DVD Purchasing 101: The Waiting Game

Earlier last week, I finally caved and bought Evangelion 2.22 on Blu-Ray, Summer Wars on Blu-Ray, and FLCL on DVD—three very awesome titles that would normally cost closer to $60 even on a good day, and I got ‘em for $30 (minus the damn shipping, but even considering it, it was still a good buy) all thanks to playing the waiting game.

If you aren’t interested in being the first kid on the block to have the latest and greatest title on home video release, then you’re probably better off playing the waiting game—holding out on buying said product in question until it lowers in price. While such a law holds true for all purchases, there are certain “sub-laws” which one should abide by in terms of picking up movies or TV shows. Here are just a couple that come to mind:

What is the fanbase of the series in question?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—the types of people that would buy something like The King’s Speech are a different type than those that would pick up something like say an anime release. As such, the guys pushing for these releases try to get into the minds of said people, trying to think about just what their shopping habits would be. Not to cause any offense on my own demographic, but anime fans (at least the type that actually purchase what they like) are more likely to immediately pick up a title, while more casual buyers would probably have more practically things to prioritize for.

Keeping this in mind, the titles aimed at the more casual fans are more than likely going to decrease in price sooner than releases aimed at a more “hardcore” audience. I don’t even think it was a month before I was able to pick up King’s Speech on DVD.

How “Special” is this “Special Release?”

I fucking hate Disney. More so because they’re good at making money than for the fact that I had a traumatizing experience at their theme park.

I’m sure most home video consumers are aware of Disney’s little concept of “The Vault”—which essentially plays the “limited time only” card, keeping the release widely available for only a short amount of time before it goes off the market again, giving second-hand sellers an excuse to bump up their prices to insanely high prices just because they know that the item’s no longer in circulation firsthand. And you might think that because of this ridiculous money-making scheme that you’re essentially forced to pick up whatever good title Disney throws at you for whatever price they put it up for. And you’d be half-right.

This is when you start to look at the grander scheme of things (but not too grand, otherwise you’ll get into the whole “worldly possessions” thing). Honestly, the shift from VHS to DVDs as a standard was a much higher step than DVD to Blu-Ray, or even to 3D Blu-Ray (or whatever the hell that one’s called). And while it doesn’t apply to all items out there, there are a decent amount of titles that will have multiple releases on the same video format. Sticking to Disney, The Lion King already had a previous release filled to the brim with extras and the like. When it went back into Disney’s Vault, its price skyrocketed to the triple digits. However, with a new release coming out on DVD/Blu-Ray/3D, prices have sunk to well below its initial MSRP. Multiple releases will more than likely mean variations between each one, though, so some compare and contrasts will have to be done before a final decision’s made.

Who’s Releasing It?

I’m sure warriors of way back when and even today’s modern soldiers would roll their eyes if I were to use “know your enemy” in the context of DVD purchasing, but whatever. In this case, the enemy is the distributor—the guys trying to make the item appeal to you to the point that you’d be willing to pay an extravagant amount for it. This is when knowing a little bit about the companies at hand will save you a good sum of money.

I already mentioned Disney and their tendency to put out limited releases, but there are plenty of other distributors/companies that act in a different manner. In Funimation’s case, they’re fully aware that the anime titles they’re releasing will be gobbled up by the fans, who have little to no choice when it comes to deciding who to buy from, since most other US anime distributors have gone under within the past few years. This has led to Funimation taking every option available with their titles, releasing them as many times as the consumer is willing to double dip for it. For example, a good number of their bigger titles were released in 13 episode chunks before being re-released in 26 episode chunks for the same price. Something similar can be said about WB and Harry Potter, re-releasing each movie so many times that I honestly lose track of it all. Though, their oversaturation of the Potter series has led to some apparently good quality releases for cheap, with certain Blu-Ray releases going for as low as $10.

Bonus Content

We’ve reached a point in our home video world that bonus material is practically mandatory for movie releases. While this is true, however, this results in bonus content ranging in quality from interviews with the cast/crew essentially saying “yeah, I’m in it, so you should buy it” to the more considerate interviewees that actually provide a more in-depth look at the movie that you wouldn’t get otherwise. So your mileage may vary.

Television series are the polar opposite, however. While newer series will stick to including at least a handful of special features (again, your mileage may vary), there still exist a good chunk of series out there that are severely lacking in any special features outside of your bullshit ones like anamorphic widescreen and subtitles. Which leads to the next point to consider…

Episode Count

It’s not 10 years ago, so I shouldn’t even have to say that $50 for a 26 episode series is an outrageous price to pay, especially when the release in consideration is a “bare bones release,” containing only the episodes/movie without any bonus content. Plenty of distributors have realized this and have made their price per episode ratio significantly lower than what it used to be. I’d say around $30 for a typical season set of around 26 episodes is a good average price to pay, though that’s assuming that you enjoy most if not all the episodes on that release.

My cousins have a “3 songs” rule when buying CDs, where you have to have at least three songs on that release you like to justify the purchase. A similar thing can be said about television series and their releases. Though you shouldn’t start to split hairs too much. I mean, as much as I like overanalyzing my purchasing decisions, going as far as a price per minute ratio could be considered a bit too much.

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