Oh So FUNi, What Would I Do Without You?

Just to riff off this piece of news, because I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. Probably ever since sometime in 2008 or 2009.

It’s kind of obvious that Funi is down 75% since 2004. Robert (of RACS) posted here and explained it better than I could. What is surprising is that anime is still doing as well as it is doing today, although I’m sure 1999 would be exaggerating. Maybe it’s like how his store’s website is still stuck in 1999.

During the one summer (or two) when Adam Sheehan was doing most of the cons (’09?), he peddled a couple slides saying how anime wasn’t dying, that FUNi was crunching out SKUs on a normal basis and how one year they put out more than the previous. What those slides didn’t say was how many of them were re-releases, either of their older titles or license rescues from ADV/Geneon. The impact of that wasn’t immediately clear to me, but I think DL ShawneK spelled it out the other day, front and center.

To draw it out a little more in this post, people who buy re-releases are people who are going to buy an old title. Who buys old titles? And we’re not talking about Beauty and the Beast on BD here–it’s your average b-rated licenses from the mid ’00s. Usually not hardcore fans (because they would have them already), and usually fans who are just easing their way into the hobby, or fans who have their fortunes improved (hopefully not a small number), such as those who have graduated in ’07-’10 and found jobs, for example.

It is an entirely different beast than new licenses. New license generates hype and continuing interests, as people are always interested in it. I think American fans are Pavlov’s doggies when it comes to industry and license announcements. (As an aside, I :sadface: when guys like Chris and whoever at ANN botched the Coffee Samurai PR, but anyways.) It’s party time, man! FUNi’s re-release-passing-as-progress? That’s sadface posing as party cat, in your house imitate Kanye trying to let you finish.

I think FUNi needs to get more nimble. A title like Summer Wars, for example, potentially can make them good money. They’re giving it full treatment, but I get the feeling they’re not really striking when the iron is hot. It’s finally released this week. What does that mean? It means it wasn’t out last holiday season, the last fiscal quarter, or the last time Navarre was trying to sell them.

On the other hand, I see that what FUNi is doing is somewhat hard to fault. They’re taking cautious steps into new media and sticking to what worked in old medida. Their transit strategy from a company that made its money from a handful of big titles so they can turn around and produce dubs for every other show they had to license (when it wasn’t really worth it) was, to be honest, what I would’ve done. The stream of re-releases wasn’t a bad idea, probably, given what they had to deal with as the licensing mechanism shriveled, regardless of its unavoidably negative consequences. It’s just right now they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. I mean yeah, dubs sell, but wouldn’t it be a better way to phrase thing to say “nothing sells that much anymore”? It seems that from a business forecast perspective, as long as new players like NISA or Aniplex are prodding the market by building up a new business strategy from scratch, FUNi will be left behind to play catch up in terms of making their methods more profitable (ie., by cutting costs but not by shifting gears). Well, that is assuming these companies make it in the long run at all. NISA is walking through its first full year as an anime localizer and distributor; I’m sure they’re already reeling from how some titles just don’t sell, as moe as they may be.

The North American market has been waiting for the next Yugioh/Pokemon for about a decade now. I don’t see that wait to ever end; or rather, it’s probably already sort of late to examine the flaws of that particular business strategy. Maybe we will go back to 1999 for reals!

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4 responses to “Oh So FUNi, What Would I Do Without You?

  • dm00

    “DL ShawneK spelled it out the other day, front and center.” The link is missing a slash. It tries to send us off to sharekoube.wordpress.com2011.

    I’m not quite sure what ShawneK was spelling out front and center, w.r.t., your overall theme.

    Another, possibly tiny, set of buyers of re-releases are people who are waiting for the price-point to drop to the level they’re willing to spend for a series. I waited *years* for Scrapped Princess to get to my price-point. But picking up those Dutch-auction buyers at the highest price they’re willing to pay is one way to optimize returns from your customer base.

    In terms of “yes, dubs sell…” there’s something of another “new player” present, in the way that Sentai/Section 23 are buying up marginal titles and doing sub-only releases (the low-end of the NISA/Aniplex scheme (which is sub-only with extremely nice extras)).

    This is probably the only way we’d be able to get Hoshizora Kiseki. It looks like Section 23 might be doing a release close to the time of the Japanese video release?

  • dm00

    Silly me. “Front and center” literally — item #1 on your list of points from Kleckner.

    Okay, yes. The flip side of meeting the price-point of a marginal buyer is losing a premium sale to a patient would-be premium buyer.

    With the sales figures for Kara no Kyoukai boggling his mind, I’m sure he has a renewed respect for the premium buyers. I don’t know how many of KnK they sold, but a more “reasonable” price-point would have required them to sell maybe five to ten times as many, which just seems unlikely, so I can’t say they made any kind of a mistake.

  • omo

    Thanks for the note, I goofed on the domain redirect and forgot to fix it :3

    1. http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/detailview.html?KEY=MZDV-9 so this has been out (cheap) for a while now. It ain’t exactly the kind of show that needs subs either IMO…

    More importantly, we know it cost like, $5000 to license the title because of a certain stunt from a certain somebody. Poor Comix Wave :(

    2. You said “price point” and I’m like, yah, I bought all of mai-hime for like $30, not because it was re-released but because the expensive version got cheap later on. So I don’t think the re-releases targets anybody in that segment since there is still a hard floor on the price. That is more of a cost-cutting measure.

    Ultimately, you need to identify how much money, where the money is, and how to part them from their comfy homes. The Rakkyo boxes are part of that whole fuzzy process of marketing and figuring things out, although I’m not going to agree with your assessment about price on that.

    3. The S23 thing is a little more complicated, but that’s probably because I’m thinking more about CLANNAD. I think it’s obvious why companies go sub-only, but it’s not obvious as to the consequences of doing so, or for that matter, adhering to an always-dub policy.

  • dm00

    For some reason I thought Hoshizora Kiseki was the new Shinkai thing. Never mind.

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