Saturday, June 19, 2010

Episode 76 - SHIELD #2

This time on Teenage Wasteland...

A few bits of listener feedback and then talk commences on Jonathan Hickman's SHIELD.

Music Featured is by Four Year Strong


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Yes, This Test Has Me Asking Questions

Eventually I was going to write something. Everyone has. So, in the latest Cup O’Joe over at CBR, Quesada was presented with the inevitable question of price on this upcoming, digital release of the Invincible Iron Man Annual. An answer was provided.

“The Iron Man comic is over 60 pages, and in print it's priced at $4.99, but on average for that kind of page count, we would have priced it at $5.99 or broken it up into three $2.99 issues. Our comics on the Marvel App are priced at $1.99 and the way the annual is written it breaks up nicely into three chapters perfectly, so that's how we'll break It up in the app. So, when you do the math on this one, the direct market comic shop has the advantage in price on this one, and we've already received word from retailers that they feel this is the best way to set this test up.”

I am not going to complain or moan about expense with this example of word (that will be handled by many others I am sure), but the fact of a more expensive digital version did bring a few questions to mind. Obviously with this test, Marvel is seeking an ultimate goal of a successful digital market (a market stronger than physical retailers). That is the main idea. Maybe not right now (the Direct Market still accounts for most sales) but down the line. So, why make digital more expensive for the consumer? In a test situation, for a method of distribution a business wants to succeed, would the goal not be to encourage, entice consumers to try the new method with an incentive? Yet, Marvel is not.

When Marvel’s application first lauched the point was made that the 1.99 price tag was not so concerned with the set consumer base, but an audience on the outside, unknowning of the specifics behind comic book price tags. Is this the angle once again? Let newcomers and casuals pick up this more expensive version? Possibly, but then why the big deal of a day-and-date release? To a newcomer or casual reader, Invincible Iron Man Annual could be as new as New Avengers #1. Wednesday means nothing; just another day.

No, this is a test of the fan consumer base. A test of the people who buy comic books on Wednesday. So, again, why offer a cheaper print version when you would want people to explore the new method? Marvel certainly wants to protect the direct market for now. They understand the importance and the place of the Direct Market , but again, a business does not introduce this new method so it may be beat by the old method. That is pointless.

Consumers who pay attention to release dates and simply are aware of what this day-and-date release means will see both options. They see that print is cheaper. So, why would Marvel believe people with the option of print over digital choose digital, choose to spend more? I’m willing to bet the pyschology is smiliar to the 3.99 jump and why people accepted it (for the most part): 3.99 books seem to have a cooler, better air about them. Comics with the 3.99 price tag tend to be the titles featuring the high talent and favorite characters; these are the books that seem most important to the story universes. Remember, 3.99 was also an experiment once. Marvel was exploring the consumer’s spending limit. The digital release of the Iron Man Annual smells of a pretty similar scent.

Could the fact of the book being digital work to bring people to spend more? True, a reader technically recieves more with a print copy (a physical possession), but print comics are not the future and everyone is obsessed with the future. Let’s face it, we all want digital to work. It is the comic book industries’ ultimate goal at this point and this is the closest we have ever come to the ideal set-up (new digital comics the same day as print). The dream is in the process of being realized, and I am willing to bet people will pay a dollar extra on the digital to make the dream feel a bit more real. Digital offers the sensibility of cool and sleak while the print brings about old and busted – people pay more for sleak. I know I will. I have tried in the past to justify paying 1.99 for a digital comic (well, if you subtract here and carry the one...), but the math does not support. No, the reason I buy a digital comic is not to save money, it is to partake in the experience. It feels cool buying a comic book with one click and having it in a few seconds to read. Digital is appealing that way. It is a chance to experience a cool sensation. People pay for cool sensations still, right?

The zeitgeist of comics culture is digital is better, digital is almighty, digital is where we need to be. Is Marvel really just testing this way of thought?

Granted, there is the factor of “how many comic book fans have a local comic shop”. For some, digital may be the only way to go if they want their Iron Man right away. The price may sting, but people need their Iron Man – they have no choice and pay more. This will certainly be a factor in the test; there are many comic book fans, understanding of day-and-date, who do not have a local place to purchase. The majority though? Unknown. The way Marvel looks to protect the Direct Market though, I would say the physical comic shops do more business than an online discount service (all comic shops combined versus the entirity of online discount excluding Amazon). Could this be the point though?

Some have guessed that Marvel is really reverse engineering this game to only strengthen the Direct Market. For something, it is a pretty clever game plan, but is it for the best? I understand keeping it afloat for the time being (waiting for iPads to hit everyone), but as a long term goal I only see it as a step backward. The Direct Market has been a failing system for years – why stretch that out? Digital has much more potential than a brick-and-mortar store in the back of a mall somewhere. It sits there hidden. The Marvel App can go nation wide and provide a larger quantity of product instantly, and Marvel has more control over it (no Diamond and they manage the visual appeal of their store front). Why keep the direct market? Street prescence? With the way we consume entertainment at this point, do people really want a street prescence, or will they want one in ten years? Do we not see millions of people login to Facebook everyday to play Farmville? Where is Farmville’s street prescence? The majority of people direct more attention to the internet than their own backyard (especially my generation).

There are plenty of questions presented with this situation (probably many I did not even see), but ultimately I do not see myself paying more for digital on this occassion. The bang-for-buck ratio is pretty low, and the message sent is not one I want to sign.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Episode 75 - Savage Dragon #160

This time on Teenage Wasteland...

A big event has just wrapped in the Savage Dragon title, and I wish to speak about the finale.