[COMICS][PREORDERS] Is this what's happening to our toys?

Posted by asterphage 
I was just discussing the sad state of monthly comics distribution and readership with VF5SS, in response to this article explaining an outsider's view of the comic book industry's problems.


I noticed that a recent blog post by Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson had dealt with the industry side of the same issue, and the difficulties that publishers and retailers face which cause the corresponding frustrations for readers:

Quote

The best advertising for any product is its availability. With comics – there's no better sales tool than actually having it there on the rack. Whether a customer is specifically looking for a given title, or casually browsing the new releases, it's being there that matters. If it's not there, on that rack, it's a missed opportunity. Even if more copies are on the way, or a new printing is planned, there's no guarantee the opportunity to make that sale is going to come around again.


Selling out – it's great PR, but ultimately, it's not exactly great business. It creates a roadblock between readers and the material they want to read, and between retailers and the books they want to sell. In short, it does more harm than good.

It's been suggested that the simplest way to avoid selling out is simply to print more, but it's actually not that simple, otherwise every publisher would would do exactly that on a regular basis. Generally speaking, though, we don't do that, because printing more means spending more, not just in terms of the basic printing costs, but in terms of freight and storage, too. Printing more involves taking a risk. It's a calculated risk, because orders allow us to gauge interest in our titles, but it's a risk nonetheless, especially given the vagaries of the ordering process as a whole.

Quote

Second printings are tricky, for two reasons: 1) The primary goal is to make the sold-out material available again as quickly as possible, and 2) There's no real way of telling how much actual demand there is for a second printing – even if a book sells out, it's entirely possible it's meeting most if not all the actual demand. Sometimes second printings are printed and sell only a few hundred copies, making them a huge waste of time, trouble, and money for everyone involved.


But we often do second printings, and in the interest of that first point – getting them into the market quickly – we typically have a standard quantity we stick to so that we can go back to press proactively the minute we know demand has exceeded our expectations. When books are selling out before they reach stores – as in the case of things like Prophet or Saga or The Manhattan Projects – we pull the trigger sooner and sooner.

When we went back to press on Saga #1, we printed double what we normally do on a second printing. We figured by going well over the amount of our standard second printing, we would circumvent an immediate sellout of the second printing. We were wrong.

When orders came in for the second printing of Saga #1, not only did our print run – and again, this was a print run that was twice what we normally would have done – fail to meet demand, it didn't even meet that demand by half.

A couple retailers have made what I consider to be a fair comment: We should have known a new series by Brian K. Vaughan would do well and could have printed way more than we did. But using that exact same logic, here's the thing: They also could have ordered more.


Likewise, a recent interview with Captain Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick described the frustration felt by creators when they can't know how to get their work into the hands of everyone who wants it, which in turn damages the success of the work:

Quote

The problem isn't just that we have to get folks to buy it; it's that we have to get retailers to order it. The failing of our distribution model is that our customer isn't really the reader, our customer is whoever places the Diamond order at any store. So if there's a perception that the book won't sell, it gets under-ordered and it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy.


Here's a thing that happens to every creator on Twitter on one Wednesday or another: an incredibly sweet reader who really wants to support you, writes to tell you that they tried to buy your book at their LCS and it was already sold out! It's only noon, they say! The shop only opened at 10! Your book must've flown off the shelves!

And then the creator, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, says, "Wow! Thanks for your support — better pre-order the next one!" and then they cry into their coffee. Because, friends, selling out by noon on a Wednesday is not good news. Heck, selling out by Thursday is not good news. That means your book was under-ordered — if it was ordered at all. If the consumer wants the product and we can't get them the product, our system is broken.

I hate the pre-order thing. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Ten years ago, I was complaining about it on the [Warren Ellis Forum] — I'm a shopper. I looooove to shop. I will spend money. But I am not going to buy a pair of shoes that I'm expected to order three months in advance and am not able to try on! And that's what we're asking of our readers. It's the dumbest system. No wonder we have problems! Is there another industry that works like this?


On reading this, Veef immediately pointed out that this may be the same problem we're currently seeing in the toy industry. With items like the the Macross Frontier chogokins, or the Tiger & Bunny S.H. Figuarts, it certainly seems like Bandai is facing the same conundrum which Stephenson describes...

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
At least I got my VF-171EX pre-order
I've been talking about this for years, in specific the anime world.

The problem always comes down to money. Spending money on advertising and promotion, being willing to spend money on inventory and production so the product is available to re-order, going BACK to press (DVD, comic, toy, whatever) to keep the product alive, maybe even a downprice reissue.

But most comic shops live hand-to-mouth. This week's sales have to pay for not only what's sold but all the product that HASN'T sold. This has created the mentality that 'not enough' is better than 'one too many'.

There is also data overload. That Diamond catalog is a BIG sucker. Takes time to go thru, and if you have to calculate your available open-to-buy Dollars all your focus is going to be on what you can sell NOW, not what MIGHT sell.

Plus, toys, our stuff, has a bad habit of not streeting when it's listed to street. A comic shop on the hook for a $200 Chogokin doesn't want to deal with it showing up 3 months later than when he expected to have it.

So, the problems? Short windows, lack of publicity/promotion, lack of follow-up, too much put on 'feeding the scalper swarm' and not enough on 'making for the masses', that's all on the manufacturers. Seller side, focusing on scalper bait, focusing on short-term thinking, being under-funded, and all the usual 'bad stuff' about comic shops in general.

(like one of the most common. Buying a case of some kind of 'collectible' game, busting out all the packs, searching for the 'rare' items and pricing them per insane eBay speculator pricing, which usually results in those rare items SITTING THERE FOREVER. Way to waste a couple hundred bucks of your available open-to-buy, people. )

As to Japan's toy crisis, I still say it's the lack of competition. Bandai doesn't have to fight with Takara and all those little companies don't mean dick to Bandai. The market (TEH MARKET!!!!) was healthy and active in the '80s because there were so many players.

Also, I think the move to ship most manufacturing off Japan has bit them in the butt as costs can't be controlled the way they used to. Overseas exchange rates, transportation costs have much greater impact and have to be looked at nearly weekly now, not once a year like it used to be.

And of course it sucks to sell to America right now.
SteveH Wrote:
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> As to Japan's toy crisis, I still say it's the
> lack of competition. Bandai doesn't have to fight
> with Takara and all those little companies don't
> mean dick to Bandai. The market (TEH MARKET!!!!)
> was healthy and active in the '80s because there
> were so many players.
>

ano~

Didn't a bunch of those companies DIE?

I kinda have some facts that Takatoku sure did :v

And are you fucking serious about "no competition"

Because Bandai's latest Tamashii shit is nothing but them super worried about other companies getting that otaku market.

Chogokin Aegis, Drossel all going against the cheaper Figmas

Yamato was schooling them on Valkyries (scary right?)

They had to put out Kamen Rider Ryuki figures because Max Factory rapidly put out all those Kamen Rider Dragon Knight guys thanks to a loophole in licensing

They have a new Infinite Stratos and MS Girl based line to compete with Konami's Busou Shinki

Figma is about to get some Tekkamans

let's not even get into how they're trying to shore up fixed posed statues because a ton of other companies have been doing them better


Maybe the kid's market is still mostly theirs but that segment is suffering because toys are no longer the default plaything
I'm going to offer up a random take on the comic and toy situation. Please argue with these points because I love to see people flail about when they are utterly, hopelessly, wrong about something.

1. People are clinging to the Industrial Revolution like it still fucking matters, but it doesn't in these industries. What we are observing is part of the growing pains of a post-scarcity consumer society. Most consumer media - things to listen to, things to watch, things to read, and games to play - have all been sliding into a permanently on-demand business model over the last decade. And it is one that no one still seems prepared to grapple with from a production standpoint. Every existing outlet for those media is suffering or gone – movie theaters, video rental shops, book stores, music stores, newsstands… They’re all in trouble. Regarding consumables that have material-permanence, they are slipping into a distribution channel that mirrors current media. That is, people can order shit on-line, on-demand, without ever needing to conduct antique meat-world interactions like going to a store. The only difference, at the moment, is that the means of production on material goods are still keyed into economies of scale as companies need to buy raw materials, make minimum order sizes, and ship things around. This will change as technology shifts to provide material goods that are not keyed into the same economies of scale. For example, 3D printing and hand-made artisanal productions are beginning to supplant traditional factories. And, to keep this in perspective, artisanal was the chief mode of material production throughout most of human history. We will enter a period in consumer society where the concept of “stores” and “preorders” seems utterly antiquated because we can get whatever we want at a moment’s notice because the infrastructure of production has fundamentally changed.

