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Old 2012-10-08, 00:40   Link #1
Urzu 7
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Why are anime Blu-rays in Japan so expensive?

Why are anime Blu-rays in Japan so expensive? I saw some on play-asia going for around $88 USD. Is that typical of anime Blu-ray prices in Japan?

Also, there is the reverse-importation. A lot of Japanese anime fans buy NA anime Blu-ray releases because they are so much cheaper. I read something about a company called Kodakawa trying to stop their anime licensed in NA from getting Blu-ray releases, probably to fight reverse-importation. Is Kodakawa still restricting Blu-ray releases in NA? Are other anime companies following suit? It'd be so bad if they were. That'd mean they don't know how to combat their problem with reverse-importation. The best way to do that is to make anime Blu-rays in their country affordable.

And that circles back to the question from the beginning of this post. Why are anime Blu-rays so expensive in Japan? It is just causing problems with reverse-importation and the ridiculously high prices for anime Blu-rays in Japan really are not fair prices at all.
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Old 2012-10-08, 01:02   Link #2
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I'm quite sure we've had this conversation before in this sub-forum (and in fact we were just talking about it in the new piracy law thread). (I will search in a bit to see if there's an existing thread and this may be merged.)

Long story short: anime on Blu-Ray is expensive in Japan because it's aimed exclusively at Collectors. There is no expectation whatsoever that someone would buy anime on Blu-ray "just to watch the show". You could watch it on TV, or rent it, or find online PPV streams, or all sorts of other things if you just want to watch. This is very different from other markets around the world where buying anime on Blu-Ray or DVD may have (until recently) been the only legal way to watch anime.

Most Japanese anime Blu-Ray releases are pitched as Limited Collectors Editions with rather nice packaging, full-colour booklets, on-disc and pack-in extras, and sometimes various "first pressing", store-exclusive, or other mail-in bonus goods to try to entice people to collect. But, at the end of the day, I think most people who buy Japanese anime Blu-Rays do so because they want to support the show with their wallet. Since most late-night anime does not make its money back during its airing, it's the merchandise sales (like the expensive Blu-Rays) that allow the anime production committees to hopefully break even on production costs. It's really the evolution of the old OVA market, except they air the shows on TV as an advertising strategy.

Regarding "reverse-importation"... keep in mind that most of the Japanese buying market currently buys to collect, not just to watch. Frankly, most North American releases (but not all) have very limited-to-minimal collector's value because they tend to be "budget releases". But of course, there are always some people who wouldn't mind owning certain shows on Blu-Ray and don't care about having all the frills (it also may help that North American releases are now usually boxsets, so take up less storage space), so releasing the show in other markets on Blu-Ray (thus at high-quality) as boxsets for such a low price so quickly after the Japanese release can be seen as a bad idea, because it devalues the "limited edition" nature of the original product and the value of anime on the whole. Right now, many anime production committees are quite dependant on Blu-Ray sales, and it isn't like dropping all the prices is going to increase sales proportionate to the money lost (because again, most anime fans don't necessarily want/need to own discs of anime, no matter the price).

Keep in mind that anime is actually a tiny niche market. If a show currently sells 6 volumes at 7140 yen for 5,000 copies/vol. (a good, but not great amount), that's 214,200,000 yen (about $2.7 million) gross revenue, of which they may get something like 50-60% after various middlemen take their cut. Let's say you reduced the price to the North American standard price of $60 USD for a season boxset. You'd have to sell about 45,000 copies of the boxset just to make the same amount of money. Are there really that many people in Japan who want to own anime on Blu-Ray for your average show, when you have 20-30+ new anime airing each season? I think that's quite doubtful. You may have some shows that reach that threshold, but a lot of others who would end up in the doldrums, and so make even less money. If your show has, let's say, 1000 hardcore fans, doing it this way means that you're least going to get maybe $0.5 million in gross revenue, whereas at American prices, you would only get about $60k. Horrible. Even if you imagine that more would purchase a show at the cheaper price, it takes so many more to make up for it.

In other words, I think the Japanese market settled on this price point because they learned, through experience, that this was the point that would bring in the most revenue for the most shows in most circumstances.

I'm sure there's a lot to be said (and I've written a lot about this before), but that's probably a good starting point.
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Old 2012-10-08, 01:24   Link #3
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Hmmm.... Can't they just sell it like same as those Dvd movies being sold...?

I got a theory... They probably raise the prize for Blurays to compensate for the possible few sales... They could spent less in production cost but still earn their targeted profit even from few sold copies.
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Old 2012-10-08, 01:32   Link #4
Urzu 7
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That helps me understand things better, relentlessflame.

