.
Reason 4 makes plenty of sense. Many people simply just grow out of anime, and many of these people are buyers. However many of them are not being replaced by new fans these days, so when they fall out, the number of buyers continue to decrease. I feel like a rare breed these days, someone that actually buys anime. I know other people who feel the same.
Now reason 5 is something that annoys me. The price of anime has fallen a ton in the past decade, to the point you could argue more easily that anime is actually underpriced here. Singles are basically completely gone, the things you had to pay $30 for to get 3-4 episodes (DBZ cost $2,610 for 276/291 episodes back in the days thanks to them), and if you paid $10 more with one volume, you could get that artbox to house all the volumes. The only show this year that is being released in singles (Aside from the final things Bandai put out February 7th) to my knowledge is Puella Magi Madoka Magica which believe it or not is being priced the same as shows were in 2005. $90 for 12/13 episode shows was how things were back then.
2009 is the year where singles started to completely disappear. One of the last shows to be released in singles with an artbox was Baccano! from FUNimation. From then on, they basically abandoned singles for new shows for the 12 episode parts you see today. In 2010, when you'd see singles, they were priced at $20, and were around 6 episodes instead of 3-4. 2011 saw hardly anything, and now here we are in 2012 where Madoka is the only show out there being released in singles. Aniplex of America is pretty much the only company now that will use the singles model as everyone else has completely abandoned them in favor of 12 episode parts.
That ANN article goes well more into how things aren't working too well with prices being lower than ever. Newer fans who find Madoka's pricing "highway robbery" I highly recommend checking that out so you can see just how good you have it now.
So, I've explained many reasons why the market is in decline, so who's left in the game? Currently now we basically have these companies:
Major Players: Sentai Filmworks and FUNimation Entertainment
Secondary Players: NIS America, Aniplex of America, Discotek, Nozomi Entertainment (Rightstuf International)
Don't do much: Media Blasters (I'm basically writing them off as dead now), AnimeEigo, Manga Entertainment, and VIZ Media (They release DVD's only for Bleach, Naruto Shippuden, and Pokemon now, and nothing else)
And then you got the companies that dabble in anime.
All in all, things just keep looking more grim for the market here. When the Jetro report that adds in 2010 and 2011 into the mix next April on ANN, I hope to see a sales increase, but I won't get my hopes up.
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