2. These are not problems. None of the discussions about promotion, distribution, consumption, or even competition that people are focusing on really matter. These businesses are well on the path to extinction and all this chatter about “what to do” is a meaningless, soupy mix of fear, confusion, and nostalgia. The media and goods civilization is producing are growing exponentially and this will continue even as the old outlets die off. People should be focusing on how to capitalize and monetize the changes in infrastructure. Under-ordered? It’s already a useless fucking concept. It’s amazing that profitable industries have been built out making disposable shit systematic. But they weren’t bound to last no matter how sophisticated they became. As a consumer, it sucks when you can’t get something you want because producers have not adapted to the changing infrastructure. But the good news is that changing infrastructure means that instead of simply consuming things, most of us now have opportunities to actually participate in the creativity of the production side. Hell, some of the best people on this board have already capitalized on that!

Fuck it. Stop taking about retailers and start becoming a producer. This is the new Renaissance. We don’t need retailers. Stop buying cheap shit – the shit that didn’t used to matter, then suddenly did, and people got good at exploiting that shit for a little while, but now that shit is starting to not matter so much anymore again – and start making good shit that will matter for a long time. It ain’t that hard to grasp.
GCrush, it's probably pretty obvious I disagree with you. At least to some of the points.

If 'everybody' was buying shit off the internet things wouldn't be a dire as they are. I'm not going to go into any of my usual rants and examples because hopefully everyone knows them. Putting it simply, the anime crash of 2006 was not in any way softened by internet retailers picking up the slack.

The actual core problem in entertainment retail, be it movies, books, toys, comics... Cheap disposable entertainment is no longer cheap.

Going to a movie with a soda and popcorn is roughly $20 a person. Paperbacks are $7.99 (and going to $9.99). 30 years later CDs still cost $19.99. New Release films still street at $26.99. Comic books are $3.99. Star Wars figures are around $10.

Even if one doesn't have embedded expectations due to having been around way too long (I used to be able to take $5 to the local book store, buy a couple of paperbacks and walk to the drug store for a nice burger and a shake) the internet has done an excellent job of 'devaluing' these things.

Income hasn't expanded to swallow that inflation. To most people pulling out a $20 bill for a toy and getting cents back as change is still a "I should think about this" moment. Of course I could be wrong and everyone here will throw away $20 without a second thought. Not me.

If we go the artisan route, how do we find out about the product? If everything is based on super limited 'drops' of a line how does one jump on board? Is the urban vinyl model of $100+ toys really a good model? I think it's good for a very narrow and specific market NOW because of 'quick flip' secondary market considertions but nobody is going to find any of that stuff sticking up out of a mudbank by a river (cf. Matt's blog about a hard used Eleking sofubi), unless the doom has befallen us all and we scrabble among the ruins ALAS, BABYLON!

Look to see the problems Mattel has growing their Mattycollector lines. With Toyfare Magazine dead there's no consistent venue to push things, to gauge interest, to post ad slicks on. Masters of the Universe is holding its own (in the face of a string of serious QC issues), Ghostbusters died (mainly because Matty was banking on GB III carrying the publicity), The DC Comics figures are in chaos due to dickery from DC and Voltron probably won't go any further than the 5 lions.

Manufacture on Demand is a constant dream. It's having some success with Warner Brothers but it's just pretty stalled most everywhere else. Books on demand has never caught on, again because of price. Expectation is "if I'm not paying for warehousing and returns and promotion and advertising, why does this cost as much or more than a regular book?" Same with ebooks. yes, they're selling, and 'everybody' is hot on them as the NEXT KILLER APP but man, again, I'm paying almost the same price for ghost product and I can't even control it, if someone says "that book has to be gone" *zoop* it's gone. We won't even go into speculating about how now 'truth' as in fixed in print now becomes totally malleable. that's kinda scary. But that's also much more an intellectual argument and this is about emotion I suspect. :)

Blah blah blah.
SteveH Wrote:
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> GCrush, it's probably pretty obvious I disagree
> with you. At least to some of the points.

Based on what you wrote, you disagree because you're not getting it - essentially falling into the usual anecdotal pitfalls. A point-by-point rebuttal would derail my point. So I’ll summarize why you’re wrong.

1. You’re applying the same familiar concepts of production and consumption to a scenario where, as most evidence suggests, they increasingly no longer matter. This is why businesses that have made, or are making, the transition to post-scarcity have trouble pricing their products. You want to know why an ebook costs as much as a paperback? Because businesses don’t know what else to charge and they’re hedging that the buying public will simply accept a familiar price-point; in other words, they’re changing as much as they think they can get away with. (Research says this is a fairly sound idea, by the way.) Moreover, their strategy really isn’t too unusual – most (all?) for-profit endeavors are based on the idea of charging as much as possible. Duh. But the back end of the production infrastructure is getting hollowed out even as we speak. That’s got as much, or more, to do with the anime bust as anything else. The system is breaking down and reorganizing while we look on in confusion.

2. Your price analysis is similarly flawed because – wait for it – you can’t apply the same concepts of material production to post-scarcity production since the former is plugged into economies of scale while the latter are not. The cost of a DVD versus the cost of a downloaded movie, by the very nature of their (im)material properties, cannot be compared. That’s like trying to rationalize why why an ounce of shit shouldn’t cost more than a pound of farts.


3. Likewise, the prices you’re tossing around miss the boat entirely because they’re referencing a baseless standard. Why in the world would we expect things like toys to be priced similarly as they were 30 years ago? What if 30 years ago things were artificially and unsustainably cheap, part of an economic bubble? Your dollar today has a little more than twice as much purchasing power as it did 30 years ago, though the toys people were buying back then were: A) abnormally low in cost; and B) used vastly inferior production technology.

Here’s an example – a three pack of Star Wars toys from Sears in 1980 cost $7.99. The 2012 buying power equivalent is $22.24. While that’s only enough to buy you a couple of super-articulated Star Wars figures today, will still buy you a three pack of Star Wars figures with the familiar 5-points-of-party-posing-fun. In other words, if you wanted to buy toys of similar composition and production technology as the 1980s, you might be able to do just that. Except that most toys these days are using much more advanced production tech. Hell, the 5-point doods in a modern Star Wars 3-pack look shit tons better than the 1980s one did because they have better sculpts, paint, and accessories. Damn. Do you really want to buy the same crap they made in the 1980s? Is there not already enough of that vintage out there for you?

Here are some more examples.

As the system adjusts to post-scarcity production and consumption fewer people will give a shit about a 3-pack of Star Wars toys no matter how reasonably priced. If you want to buy one, you’ll go straight to Hasbro and they’ll send you one without the need for as many middle men; it will be about as disposable in nature as it was in the 1980s. But consumers with “class and distinction” will, instead, gravitate towards material goods with more artisanal production like a Hot Toys Bespin Luke Skywalker.

The same way Transformers fans have increasingly embraced 3rd Party products. Sure a modern-ish Devastator could run you over $600, but that’s because it’s a smaller-run, more-artisanal toy than a Hasbro one from the 1980s. And look, people are eating that shit up!

Oh, and books? They’re sliding back to a slightly older, but no less familiar, format of serialized publication. Instead of buying a whole book, you can consume it one chapter at a time. And the authors are getting paid accordingly.

The future is already here. Any scarcity consumers are dealing with now is: 1) scarcity resulting from dumbfounded production management that can’t get over economies of scale; or 2) short-term savvy production modes that favor artificial scarcity.
This is tangent, but I will never (I know...never say never) buy an e-book/magazine/comic/manga. There is zero satisfaction in it, for me. Maybe I'll change my tune when I have nothing to read. Or I'll just go re-read the mountain of paper I DO have.