Perhaps this thread could stay open, too. This topic isn't clearly mentioned in any other topic titles. This thread's title clearly indicates this thread is about this topic. It can be an easier way for people browsing General Anime to stumble upon the topic and learn things about it. Also, I searched the General Anime forums for a topic on this and found nothing. Maybe with this topic here now, if someone does a search for this topic, they'll find this thread and then no one else will make a similar thread (and if someone/some people do, their threads can be merged into this thread).
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Old 2012-10-08, 01:35   Link #5
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An interesting case in point is what Aniplex did with the Kara no Kyoukai USA release. They sold their Blu-ray in a boxset for 600$ (!) and actually sold out their release. Not only that, but it didn't include any dub. It was a pretty special looking release though.

I don't know what their sales volume was, but clearly that approach can work as well in the USA as it does in Japan. It certainly exceeded Aniplex's expectations...
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Old 2012-10-08, 01:43   Link #6
Urzu 7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DonQuigleone View Post
An interesting case in point is what Aniplex did with the Garden of Sinners's USA release. They sold their Blu-ray in a boxset for 600$ (!) and actually sold out their release. Not only that, but it didn't include any dub. It was a pretty special looking release though.

I don't know what that volume was, but clearly that approach can work as well in the USA as it does in Japan. It certainly exceeded Aniplex's expectations...
So whatever they did, it worked for them. But how was releasing the series in a $600 box set with no dub a smart approach to all of this? How was that a creative solution?
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Old 2012-10-08, 01:44   Link #7
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Well, if you look at CD Japan, you'll find that a DVD volume of a new anime release is around $70-75 (bluray a bit more). Compare with new releases of many Japanese live action movies - around $50-60. Granted, the latter is more likely to get a cheap reissue later on.

This has always looked to me like a case of markets evolving different - there was a time when many movies cost $70 or $80 on VHS in the US too, that's why rental shops were so popular. I suspect Relentless is right in that everyone except collectors just watches on TV or rents, which honestly probably makes sense in light of the size of many Japanese apartments.
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Old 2012-10-08, 01:49   Link #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DonQuigleone View Post
An interesting case in point is what Aniplex did with the Garden of Sinners's USA release. They sold their Blu-ray in a boxset for 600$ (!) and actually sold out their release. Not only that, but it didn't include any dub. It was a pretty special looking release though.

I don't know what that volume was, but clearly that approach can work as well in the USA as it does in Japan. It certainly exceeded Aniplex's expectations...
Citation needed, but I've seen it stated before that the quantity available to RightStuf for that special release was around 500 copies. So you figure 500 copies at $400 (after the discount, which is really just trickery about the value), and you've got $200k gross revenue, and they did it at rather little cost (since it's essentially the Japanese release (that had subtitles on it) with a translated booklet). Fate/Zero was released following the same sort of principle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Urzu 7 View Post
So whatever they did, it worked for them. But how was releasing the series in a $600 box set with no dub a smart approach to all of this? How was that a creative solution?
Because there is an audience willing to pay that much for a collector's edition type product (and you can do it at minimal cost), so why not take their money? People who don't want to pay the price either a) don't need the show on Blu-Ray that badly, or b) will just find other ways to watch it anyway, so are non-customers (for the product you're currently selling). And, a while later, you can always re-release it for a cheaper price (with less frills/bonus items) to attract people who weren't willing to pay at the higher tier. And for people who still aren't willing to pay, there are always other ways to watch it (like legal streaming).

Even though people may be willing to give you "some" money to buy something, the key calculation for a business is to figure out the point where you maximize your profit. And in this age of online streaming, the need to "buy to view" is decreasing rapidly (particularly among the newer fans).


Edit: So the next question that may logically follow is "if that's the case, why don't the North American anime companies just do that for all shows"? I think they may gradually edge there, but I think right now the risk is too great. Right now, the minimum realistic size of a run for Blu-Rays is probably around 1,000 discs. At the current price point, they can probably eventually clear at least half of those somehow for most shows they pick up. And because the market in North America is so weak right now, the advances licensees pay are likely pretty small. If they started raising the MSRP significantly, the Japanese rightsholders would demand a bigger cut. And then it becomes that much more critical that you sell the lot. Right now, a single flop isn't necessarily going to kill them, because there isn't that much ventured. But the higher the bar is raised, the greater the risk/impact of a flop. The Japanese rightsholders can mitigate this risk in Japan through the production committee system (and collectively selling lots of different products besides Blu-Rays at all sorts of price points), but licensees don't have as deep of a well to draw from. But I think the guarded success of some of Aniplex's moves may start causing some people in Japan to realize that there is a high-end collector's market in North America, and this could gradually cause pressure to raise the MSRP and collector's value to appeal to that audience (since the so called "casual buyer" market probably isn't going to grow much in this world of streaming).

