The Confession of a Ni no Kuni Flipper

Level 5 Everywhere

I probably shouldn’t, but I feel kind of weird for flipping a copy of Wizard Edition of Ni no Kuni on eBay after receiving it from Namco Bandai/Digital River. One sentence summary of the situation: Very limited edition release of a popular game gets massive mark-up on eBay, I ended up flipping my copy because I feel bad for the suckers who didn’t get their copies legit. The money is nice and I simply didn’t care for the bonus items that much, as nice as they were. I only got Wizards LE mostly due to Ninostarter and I wanted to support that concept, plus I planned to play the game. It would have been nice if I kept the Wizards LE anyway, but it’s something I can live with.

I’m not concerned about the moral calculus of this transaction so much. I’m more concerned about the nature of this transaction given the price and content. First, if we go by the general idea that Kickstarter is basically a micro-patronage model, then Ninostarter is a fake, a “we wanna let you feel patronized” model. In US terms, $100 for a console game is not cheap, although going by other LEs on the market, it’s well within the ball park.

The thing was, well, it’s  going for over $350 on eBay right now. To put it into perspective, I’ve been tracking the price of the Limited Edition of iDOLM@STER 2 PS3 box, a Japan-only release–that is still roughly about $250 to $320. It retailed for something like 16000 yen. Once it sold out in retail, the price quickly hit about $200-300, supply pending. It just happens that both games are the two only instances that I pondered buying a game that’s actually worth over $250-300 when it was still “new.”

[Is it a coincidence that both are Bamco products? ]

Imagine if we had a Kickstarter for “Amazing Ghibli-animated Level 5 RPG” project, it would probably fund oodles of millions. As it should. And if we had a $200 tier that says “You get this super ultra KS-only edition that has all this good stuff and limited to like 3000 copies, plus only this tier gets the stretch rewards” I bet it will sell out. Which is, I think, what Ninostarter kind of wanted to put the feelers out for.

I think you get what I’m thinking about. Granted a PS3 exclusive JRPG with quality pedigree probably means we’re talking about a pretty big demographic, much bigger than the western anime-buying market. But how is this LE version of game any different than any BD anime (like, say, OreImo) from Aniplex? Other than that people are simply accustomed to buying anime cheaply? Or in most of the cases, I think, serious console gamers often have affinity to anime but aren’t hardcore DVD collectors? Well, I don’t want to justify any kind of price gouging from Aniplex’s side. I just want to point out very simply, that the market for very expensive LE box sets exist in America. I see it. I think the core issue is that people are used to paying for video games on the PS3 (or whichever platform). And even at “collectors only” prices, because video games have long since reached “collectible” status. On the other hand, I think this guy makes the point that anime on home video in America is priced for disposable. Far majority of anime is worthless after a few years out from release.

So the question is: why should it be this way, when it’s clear the very same people who would watch anime (and if you enjoy Ni no Kuni…you probably enjoy anime to a degree by default) can and will pony up the big bazookas when they think it’s worth it? And maybe more importantly, why we should let the anime companies raise the value of anime? And by that I mean not necessarily raising the price, but its value–so it is not so disposable. Think of it like a car–the price of a car is quite high, but it will still maintain a large % of its value after a few years. Or better yet, think of it like comic books. If you got a limited edition of some AAA title that was popular and well-loved, it should not be worth next to nothing 10 years later. I’m not saying it should happen for every single case like this, and I know there are some sought-after R1 releases, but in those cases the company doing the releasing didn’t capture that value (most aren’t LE), so it’s a waste anyway.

The more I think about it, the more I feel there are really 2 sides to this, and that Kickstarter-style of patronage can really bring both together. On one hand, you have the post-retail market forces adjusting prices accordingly, but on the other hand you also want to make it accessible to as many people interested as possible. The KS concept (as it doesn’t apply only to KS, but various variants) can, at the same time, allow pre-retail marketing to both improve value (and thus improve the bottom line) for the seller/licensee/licensor/whoever, and also add value to collectors (eg., Kickstarter backer rewards), meanwhile providing a way for people who aren’t collectors to still enjoy the product (eg., when a Kickstarter finishes and goes retail).

It makes me wonder why FUNi hasn’t tried it yet (a true tiered release). Maybe they have some logistical problem or philosophical issue? I don’t know. I wonder about FUNi because they already employ a  tiered system, but their current system simply undermine the price for their higher tier and devalue their LEs by reducing demand for them.

PS. There is a Zepy slant to this story. Zepy knows a thing or two about retail and video games. I took his advice on selling the Wizard Edition now rather than later, partly because he says the game is more likely disappointing than not. I don’t really have an opinion on it (besides that while I am wary about the grind, the rest of the package is A++) but if the game really takes off, there’s a small potential for the Wizards edition to go up in price by a lot more than even what it is now. However, if we’re to generalize, most of the time LE that sells out and gets artificially inflated in price tend to plateau and drop. People who want the game now will pay more than people who can wait, in a nutshell.

PPS. I rarely go to GameStop, but I did to pick up a copy of the game (regular edition) there. Rare I mean once in a few years. I talked to the guy who sold me the game and he likes it a lot. He even recommended me to use the English dub, saying it’s good. And then he talked about how in the JP dub, it says “ni no kuni” when in the EN dub it says “another world.” I was like, ha. I’m sorry if you are one of those anti-honorifics or pro-honorifics person, but both of you lose. This is too hilarious.

PPPS. Being a long-time reader of Penny Arcade, I found this endorsement a strong one–except I often disliked the games he liked and I align much closer to Tycho (as you may figured). (Also, I wondered about ducks.)

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