---------------------------------
[pgaijin.blogspot.com]
Gcrush Wrote:
> I'm going to offer up a random take on the comic
> and toy situation. Please argue with these points
> because I love to see people flail about when they
> are utterly, hopelessly, wrong about something.

Well, you're mostly right, but I don't think you're addressing the actual problems the people I'm quoting in the first post are worried about.

> The media and goods civilization is producing are
> growing exponentially and this will continue even as
> the old outlets die off. People should be focusing
> on how to capitalize and monetize the changes in
> infrastructure. Under-ordered? It’s already a
> useless fucking concept. It’s amazing that
> profitable industries have been built out making
> disposable shit systematic. But they weren’t
> bound to last no matter how sophisticated they
> became. As a consumer, it sucks when you can’t
> get something you want because producers have not
> adapted to the changing infrastructure. But the
> good news is that changing infrastructure means
> that instead of simply consuming things, most of
> us now have opportunities to actually participate
> in the creativity of the production side. Hell,
> some of the best people on this board have already
> capitalized on that!
>
> Fuck it. Stop taking about retailers and start
> becoming a producer. This is the new Renaissance.
> We don’t need retailers. Stop buying cheap shit
> – the shit that didn’t used to matter, then
> suddenly did, and people got good at exploiting
> that shit for a little while, but now that shit is
> starting to not matter so much anymore again – and
> start making good shit that will matter for a long
> time. It ain’t that hard to grasp.

But how does this have actual bearing on the satisfaction of people who currently want to consume media which they enjoy? Obviously everybody can't be a content producer - not everyone has the talent, and there's already tons of people out there producing crap. At the same time, there's a lot of great media, whether it's comics, toys or whatever, that's being produced in limited quantities and not finding the audience it deserves. Even if your solution is "wait for the present to catch up with the economy of the future", that doesn't help us enjoy creative product which is being marginalized by the economy we're dealing with right now.

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
And you can't say "A $7.99 thing back then would be $23 in today's money" because that's meaningless to reality.

Back then I had $10 in my pocket. Today I have $10 in my pocket. What a price of a thing adjusted for inflation is meaningless to the fact that $10 in my pocket then or now is $10.

Is a Star Wars figure produced now better than they were back then? I'd say yes overall. Does it cost more to produce? That I'm not as sure about, given the very complex collective of the sheer difference HOW the figure gets from concept to tooled and in production, and where it's all done then and now.

(just on a guess, back in the '70s I assume the proto was hand sculpted, broken down and hand cut into the tool via pantograph with careful hand finishing. I assume the modern SW figure may well be designed by CAD, shipped off to China as a file, computer milled tooling in a disposable media for test shots and when approved, tool steel is cut for final production. I'm sure I've mis-stated something to allow for internet penis waving and how I know 'nothing'.)

But in the end what we have is 1970s- figure is about a buck. 2012 figure is about $10, and in all that time the $10 in my pocket is still $10. That is reality.
SteveH Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> But in the end what we have is 1970s- figure is
> about a buck. 2012 figure is about $10, and in all
> that time the $10 in my pocket is still $10. That
> is reality.


No part of this post makes any sense. If the price of the item has gone up due to inflation, than the value of the $10 in your pocket has changed as well. You apply a concept to one part of your post, and then disregard that same concept in the next sentence. As G's pointed out, you've missed the point entirely.


>That is reality.

No, my friend, it is not.

Introducing Prometheus Rising Studio.
[prometheusrising.net]
I make 3D printed mecha action figures.
I agree with a lot of what GCrush is saying, however please remember that with Japan in particular, we have other social issues at play, like an aging population.

And with comics in America, remember that comics kind of voluntarily removed themselves from wide distribution and retreated to the comic book store direct market. While I have bought lots of comics from comic stores, they are a mostly terribly run and kind of an awful business model. Changing comics from a cheap mass production thing where I could go to 7-11 and pick up a comic off the rack on shitty newsprint for $0.75 or $1.25 to a glossy, full color $4.00 thing has turned it into a boutique market and priced children right out of the game.

This is kind of similar to what's happening with toys in Japan.

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/08/2012 02:28PM by Ginrai.
Ginrai Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Changing
> comics from a cheap mass production thing where I
> could go to 7-11 and pick up a comic off the rack
> on shitty newsprint for $0.75 or $1.25 to a
> glossy, full color $4.00 thing has turned it into
> a boutique market and priced children right out of
> the game.
>
But wasn't that $1.25 price for comics about 15-20 years ago? Pricing may have something to do with it, but largely, it's a cultural shift away from print media, which is one of the first to be coopted by what Mr. Crush calls the post-scarcity economy because it's so susceptible to technological shifts (e.g., Gutenberg). We've had, in the past ten years or so, the rise of so many other things with which to distract kids (video games, Facebook, online entertainment of all stripes) that the idea of sitting down and reading a physical copy of something is not just foreign, but absolutely abhorrent to them. A part of this is due to the fact that back in the day, comics in a liquor store comic rack didn't have to compete with anything for kids' attention. Maybe there was a local arcade nearby, but the kids couldn't bring the arcade home. They'd need something to keep them occupied back home.

The other day, I was up in LA for a friend's birthday party, and we decided to see the Avengers after dinner, and there we were, a bunch of people in their 20s and 30s standing around in a circle about to chat, and all of sudden people just busted out their cell phones and started texting and looking up their Facebook pages. This isn't uncommon behavior these days, but with that kind of mobility, that kind of self-obssession, enabled by that kind of technology, that ease of access to a lot of reading material, there's really no need to go out and buy something to read, and this is related to....

...another reason for the failure of print comics to appeal to kids, the idea that there are a lot of things the younger generations feel entitled to (i.e., shouldn't have to pay for), a consequence of the notion of "free" as implied by a post-scarcity economy, and that includes news articles, magazine articles, music, and a lot of other things.

I mean, the price of movie tickets has gone up drastically, too, but it's not dying off the way a lot of print media is, and the coveted 18-35 crowd still comes out in droves for the summer blockbusters. The experience of being in a crowded movie theater isn't something that can be replicated technologically, so for now, anyway, these big budget movies are still safe.

> This is kind of similar to what's happening with
> toys in Japan.

Is the kiddie toy market suffering in Japan? As long as there are shows to drive the merchandise, there'll always be the usual affordable stuff for parents to buy. I imagine there's a lot of shit that people in this board's demographic just don't care or know about simply because it's not targeted at us. The stuff that's priced up and up seems to be the adult-market pieces.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/08/2012 03:12PM by gingaio.
You have to remember that I'm 30. Consider that I lived and breathed Nintendo but also bought comics from the 7-11. While yes, the price should be higher due to inflation, it should not be THAT much higher, and yes, better materials (glossy paper, full color) is part of the price increase. Of course it is.

The kiddie market in Japan IS suffering: [www.toynews-online.biz]

I still agree with what you are saying about digital, but I also think the fact that people stopped thinking of comics as cheap and disposable is a big part of the problem.

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]
Ginrai Wrote:
> And with comics in America, remember that comics
> kind of voluntarily removed themselves from wide
> distribution and retreated to the comic book store
> direct market. While I have bought lots of comics
> from comic stores, they are a mostly terribly run
> and kind of an awful business model.

And often enough, we're buying our collector-quality toys in the same shitty comic stores!

> Changing comics from a cheap mass production thing
> where I could go to 7-11 and pick up a comic off the
> rack on shitty newsprint for $0.75 or $1.25 to a
> glossy, full color $4.00 thing has turned it into
> a boutique market and priced children right out of
> the game.
>
> This is kind of similar to what's happening with
> toys in Japan.

It's REALLY similar. I can't believe I didn't make that connection until you pointed that out. The whole price/quality bump, even as the readers/collectors are more price conscious and wary of much of the product that's coming out...

There are still comics for kids (though relatively few in the United States, particularly with Disney and Nickelodeon no longer producing magazines), and still plenty of toys for kids, but just as video games have supplanted toys for many children, comics can't compete with TV cartoons and movies (often based on comic characters or built on the same tropes).

