Sakura-con, one of the US’s major anime conventions, has come and gone for another year this past weekend. Luckily it’ll be returning next year. But this year, Sakura-con lacked something it had for the past two years, which will not likely never ever to return. Something I had always looking forward to since its inception, something which brought a window view of an anime convention to be seen anywhere around the world – given that they have a stable internet connection. I’m talking about Niconico’s Live Streams.
Nico Nico Douga (NND) is a Japanese video sharing website similar to YouTube (YT), what differentiated NND from YT was its unique commenting system where comments would roll across the video whenever you made a comment and hit the enter key.
NND is also home to all of the weird, wacky and wonderful MADs you may have seen mirrored onto YouTube. MADs are similar in a way to AMVs (Anime Music Videos) in which it isn’t tied down to just having a music track playing in the background. MADs are known for taking clips from anime and related, using sound and pictures making them into their own creations.
Throughout the years Nico Nico Douga has been growing in popularity in the west, but it had a problem; the site was entirely in Japanese. Users who aren’t familiar with the Japanese language would have had a hard time navigating through the site and would’ve never realised they had make an account in order to watch any videos. There was also strangely a Taiwanese and Spanish flavour of the website although both appeared very differently to the main Japanese site.
Personally I found a Greasemonkey script that would translate all the Japanese text on the site into English, but it did so much only on the main pages because NND thought it would be a great idea to render the majority the text into image files.
Nico Nico Douga responded to this, by kick starting a very ambitious campaign and changing its household brand into to niconico.com; otherwise known as in its catchy theme tune; Nico Nico Dot Com ~ ♪
“Nico Nico Dot Com ~ ♪“
Their campaign consisted of many things, including the inception of a brand new site niconico.com, which it mirrors video content from both YouTube and Nico Nico Douga aimed at exclusively at the English speaking world which is baked into their trademark video player with the commenting system in place. Premium Membership was also implemented consisting of fairly the same features as its Japanese counterpart, including high quality video streaming capabilities and other related perks. They also made deals with sponsors from the likes of J-list and anime companies by bringing simulcasting anime as they aired in Japan, very much so as to what Crunchyroll and all the other legal anime streaming sites are doing now.
Nico Nico Dot Com (NNC) began their first live stream cast in 2011’s Sakura-con directly to the internet, where anyone in the world can tune in and watch, freely communicating with them by posting comments – which would subsequently roll across the stream for them to see on the other end. NNC had its own dedicated streaming crew and MCs to carry out the event. The live streams usually consisted of off-the-fly interviews with cosplaying attendees, questioning who they were cosplaying as, what their favourite anime series were and other bog standard interview questions. The campaign soon expanded to other anime conventions throughout the year, including Los Angele’s Anime Expo, London’s Hyper Japan and Paris’ Japan Expo. It had also expanded as far as to cover non-anime conventions as well, such as Taste Washington and NASA’s rocket launch.
The live streams cultivated its own community and culture with each streaming event. With well-respected MCs from the likes of Ryo, Michelle and James, and noteworthy attendees who built a name for themselves such as Animeweedlord420, William-kun, Squat-kun, Brosuke, Karasawa, Labcoat-kun and Gendo to name several. You’ll never have probably heard of these names unless you saw the live streams.
I actually spoke with Ryo for a bit in my Okabe cosplay at February 2012’s Hyper Japan in London. He was a pretty cool and nice guy and we shook hands soon after. It was a shame that I was too beta to appear on the stream, but I did appear in the background several times so I’m with that.
The NNC streams wasn’t just for acting like a fool, saying that you favourite anime was Boku no Pico and calling out to certain communities on the internet. It contributed something special and unique to anime conventions, which all had been lacking beyond the appearances of high profile guests, meet-ups and press releases. The stream was where anyone could have fun and enjoyment like no other at a con, and gives everyone a chance to experience what a anime convention is like, whether or not you’re there in person or watching on the other side of the world.
Everything was going fine for Nico Nico Dot Com, they would gain in popularity as time passed and people would buy into the cool commenting system. What could possibly go horribly wrong?
“What could possibly go horribly wrong?“
If according to rumours, presumably nobody purchased premium membership, the anime simulcasts never took off thus were scrapped after a season, the sponsors had realised growth dwindled and soon dropped their support and the entire Nico staff got disbanded as a result, leading to the demise of their renowned live stream events.
