Fluffy's link comes from the tail-end of Just Can't Help It (much of which plays out like a series of PVs even though it's a concert DVD). You will find links there for different international sellers, and many of those links are actually... ahem.. non-affiliate. We prefer to make informed decisions around here not necessarily on price (service can be more important to a few people), but sometimes just on availability - like when a product quietly goes out-of-print and begins to disappear, it's nice to have a central gathering of links to alternate vendors who might still have the product in stock.
You may notice there is somewhat of a stigma around here against retailers/branches based outside of Japan. The succesfull retailers from Hong Kong (like Play-Asia or YesAsia) all have affiliate programs, they almost always charge more than the native Japanese stores, they tend to ship out new Japanese CDs/DVDs more slowly, more of their older offerings are backorder-only, their expectations are less realistic about which of their backorders will truly be available, and they are generally looked at more like resellers (middlemen in the darkest sense of the word) than retailers.
We have a great deal of respect for resellers (like Otaku) who actually keep older or rarer items in-stock, and only list out or offer the products they truly have on-hand. Hong Kong hasn't exactly enriched the world in that way, when it comes to original Japanese products. If you want to catch up on the out-of-prints, or be one of the first nonJapanese folks to get their hands on an upcoming release - you pretty much have to order from Japan, and not flinch at the delivery costs.
I don't really know if it was your point, but you gave a somewhat bad image of YesAsia, Glath :o
Well, the first thing he posted was a link to Play-Asia. The only thing I like about them is they actually give you your money back, when you find out how much of a joke their availability is (I've had that experience with videogame-related goods). So I'm not trying to paint this picture of "YesAsia dreams up all of these diabolically evil schemes". If they actually kept an extensive Japanese inventory (not just a listing - but an actual real inventory), I'd be giving them props, but no sellers in Hong Kong really do that (unless bootlegs and sample copies on eBay actually count).
What's really messy is the few Hong Kong eBay sellers who actually stock anything old and legitimate, are often also selling illegitimate stuff in other listings, and the untrained eye doesn't know which stuff is which, so from what you can gather from their feedback, everything must be legit or everything must be fake. On that basis, chances are you dismiss the few good opportunities out of fear of getting sucked into a bad opportunity. Or you're just a huge sucker who gets lucky sometimes.
When you try to buy Japanese goods from Hong Kong, you don't know what you're getting (in the case of samples/counterfeits on eBay or second-press at Play-Asia or YesAsia), if you're getting it, or when you're getting it. Comparing that to the Direct-from-Japan Experience is like comparing witchcraft to science. It's the difference of hoping versus knowing. If you're a big fan of certainty (I know I am), then there's not a lot of great things you can say about buying Japanese goods from Hong Kong. It's an overrated phenomenon in other communities about Japanese music, and this guy was perpetuating it the moment he first started posting here. I blame the all-too-rampant affiliate program more than I'd blame his own personal preference of where he might choose to buy from.
I'm just pointing him (I'm assuming it's a him) to a good example of vendor linking and implying that if he wants to do us any favors, any linking he supplies us with ought be more than just affiliate-only. I noticed that the English-speaking Ayumi Hamasaki forums were linking exclusively to YesAsia before, but that after CD Japan introduced their own affiliate program, that community started linking to CD Japan instead (when they could be linking to both). As a matter of credibility, why can't someone just link to a vendor like HMV Japan, or post non-affiliate links to CD Japan or YesAsia? That's the kind of credibility most EMFers have, and if bucklemyshoe wants to be welcomed as an equal, they should conduct themselves the same way.
The only official affiliate linking at EMF (at the beginning of every Product thread) is to help fund the community. Affilate links are not the only official links, nor are they covertly-affiliate like Play-Asia links. That's the example to follow. If you want to link to only one seller, don't be a douche about it.
I guess the cat's out of the bag now.
Oh, sorry 'bout that. I didn't notice his link for the new Ringo single at Play-Asia was actually an affiliate link. That's not very nice bucklemyshoe... I actually got suspicious when the very first (or second) post he made after joining was a simple link to an e-store, but kinda dismissed it as just a coincidence.
But just to make one thing clear about YesAsia, I'd like to say that even tho the prices are higher than the original japanese price, they become cheaper if you consider the free shipping that they offer, whereas if you buy them directly from Japan, the shipping cost usually brings a total payment of more than whatever price YesAsia tagged the product with. Long story short, items at YesAsia are usually indirectly cheaper than buying from japanese sellers.
This matter aside, the rest you mentioned is mostly true.
