Starting in 2012, all comics from Marvel’s Ultimate line will be A) polybagged and B) include a code to redeem for a digital copy of that same issue through Marvel’s iOS and Android apps. The program starts with Ultimate Spider-Man #6 in January, followed by Ultimate X-Men #7 and Ultimates #7 in Feburary.
This move has a couple of factors to take into account. It’s a bit of one-upsmanship towards DC and their combo-packs, a concept I haven’t heard mentioned since Justice League #1 came out. If DC is going to charge extra for it, then Marvel is going to do it for free. Or actually, for $4 that a lot of fans felt was too high to begin with. They’re also finding a way to drive their print readers to try out a digital version of the comic. If those fans are converted, and dig the experience, then they might even think about going direct next time, skipping the comic shop altogether. Whether Marvel makes a bigger profit on that, I don’t know, but it’s certainly possible at full retail price, even after iTunes or Android takes their cut. On the surface, it looks like a way to placate retailers and have an incentive to send people to the shops as well as enjoying the benefits of digital comics. I highly doubt they’re doing it just to be nice, but it does seem like a lovely side effect for folks who’d like to take advantage of both.
The Ultimate Universe seems to be Marvel’s testing ground for things like this. Last year, their first title to go digital the same day the comic hit the shelves was Ultimate Thor #1. Now we’re seeing this initiative. Does this signal at least the chance that Marvel will try this on a larger scale? I guess that depends on whether sales get a goose, or if people actually use those download codes in any significant numbers.
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