Today, Marvel announced that they would be discontinuing the “free digital copy” incentive that currently runs through their single issue comics. In its place, Marvel has decided to launch a new program that will offer two or more bonus digital titles to readers when they purchase a physical floppy comic. However, the books offered through this new program will be older comics which Forbes characterizes as “existing moments into the Marvel Universe [readers] may have missed in the past.”
One of the first two comics that will be given away after the program’s launch on February 1st is Civil War II #0. According to Marvel sales director Jim Nausedas, this specific giveaway is timed to “promote the CIVIL WAR II collection on sale that month.” This fundamentally shifts the nature of the digital incentives program from one that allows readers to create a digital backlog of their purchases to one that encourages cross-promotion and Marvel brand saturation.
While a number of Beat staffers, myself included, never used the digital codes that come with Marvel titles, many Twitter users were bereaved by Marvel’s announcement.
Stephanie Cooke’s tweet thread points out that the old digital copy system made it much easier to read while commuting.
I thought Marvel was miles ahead of everyone in terms of this digital code stuff but now they’re backtracking?
— Stephanie Cooke (@hellocookie) January 6, 2017
According to Nausedas, the new program is designed to create “create repeat retailer customers” at comic book shops. Graeme McMillan, however, has doubts about that.
Does Marvel’s new Bonus Digital Books promo really help retailers? Surely it’s as much a help to digital or even Marvel Unlimited?
— Graeme (@graemem) January 6, 2017
This sentiment is supported by an excerpt from Charles Paul Hoffman’s tweet thread on the subject:
I’m sure some people will like the change. It doesn’t work for me, so I’ll be shifting purchases from my LCS to ComiXology. @albertxii
— Charles Paul Hoffman (@CharlesPHoffman) January 6, 2017
Al Kennedy points out that, given the way this announcement is worded, it seems like readers who buy multiple Marvel books each week will end up with a lot of redundant codes.
— Al Kennedy (@housetoastonish) January 6, 2017
This tweet thread from Sergio Alexis explains how many Marvel users used the old incentive system to introduce the Marvel titles they were interested in reading with family and friends (incidentally, this is the only way I personally ever used the codes):
This is very bad, pretty anti consumer move here but I am sure people will defend it as “they don’t owe you anything” but the digital copies https://t.co/zZOznz5AAL
— Sergio Alexis (@TransComics) January 6, 2017
While it remains to be seen how this paradigm shift will affect Marvel’s physical comics sales, it is clear that many readers are displeased with the change for a variety of reasons.
In my opinion, Marvel’s usage of Civil War II to promote this new digital program was a huge misstep. This event comic was largely panned by critics and readers. It has become the most recent example of corporate driven comics designed to promote sales through shock and name value over actual content. Associating the program with this title has served to transfer its negative reputation to the new initiative. Perhaps we’d be reading a different story today if the program had kicked off with first issues from more critically lauded series such as Ms. Marvel, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, or The Vision.