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Why We Collect – The Growth of Multimedia Mass Production and Why We Keep Buying It

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I’ve always had a bit of a collecting mentality. As a child, I horded and kept at my side all manner of trinkets, toys, and collectibles, culminating in my thousands of baseball cards scattered across the floor of my bedroom. The item changed over the years, altering with age and income, but it was always very similar, in that I picked up as many items as I could possibly purchase within a certain volume of cash. It always ended in my being broke.
So, it’s been about 15 years since I first started getting the kind of necessary income needed to invest in a constant hobby, and I’ve been through the cycle of baseball cards, comic books, video games, DVDs, and back again. It’s not my hope to go on about why we collect things. It’s some measure of engrained human instinct. We hunt, we gather, and we hoard. It’s how we evolved. Whether or not I can afford that, I understand how it all works.
No, what I’m pondering is just how much the businesses and marketing firms out there have picked up on the trends to take advantage of all that disposable income myself and millions of other young men and women my age tend to have lying around.
If you look back to the early forms of at-home entertainment, it wasn’t quite a collectible medium. You had film reels, phonographs, and bulky Atari units, that just weren’t cost-effective or small enough to actually collect. So, what happened is that new video game consoles arrive every five years and DVDs only cost $5.
It’s partially technology and partially marketing drive to take advantage of how much people like to pick up their own copy of a great film, album, or game.
When records first hit the market in the 1940s, they became an instant hit with the collection minded people out there. Fast forward to the years of popular music, and they exploded, with record collectors popping up nearly everywhere. There was never a music collection boom. It’s always been a reality and for that reason, there wasn’t anywhere to go, except for technologically. That’s not to say that music collecting didn’t get easier, more affordable and smaller.
In the course of 12 years, records became cassette tapes which became compact discs. Fast forward a few more years and people collect music tracks by the hundreds for their iPods and multimedia players. To say there’s a future of music collecting is a bit like saying there’s a future of the computer. There’s obviously a future, but at this point it’s more about portability and digital evolution than anything else. With an industry that’s becoming increasingly digital every year, there’s very little reason to think that music hoarders out there will have anywhere else to go.
Movies are the real source of so much of the collection boom these days. Since the VHS/BETA war back in the 1980s, it’s been a rush to pick up as many home movies as possible for those affordable home entertainment systems. The entirety of the 1990s were devoted to the act of copying, collecting, and stashing as many VHS tapes as possible, and for anyone who devoted the money to the hobby back in the day, it’s a bit depressing to see the current boom of digital media and the replacement of every VHS tape ever bought with a cheaper, better quality, longer lasting DVD format.
But, people got the better end if they were willing to put the money into it. With long-lasting, durable DVD formatting, companies were able to start releasing their movies much quicker, as soon as three months after a film is released in the theater. It somehow didn’t kill movie revenue, and today many people have DVD collections of more than 1000 discs that can fit in their living room on a shelf.
The future of DVD collecting is a matter of technology as well and eventually will go the route of music. We’ll see movies for download, collected on Terabyte sized hard drives and filling up super large media players. HD DVD and Bluray discs are already hitting the market and finally beginning to drive down in cost and saturate at the level they need to become common place. Regardless, movie collecting has become so incredibly popular and as a few shelves in my own entertainment center will sit testament to, they are incredibly hard to ignore.
Video Gaming and Other Entertainment
The true mass at-home entertainment industry growth is in the interactive field and it’s becoming easier to collect things over time. There are way too many different options and many people choose to just collect as much as they can instead of choosing one and sticking with it. Entertainment systems everywhere are loaded down with two versions each of PlayStations, Xboxes and Nintendo handhelds. It’s a long path from the Atari to PlayStation 3 but today more than ever, people are picking up these consoles and building entire entertainment systems around them.
Games are selling in record numbers, and people are building collections of dozens of games to show of their selection of the 10,000 plus video games that have been published to date. What about everything else? Well, there are plenty of other examples of times when entertainment and technology have prompted people to collect at record pace.
Take the iPod for example or the best in new cell phones. An annual $400 purchase of a multimedia player says a lot for the current situation in the market
Where Does it Lead?
Well, it’s all commercialism in the end. The point of hoarding is, at its core, to put away as much of something as possible to survive at a later date. These items occasionally have monetary value, but more often than not, a nostalgic value. By creating a constant sense of nostalgia and community in their products, companies are able to constantly sell new versions of their products to people who are intent on collecting. It will continue as long as people want to remember a certain movie, listen to that one song from junior high school, or share a particularly good video game with their friend.


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