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
I'm not sure that's a completely accurate comparison. As the article states, the market is shrinking due to there just not being as many kids as there once was. There is still a glut of affordable Kamen Rider/Sentai/Ultraman crap on the shelves of any TRU or Yodobashi, but there are also aisles of card games to compete for that same yen. I was pleasantly surprised that there were honest-to-god affordable Gundam TOYS (as opposed to a FIX or HCM-Pro, etc.) that were on the shelves in conjuction with the AGE show.

---------------------------------
[pgaijin.blogspot.com]
(also, on those same shelves were plenty of pricier SICs, SOCs, UltraActs, Figmas, etc, but not because they'd priced themselveS out of the kids market, but because there is an adult market to go along with that's kids market.)

---------------------------------
[pgaijin.blogspot.com]
Ginrai wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
The kiddie market in Japan IS suffering: [www.toynews-online.biz]

Asterphage wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
It's REALLY similar. I can't believe I didn't make that connection until you pointed that out. The whole price/quality bump, even as the readers/collectors are more price conscious and wary of much of the product that's coming out...


hillsy Wrote:
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> I'm not sure that's a completely accurate
> comparison. As the article states, the market is
> shrinking due to there just not being as many kids
> as there once was.

Right. "Toy sales are down by about nine per cent since 2004 because of Japan’s falling birth rate."

Again, I think we're looking at "toys" from an adult collector mentality, and ignoring plenty of actual cheap toys that are readily avaailable, as Hillsy's saying.

There's still new and affordable stuff being pumped out on the regular:

[www.bigbadtoystore.com]

If they were just a bit more Showy....

Anyway, my own nephews and their friends don't play with toys as much as my brother and I did. It's not that toys suddenly became way more expensive one day. These kids are busy playing video games, and the ceaseless barrage of toy-driven-TV shows following Reagan's deregulation of the FCC in the 80s is a thing of the past. There was a "toy culture" boom in the 70s and 80s that was unique, just as there's a toy culture for adults today that was unheard of for adults twenty, thirty years ago. That's not to say this applies to Japan. It has its own unique issues.


Ginrai
-------------------------------------------------------
>You have to remember that I'm 30. Consider that I lived and breathed Nintendo
>but also bought comics from the 7-11. While yes, the price should be higher due
>to inflation, it should not be THAT much higher, and yes, better materials
>(glossy paper, full color) is part of the price increase. Of course it is.

Hey, I remember when comics were $0.60 and $0.75 at the 7-11.

Anyway, I'm not saying comics should or shouldn't cost more and by how much; I'm just saying price doesn't strike me as a big factor, or at least as big a factor as how kids today view entertainment and how they relate to media and culture.

>I still agree with what you are saying about digital, but I also think the fact
>that people stopped thinking of comics as cheap and disposable is a big part of
>the problem.

I think we're close in that the problem to me is people are losing or have lost the notion that certain things, like books, comics, music, and movies, are things that should be paid for in the first place.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/08/2012 05:09PM by gingaio.
Remember that the comic book crash happened before digital really took off, in the mid-'90s, largely due to the stupid speculator boom that preceeded it, but whether it's 75 cents or no dollars, the issue still stands that comics are too expensive and largely, not good enough. This decompressed storytelling where one issue Captain America gets out of bed and commutes to the fight but does no fighting is another part of the problem: you are getting really bad value for your money.

Clearly people ARE paying for some media as they go to the movies and make Michael Bay movies a billion dollars, so it's not like it's impossible, but still, I pretty much agree.

And gingaio, if you're around my age... are you saying video games WEREN'T a big part of your childhood?

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]
yeah mang

even the Retronauts commented that a bunch of toymakers were worried about the NES back in the day

and that's when cames came in big gray boxes that cost 50 bucks

unless you were one of the lucky ones with Action 52

that came in a clear box
Ginrai Wrote:
> Remember that the comic book crash happened before
> digital really took off, in the mid-'90s, largely
> due to the stupid speculator boom that preceeded
> it, but whether it's 75 cents or no dollars, the
> issue still stands that comics are too expensive
> and largely, not good enough. This decompressed
> storytelling where one issue Captain America gets
> out of bed and commutes to the fight but does no
> fighting is another part of the problem: you are
> getting really bad value for your money.

Well, another big problem is the differential between the demands on a comic's creators and what the story is "worth" to the reader in terms of its content. Fans of most superhero comics, and many comics in action, horror and dramatic genres, want higher detail in their art. But it's getting harder and harder for artists to produce one issue a month at the quality that is demanded - thus we see monthly books that change artists every few months, or periodically have an artist fill in for a few issues while the regular artist takes a breather.

Personally, I'd rather read something that came out in 90-100 page volumes every four months for $12 or $15 than something that came out in 20-24 page issues every month for $3-4, and it seems like that would be more sustainable, and in many cases better for the work (since so many comics writers "write for the TPB" anyway). But I have no idea how the industry could transition to that format, except perhaps by launching new titles that way. It seems like DC really missed the boat by not changing up the format with some of their "New 52" titles - I hear some of the best series, such as the reboots Animal Man and Swamp Thing, suffer heavily from their decompression.

But even with changes such as shifting away from monthlies to a series of TPBs on a relaxed schedule, there's the problem of how reading a comic book often feels like a briefer or thinner entertainment experience than a film or novel. This goes for graphic novels or webcomics as well as monthlies - the pages of a decompressed story tend to fly by, and this exacerbates the "I just want more" feeling once a reader gets to the end (or catches up, in an ongoing series). And in a commercial context, the more story a reader wants, the less they're willing to pay for each volume - either because they feel unsatisfied with what they get in a single purchase, or because they have to weigh each purchase against their budget for disposable entertainment.

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
Ginrai Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And gingaio, if you're around my age... are you
> saying video games WEREN'T a big part of your
> childhood?

Nope. Don't recall saying that. What I'm suggesting is that technology has caught up with videogames in a couple of ways that have altered their impact on people:

1) They're everywhere, in your phone, on your iPad, on your Facebook page. Video games have worked very synersgistically with current forms of social media because, especially with the way games are designed these days, they are a form of social media. One more reason we've become a people who are more interested in interacting via little tiny screens even when there are live people standing around. It's just like that episode of Star Trek when Wesley Crusher brings home this video game device that brainwashes the crew of the Enterprise. But more depressing than that.

2) Tom Bissell, who's written books on the subject, can put it better than me and did when he mentioned how the complexity (technologically and narratively) of some of the better examples of current games have allowed them to virtually usurp literary fiction itself by doing what literary fiction has traditionally done--allowing the player to become an active participant in a rich and complex story with a fully realized world. And this coming from a literary fiction guy.

All that said, I'm not saying video games are the sole deciding factor in why comics have suffered. The reasons for that are complex. I just didn't think $4 was such a big deal because frankly, when comics jumped from $0.75 to $1.00 and then $1.25 and $1.50, they were pretty significant price increases to me as kid--but they didn't exactly deter me or people I knew. $4 can't even buy you an average-sized drink at Jamba Juice or a fancy coffee at Starbucks these days. If kids wanted to buy comics, they'd save up their allowances like we all did, or get jobs, like we all did, and buy them. But they don't because superhero comics today don't have much to offer kids.

I think one important factor, besides competing digital media, is what Douglas Wolk alluded to in the chapter of his book, "Superheroes and Superreaders," which is that superhero comics today are by and large written for an in-bred fanboy crowd. Which wasn't such a big deal back in the day when, again, there wasn't much competing media or other ways of killing time.

Asterphage wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>Well, another big problem is the differential between the demands on a comic's
>creators and what the story is "worth" to the reader in terms of its content.
>Fans of most superhero comics, and many comics in action, horror and dramatic
>genres, want higher detail in their art. But it's getting harder and harder for
>artists to produce one issue a month at the quality that is demanded - thus we
>see monthly books that change artists every few months, or periodically have an
>artist fill in for a few issues while the regular artist takes a breather.

