Chasing lightcycles across the grid

We don’t make movies to make money.
We make money to make more movies.
Walt Disney

Over the weekend Kris and I are planning on taking in Tron:Legacy, the sequel to 1982’s cult classic Tron. An unabashed geek, I have fond memories of seeing the original shortly after it came out and, like many other geeks, wanted to re-watch the original before seeing the newest installment.

The only problem is that I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Not on iTunes (rental or purchase). Not at Best Buy. Not at Target. Not on Amazon DVD or Amazon Digital (I can find used copies being sold for $70-$200, but no new copies). Not at Netflix DVD or Netflix streaming.

Disney is no stranger to creating (artificial) scarcity of their products. Every few years we’re treated to commercials informing us that we can buy Snow White, Cinderella, Bambi, or some other Disney classic, “Now for a limited time!!!!” After a few weeks, those movies are removed from store shelves and put right back in the Disney Vault.

Artificial scarcity and limited time offers are both tried and true techniques to increase revenues within a set timeline, never as keenly felt as during the holiday rush.

This morning, however, I did a quick search of Bittorrent and found more than 1,500 seeders sharing copies of Tron 1, most in HD. There were even a few torrents of Tron 2 (the movie that just hit theaters this week), again in HD.

To be clear, I did not download a copy.

But I could have.

For free.

And so it would seem that in the 44 years since Walt Disney left us, the ethos behind that iconic quote has changed. Rather than focusing on making great movies, collecting revenues, and making more great movies, there are at least some within the company that are more concerned with playing games with customers.

The miscalculation, of course, is that artificial scarcity only works when the item isn’t fungible. Disney created a scarcity of the DVD copy, not accounting for our ability to substitute an easily obtainable digital copy for the physical one. Rather than taking my money (which I am eager to give), they both pass on the opportunity and ignore the possibility of that I can find a similar product somewhere else.

  1. Marketing vs customer value « Marketing Muster

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