Today, subscribers to the largest anime streaming service, Crunchyroll, were hit with a 15 per cent price hike monthly — spurring complaints from longtime users.
Paying Crunchyroll subscribers received an email today alerting them to the price change, which will come into effect for new users 1 May 2019, and for existing users, 1 August 2019. Prices will rise from $6.95 to $7.99 a month.
Crunchyroll says it offers 90 per cent of anime worldwide, a statistic that will surely decline as behemoth tech companies such as Amazon and Netflix get in on the anime gold rush.
In 2017, The Verge reported that Netflix would be spending $US8 billion ($11 billion) in the following year on new content, including 30 new anime series. Netflix now has exclusive rights to popular new anime such as Violet Evergarden, Devilman Crybaby, Little Witch Academia and Aggretsuko. And soon it will begin streaming one of the most popular anime ever: Neon Genesis Evangelion.
With that said, Amazon’s premium US service, Anime Strike, folded last year, perhaps in part because it charged an extra $US60 ($84) a year on top of a $US99 ($139)-yearly Prime subscription.
For over a decade, Crunchyroll had never significantly increased its prices. However, fans have complained for years that it’s been slow to offer new features and fix broken ones. On Crunchyroll’s subreddit and /r/anime, fans wonder what inspired the monthly hike.
“Don’t know what justifies this price increase,” said one user. “Their player is the worst I have seen and I need to rely on a 3rd party extension to be able to watch videos without them buffering every few seconds. I know others have this issue as well. I will probably still subscribe as it is a convenient way of supporting the Anime industry and I watch about 6 shows on it each season so I get my money’s worth.”
Said another, “Unless they come out with some amazing new features, I think this is a good time to end my yearly subscription after next year.”
Kotaku asked over email whether Crunchyroll has new features planned to justify the price hike.
“Due to rising costs of content and infrastructure, now is the time to introduce new subscription pricing,” a spokesperson told Kotaku in an email. “This price increase will help us bring our community more of their favourite shows, allowing us to create even more experiences for them to connect with each other and through shared passion for anime.”
A service dedicated to anime and anime lovers should, in theory, be best primed to serve its audience. But as big-money companies such as Netflix and Amazon continue to set the bar higher, it remains to be seen whether Crunchyroll will continue to meet subscribers’ expectations.
This price hike could serve as a final straw for disappointed users or, for others, a way to continue supporting the streaming service in these unsure times.