Oh, and welcome bucklemyshoe =)
You mentioned my personal prefernce might take the backseat and what you said might be the case with some but you're wrong about me. It usually goes play-asia > yesasia > ebay > cdjapan > wherever else I can find it. (based off personal experince)
lastly i don't understand your somewhat of a gripe with affiliate links. to tell you the truth i'm completely opposite, i think it's good to click on other peoples links. i rather do so if i have the choice. not only does it help some one else out without doing anything extra on my end but it also increases awareness of new products and sales. (which in term help the foriegn music, movie, and game scenes) if you're going to buy something anyway, then why not?
i guess i should have clearly stated it was an affiliate link?
It's true that often things at yesasia are cheaper when considering the free shipping. The only thing that really isn't is their video game collection, for some reason they love to go beyond overpricing that field.
Well, that doesn't really tell us which version Play-Asia has on-hand (though their "Usually ships within 5-15 days" near the top of the page tells me they don't have it on-hand at all), and I've never heard of any vendors being able to backorder first-press... Usually the only way a vendor offers first-press is they get it in-stock on the release date, they sell it until they run out, and that is the extent of the first-press copies they will ever offer. So unless the publisher has the most excessive first-press manufacturing run ever, it might be safe to assume that if Play-Asia has to backorder - you are going to get second-press. Play-Asia isn't even telling us that there are different pressings.
I also find it very interesting that Neowing (an actual Japanese retailer) is mentioned, as well as "Lightbox 2.0 by Lakesh Dhakar". Seriously?! Is Play-Asia even using the Lightbox that Neowing has?
It should also be mentioned that Neowing is the Japanese-language version of CD Japan (which is the English-language version - they are basically two different faces of the same company). So why would Play-Asia be quoting Neowing? Perhaps because Play-Asia has no direct association with any Japanese record labels, and Play-Asia simply.. resells from Neowing...
If we knew for a fact that Play-Asia was reselling goods from Neowing, then not only could we look at Neowing to know which pressing Play-Asia is going to backorder, but we also have to ask ourselves... Why not just cut out the middleman, and order directly from CD Japan? I would be especially suspicious about possible reselling, if Play-Asia won't list a Japanese CD/DVD before Neowing will (aside from the fact that everything is a backorder). Like there was a Yoko Kanno CD that Amazon or HMV or Tower Records listed out weeks before Neowing, but Play-Asia didn't list it until the CD has already shown up on Neowing...
When a "Limited" edition has its own separate catalog number from the regular edition - sure, Play-Asia is going to tell you it's a Limited item. That's no different than what YesAsia and all of the native Japanese retailers do. I'm talking about first and second pressings. Different packagings that have the same catalog number and the same price, with perks offered to buyers on a first-come, first-served basis. For a reseller that likes to quote Neowing (whether or not Neowing is their source of the actual discs) including a Lightbox that Play-Asia doesn't even use, you would think they'd have no problem being able to declare "First-Press Available" or "First-Press Sold-Out".
Also, there's this little flash animation that loads on every product page, saying that Play-Asia has a 8.98 rating on "resellerratings.com". Hmmmm... RESELLER ratings. How many more indications would anyone need, in order to believe that Play-Asia is anything but a first-generation hoarder/retailer of Japanese CDs?
So tell me something.
How can "Usually ships within 5-15 days" be the quickest, or among the quickest? Even if you lived in Hong Kong right nextdoor to Play-Asia, I would think you could still get your hands on something days sooner from any of the native Japanese retailers, because Play-Asia can't make a profit in the reselling business if they paid for anywhere near the fastest possible shipping from Japan. Play-Asia probably goes through a weekly batch-backordering process for everything their customers placed an order on. How could Play-Asia ever be the last buying frontier for music that is on the verge of disappearing? As much as I like to rag on YesAsia sometimes, at least they actually have Ringo EXPO 08 in-stock right now. It's not very old. Does Play-Asia know about some risk of radioactive exposure to their owner/employees from having factory-wrapped Japanese music in their warehouse for too long?
Because YesAsia keeps at least some kind of an inventory of Shiina Ringo items, that gives them the credibility to be a recommended 'retailer' at EMF. Play-Asia only does backordering, it's the slowest backorders for basically the same base price as YesAsia charges for items already on-hand (or offers with faster backordering), and Play-Asia always charges you something for shipping no matter how slow you want to go. Suppose you want to pay for EMS - what does that effectively get you? Yes, I want to wait a week or two before Play-Asia has the item, then I want to pay a premium for the goods to travel super-fast the rest of the way? What kind of option is that?
So to add insult to all of that injury, Play-Asia has one of the most stealthy (which could be construed as dishonest) affiliate-linking systems in the world. So not only aren't you informing us about the fastest seller or even the cheapest seller, or somebody with a rarities hoard that might go overlooked and remain intact while competitors empty out on the same product, but now you're covertly standing to make a commission if we take you seriously about the one seller you've directed our attention toward. How am I not supposed to think that commissions were your motivation for singling out Play-Asia? What other motivation could you possibly have?