I will say that, right now, there is a tiny portion of that potential high-end collectors market (of which I am a part) who are just importing Japanese releases directly and bypassing the North American market completely. But the shipping costs and language barrier certainly limit the potential growth of this audience. They may have money, but they don't necessarily want the hassle. If there were more Aniplex-style releases, that high-end market could probably be further-cultivated. But to do that in such a way that keeps costs down and mitigates risk probably does require the direct intervention of the Japanese producers/distributors, as Aniplex did... but this also causes some questions to be raised about the need for licensees. The world's continuing to change...
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Old 2012-10-08, 02:39   Link #9
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Highly priced limited edition Blu-ray releases for anime in NA...I hope they don't become more popular. I like to buy some anime DVDs and Blu-rays. If more series were localized as high priced box sets, that'd really screw over anyone who isn't a hardcore collector of anime series.

Yeah, companies are just trying to make profits, but it fucks things up for a lot of people who want to own certain series on discs. I'd love to buy Dog Days seasons 1 and 2 if they were brought to NA, but if they released both seasons on Blu-ray for, say, $500? That is just a deal breaker to most of the people who'd love to own the series on disc.
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Old 2012-10-08, 03:29   Link #10
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Originally Posted by Urzu 7 View Post
Yeah, companies are just trying to make profits, but it fucks things up for a lot of people who want to own certain series on discs. I'd love to buy Dog Days seasons 1 and 2 if they were brought to NA, but if they released both seasons on Blu-ray for, say, $500? That is just a deal breaker to most of the people who'd love to own the series on disc.
Well, this is the model of luxury goods (for hardcore collectors to buy), which is in contrast to other International anime markets where anime BDs/DVDs have been pitched as sort of general purpose goods (that all fans can buy). Personally I would say that a key point is that, if they're going to price a lot of customers out of the market, it's that much more valuable to have some other product that can still reach those customers. Sort of like, if you can't afford an iPhone, you can still get an iPod Touch, and if you can't afford an iPod Touch, you can still get an iPod Nano, or a Shuffle. That's basically what they have in Japan when you consider all the different sorts of goods you can buy, but it doesn't really exist in the rest of the world.

Basically, it's about pitching Anime Blu-Rays as an "aspirational product" (or speciality good). It'll be pretty rough to make the transition back up that ladder, though, because as you say: people who had been in the fold before would now be left out.
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Old 2012-10-08, 04:18   Link #11
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Originally Posted by relentlessflame View Post
Citation needed, but I've seen it stated before that the quantity available to RightStuf for that special release was around 500 copies. So you figure 500 copies at $400 (after the discount, which is really just trickery about the value), and you've got $200k gross revenue, and they did it at rather little cost (since it's essentially the Japanese release (that had subtitles on it) with a translated booklet). Fate/Zero was released following the same sort of principle.
If you read my link:
“The demand for The Garden of Sinners has been tremendous. Immediately after the Blu-Ray Box Set sold out here in North America, we received numerous requests from fans in North America to bring this masterpiece back. We are certain that everyone will be pleased with this release.” says Hideki Goto, the president of Animation Business of Aniplex of America.

I think that's as good as you can get. I don't know what the sales volume was, but my guess is that getting 200k gross revenue was as good as you can get in the US anime market. Not only that, but compared to a normal release, more of that was real profit, because it wasn't released through retail (who take a larger cut), and the volume was low. I doubt Aniplex could have made much more then that, Kara no Kyoukai is a niche release with little general audience appeal (in anime market terms).
Quote:
Even though people may be willing to give you "some" money to buy something, the key calculation for a business is to figure out the point where you maximize your profit. And in this age of online streaming, the need to "buy to view" is decreasing rapidly (particularly among the newer fans).
Exactly, that's why I think that, on balance, it's a good model.

Quote:
If there were more Aniplex-style releases, that high-end market could probably be further-cultivated. But to do that in such a way that keeps costs down and mitigates risk probably does require the direct intervention of the Japanese producers/distributors, as Aniplex did... but this also causes some questions to be raised about the need for licensees. The world's continuing to change...
Personally, I think the way forward is for the Japanese companies to do away with the licensing agreement system, and instead release directly themselves, but retain the services of the previous licensees like Funimation etc. on more of a "consultancy" basis.

