Yesterday, NIS America announced that Nippon Ichi president Sohei Niikawa will replace company founder Haru Akenaga on July 1. Akenaga established NIS America in 2003, and will leave the company to “explore further opportunities in Japan.” He issued the following statement, which was published with the announcement:
As I move on from NISA I would like to express my sincerest appreciation to all who have supported this company during the past 8 years. When I think back to the time NISA was established, it feels like a small miracle that NISA was able to exist and enjoy this kind of growth and success. I can say with certainty that we would not be here today if not for the tremendous help we received from everyone. Through NISA I have gained many valuable experiences and made personal connections that I will treasure throughout my life and career. I consider myself truly fortunate. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for these wonderful 8 years. I will see you in the near future!
“So, what does this have to do with the anime industry?”
Great question, reader! A change in command is always an important happening in the business, as the new leader will always be the one to impose changes in focus and culture. A president is responsible for representing the company to the public and to investors, while dictating the policies that run through the organization. He oversees the relationships between staff, the media, and investors, while ensuring the the company runs efficiently and profitably.
Basically, the president is the one who the public knows, and it is his stewardship that dictates which direction the company will take. If he deems it a waste to chase boutique products, so be it. If he says that the mass is too crowded, and the boutique crowd is safer, the company will comply.
With this in mind, let’s take a brief look at the current business model for NIS America.
At the moment, NIS America specializes in the niche. Their games business is split between localizing the products of its parent company, Nippon Ichi, and the occasional smaller, lower-budget release. Titles like Disgaea and Atelier Totori don’t bring in the same level of sales as, say, Xenoblade Chronicles or Final Fantasy, but they certainly do enough to keep the lights on. They cater to their core customer-base, with the venture into bluer oceans with exploratory titles like Sakura Wars and Cave Story. They are, for all intents and purposes, an incredibly conservative organization that favors the easy profit over market expansion.
The anime division, which is much more relevant to our discussion, revolves around a similar business model. The company’s acquisitions, from Toradora to Wagnaria!! and Arakawa Under the Bridge have mostly been smaller shows that were largely passed on by bigger fish like FUNimation and Sentai Filmworks. And, typically, these are the titles that sell in far lower quantities than a show like Haruhi, Gundam, or even Angel Beats! To entice additional customers, they scale up the overall presentation. Each initial release ships with a sturdy chipboard box and a hard-cover guidebook that features artwork and background information on the shows. This, in turn, gives the appearance of a higher-quality product in the eyes of the consumer, thus making it stand out among the rest of the product on shelves. While we don’t have solid numbers to confirm the effects of such a strategy, the company’s stalwart support of such an approach hints that it is effective to some extent.
“And what does this have to do with the incoming President?”
Quite a bit, actually! The incoming president, with the staff, will dictate if such approaches are effective enough to warrant their continuation. Whether the company will continue forward with the current strategy, or if they’ll retool their approaches to the markets. On the gaming side, I doubt we’ll see much change applied. Since Niikawa is the president of Nippon Ichi, it’s in both companies’ best interests to continue pushing Nippon Ichi Software’s products in America. And, since he’s the writer, producer, and creator of the Disgaea series, there’s little doubt that he will want to see the series get extra-special attention in the west.
On the anime side, thoug, things grow much murkier. Since we don’t have concrete answers on the overall profitability of the anime line, it’s quite possible that we’ll see shifts in behavior to drive further revenues. we may see certain aspects, like the hardcover book, go away in favor of less expensive alternatives. Likewise, we may actually see the inclusion of other elements that add value to the line. We could see a renewed attempt to acquire more in-demand products, or a double down on the presentation, leading to increased quality of the pack-ins. I have sincere doubt that we’ll see earth-shattering changes to the overall line-up and formula, as it goes against everything the rest of the company currently stands for.
There are far too many unknowns at this point to offer an accurate prediction. However, we can safely say that NIS America will remain a conservative country. It’s embedded in their DNA at this point. What Niikawa will bring the table will be interesting, as we can finally begin to see just what he intends to do with the company. Any outcome is possible, come July 1. I certainly hope that any changes that do happen to be made are done so for the better.