I would like to believe you have the best of intentions here (because you are a fellow Shiina Ringo fan), but you're a little bit off the scale of my Benefit Of The Doubt meter.
you say all this about play-asia and while i've never looked that detailed into things because all that really matters to me is that i get what i order. i've used them a lot and haven't had bad experience. If I'm worried about a first press or limited edition then I'll get it form somewhere that clearly states that's what it is.
I'm going to post this as an example, the most recent order I've received from them.
In my experince again (I actually shop there a lot) when things usually say within 5-15 days they're shipped out within 3 days.
I'm not trying to be all pro play-asia or anything but you've put me in a corner and I have to say the way things are. At least for me, sounds like maybe you had a bad experince and harbor some sort of resentment because of it?
My bad (but not terrible) experience was I tried to order a Special Edition copy of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne - a Japanese RPG. I searched all over the web, and no sellers claimed to have new copies of the North American release - except Play-Asia. That was after a lot of searching. So here I'm thinking, "Yes!! SCORE! I've uncovered a treasure trove of overlooked gems!". I place my first-ever order with Play-Asia, and find out not only don't they have the item on-hand, but they can't obtain it either. That should have been obvious, but... I wasn't as cynical back then as I am today.
In Play-Asia's defense, they really did give me my money back. When you find out that YesAsia can't obtain something for you, they keep your money as store credit.
The betrayed expectation after so much searching for this game I was very interested in, crushed my spirit - that's all. If Play-Asia is a reseller of most/everything they offer, then their 'availability' claims are merely secondhand information. Sometimes CD Japan could get it wrong (even as a first-generation seller). Everyone makes mistakes, but being a reseller - Play-Asia is more prone to falsely-declared availability than any of the retailers based in Japan. You simply have a habit of pursuing the particular items that don't disappear. I make no attempt to hide that I am an elitist bastard, so pretty much most of the things I want are disappearing as we speak, and if Play-Asia is ever going to be wrong about anything, I'm one of those pricks who would find out the hard way more often than any other aspiring buyers.
I'm all out of steam about Play-Asia here. You've made your case, I've made mine, we seem to have different buying strategies, and I should have a more welcoming attitude.
I'm an SMT fan too. I know Nocturne has been reprinted now but I can imagine you being fairly upset about thinking you were going to get it and then not. I had to search high and low for months before I could find an affordable copy of Digital Devil Saga. Then when I got it (off ebay) it was covered in stupid gamestop stickers (on the deluxe box) not shown in the auction and I was pissed. They reprinted the normal editon that now too :)
I didn't discover SMT until after Nocturne was 'gone', but before Digital Devil Saga came out (and I have since then procured a new copy of Nocturne Special Edition). So I've mostly kept up with the SMT collecting ever since. I pre-ordered both halves of Digital Devil Saga as they were coming out, so I got the box to hold them together, plus I have both of the bonus soundtracks and a controller skin. Just so I could be all smug, I recently watched an eBay auction for both halves of Digital Devil Saga together, factory-sealed. It closed for $180. I didn't actually open Digital Devil Saga to play it, until a month or two ago - even though I've had it all these years, and still have my EB Games receipts somewhere.
I've put about 70 hours into Part 1, my characters are all around Level 91, I am right before the final boss, and two of my characters have the standard/nonquesting Mantra Grid entirely maxed out, and a third character is almost-maxed. What I've done for the last couple hours I've played, is side-questing to unlock bonus sections of the Mantra Grid. I'm a few more hours away from completing that - then I am starting a new cycle of Part 1 so I can redo/replace the storyline decisions I made on my first playthrough, because I originally wasn't powergaming in preparation of Part 2. I'm also looking forward to fighting the Demi-Fiend from Nocturne, which some people say is more difficult than attaining the True Demon Ending in Nocturne.
SMT really is an awesome series, and Nocturne is one of the greatest RPGs I have ever played. It's better than anything Square has made in the last 10 years. My only gripe about Nocturne is how you have to throw old abilities away to learn new ones, but it's nothing I can't handle.
You might be happy to know I'm not the only SMT fanatic in this community. There's also Maou. Maybe now there's enough of us to warrant an SMT thread that would actually have more than just two people talking back and forth.
Also, if you hate what GameStop does with their used games - then you might loathe them to a whole new level for how their retail chains treat the 'unused' games they keep on-hand. There's nothing wrong with how they handle new games you purchase online, but their walk-in retail experience makes me feel so violated.
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