The image above is of the “new” Hatsune Miku designed by Crypton Future Media which graced the cover of the box for the virtual idol’s second release entitled “CV01 Hatsune Miku Append”. Crypton is widely accepted to be the leader in the VOCALOID world when it comes to vocal quality and merchandising, so when Crypton made the unexpected announcement that they would be changing the pictures for all of their characters with the new releases, people were generally displeased.
It is not the fact that the image has changed that makes this so big a deal, it’s the principle of the matter. Put simply, Crypton made an unforgivable mistake. They forgot that their entire operation is 100% community-driven. In the VOCALOID world, making a change in what a character looks like is tantamount to changing the words to a national anthem. It’s true that it may not be that big of a deal on the outside, but it changes the heart and soul of the thing. Crypton’s decision to change what Miku looks like came without researching how the community would react, and now they feel the consequences. Sales of Hatsune Miku Append, though expected to be high due to very advanced technology and sound-quality, came short of what was expected and now Crypton has some serious decisions to make.
The main problem VOCALOID fans now face is, “Which one is the right one?”, and to a lesser extent, “what about the old images?” Crypton’s misguided move has possibly made tens of thousands of fan-created images incorrect, and more than this actually causes damage, it makes the community feel less attached to Miku, which is terrible news for Crypton indeed, given that their largest income comes straight from the people’s love for the virtual singer.
I understand that playing hardball in the business world is necessary, especially when it involves idols (virtual or not). But this is not the normal business world; this is a business that took off after a joke video that became an internet meme, and is supported entirely by a cult following. There is really no margin for error.
For now, the question remains unanswered, “Does this mark the beginning of the end for Crypton and Miku?” Possibly yes, and possibly no. Crypton still has enough income to stay afloat after a haphazard mistake like this, but if they continue with their previously-stated plan to re-design all of their VOCALOID characters, who knows what could happen?