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ADV's Digital Cage PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 24 September 2006 17:00
So ADV have dipped their rather large toe into the anime downloads market with the lauch of ADV Universe, where you can buy downloadable episodes from their catalogue for the princely sum of US$4.99 each. At the moment it's for US users only, but their stated intention is to expand the service to as many countries as possible.

Good for them. Even if / when it does reach the UK, though, they won't be getting a penny of my cash, and here's why.

The Cost
A downloadable episode of Comic Party Revolution costs $4.99. I can buy Volume One of the series (5 episodes) from DVD Pacific for $17.08 + $1.58 shipping, or $3.73 an episode. The DVD has added packaging, extras, the Japanese language track, and subtitles. It can be resold, played on as many devices as I like, won't expire or be lost forever if my computer crashes. So why on The Maker's good earth would I want to pay more for the DRM-encumbered, no-extras downloadable version?

Plays for Sure - Not
The downloads use Microsoft's Windows Media format and DRM. I'm a Mac user, so that's me ruled out for a start. Even on Windows, there are going to be issues - transferring to portable devices is blocked, and the files can only be watched on 3 authorised devices (which must be authorised within 3 years of the download being purchased - so if you change your PC in 4 years, you're SOL). If you suffer a hard-disk crash, tough. WMP11 doesn't support backing up DRM keys, so if you have to reinstall Windows, tough.

Oh, as for Plays for Sure - it apparently won't Play for Sure on Microsoft's own Zune media player device. If MS are prepared to break that promise, what odds that a future update to WMP on the PC won't break compatability with previous versions and leave you unable to view your downloads?

ADV want to create a legal alternative to the fansub "community" - fine. But charging more per ep than a DVD would cost, holding the user ransom with overly-restrictive DRM and locking out fans who don't own a certain approved PC operating system is not the way to go about it - especially when a large part of the appeal of downloading from BitTorrent comes from it being free. "Ethical" fansub users will buy the DVD anyway - this won't reach them. For the other sort of fansub user, God rot their souls, this will only be another justification they can use to support their habit.

My suggestion? Get back to the drawing board, ADV...
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