Why Do Anime Apps Seem to Have So Much Trouble?

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There is no shortage of anime apps available for both Android and iPhone. The apps are intended to stream licensed anime content at little or no cost to users. No-cost apps are funded by ads, as you know. But strangely enough, none of them seem to do very well. Most seem to be plagued by technical issues and poor ratings. Why is that?

Apps that don’t do well tend to not live up to user expectations. They may be clunky and slow. They may crash frequently. They may not deliver what their descriptions promise. Whatever the reason, people give apps low ratings because they are not getting what they want.

Common sense would dictate that a streaming app is not hard to develop. After all, streaming is a known entity that has been around long enough for even average app developers to master making it work. Furthermore, there are all sorts of tools that developers can use to avoid having to do the heavy lifting themselves. This suggests there is something else behind anime apps having so much trouble. Actually, there are a couple of things causing most of the problems.

Licensing Is Expensive

The biggest issue with anime in the West is licensing. To put it simply, licensing is incredibly expensive. Anime creators know they have a hot commodity. That commodity doesn’t come cheaply. If you want to license the most popular anime titles coming out of Japan, you have to be prepared to pay for them.

This presents a couple of problems. First, app developers need to have some cash up front. Second, their apps have to generate enough revenue to continue paying licensing fees. That means either charging for subscriptions, charging a fee for the app, or allowing obnoxious amounts of advertising. How many U.S. users are willing to put up with that kind of thing?

Incidentally, the cost of licensing does not affect just mobile app developers. Merchandisers run into similar issues. Maybe that’s why the people behind the Umai anime clothing line don’t license artwork from other companies. They produce their own. It costs a lot less to create original artwork than license someone else’s.

Multiple Deals Are Required

The second issue app developers have to deal with is the necessity to work out several deals for each license. If they want to license something coming out of Japan, they first have to strike a deal with the original creator. But because they want to stream in the U.S., they have to work out a secondary deal with the U.S. distributor. It is hard enough to do one deal. Doing two is double trouble.

It has been rumored that Disney’s difficulty breaking into the anime streaming market is the result of this very problem. Disney is known to stretch the boundaries of editorial license in telling their stories, and the rumors suggest that Japanese creators are not that enthusiastic about working with them.

Customers Happy with Existing Services

One last thing anime app developers are up against is customer satisfaction. Simply put, customers are happy to stream their favorite anime series via services like Netflix and Crunchyroll. They do not see a need to install yet another app, especially if that means paying for another subscription. What they currently have meets their needs.

All this translates into a lack of funding for app developers. And without funding, they cannot create the types of apps that get five-star ratings. They end up with two- and three-star apps that get downloaded, used for a day or so, and then abandoned.

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