This is an annoying problem, but is it a new one? I used to get annoyed when Jim Lee or Marc Silvestri would take off for an issue or five on the Uncanny X-Men. You've got workhorses like John Romita Jr. pumping out stuff on the regular (not saying I like his style, though), but this seems like one of those perpetual problems.
SteveH Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And you can't say "A $7.99 thing back then would
> be $23 in today's money" because that's
> meaningless to reality.

No, see, I'm saying that the $23 thing today is superior in every conceivable way to the $7.99 one from 30 years ago AND it’s the same price. The reason I’m saying that is to point out how various expectations about price based on nostalgia are completely screwed up. But even that is a tangent to the main point about why things like price don’t matter as much as some people would like to think. Ben’s right, you’re still not getting it.


hillsy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This is tangent, but I will never (I know...never
> say never) buy an e-book/magazine/comic/manga.
> There is zero satisfaction in it, for me. Maybe
> I'll change my tune when I have nothing to read.
> Or I'll just go re-read the mountain of paper I DO
> have.

I used to feel like that until I started a mass-transit commute with lots of time for reading digital files. It’s so goddamn convenient. For words, not pictures. I have yet to find a format that delivers digital comic-booky stories in a pleasing way – but that’s mostly because the industry is still adapting paper comics into digital instead of fully going native digital. If I had the venture capital I’m sure I could “fix” that problem in a heartbeat. Step 1 would be to say, “Fuck paper comics. We are making comics designed to be read on a digital device.” Step 2 would be a party celebrating our victory.


Asterphage wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Well, you're mostly right, but I don't think
> you're addressing the actual problems the people
> I'm quoting in the first post are worried about.
>
> But how does this have actual bearing on the
> satisfaction of people who currently want to
> consume media which they enjoy?

Admittedly, I’m probably not accurately gleaning the complaints in the items you posted. It seems to me that producers are saying, “People want to read our stuff, but can’t they can’t find it and that sucks because if people don’t read it they can’t enjoy it and we can’t make a living,” and consumers are saying, “We can’t find your stuff!” But if that’s the case, they’re both still missing the point – it doesn’t matter because we are in an era when it is even easier so solve that problem. Why aren’t they embracing that and adapting? You have a point about seriating good stuff out of the ever growing horde of entertainment options, but that’s always been the case as long as entertainment has been a part of consumer culture. We have good systems for getting around that, and post-scarcity introduces others: crowd-sourcing and aggregation. Yet comics are resistant to that, too! The fools. All the tools to adapt and thrive are in front of them, but they’re too slow and fearful to pick them up.

Put another way, the complaints (or the people making them) don’t matter. It’s like complaining about birds because dinosaurs are so much cooler. For every one person complaining that something can’t be found there are literally thousands of other people who are already enjoying what can be found. All scarcity is the result of either disorientation or contrivance in the system.

As for helping people on both ends of this “problem”… I would push both producers and consumers to embrace post-scarcity production. In applied terms, the comic industry should prioritize digital content production over material – write, illustrate, and serialize for an intangible format and then, if at all, put the same stuff into print. Consumers should adopt and support intangible formats while pushing producers to do the same; they should also aggregate around scanning and distributing the print material that hasn’t made the transition. And, at the risk of alienating some people reading this, consumers in the toy industry should support knock-offs and push for increased production value by supporting a higher price point. For example, Transformers fans should buy iGear’s “Notimus Prime” if Hasbro isn’t going to produce or evenly distribute an on-demand toy of a comparable nature.

I also see this as a way of breaking the persistent cycle of nostalgia-fueled rebootage. Personally, I’m tired of it because just about every toy I liked from the 1980s has been reborn in a near perfect contemporary format and there isn’t much left from “back in the day” that I want to see redone. I say death to intellectual properties if all they’re going to give us is recycled, insignificantly differentiated variations of the same old shit. This type of model is responsible for the abortion of modern classic designs. Look at all the enduring, iconic characters that came out of the 1980s and compare them to ones that came out in 2005. Are there any in the latter, aside from some Moe nonsense? Do you want to see another take on Votoms, Macross, Transformers, and He-Man? Or do you want to see newer, fresher properties with their own potential for greatness unconstrained by having to be “enough like Scopedog, Valkyrie, Optimus Prime, and Skeletor that we can still use the Transformers label to lure in consumers”? One of the things people usually refer to when waxing poetic about the 1980s toy isles is the cornucopia of imaginative and even derivative “compatible” lines of pure awesomeness. I don’t want another Optimus Prime toy; if anything, I want to see some totally crazy new transforming robot. A post-scarcity on-demand production system unconstrained by economies of scale is the fucking ideal solution to the current dearth of endless rehashing and artificial scarcity. People should be really excited about this instead of crying into their coffee. And if you count the success of something like OMFG’s little rubber killers, they are.


gingaio Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> But wasn't that $1.25 price for comics about 15-20
> years ago? Pricing may have something to do with
> it, but largely, it's a cultural shift away from
> print media, which is one of the first to be
> coopted by what Mr. Crush calls the post-scarcity
> economy because it's so susceptible to
> technological shifts (e.g., Gutenberg). We've had,
> in the past ten years or so, the rise of so many
> other things with which to distract kids (video
> games, Facebook, online entertainment of all
> stripes) that the idea of sitting down and reading
> a physical copy of something is not just foreign,
> but absolutely abhorrent to them.

I’m going to make another wacky proclamation – if people don’t actively support the use of post-scarcity production in the mediums they currently enjoy then those it will never be realized to its full potential and their mediums will get slowly edged out by natively intangible things that they might not like much at all.


> The other day, I was up in LA for a friend's
> birthday party, and we decided to see the Avengers
> after dinner, and there we were, a bunch of people
> in their 20s and 30s standing around in a circle
> about to chat, and all of sudden people just
> busted out their cell phones and started texting
> and looking up their Facebook pages. This isn't
> uncommon behavior these days, but with that kind
> of mobility, that kind of self-obssession, enabled
> by that kind of technology, that ease of access to
> a lot of reading material, there's really no need
> to go out and buy something to read, and this is
> related to....

I had a similar moment recently. After mountain climbing with a friend, we stopped to eat at a restaurant buried deep within the same mountain range. The place was swimming with people. On either side of us three generations of people were seated together. Granny, mom, and kids were all playing with their smartphones. I asked one lady what she was doing. She replied, “I’m on Facebook posting about this place so my sister will know how good it is.” Something like a traditional comic book will never be able to compete with the immediacy, connectivity, and personalization of, say, a serialized choose-your-own-adventure comic driven by crowd-sourced polling embedded in the narrative and designed specifically for a smartphone.


> I mean, the price of movie tickets has gone up
> drastically, too, but it's not dying off the way a
> lot of print media is, and the coveted 18-35 crowd
> still comes out in droves for the summer
> blockbusters. The experience of being in a crowded
> movie theater isn't something that can be
> replicated technologically, so for now, anyway,
> these big budget movies are still safe.

They’re next. And if you listen to complaints of theater operators, they’re already on the chopping block.
gingaio Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Again, I think we're looking at "toys" from an
> adult collector mentality, and ignoring plenty of
> actual cheap toys that are readily avaailable, as
> Hillsy's saying.

Yeah, this is the difference between “toys as ephemera” and “toys as fetishes”.


> There was a "toy culture" boom in the
> 70s and 80s that was unique, just as there's a toy
> culture for adults today that was unheard of for
> adults twenty, thirty years ago.

Again, this is totally spot-on. The Golden Era of 1980s toys was a bubble.


> Anyway, I'm not saying comics should or shouldn't
> cost more and by how much; I'm just saying price
> doesn't strike me as a big factor, or at least as
> big a factor as how kids today view entertainment
> and how they relate to media and culture.

A $1.25 comic in 1980 would cost around $3.48 today. Considering the increase in material quality and different distribution landscape, a contemporary price of around $3.99 is probably much more reasonable than we imagine. But not for a Captain Marvel comic, no matter how big her tits are.


> I think we're close in that the problem to me is
> people are losing or have lost the notion that
> certain things, like books, comics, music, and
> movies, are things that should be paid for in the
> first place.

I’ve also lost the notion that coffee should cost me anything.

