It's promising, but is it worth an extra fiver?

Yesterday, FUNimation announced that they’ll be releasing collectors editions of every new show they release, beginning next year. The special editions will be available only on the first printing, and will retail for an extra $5. In addition, the company will be putting out premium editions of popular older shows under their label, such as Gantz.

ANN reports that every premium edition will come with an “extra item”, which FUNimation’s Lance Heiskell elaborated:

“The premium item could also be a more elaborate, more intricate collectible rigid box design. Call it the “extra fancy” version.”

I can’t help but be surprised by FUNimation’s actions. they’ve been a huge part of the reduction of prices, to a point where full titles can be had for under $20. The company’s SAVE line pretty much pushed anime prices to the lowest they’ve ever been. Granted, we’ve seen some sacrifices: cheaper packaging, fewer extras, and a more stripped-down, bare-bones approach to anime releases. To see them embrace the “premium content” approach seems, well – it seems to be completely opposite of the company’s current track.

Personally, I could see this going in two directions: One positive, one quasi-negative. On the positive outcome, the premium editions could help spur sales. Adding an incentive, much like a preorder bonus, could help restore some value to anime as a whole, since people tend to put some value on goodies, even if they don’t put value on the show itself anymore. The $5 premium (on new shows) seems to be easier to swallow than many premium editions in the past. Handled correctly, the “classics” line could provide a similar incentive. The major caveat for this is to limit just how many of these “premium editions” get to market. ADV, Geneon, and Bandai all made huge mistakes by flooding the marketplace with these editions, which were later discounted beyond all recognition, and made worthless. Also, it may not be wise to offer a premium edition for every show that hits market, since a number of titles, stand to fall flat, bonus or none.

On the quasi-negative end, this approach could fail, and lead to no appreciable spike in sales. In that end, FUNimation could stand to lose a bit of revenue, as the licensing and production costs for these special editions will undoubtedly be higher than that of the standards. On that end, I hope they can read the writing on the wall early enough, and pull out before lasting harm is done. After all, there’s no point in being a darling with consumers if they aren’t going to buy what you’re selling.

It looks like FUNimation will roll out the line with Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji), Sacred Blacksmith, and Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom. The lineup is definitely promising, but all we can do at this point is wait to see just how things shape up, before any final commentary is thrown.
Update: It appears that I was mistaken on FUNimation’s Anime Classics label. The  line is akin to Bandai’s Anime Legends line – according to current information, the line will not be receiving premium editions.