The Problem with Exclusives

By , January 16, 2010 12:08 am

Image by Yunkasu

Reading Ninjovee’s post about the new exclusive GSC Saber figure that was recently announced, it got me thinking about how hostile the figure collecting hobby is to customers, with exclusive items being a big part of it.

So, what’s the problem with exclusives?

Of course they are, almost by nature, in limited production.  This can cause “fanboy crave” syndrome (or fangirl, in some cases) as the need to obtain every object related to a favorite character or series can be overwhelming and the limited available quantities only fuel this desire all the more.  The problem is that the limited quantities are often arbitrarily imposed by the manufacturers.

Most people know how supply and demand works.  The point at which consumers are willing to pay and suppliers are willing to produce is where the price of a commodity will naturally fall.  This normally balances itself out with consumers not buying a particular item if the price is too high and producers not producing an item if the price is too low.  The problem with figures is that only one company makes a given figure.  There is no alternative source to buy the item you want so they can set the price as they please.  Sure, there is a limit to how high they can increase it before even the most dedicated fans decide it is too expensive, but there is not much elasticity in the price of figures.  A serious fan would just as readily pay $80 for a figure as he would pay $50 for it because he really wants that item.  Basically, he is willing to pay almost any price (within sane limits) to get the item he wants.  Figure companies know this and they exploit it ruthlessly.  Hey, if a real fan has to have the item, they’ll be willing to pay through the roof, right?  So goes the thinking…

Well, it doesn’t end there, at least for those of us outside of Japan.  Foreigners have to pay even more to acquire the item.  Nearly all exclusive items are purchased through mail-order or direct from manufacturer.  Very few stores in Japan will ship items internationally.  You can see where this is going.  Gaikokujin cannot directly purchase these items.  This kind of makes me wonder what percentage of figure sales come from overseas?  I know it can’t be quite as much as domestic sales, but do Japanese retailers even consider overseas sales?

Well, the Japan-only mail-order problem can be easily enough overcome by using deputy/proxy services so overseas fans can still get their coveted exclusives.  Of course it will be at even higher price than the locals.  Also, the fact that foreigners will still get the item if they really want it means that the companies agreeing to these exclusive deals have no incentive from lost overseas sales to change practices.  They know you will still get it, so why change anything?

Why do we as fans and collectors allow ourselves be taken advantage of so easily?  Unfortunately, as the distant secondary market, foreigners voting with their wallets (i.e. not buying) can hardly make a difference.  It goes without saying that the majority of any figure’s sales are domestic (Japanese).  Good luck trying to convince Japanese to do away with their time-honored tradition of limited editions,  randomized figure collections (Petit Nendoroids anyone?), and raffles just to be eligible to buy an item.  It’s part of the culture, it seems (along with waiting in lines) :-/

As frustrating as exclusive items are from a gaikokujin’s perspective, sadly I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon.  Still, I hope fans don’t just fall for them forever.  Personally, I try to avoid them but I have to admit there are some items I just want an item too much.  I’m definitely getting the Lucky Star serafuku and miko outfits.  And thus, I further encourage the exclusive trend >_<

Hey, no one’s perfect…  ;)

19 Responses to “The Problem with Exclusives”

  1. Leonia says:

    It is true that exclusivities are rather frustrating. Because, it is necessary to buy by an intermediary and to pay a higher price. Regrettably, this solution is often the best, because after the item release, the prices on Ebay or Yahoo Auction, are more expensive. Personally, I tried to see with my intermediary for Mio, Ritsu and Miku Snow Nendoroid. Well, I know that prices will be highter..
    .-= Leonia´s last post… « Le syndrome de Peter Pan » T.1, Mayu Sakai =-.

  2. ninjovee says:

    I’m pretty flattered that my post has got you thinking and resulted into this post. I do agree with most points in this entry, especially about exclusives being frustrating to those of us outside Japan.

    I have to disagree about figure makers not considering International sales though. Especially because of today’s technology where the world seems smaller because of the internet, I’m pretty sure they also give International sales some consideration. If this wasn’t true, I don’t think they would allow figures to be shipped to International sellers and just let figures be limited to stores based in Japan.

    I think this is also the reason why most figure companies would now like to partner with DC, it’s because he’s known Internationally and a lot of people go to his site everyday. Not only that, there’s a community that is filled with potential consumers that are more likely to buy rather than shooting in the dark by giving out fliers in a subway station. Besides, if we could go technical about it Danny himself is a foreigner, if they didn’t care, they’d probably pick a Japanese blogger. ^^;

    I’m not sure if what I’ve said sounds cohesive… but to sum it all up… I don’t think that we have the power to eliminate exclusive items, but I do think that if we give out enough feedback, at least they would somehow listen to what we suggest. Or… well, I hope they will, if they do care about their consumer market. :D
    .-= ninjovee´s last post… Why, yes… it is yet another Saber Lily =-.

    • The fact that they allow figures to be shipped to companies that sell to international customers doesn’t mean they really consider international sales when making any marketing decisions, it just means they don’t oppose such sales. Quite a difference between just allowing such sales and actually pursuing that market. Quite simply, they don’t pursue international sales. Exclusives are pretty much proof of that.