On a tangential note, for all the lip-service that globalization has received as an economic model (and its role in public consciousness), entertainment giants are wildly localized in their processes. It’s amazing that they continue to act as if some products are only for certain markets, and that access in those markets can be controlled. If you’re in the States right now, you can go to the Star Wars website and watch the latest episode of The Clone Wars animated show (not that you should). But if you are outside the States, you’re told that, “No, sorry, even though The Clone Wars is our intellectual property, we don’t have enough discretion to let you watch it.” Which simply means, “Go find a pirated copy using Google.” What’s with the charade? Do entertainment companies not know the jig is up? Or are they just afraid to admit it?


> I think one important factor, besides competing
> digital media, is what Douglas Wolk alluded to in
> the chapter of his book, "Superheroes and
> Superreaders," which is that superhero comics
> today are by and large written for an in-bred
> fanboy crowd.

Which reminds me, to an extent, of the situation with Moe. It is all so impenetrably inaccessible. If there is going to be any comic comeback, it will be in the vein of “Weird Tales” compilations and serialization where you don’t need massive amounts of backstory to get into things.
Gcrush Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> hillsy Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > This is tangent, but I will never (I
> know...never
> > say never) buy an e-book/magazine/comic/manga.
> > There is zero satisfaction in it, for me. Maybe
> > I'll change my tune when I have nothing to
> read.
> > Or I'll just go re-read the mountain of paper I
> DO
> > have.
>
> I used to feel like that until I started a
> mass-transit commute with lots of time for reading
> digital files. It’s so goddamn convenient. For
> words, not pictures. I have yet to find a format
> that delivers digital comic-booky stories in a
> pleasing way – but that’s mostly because the
> industry is still adapting paper comics into
> digital instead of fully going native digital. If
> I had the venture capital I’m sure I could “fix”
> that problem in a heartbeat. Step 1 would be to
> say, “Fuck paper comics. We are making comics
> designed to be read on a digital device.” Step 2
> would be a party celebrating our victory.
>

I could not agree more. I have been a rather bookish person all my life and the last time the wife and I moved she told me that if I bought a Kindle and got rid of all of the books I have been holding on to for the past 20 years then she would personally replace (with digital copies) all the ones I couldn't live without. So off to the used books store I went and now I am a total convert. I couldn't be happier without all of the clutter of the stacks and stacks of paperbacks. And yes I think that e-books are too expensive... And yes I know I am paying money for what amounts to a fancy .doc file...and you know what...I don't care. I have all of my favorites, what I'm reading right now, and all of my textbooks all in one device that I can throw into a satchel.

As for comics Gcrush I for won would applaud your victory. Hell, I'd pay to invest in this venture. I love comics...I really do...I haven't bought one in over 15 years now. The reason is simple. I hate (let me say that again) I HATE, having long box after long box of comics littering up my house. The technology is there. Heck the new HD iPad makes everything look amazing, so the issue is with the comic companies. If they would just start formatting their "books" for the technology then I personally would start reading them again...
Just random thoughts that popped in:

Definitely on board with the graphic novel thing. I generally wait until i comes out partly for cost, but mostly because I don't want all those individual issues laying around. Well, and I'm not a religious comic shop guy, so chances are good I'll miss an issue.

Another thing to consider about the cost is that, as mentioned previously, production values have gone up significantly since the era of the $.75 issue. Not only the way they are printed, but the art and the writing have drastically improved. A lot of the storylines I read as a kid were atrocious. Storylines are much improved. Now, I assume this is because the main readers are adult. I would say that I don't really blame comic companies for going after adults...they are the ones with $ and it's now socially acceptable for an adult to read comics, for the most part, as compared with 30 years ago. I've found myself in a vicious litle circle...a local comic shop has signed itself up for a Groupon deal: $20 for $45 woth of comics. I buy 3 of those and do a trip every month. By the time I've used them, they do another deal. Apparently, it's been pretty successful for the shop.

---------------------------------
[pgaijin.blogspot.com]
gingaio Wrote:
>
> 2) Tom Bissell, who's written books on the
> subject, can put it better than me and did when he
> mentioned how the complexity (technologically and
> narratively) of some of the better examples of
> current games have allowed them to virtually usurp
> literary fiction itself by doing what literary
> fiction has traditionally done--allowing the
> player to become an active participant in a rich
> and complex story with a fully realized world. And
> this coming from a literary fiction guy.

I like Bissell's writing a lot, but I think framing it this way is a huge mistake. (Has he actually stated it in that way?)

Video games are approaching the point where they can supplant genre fiction, but I can hardly think of a single video game that I would qualify as literature. Games are pulpy, action- and plot-focused, almost always consumed by moving toward a goal or completing a series of actions. Even well-written games (of which there are few) almost universally lack literary qualities such as internality to the characters and varied pacing that allows for slow, meditative moments. A lot of the qualities which games are lack are ones that are difficult enough to put across in film, where the director controls the pacing and the viewer's focus.

Talk of games as art often revolves around the idea of the player as participant in a fully realized world, but immersiveness alone does not make a story with literary value. Games' stories are too often consumed with the expediencies of entertainment. No matter how much we believe we are really in a game's world, no matter how vivid the gritty little details are, no matter how many uniquely voiced characters we interact with, there is still a great deal demanded of the author to make a game's story have value besides the satisfaction of triumph at the end of its conflict - and few writers can do that. Even the strongest, most nuanced and most significant game stories are susceptible to Clint Hocking's "ludonarrative dissonance", which I believe Bissell discusses too. A greater authorial reach is demanded of a game developer than a writer or filmmaker, because the technical elements of a game can so easily undermine its story.

> This is an annoying problem, but is it a new one?
> I used to get annoyed when Jim Lee or Marc
> Silvestri would take off for an issue or five on
> the Uncanny X-Men. You've got workhorses like John
> Romita Jr. pumping out stuff on the regular (not
> saying I like his style, though), but this seems
> like one of those perpetual problems.

Well, I'd say it's a problem that really came up in the 90s, as reader demands for detailed art increased at the same time as artists like Jim Lee became superstars. Today, though, with the decline of the Marvel and DC "house styles" on many books, it's become much more jarring when a talented artist with a distinctive style has to take time off and suddenly a the look of a series takes a 180 degree turn.

Regardless, yes, that's just one facet of the problem I was describing, which is the asymmetry between the reader's perceived value of 24 comic pages and the work the artist must put in to create them.

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
Gcrush Wrote:
>
> Put another way, the complaints (or the people
> making them) don’t matter. It’s like complaining
> about birds because dinosaurs are so much cooler.

So... Bandai products are doomed to extinction?

> Something like a traditional comic book will never be
> able to compete with the immediacy, connectivity, and
> personalization of, say, a serialized
> choose-your-own-adventure comic driven by
> crowd-sourced polling embedded in the narrative and
> designed specifically for a smartphone.

This is already happening. Andrew Hussie's webcomic "Homestuck" originated with a format where he would take suggestions from his messageboard users on what should happen on the next page, and then choose the one that best fit the preceding narrative, that he liked best, or that was the funniest. It's gradually become an organic fandom phenomenon, with a huge, vocal, obnoxious readership and an unavoidable presence at fan conventions.

Of course, he gradually slowed the pace at which pages were open to suggestion, and stopped it entirely around two years ago, partly because he couldn't deal with the volume of suggestions, and partly because he wanted to direct and craft the story in a way that relying on suggestions wouldn't allow. However, a parallel source of reader input has arisen - he's recruited a group of artists and musicians who contribute to the occasional animated segments of the story, and release albums that serve as a companion to the series, and design merchandise.

