Yesterday, FUNimation announced that they’ll be releasing their first-ever subtitled-only set with OniAi. The title, which is due to hit stores at the end of the year, will be a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack priced at $49.98. Naturally, people began to panic. They began proclaiming that all but the biggest titles would go un-dubbed, cats and dogs would get along, and dubbing as we know it would cease to exist.
FUNimation put out a blog post with the hope of calming a panicked customer-base. In no uncertain terms, they stated that the release would be a trial, to see if they can market titles that would otherwise under-perform at retail. In no uncertain terms, FUNimation’s reps said that the company would not adopt a sub-only model, and that a vast majority of the company’s titles would be dubbed. Regardless, there is still a lingering worry that this is part of something sinister.
Stop. Take a deep breath, and relax. There is no plot to kill dubs, and nobody’s trying to rob you of a dub for your favorite new show. If anything, FUNimation has every incentive to not go sub-only as often as possible. Because titles released with a dub will undoubtedly sell more than a subtitled-only release version of the same show to some degree, it’s in FUNimation’s best interest to dub every show if the bump gained from sales will be enough to offset the costs. However, this does show that FUNimation is being a bit more selective about what it runs through the recording studio.
In their blog post, FUNimation did let an interesting bit of information out to the public. Basically, the company uses data from various legal streaming outlets, specifically naming Hulu and FUNimation.com, to determine the popularity and sales potential of a show. And, with the sub-only releases, they were aiming to give a chance to various shows that fell below the “break even” point when weighed against the costs of a dubbed release.
In English, FUNimation just confirmed what may of us already gathered. And, while the process has gotten more streamlined and reliable due to analytics from legal outlets, the methodology isn’t entirely different from the days when ADV would watch fansub trackers to gauge a show’s potential in the legal marketplace. What you watch on streaming determines which shows will get dubbed releases, which will hit as either subtitled boxes, and which will stay digital exclusives.
While it’s not a solution that will sit well with everybody, the fact that FUNimation is looking to expand their offerings on the market is an undeniable positive. How this experimental release pans out will undoubtedly be a major factor in how FUNimation’s strategies evolve in the next year. Which path they take at this point will rest solely in the hands of the consumer.