Earlier today, FUNimation announced that will cease production of future volumes of their Dragon Ball Z Blu-Ray releases for the foreseeable future. The halt in production includes the March 27 release of Dragon Ball Z: Level 2.1. According to FUNimation, they began producing the Blu-Ray releases because of fan demand. Unfortunately, technical challenges in restoration left the company unable to continue remastering the show using their current methods.
No company wants to announce that they’re pulling their product from the market. It shows that they made a large mistake in one of the following areas:
- Reading the market
- Sales projections
From the announcement given, we can surmise that this was a failure of planning and budgeting. When the company made the announcement that they’d be doing a frame-by-frame restoration and re-master from the original Japanese 16mm film. Film restoration in itself is a long, expensive process, with a number of variables. Cleaning and restoring film in itself, with costs ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 per 90-minutes of video. This doesn’t even begin to touch the costs of remastering the film into the commonly-desired 1080p standard for high definition.
At the same time, this was being hailed as a flagship product for the network. Dragon Ball Z has always been a major seller for the company, and they’ve always been fairly open about it. For the Blu-Ray release, the company went all out. they plastered anime mags, and bought scads of ads on networks like Cartoon Network and Nick. Copies of the show were found on shelves at every Target, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart across the company. FUNimation wanted this to sell, and they were dead-set on getting it into as many hands as humanly possible.
While the show did open strongly, and still manages to cling to high spots on the top-seller lists at Amazon and other online retailers, the show clearly doesn’t appear to be moving the units needed to break the projected earnings for the project. As they re-evaluate their strategy, the questions of “what challenges can be overcome? What went right, and what can be changes” will certainly fly in a number of meetings, as alternatives to the current restoration model are looked at, and costs are re-calculated.
During the interim, the biggest risk is the potential loss of customer confidence. For every week that the next volume is delayed, fewer customers will return to buy it. With fewer potential buyers, the profit projections will drop, which will create a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure in the long run. In addition, there is always a segment that is alienated by such suspensions. This segment will usually be kicked to the second tier of non-customers: Those who are aware of the product, but consciously refuse to purchase it for one reason or another.
It will be interesting to see how FUNimation reacts in the future, regarding these remastered sets. Dragon Ball represents a lot of potential money for the company and to leave it on the table hardly seems like FUNimation’s style. At this point, the only real hope for the company seems to be a case in which they can find a financially viable alternative to their current restoration and remastering processes that’s acceptable in comparison to current quality standards before the product ends up dead in the water.