AnimeVillage Fails to Deliver
Bandai's Animevillage.com web site promised to be a ground-breaking online anime fandom community, offering an exclusive line of video tapes for sale, at what was touted as "more episodes per tape" and "better prices" than traditional anime distribution companies could offer. They claimed to do this by cutting out the middleman, meaning by-passing traditional retail channels, which accounts for much of the prices of commercial releases.
As the site opened, the prices were announced, and some initial sales were a comparatively good price (volume 1 of Vision of Escaflowne, Saber Marionette J, or Clamp School Detectives at $9.99 for 4 episodes, or the entire boxed set for $150), but once the deals end on October 1 and future volumes are released, the tapes range in price from $24.99 to $29.99, which is exactly what the highest-priced anime distributors, AD Vision and Viz Communications, currently charge.
This has not fared well with the fan community. On one mailing list, one fan noted that he was "very disappointed" with the prices. Worse, on the AnimeVillage bulletin board, a few angry fans expressed their doubt at the survival of the program at those prices.
AnimeVillage does have quite a few supporters, however. One fan was quoted as saying, "Well...their regular pricing isn't that much better than most, but if you get the box sets or whatnot, it's a big savings." Another said, "I'm cheering on their pricing. It's good for North American anime fans." Others noted that, while they are not much cheaper than AD Vision or Viz Video, they DO offer more episodes per tape than either of them typically do.
Disappointment at the inaccuracy of initial press statements still lingers, however. "The most conservative of us were expecting prices at about $20," one fan, calling himself "Aaron" said on the forum. "After this, at LEAST one of the [AnimeVillage people] made the statement that we were going to be surprised and that their prices would 'blow you away.'" In their press release announcing their opening, the announcement was made that, "there's a lot of companies that'll just blow off what the fans have to say. Not us."
While they are listening to the complainers, they are not taking any actions to quell their reactions. "Marlon-VO" (VO, or "Village Officer" designates that they are AnimeVillage personnel) posts in response, "With all due respect, you will just have to trust that we do not have some diabolical plot in our minds to rip off fans and others alike... We have responsibilities to other businesses, companies and producers, etc. as well as the fans. And we DO believe that we have a responsibility to the fans." Marlon adds that the cost of maintaining the web page's "virtual community" is very high, and at no cost to the users. (Other explanations given included why Quebec was excluded from doing business with them -- a law that everything sold in Quebec has to have French packaging -- and the possibility of LD and DVD releases in the future, should it be determined that the market is suitable. This proved to be inaccurate, and Bandai is looking into a fix for the problem.)
This, however, isn't the issue they seem to be upset over. "They did not hold true to the statements they made to us. Instead of incredible prices, they gave us pretty standard prices... while forcing us to go through their mail-order distribution channels which adds even more cost to us," Aaron goes on. "That is why people are mad. Because we were MISLEAD."
Whether Bandai will make any changes to its pricing to quell fans remains to be seen. However, "Marlon-VO" did mention that there will always be some sort of sale going on. This time, though, fans may not believe such things so easily.