The Feels Economy

It’s so last decade to say that American otaku party, but don’t pay. I think the problem is about who otaku pay.

If we take saving anime with an ounce of seriousness, we won’t be talking about cancer, Yamakan or underpaid animators. We would be talking about how to monetize it and how to keep the money in the family. Anime cons are a way people pay, but it’s awfully meta (we would know). There’s that disconnect between an Otakon and its sponsors, for example. Or Otakon’s host city, its vendors and merchants, and how none of them has anything to do with anime. Putting it to perspective, a big telecom show or a show on medical devices pays the locals for hotel space and exhibit space, and its attendees bring their corp spending accounts. Those are big bucks industries doing their job as a matter of business, an exhibit is incidental.

Anime cons are not like that at all. They’re destinations for people to have a good time, to meet up with other fans, shop in the flesh, and do stuff hard to do on their own otherwise. As someone who attend cons for guests, it’s always a reminder that it costs a lot to fly one across the globe, so fans band together and pool their dough to make it happen. We attend because we want to attend them, I think.

So wouldn’t it make sense to design a monetization strategy based on that? To provide a good experience? UX in this sense, more or less, means feels.

I hope you guys are not the kind of people who throw a fit when people use that term in this way. Pursuant of a singular, resonant and memorable experience is a big reason why I attend cons.┬áIt’s a lot more fun than lining up for loot, half the time. This is why being a voice actor in Japan means sometimes you have to attend events like these. It’s also customary nowadays to cap out these otaku anime runs with a live show, featuring the OP/ED artists and the voice actors in some kind of stage production. It’s just one-shot, but it typically sells out to a full house.

Which is to say, this is what I mean by the blog post title. It’s about making money through feels. It’s another way to look at how otaku spend money, and what motivates them to do so. I mean, in a very basic sense that’s why we buy DVDs and Blu-rays, so we can enjoy watching the show we love to watch repeatedly. But for many of us, per se consumption of anime is just the beginning, not the end of the road. This is why we seek out guests, I guess.

The tricky thing is that for many of us, per se consumption of anime is also a tangential thing. It’s the whole “scenester” concept. It’s like how you can claim to be a huge Touhou fan and not really like the games. It also kind of make my skin crawl but that’s just how it is, and I might even be guilty of this at times. I mean, if you want to get a PhD on manga, you might have to read a bunch of manga that you don’t particularly love, or even like. That’s an extreme example, but many of us enjoy being a part of a scene, or a group, in which it becomes necessary to watch certain shows.

Which is just another way to say that per se sales of anime can only go so far. If you want to monetize better, you have to go deeper. And that is nothing new.

Maybe it’s more illuminating to see how much I spent to chase feels. A trip to Japan to just watch concerts will ring up a few grands, I can catch maybe 3-4 shows, more if I push myself but it’s already a daunting task as is. (For the record, I’m going for at least 5 this time.) But that few grands is more than what I’ve spent last year on figures, and maybe even more than I’ve spent at all my cons combined in 2013 (I didn’t go to too many of them in 2013).

It really dawned on me that in the near future, this is slow ly going to be how hardcore otaku end up spending their cash–concert tickets and related costs. I mean, it was already pretty clear from how Love Live took off in 2013, and this means companies were already in tune of this right around ~2010 or so. Good for them. It’s like the usual rhetoric anti-RIAA types say about how artists make most of their money from touring? Because you can’t pirate feels.

Who says? I think it’s better to say that digital piracy still has a very long way to go to achieve the kind of feels you get from being there in person. Which is why people still go to movie theaters!

PS. It might be too late to invest in Ruifan, but it might not be too late to invest in glow sticks and glow stick accessories.

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