Tokyo, Japan – Throngs of youthful men and women gathered at the 8th anniversary live tour of a popular music group this summer. What you might not have known is that this group is made up of voice actresses from a video game call The Idol Master [iM@S], where players manage a team of pop idols on the road to stardom.
The marketing for iM@S presents itself as a traditional, multimedia mix of goods, video games, CDs, DVDs and performances, but it is revolutionary in having such success in packaging fictional characters as effective idols not unlike famous acts like AKB48 and their ilk. In fact, because its niche upbringing as a 2005 arcade game, and then as a game for the relatively obscure console Xbox–Microsoft’s consoles are not well-distributed in Japan–iM@S attracted a very hardcore fanbase, at least at first.
“I’m glad we can get the same songs on one single album that used to be across four or five different albums.” Jon Tyler, one of many of the avid iM@S fans–who call themselves “producers” as fashioned after the role of the player in the iM@S games–remarked on the way Columbia Japan handles the CD releases of iM@S music. “It’s really a change of the times. The series got really popular right around the time I became a producer. At first, it was very hard to buy all the popular songs, since the average iM@S album, not counting mini-albums and singles, was about half vocal tracks and half either instrumentals or voice tracks like skits. Columbia knows that’s what people are after and accordingly spread out the top hits to get more sales.”
“It was difficult to get more than four or five of your favorites on one CD, for a lot of reasons. Another problem was that many of the album releases were based on characters or different parts of the video game releases. I think Scamco wants you to just buy the Blu-rays, or collect all the albums.” The candid statements detailing the steep curve, not only as a matter of the cost of being a fan, but the logistical complication one have to keep on top over time, as iM@S-related CDs are released almost monthly.
While for some, overcoming the labrynithe of release patterns and being able to finance their collections are badges of honor. For others, the difficulty to identify and purchase their favorite songs is a barrier to entry. Perhaps this is why Columbia Japan is finally producing these simple collections. For others, it’s a sign of something else to come.
“The so-called ‘Second Vision’ series of games and merchandises are coming to an end. I think this is why they are now releasing new SKU with good value.” Oscar Kha, a market analyst describes the overall strategy behind the iM@S releases in terms of the bigger, cross-marketing effort combining Columbia Japan and other publishers and studios. “During this campaign, the goal was to transform a relatively straight-forward video game IP into a sprawling franchise where monetization strategy is no longer limited to the typical console or arcade use cases, or the usual licensing and merchandising opportunities. The campaign begin to add some of the newer strategies such as mobile gaming and through live events. The timing is right to take the franchise to the next level, along with various market signals such as the next generation home consoles.”
Commenting on the future, Kha points out perhaps the most persuasive motive behind these affordable new releases. “Lowering the barrier of entry at this juncture is strategic as well, as it prevents too much attrition from the newer customers who became attached to the IP in the past couple years, and keep everyone engaged as the next campaign starts.”
COCX-38070 2500 yen (w/ tax) (Blu-spec CD2)
2013.09.18 on sale
PS. This is fabricated, yeah?