      I see what you mean about DC. His audience is mostly non-Japanese, but if this is how figure makers are trying to reach out to international customers, I think there would be better ways. How about English versions of their sites? I know GSC has a basic English site, but it’s not complete. Or, I don’t know… maybe no more exclusives? ;) Or at least a way for foreigners to at least be eligible to buy them.
      To me, it still feels like non-Japanese customers are getting ignored.

      • ninjovee says:

        Hm. I do get your point. It suddenly occurred to me that a possible reason why most Japanese companies don’t cater Internationally yet is because of the language barrier. Most Japanese people have trouble with English, which is possibly why they don’t have English versions of their sites. Maybe this is also the reason why they don’t want to open their doors to International sales. You can’t really sell anything to a person if you don’t understand them ^^; I think this is also the reason why they like to partner with DC, since he doesn’t have difficulties with either language.
        .-= ninjovee´s last post… Scuba TV =-.

  3. Ningyo says:

    The otherwise unheard woes of the foreign consumer…
    As with all hobby industries, the anime industry is an unusual one; there’s no logic behind consumer purchases. As you said, people are willing to pay exorbitant prices for something impractical/not worth the sum of its parts. It’s sort of a lost battle for us international feeders of the exclusive trend, which is why I don’t think one should worry about it when we can’t make a difference anyways.

    Still, the anime industry was pretty big in Hong Kong, and there’s a ton of fans/shops here in North America as well. I find it hard to believe international consumers don’t make a difference, and that the Japanese makers don’t consider us. Maybe it’s just sketchier, with all the third parties that the goods go through to reach us.
    .-= Ningyo´s last post… First Two: That Series That’s Probably Making Me Gay =-.

  4. Late one night, anony is browsing the interwebs…

    Waxing a tale of woe, how he (or indeed, his entire market segment) cannot change the ludicrous practices put in place by the system, he reluctantly resigns…

    …and presses the “Buy” button on some limited edition Lucky Star outfits.

    Sound about right? =P
    (And those outfits do look rather nice, (thanks / curse you) for sharing them!)
    .-= Ippiki Ookami´s last post… Kaleido Ruby – camera test =-.

  5. Optic says:

    I think Japanese retailers wouldn’t mind setting up a little online store alongside with their little store but the problem is competition with the current big giants like HS and HLJ. Not only that, it takes a lot of effort and time to maintain a website not matter how big or small it is and since most stores are run by 1 or 2 store owners, there isn’t enough man power to do it.

    “As frustrating as exclusive items are from a gaikokujin’s perspective, sadly I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon.”

    As long as we keep buying them not matter how frustrated we try to get out hands on them, they will not stop. lol

    I’m gonna have a crack in the the Mio and Ritsu nendo. xD
    .-= Optic´s last post… Music Monday ~ Nana Mizuki – Phantom Minds =-.

  6. Blowfish says:

    This is indeed a frustrating hobby and I am luckily still sane enough to stay away from those exclusives.There was that Queen`s Blade Anniversary Alternative Colour Alleyne I would have loved to buy but after inquiring Tokyohunter about it I stopped thinking about it.

    The price added up to a whopping 12000 yen and thats more than I am willing to pay.

    • What’s really frustrating is when you’re trying to collect a series of figures or items and only *some* of the items are exclusives while the rest are regular items. Very, very annoying >_<

  7. bluedrakon says:

    It is really a pain for us in the US to get these figures. I hate seeing raffles and other give-a-ways that I will never be able to enter. But like you said, this is for Japanese market and not really an international one.

    Speaking of which (and noting Blowfish) – Queen’s Blade is one of the worse that I have seen recently.
    .-= bluedrakon´s last post… CNN Spotlights Anime & Manga Schools =-.

  8. Q says:

    Happened to have come across this post recently after I have fallen for a limited Nendoroid Snow Miku. I have a few limited / special items of figures as well as models and shokugans / collectable miniatures etc so I kinda understand the frustration when there’s something we like that happen to be limited edition stuff, especially when they are primarily only available in Japan. Back then I only knew to resort to online auctions. But now I know a few shops and deputy service etc in Hong Kong so it makes things easier for me I suppose.

    Collecting figures is an expensive hobby, and it’s getting more and more expensive in the recent times. I think I will just revert back to gunpla and smaller stuff whenever possible; at least they are a lot more affordable and better in terms of availability!
    .-= Q´s last post… Nendoroid Snow Miku preview =-.

  9. lovelyduckie says:

    Were you able to put in an order for the outfits with a proxy? I’m going to have to hunt Yahoo Japan and ebay to get them…sigh. I’m pretty good at finding exclusives but, I feel like me getting this entire set is going to be difficult and pricey. BUT even if I miss out, I’m determined to get them new outfits! I’m going to learn to sew and make them all yukatas!
    .-= lovelyduckie´s last post… Bakuman Manga Review =-.

    • I did order the Miko+Sailor outfits through Goody Japan. They were overpriced but I couldn’t pass them up ^^; I saw a few of them on YJA for about 3,500-5,000 yen. That was a few weeks ago though.

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