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
asterphage Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> gingaio Wrote:
> >
> > 2) Tom Bissell, who's written books on the
> > subject, can put it better than me and did when
> he
> > mentioned how the complexity (technologically
> and
> > narratively) of some of the better examples of
> > current games have allowed them to virtually
> usurp
> > literary fiction itself by doing what literary
> > fiction has traditionally done--allowing the
> > player to become an active participant in a
> rich
> > and complex story with a fully realized world.
> And
> > this coming from a literary fiction guy.
>
> I like Bissell's writing a lot, but I think
> framing it this way is a huge mistake. (Has he
> actually stated it in that way?)
>
> Video games are approaching the point where they
> can supplant genre fiction, but I can hardly think
> of a single video game that I would qualify as
> literature. Games are pulpy, action- and
> plot-focused, almost always consumed by moving
> toward a goal or completing a series of actions.
> Even well-written games (of which there are few)
> almost universally lack literary qualities such as
> internality to the characters and varied pacing
> that allows for slow, meditative moments. A lot of
> the qualities which games are lack are ones that
> are difficult enough to put across in film, where
> the director controls the pacing and the viewer's
> focus.
>
> Talk of games as art often revolves around the
> idea of the player as participant in a fully
> realized world, but immersiveness alone does not
> make a story with literary value. Games' stories
> are too often consumed with the expediencies of
> entertainment. No matter how much we believe we
> are really in a game's world, no matter how vivid
> the gritty little details are, no matter how many
> uniquely voiced characters we interact with, there
> is still a great deal demanded of the author to
> make a game's story have value besides the
> satisfaction of triumph at the end of its conflict
> - and few writers can do that. Even the strongest,
> most nuanced and most significant game stories are
> susceptible to Clint Hocking's "ludonarrative
> dissonance", which I believe Bissell discusses
> too. A greater authorial reach is demanded of a
> game developer than a writer or filmmaker, because
> the technical elements of a game can so easily
> undermine its story.
>
While I wasn't trying to define or equate literary value with that of video games, I was inferring from what I remember (somewhat shoddily) of Bissell's writing that games do satisfy some primal need in the player/audience to be immersed in another reality. Here are the man's words: Writing and reading allow one consciousness to find and take shelter in another. When the mind of the reader and writer perfectly and inimitably connect, objects, events, and emotions become doubly vivid—realer, somehow, than real things. I have spent most of my life seeking out these connections and attempting to create my own. Today, however, the pleasures of literary connection seem leftover and familiar. Today, the most consistently pleasurable pursuit in my life is playing video games.

I may be overreaching in assuming that the pleasure he found in games was the same as that he found in books, but the mention of how literary pleasure seems faded and worn in comparison to that of video games does allude to why it's so much easier for kids (and adult gamers) to choose games over books or comic books en masse.

I like that mention about ludonarrative dissonance, but it's not unique to video games. That kind of dissonance can be found in everything from Shakespeare to modern fiction. Othello doesn't mean to suggest that one should go out and scheme and plot to destroy people's lives, but that doesn't stop Iago from coming up as one of the more charming and aesthetically pleasing of Shakespeare's creations. Most literature, regardless of topic or theme, is written with the intent of being pleasurable to some degree.

That said, because games are by nature pleasurable experiences built around Pavlovian reward systems of varying degrees of complexity, they are limited in their narrative reach, which is a good point. Though maybe one day, someone can come up with a game about American pioneer crossings that is utterly brutal and disheartening to play...I was just mentioning to Mr. Crush how unpleasurable Meek's Crossing was, and how that effect matched the thematic purpose of the movie.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2012 06:08PM by gingaio.
Well it was $1.25 in like 1992 and $.75 in like 1986 so your $1.25 in 1980 is off, but I think this is more that once it reaches are certain price, it is no longer an impulse buy and for me, at least, $4 is not an impulse buy. I am far more likely to buy a graphic novel or trade paperback collecting a bunch of issues for $10-$20 than I am to buy a single issue for $4. It's just crappy value and clutters up your house.

But the idea that they're going to adults "where the money is" is ludicrous. It's not sustainable. You need to hook the next generation of kids or you slowly erode your readership as you lose them to child-rearing, death, et cetera.

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]
Sanjeev (Admin)
So...American comics are going the way of Japanese animation. Got it.

So what does this all mean for toys? As it stands right now, we're simply not at the place where we can print a Valkyrie on-demand. Does the subject of toys break down into one business model or another?

Pre-order...and pray the toy doesn't blow (see Mattel Voltron)?
<<But the idea that they're going to adults "where the money is" is ludicrous. It's not sustainable. You need to hook the next generation of kids or you slowly erode your readership as you lose them to child-rearing, death, et cetera.>>

As long as kids are snapping up Marvel toys at Target and TRU, and getting Mom and Dad to take them to see these movies, and Nick keeps showing Marvel cartoons, it's sustainable. I can guarantee few kids who saw any of these Marvel movies or shows have even read a comic book, but they might now. I would wager all those mediums helps cover the costs of producing the comics. BTW, I noticed TRU carries comics, now.

---------------------------------
[pgaijin.blogspot.com]
The fact that American superhero comics are continuing on a downward spiral despite the massive success of their movies and TV shows proves that these are NOT selling the comics. The kids may indeed be buying superhero TOYS, but they sure as fuck aren't buying comics.

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2012 07:55PM by Ginrai.
I never said they were. I just don't envision a time when there will be these properties and there won't be a comic for them.

---------------------------------
[pgaijin.blogspot.com]
gingaio Wrote:
>
> While I wasn't trying to define or equate literary
> value with that of video games, I was inferring
> from what I remember (somewhat shoddily) of
> Bissell's writing that games do satisfy some
> primal need in the player/audience to be immersed
> in another reality.

This is certainly true, but I think it's hard to argue that that's the same as literary value. I think the notion of literature demands some sense of intellectual (or at least formal stylistic) grounding and emotional

> I may be overreaching in assuming that the
> pleasure he found in games was the same as that he
> found in books, but the mention of how literary
> pleasure seems faded and worn in comparison to
> that of video games does allude to why it's so
> much easier for kids (and adult gamers) to choose
> games over books or comic books en masse.

Granted; but again that does not mean that games are doing what "literary fiction" does, assuming that we are drawing the traditional distinction between "literary fiction" and "genre fiction".

> I like that mention about ludonarrative
> dissonance, but it's not unique to video games.
> That kind of dissonance can be found in everything
> from Shakespeare to modern fiction. Othello
> doesn't mean to suggest that one should go out and
> scheme and plot to destroy people's lives, but
> that doesn't stop Iago from coming up as one of
> the more charming and aesthetically pleasing of
> Shakespeare's creations. Most literature,
> regardless of topic or theme, is written with the
> intent of being pleasurable to some degree.

I don't think that's the same type of dissonance that Hocking et. al. refer to. That's a dissonance between character portrayal and the ostensible moral of the story. Something closer to this problematic phenomenon in video games would be a story which claims or pretends to be motivated morally but which actually is morally compromised - for instance, a story which incites outrage in the viewer over a villain's actions, but then allows its heroes to act equally reprehensibly in punishing the villain.

But even that is not quite the same as the dissonance when a video game presents play mechanics that undermine the ostensible message of its story. You can see game creators struggle against this - for instance, Hideo Kojima, probably one of the more literate of video game writers, attempts to present anti-violence messages in his games. This is hard to integrate into a game that is concerned with warfare, so we get aspects such as the challenge of beating a Metal Gear Solid game without harming any of the enemies, by avoiding or nonlethally disabling them. Even with that, though, Kojima can't avoid the fact that the gameplay aspect of his creations fails unless it makes combat fun, and so he's been gradually partitioning the story away from the gameplay more and more with each MGS installment.


> That said, because games are by nature pleasurable
> experiences built around Pavlovian reward systems
> of varying degrees of complexity, they are limited
> in their narrative reach, which is a good point.
> Though maybe one day, someone can come up with a
> game about American pioneer crossings that is
> utterly brutal and disheartening to play...I was
> just mentioning to Mr. Crush how unpleasurable
> Meek's Crossing was, and how that effect matched
> the thematic purpose of the movie.

The closest thing people seem to bring up in that vein with regard to video games is the discomfort experienced while playing Shadow of the Colossus, when one realizes that the "colossi" that the protagonist is hunting are essentially harmless gigantic animals (with a few exceptions in the form of the armed, humanoid colossi). This indeed reinforces the message of the game, leading the player to question the protagonist's purpose and methods in a way which the protagonist never does.

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
asterphage Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> So... Bandai products are doomed to extinction?