Quote:
Originally Posted by relentlessflame View Post
Well, this is the model of luxury goods (for hardcore collectors to buy), which is in contrast to other International anime markets where anime BDs/DVDs have been pitched as sort of general purpose goods (that all fans can buy). Personally I would say that a key point is that, if they're going to price a lot of customers out of the market, it's that much more valuable to have some other product that can still reach those customers. Sort of like, if you can't afford an iPhone, you can still get an iPod Touch, and if you can't afford an iPod Touch, you can still get an iPod Nano, or a Shuffle. That's basically what they have in Japan when you consider all the different sorts of goods you can buy, but it doesn't really exist in the rest of the world.

Basically, it's about pitching Anime Blu-Rays as an "aspirational product" (or speciality good). It'll be pretty rough to make the transition back up that ladder, though, because as you say: people who had been in the fold before would now be left out.
Yes. For instance, if Gunpla(or other model kits) were easier to get my hands on (with less of a markup...) I might be more inclined to get that. But here in Ireland they're impossible to find.

And anyway, I'd like it if there was some way for me to pay a small amount of money for a soft copy. I'd pay $30 for a soft copy of an entire season. They have to bear in mind what they're competing against. If I buy a game online for $40-$60 then I'm hoping to get around 50 hours+ of entertainment. I'm willing to pay a bit more per hour for Anime, but we're still only talking about 10 hours for an average 26 episode season. I'd be willing to pay $30 for that(if I really liked it), and I'm sure many others would too.
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Old 2012-10-08, 04:36   Link #12
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Old 2012-10-08, 08:19   Link #13
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I think it should be pointed out it's not just anime, but all Japanese media: live action DVDs/BR are also super expensive there. Same with music CDs.
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Old 2012-10-08, 08:22   Link #14
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Music CD aren't exactly "that" expensive, unless price in US are again on the ridiculously low (as usual huh?). A regular single is around 1K-1.3K yens, an album is between 2.5-3.5K, which isn't that far from what I can see with music CD and all over here.

Any premium content is prone to be expensive, but regular stuff? Not that much.
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Old 2012-10-08, 08:26   Link #15
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Those prices for music seem pretty normal to me. 1k yen being roughly $10.
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Old 2012-10-08, 08:56   Link #16
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Originally Posted by Klashikari View Post
Music CD aren't exactly "that" expensive, unless price in US are again on the ridiculously low (as usual huh?). A regular single is around 1K-1.3K yens, an album is between 2.5-3.5K, which isn't that far from what I can see with music CD and all over here.

Any premium content is prone to be expensive, but regular stuff? Not that much.
I see music CDs going for closer to 3000-4500 yen. I've been to quite a few different countries and Japanese CDs have always seem on the high end to me. Although maybe that is partially the exchange rate talking too.

Everything seems more expensive right now in Japan.

Also singles seem to go for slightly more than 1000 yen usally.
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Old 2012-10-08, 13:15   Link #17
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I agree that (anime) CD prices are quite steep. Most singles of western music CDs are around €11 and most albums cost between €15 and €25. That's roughly 17% cheaper than the majority of Japanese music CDs that I've bought (both anime and non-anime).

Of course, it may depend on what retailer you use to buy them at. For most of my music CDs from western bands, I have a relatively cheap retailer, so the results may not be 100% accurate.
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Old 2012-10-08, 13:34   Link #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kirarakim View Post
I see music CDs going for closer to 3000-4500 yen. I've been to quite a few different countries and Japanese CDs have always seem on the high end to me. Although maybe that is partially the exchange rate talking too.

Everything seems more expensive right now in Japan.

Also singles seem to go for slightly more than 1000 yen usally.
It really depends of the series/publisher, but I rarely saw a single going above 1300 yens mark unless it has something special like goods/DVD with it , likewise, regular anime album/OST hardly break the 3.5-4K mark, so I really wonder what kind of CD you spotted there, but that's not really what I could find at Akiba or on Amazon.jp (although there obviously are some crazy price tags as well).
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Old 2012-10-08, 13:49   Link #19
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Originally Posted by Kirarakim View Post
I see music CDs going for closer to 3000-4500 yen. I've been to quite a few different countries and Japanese CDs have always seem on the high end to me. Although maybe that is partially the exchange rate talking too.

Everything seems more expensive right now in Japan.

Also singles seem to go for slightly more than 1000 yen usally.
curious no company has taken a iTune hammer to the japanese business model
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Old 2012-10-08, 14:07   Link #20
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curious no company has taken a iTune hammer to the japanese business model
Like Apple themselves?
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