Fun With Numbers: Precedent for Long Tails in US Anime Sales Totals

Though there are plenty of sources out there from which one can learn about it, the inner workings of the US anime market are often characterized by what we don’t know. I track US anime releases on amazon because I’m curious about said market. That curiosity has several points of origin, but I chasing after one primary question; do fans buy the titles one would think they buy, to the extent one would think, from their presence on social media?

But tracking US amazon rankings is only useful insofar as these rankings have the potential to correspond to real sales data. And even that’s not particularly useful if the “real” data has the potential to be off by a factor of 100 due to unpredictable factors. One obvious potential contributor to the potential for underestimations are long tails, the combined contribution of totals from all weeks the release doesn’t make the threshold on a given set of charts. These are a very familiar foe when it comes to trying to compare sales figures, and are definitely worth addressing. There’s plenty of reason to believe long tails might be a factor in the US home video market – per-episode prices are much lower than they are in Japan, and thresholds are much higher.

I previously used a trial account to access the lifetime home-video sales totals of various anime movies in Nash Information Services’ OpusData database. Recently, I found out that the companion website to the service TheNumbers, stores years worth of back-data on its weekly charts, though its thresholds are, by design, severely limited compared to those measured on OpusData. Using those charts, it was a trivial task to go back to each movie’s release date and check how much of its lifetime total was accumulated while it was on the BD20/DVD30 toplists. Note that 2 of the 12 movies in the original sample never made said toplists and thus cannot be compared. Results are shown after the break.

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Fun With Numbers: Appleseed Alpha Sold 11,093 R1 BDs in Week 1

As you may be aware, I track US anime releases on amazon, ostensibly to get a rough idea of how much particular lower-end titles might be selling. However, the titles I track each month come from amazon’s anime tag, which is not always applied to all anime-related releases. That’s what happened with the US release of prequel movie Appleseed Alpha on July 22 of this year. This is an issue because the BDs of this movie sold over 11k units in their first week on sale, via TheNumbers. It’s a lost opportunity because I could have used it to test predictions, but the datapoint itself is still somewhat interesting in its own right.

AA’s total is only 655 fewer copies than that of Attack on Titan’s first set, and that’s without accounting for the fact that the movie’s release was split between BD and DVD versions (as opposed to AoT, where the release was a BD/DVD combo pack counted as BD sales). Attack on Titan may well have the longer sales tail, though; it’s currently ranked at 1,022 while Appleseed Alpha fell back to 6,819 in Movies and TV. It’s worth noting the potential contrast between the two fanbases, one older (and presumably salaried) versus another younger and more casual.

(A screencap of relevant week’s BD sales chart is included after the break.)

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