Over the past few days, Eden of the East: King of Eden and Ga-Rei-Zero both received changes to their release formats. Instead of the standard DVD and Blu-Ray releases, the titles will be released in combination packs. This is an interesting turn for FUNimation, and a move that is unprecedented in the industry so far. However, it also strikes me as interesting, in a number of ways.
At first glance, this is a move that benefits the consumer. After all, it works in the consumer’s favor on a number of levels. DVD owners can collect the series, with no worries about having to “trade up” to Blu-Ray, in the case that they do pick up a player. At the same time, Blu-Ray owners can have a DVD copy of the film to take to a friend’s house, or on the road, where a high-def player may not be readily available. The strategy worked well for Disney in the past, and continues to be a good driver of sales for the company.
I can’t help but look at this a bit more cynically, though. On one hand, I see this as a potential attempt to keep costs lower, while simultaneously increasing revenues. With one release, there is one guaranteed price point. And, if these releases are any indicator, it will be the Blu-Ray release that they’re basing prices on. However, with one release, there is only one box that will be produced (well two – limited editions, and all of that), which means half the work to be done. DVDs are cheap to produce, so the cost of their inclusion into the set would easily be offset by the slightly higher sticker price. But, even then, in the case of Ga-Rei, both the Blu-Ray and DVD were priced identically, so this argument is (slightly) suspect, at a closer look.
On the other hand, I wonder if this may be symptomatic of another issue. With the combined SKU, it may be possible that one of the two versions didn’t sell enough to make printing costs worthwhile. Int his case, it would be more cost-effective to combine the two SKUs, to sell to the existing pre-orders and potentially earn the passers-by with the promise of added value to the package.
Of course, without hard numbers, this is all merely speculation. There is undoubtedly a reason for the move, but at this point it’s anybody’s guess. Still, no matter the reasoning, this is a win for the consumer, as they do get both releases in one package.