Thursday, April 12, 2012

Funimation's Packaging In Action

In my last write-up I dealt with how much the Blu-ray market has exploded, but it's still somewhat small. This can be seen in the way retail stores stock it. Whereas DVDs are categorized by multiple genres, Blu-ray discs get separated into very few. At Best Buy Blu-ray is separated into sections for Family, TV, 3D and everything else. That everything else includes Anime.

Funimation, the biggest U.S. anime distributor, wants anime fans to be able to find their titles in the anime DVD section. They began releasing Blu-ray & DVD combo packs in DVD sized packaging. Now that didn't bother me but plenty of other Blu-ray collectors complained. So Funi's new solution is that Limited Edition sets will be the same style of chipboard box but now they're Blu-ray sized. They come with a cardboard spacer to give it the dimensions of a DVD case, but once you open it up you can throw the spacer away and you're left with a Blu-ray cases in a Blu-ray sized box. The non-Limited Editions will also come in Blu-ray cases but in a DVD sized slipcover with a bit of cardboard inside to make the smaller case fit into the larger slipcover. You can see see both types of packaging demonstrated here, which I recommend because I'm not sure how well I can describe them.

I think I'm pretty accepting as far as collectors go but I find the "Blu-ray case in DVD slipcover" to be a pretty weird reaction to what's already a non-problem. I own one in the form of .hack//Quantum and the slipcover arrived quite beat up which I think is an inevitable outcome of having empty space within flimsy cardboard. But that's what we're going to have to live with if it means the product is stocked where Funimation wants it to, right?

At Best Buy I spotted .hack//Quantum not in the anime section, but with the Blu-ray discs. This was despite coming in a slipcover that's clearly taller than anything else on the shelf. The slipcovers BTW were in pretty rough shape. Maybe Best Buy just doesn't care about slipcovers. There's still a Blu-ray case in there and maybe that's why they stock it in the Blu-ray department?

Here's a volume of Fairy Tail. It's bad enough it's in the Blu-ray section but it's not even in the proper alphabetical place in the Blu-ray section. This is an older release so it's not in a Blu-ray case but in a DVD case in a DVD slipcover. That still didn't help it get placed in the anime section.

Here's To (which is really difficult to research online with that title). It's another Blu-ray & DVD combo pack packaged in a DVD case. Best Buy does not display it in the anime section, but with the other Blu-ray discs. I guess the Blu-ray format takes precedence and Best Buy will stock Blu-ray discs in the Blu-ray section regardless of the size of the packaging or any other formats it's bundled with?

Nope. This same Best Buy had this Darker Than Black set not in the anime or the Blu-ray sections, but in the documentary section. I don't think this was a case of a customer dumping something off on the closest shelf. There were three copies of Darker than Black in the documentary section and they were still there when I returned to the same store. Some stocker placed them there on purpose.

Maybe the more egregious problem are the stupid actions of Best Buy employees, but clearly Funimation's packaging decisions are not accomplishing what they're setting out to do. I don't know what more they can do except eliminating the Blu-ray logo and all mention of the format from everything they sell. I think the simpler decision would be to trust the consumer to find the product they want and sell it in the style of packaging that conforms with what the rest of the industry is doing and what's already in people's collections. Stop punishing fans for the retailers' screw-ups.

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