Yes. It’s already happening.

First, the endless cycle of reiteration that we’ve seen in the last 30 years highlights the strategized obsolescence of various toys. Bandai has made huge money off of giving consumers the same fucking thing over-and-over-and-over. Sometimes it is by simply changing the scale, other times it is by killing off a product line entirely. Planned extinction is built into their game already.

Second, the ensuing generations of consumers will not be like the ones that have supported them over the last 30 years. This represents unplanned extinction and the only way Bandai can counteract is to change their products and distribution. I guarantee our grandkids will not be buying Robot Spirits figures off the shelf anywhere. They probably won’t be buying anything like that, or in that off-the-shelf manner, at all.


> This is already happening. Andrew Hussie's
> webcomic "Homestuck”…

I will have to check that out! Sounds interesting.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m the only person dreaming this stuff up, nor that they’re new ideas. I think that there are some really elegant ways to streamline serialized picture-stories for a digital format while using crowd-sourcing to both drive the narrative in a controlled manner and seriate the good-shit from the bad-shit. It’s just that… No one seems to have put that model out there. I should Kickstart this…
fel9 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I hate (let me say that again) I HATE, having long box
> after long box of comics littering up my house.
> The technology is there. Heck the new HD iPad
> makes everything look amazing, so the issue is
> with the comic companies. If they would just start
> formatting their "books" for the technology then I
> personally would start reading them again...


One of the more recent times that I moved I found a longbox of comics that had been hidden for ages. I called a local comic book shop and asked if they'd be interesting in taking it off my hands. The owner didn't even inquire what titles or decades were in the box. Instead, he flat-out said, "No, we don't buy comics. Toys, yes. Comics, no." I called another shop on the other side of town and the owner there said, "You'd have to pay me to take it. It's not even worth it for me to pay an employee to sort through it." I offered the box to different neighbors with tween/teen boys and they all said, “Our kids don’t read.” And I don’t mean that they made it sound like that was a problem. Not reading was just a fact of life for them.

Then, when I was talking about this story with a colleague, she said her husband, a geneticist in his late 30s, would love to take them. He even came by the house to pick them up and he tried to offer me money. “At least let me give you $20. They probably cost you more than that back when you bought them!” I told him just to take them and enjoy. And he did.


Sanjeev Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> So what does this all mean for toys? As it stands
> right now, we're simply not at the place where we
> can print a Valkyrie on-demand. Does the subject
> of toys break down into one business model or
> another?

Well, one day I’m sure we’ll find people selling design files instead of actual toys. But at the moment we are well past the point where “scarcity” has any tangible meaning for toys. Companies are averse to selling directly to the consumer because the risk of overproduction puts the burden on them and not a retailer. But it is entirely possible for them to produce units at a smaller, on-demand schedule. They just… Don’t. Part of it is because of the risk aversion, and part of it is the reluctance to invest in the development of new economic models when the old ones appear stable.

One of the few companies that appears to be doing something different is Mattel. During their development of the Masters of the Universe Classics line they’ve gone back into production several times in order to satisfy demand. Even now some items are considered “permanently on-demand” in their store. It’s not a complete success for the consumer though because they're also devising new ways to lock us into purchases. They’re still desperately trying to push the subscription model in order to justify to upper-management that they can move the minimum number of units required to make a production run profitable. The message is, “Yeah, we can make toys on-demand. But the boss doesn’t like it.”

Many third-party Transformers Cloners do the same thing. Make some, sell some, make some more, sell some more. They’re smaller operations working at higher price points, but they’re still in business. The biggest advantage they have over someone holding the IP is that they don’t have to invest as much into brand development, though the output of their product development often exceeds what the IP holders are doing. Crazy!

My point is this – the on-demand capacity for so many industries, including toys, is already here and it can only get better.
Ginrai Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The fact that American superhero comics are
> continuing on a downward spiral despite the
> massive success of their movies and TV shows
> proves that these are NOT selling the comics. The
> kids may indeed be buying superhero TOYS, but they
> sure as fuck aren't buying comics.

I would put the blame for that squarely on the shoulders of the comic companies. Aside from the basic problem of generating a monthly comic that continues the adventures of the screen iteration, you also have that deathly fear of writing something that may well conflict with whatever plan there is for the next movie or series. Because doing ANY of that would conflict with the ongoing comic plans.

And of course where to BUY such a comic. Ain't no tens of thousands of comic book spinner racks in every drugstore, grocery store, book store and corner news stands. If they went the Archie route they'd have to buy rack space at each grocery store, generally via the various rackjobber vendors.

So we have DC imposing on Mattel that they had to end their existing DC figure line and reboot to the Nu52, where DC figures the solution is to take the movie versions of their characters and force them into the comics, so now we get rubbersuit Batman, Pantless Superman, and Wonder Women with pants as seen in that super popular Wonder Woman TV series...oh wait. And biosuit Green Lantern from the big money maker...oh, I can't even continue THAT joke, the joke itself is the punchline!

By the time Mattel gets those figures out DC will probably have shitcanned Nu52 for another 'same as it ever was' reboot.
asterphage Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> gingaio Wrote:
> >
> > While I wasn't trying to define or equate
> literary
> > value with that of video games, I was inferring
> > from what I remember (somewhat shoddily) of
> > Bissell's writing that games do satisfy some
> > primal need in the player/audience to be
> immersed
> > in another reality.
>
> This is certainly true, but I think it's hard to
> argue that that's the same as literary value
. I
> think the notion of literature demands some sense
> of intellectual (or at least formal stylistic)
> grounding and emotional
>
I don't think I've ever actually mentioned the phrase "literary value," unless it was referencing something you were saying. I think you're sort of putting words in my mouth.

Here's what I wrote in my last post:
I may be overreaching in assuming that the pleasure [Bissell] found in games was the same as that he found in books, but the mention of how literary pleasure seems faded and worn in comparison to that of video games does allude to why it's so much easier for kids (and adult gamers) to choose games over books or comic books en masse.

Or put this way: A Coke and an orange can satisfy the same need of hunger--there's no assumption of equivalence as far as their value, though.

> Granted; but again that does not mean that games
> are doing what "literary fiction" does, assuming
> that we are drawing the traditional distinction
> between "literary fiction" and "genre fiction".
>
[see above]

> > I like that mention about ludonarrative
> > dissonance, but it's not unique to video games.
> > That kind of dissonance can be found in
> everything
> > from Shakespeare to modern fiction.
>
> I don't think that's the same type of dissonance
> that Hocking et. al. refer to. That's a dissonance
> between character portrayal and the ostensible
> moral of the story. Something closer to this
> problematic phenomenon in video games would be a
> story which claims or pretends to be motivated
> morally but which actually is morally compromised
> - for instance, a story which incites outrage in
> the viewer over a villain's actions, but then
> allows its heroes to act equally reprehensibly in
> punishing the villain.
>
> But even that is not quite the same as the
> dissonance when a video game presents play
> mechanics that undermine the ostensible message of
> its story....Kojima can't avoid
> the fact that the gameplay aspect of his creations
> fails unless it makes combat fun
, and so he's been
> gradually partitioning the story away from the
> gameplay more and more with each MGS installment.
>
Point taken. I actually wrote this in my last post that you quoted, which sort of agrees with what you're saying: That said, because games are by nature pleasurable experiences built around Pavlovian reward systems of varying degrees of complexity, they are limited in their narrative reach, which is a good point.

That said, this kind of paraodox involving the demands of form vs. content (message or theme) exists, albeit to a less extreme degree, elsewhere. There's a voyeuristic, pleasurable aspect to movies (involving the viewer as complicit, just as video games involve the player as complicit), that always serves as a point of tension when the subject matter deals with serious, dark issues.

Can you present, for example, a movie about the grittiness and horror of war without aestheticizing it, making it pleasurable or cathartic for the viewer in some way? It's possible and I can't say it's never been done, but that tension exists in both literature and film.



Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 05/10/2012 02:45AM by gingaio.
Marvel is owned by Disney and DC is owned by Warner. Believe me, they could easily afford to buy a rack in every drug store and grocery store in America if they wanted to.

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]
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