Krystallina gives her thoughts on the anime service that struck out looking to end their championship dreams. Or something along those lines.
A year ago this month, Amazon made headlines with the announcement of their Anime Strike service. Well, I hope you weren’t planning a big anniversary party to celebrate the date, as Amazon has announced it is ending the service.
All across the anime fandom, you could almost hear the cries of, “Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead!” Fans had a lot of complaints about Anime Strike, and a lot of these issues were seen right away.
But was Anime Strike dead on arrival, or should Amazon have given the service another year?
Now, by far, the biggest complaint about Anime Strike was the double paywall. First, you needed an Amazon Prime subscription, and then you had to fork over another $5 a month. No doubt this was to help offset the cost of their exclusives, but this approach pleased no one. Prime members couldn’t understand why a lot of these shows were included for free with Prime in other Amazon regions, and non-Prime members couldn’t afford or were not going to get $150 worth of entertainment and shipping benefits. After all, it was a little over a year ago that Amazon required $50 for free shipping for non-Prime members; now it’s $25, a threshold much easier to meet.
Obviously, since I’m rather cheap, I prefer anime not being on a paid separate channel. But this was the easiest aspect of Anime Strike to fix. For instance, Amazon’s Music Unlimited service main package (the individual plan) costs $7.99 for Prime members, $9.99 for non-Prime members. Anime Strike could have cost something like $5-7 for non-Prime members, and $2-4 less for Prime members. Perhaps, at least at the beginning, make it a dirt-cheap $2 or so, something to get fans addicted to it. Yes, $5 is about the cost of a cheap fast-food meal or a cup of coffee. However, the problem is that this is only a few dollars cheaper than Crunchyroll’s large anime and drama library and about half the cost of Netflix’s huge catalog.
There’s another reason why a lower price tag would have helped Amazon: the playback issues. Some episodes were uploaded late, and the subtitles varied from information overload to missing completely. If the price was super-cheap, fans might have overlooked the less-than-stellar service. No doubt it’s a lot of work to get an episode ready for simulcasting, but even if within an hour is not possible with Amazon’s current staff, within a day would have been fine for most fans.
Each month, Strike subscribers received a free volume of manga. This is exactly the kind of cross-promotion that benefits both anime and manga publishers. However, if someone had already bought that volume or didn’t have an interest in the series, the benefit is dulled. Had Anime Strike continued, I think Amazon would have done well with some other benefits. Crunchyroll, for instance, has their active forums and store discounts for Premium+ members. Amazon has had some Deal of the Day anime specials, but perhaps once a month, they could have issued a coupon for an extra 10% off a Blu-ray, a special Anime Strike-only price on a figure, something. Heck, Barnes & Noble is starting store exclusive omnibuses, so why not Amazon? After all, they already had a Cowboy Bebop Blu-ray that only they sold, so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.
They’ve sold this set for as low as 60% off, so selling the set for, say, $49.99 to Anime Strike members for even a week was certainly feasible.
A Reason to Celebrate?
But, the service was pretty bad, the price dissuaded many, and others believed Amazon was driving up the prices to license anime. Exclusives like Welcome to the Ballroom and Anonymous Noise are now a part of Prime Video, and subscribers are getting a prorated refund. So, really, is there any downside to their disappearance?
Well, monopolies are usually anti-consumer, and now one competitor is down. Sentai Filmworks had been a huge partner of Anime Strike, having been somewhat sidelined after Crunchyroll’s partnership with FUNimation. HIDIVE is still charging its introductory price of $3.99, so that might be helping their numbers for now, but will people stick around when the promotion ends? Or will their numbers improve now that more shows will be streaming on HIDIVE instead of Anime Strike?
Fans are also always looking for the final big break that will make anime truly mainstream. Amazon, as I mentioned, had some Blu-rays as some special one-day deals. With a good social media presence, perhaps Amazon could have helped introduce people with recommendations and other promotions.
All in all, for most fans, the shutdown of Anime Strike is no love lost. Although I am an Amazon Prime member, I didn’t like that I still had to pay to watch Strike series. Amazon Prime, Crunchyroll, and Netflix provided more than enough content for me, even though there were anime series I was interested in. Rather than shutting down, I wish Amazon had made adjustments, and then we could see if the service was unsalvageable.