Ryo announced on the last day of New York’s Comic Con (NYCC) near the end of October 2012 that it was NNC’s final live stream event of the year, and told viewers to stay tuned for more appearances next year – leaving November 2012’s Hyper Japan NNC-less. Then came around Sakura-con in 2013; NNC were nowhere to be found.
Attention Niconico.com users!
We previously announced that our beta service, Niconico.com, will be open until the “middle of November”. That date has been set to the 19th.
I’m sure lots of you have already checked out our full English version, but if not, fear not – you will still be able to use your Niconico.com account at http://www.nicovideo.jp/
Look forward to even more functionality on the English version!
Have a great Nico!
In November 2012 a month after NYCC, NNC announced their merging with NND, integrating its English version into the main Japanese site. The niconico.com address is still in use, but it’ll redirect to nicovideo.jp. It also shows on NicoNico’s blog that they’re urging users to post more comments on videos and switching to United States region of the site. This comes also at the time where the site appears to have erased everything and anything to do with the live streams on the site. The entire campaign turned out to be an unprofitable mess.
Why did it fail? Where did it all go terribly wrong? The reasons of Nico Nico Dot Com’s downfall can be pointed in all directions, but ultimately it all came down to NNC’s lack of insight to the Western audience.
“an unprofitable mess.”
Here are my own personal assumptions as to why NicoNico.com failed.
Premature Premium Memberships
With a half-baked site as it stands, how could they expect people to buy into the premium membership when there isn’t much to do with it? As for the anime simulcasts, sadly we’re not at a point where the majority of the fanbase are happily able to give up their money to watch something that can be freely accessed using certain methods.
Website needs touching up
The web design of the site is well, quite frankly – shit. Everything feels cluttered, the juxtaposition of English and Japanese everywhere makes me feel culturally seasick and the video player is subpar. It shows how nearly all aspects has been based off from the Japanese site, but they need to do so much more so that it can appeal to the Western audience. For starters they could change the Japanese inspired typefaces into a Western font.
No archiving of streams
What turned out to be a huge mistake on NNC’s end was its decision to not upload its live streams onto its site for later viewing. The only way to watch if you missed it was to reserve a time shift key so that you can watch it at a later date time or otherwise you’d have to sign up for premium I believe. The next problem is the seek bar as navigating to a certain time in the seven long video would be a pain in the ass due to its short default seek bar. Not everyone will find time to tune in in the middle of the night as the convention begins in the morning in another country.
This caused several users (including myself) to record parts of the stream using crappy screen capturing software and upload them to YouTube for archiving purposes; one user even gone as far as to upload the entire stream from Hyper Japan. The streams range from six to ten hours and YouTube has an enhanced seeking feature which makes navigating in the video more accurate and stress free. If YouTube has the capabilities to pull this off then surely could NNC.
“Will we ever Nico Nico Dot Com again?
Most likely Nico Nico Not.”
As it stands, niconico.com proved to be unprofitable and no longer exists. A request for the URL would simply redirect to nicovideo.jp. A lot of money was probably lost from the campaign, and the aims of the English language version of Nico Nico Douga have now shrunken down to simply emulating the same Japanese Nico Nico experience in English. Crunchyroll will probably be the only people to have a fledged live streams, but their reach across conventions will only likely be limited to the US. Will we ever Nico Nico Dot Com again? Most likely Nico Nico Not.
Fortunately Ryo was seen as Zero and Michelle as CC from Code Geass during this weekend’s Sakura-cons. They were attending not as MCs, but as attendees.
“Niconico.com failed devise a plan to make the stream events sustainable and profitable, and lost out.”
If anything that did succeed in NNC’s campaign, it surely would have been the live stream events, but NNC failed devise a plan to make the stream events sustainable and profitable, and lost out. By primarily focusing on bringing the site in English, improving on the usability of the website, and figuring out a way to deal with the language barrier between the English and Japanese users, Nico Nico Douga desperately needs to take a good look at themselves before wanting to succeed in the Western market.
Rest in peace, nico nico dot com~ ♪.
Update: @NicoNicoEn, the English side of NND, recently took notice of this post and responded with the following tweet;
Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope for the return of the NicoNico streams.