Core anime customers are among the most fickle in the regards to maintaining attention. They are fickle, they are fussy, and they are constantly lusting after the newest thing. If things don’t go right, many will readily drop a product and go to the nearest Bittorrent tracker to get a black-market alternative. In short, to wear out a tired quote, Chad Kime famously said ” give an anime fan a reason to not buy your product, and they will take it at the first opportunity.” With this in mind, maintaining customer attention appears to be a Herculean task.
And, I won’t lie, it is.
The key to maintaining customer attention with such a fussy market is to create enough value to the greater customer-base that these fussier members will ignore the complaints of the few. Businesses need to fall into the gap, in which it becomes too inconvenient, too troublesome to take black market solutions.
We’ve seen attempts at this from numerous segments of the market in recent years. Be it additions to streaming services like YouTube and Hulu, to sales on iTunes, Amazon, and XBox Live, and even heavily discounted DVD collections of older titles. Simulcasts of new shows eliminate complaints of major shows not coming fast enough, and experiments in lower-priced DVD/Blu-ray combo packs are fighting complaints that releases are too expensive. At the same time, we’re seeing experiments with companies trying to increase the value of titles with limited editions and premium content.
However, there are still those complaining, and many who desire more from the market. As an example, many have called for digital copies, and easy digital access for media purchases. People in general do not like to re-buy content – they would rather use these funds to invest in new titles, and new experiences. In another case, customers have made repeated calls for faster turnaround from acquisition to release. Many don’t like the idea of waiting six to twelve months to actually purchase something they’ve anticipated. Sentai Filmworks has moved toward eliminating this issue, in a sense. Every press release they issue for a new show is accompanied by a hard release date. This creates a more stable appearance, as the market becomes less of a guessing game, and more of a sound promise in the eyes of the general consumer. Many other outlets in the industry have yet to adopt this practice.
There are many places that the anime industry can improve and better maintain the attention customers place upon it. In many regards, we’ve seen some steps forward, and some attempts to step forward (one can only do so much when working with a Japanese licensor). However, it will take many baby steps to reach the lengths of the quantum leaps that many customers demand today. This may be difficult, if not impossible to do in many cases, due to the complex customer-licensor relationships that exist today. In the open market, the customer may be king, but even he has limits as to what he can get at times.