January 7, 2012

Distracted by three year old postings (Botcon 2009, Part 1)

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 1:15 pm

So I promised in my last post that I would talk about my impressions of the 2012 Botcon set. Which was the plan until I remembered that I’d done this very thing before for a previous set. Having done some work, I thought I’d see if I could keep the flow of the new review consistent with the old.

I am pleased to (re)discover I’d created a value guide to impart my views on the toys. It’s a pretty good one (far simpler than the one I was running earlier last year with my toy of the day efforts) three years on, so I’m going to keep it for the purposes of the Botcon set.

For reference:

  • Scalper Price (5) - “This toy is so insanely good - be it in terms of innovation, nostalgia or just plain coolness - that I will not think twice before being overcharged on a piece of plastic by someone who existence is satisfied by gouging.”
  • Direct Market Price (4) - “This toy is too good to risk not finding on the store shelves of my local Zellers or Target, that I must pay more than traditional retail to a smaller comic/toy shop that carries the item.””
  • Standard Retail Price (3) - “This toy is pretty good and I can’t wait to see it on the toy shelves so I make sure to get the best one going at the most affordable retail outlet.”
  • Advertised Price (2) - “This toy is good enough that owning it will leave a bit of a hole in the collection but missing it won’t overburden me with guilt, so I can really take my chances.”
  • Discount Price (1) - “I see that the toy is on sale but I still wonder whether it is good for my collection.”
  • Occasionally an item will be beyond imagination and will register with an At Any Price (6). Conversely, sometimes an item will be so terrible that it will warrant an (At Any Price) (0).

So there you go. But I also discovered something else funny. I can’t comment on the post in question. And I really want to comment because, three years on, there are things we know now that we couldn’t know then. So our review of new toys is delayed while I wax on about older ones…

So let’s go back in time, to Botcon 2009, and relive the memories…

But It’s Not Animated!

Certainly the box set was hurt right out of the gate when it was discovered not to be new Transformers: Animated toys. My disappointment was palpable at the time (I even went so far as to develop a mold upon which to create the character) and little did I know that almost a full conventions worth of toys for Animated would arrive in 2011.

But I would have to say my assessments were pretty accurate. The 2009 set is possibly the least popular of the seven FunPub Botcon sets to date, as evidenced by how easy it was to get remainders from the “exclusives firesale” underway at Botcon 2011 (although it was a good way to get exclusives for my nephew without breaking the bank…)

Elite Guard Kup - Kup suffers from being the first character out of the gate, and proof positive that the entire set would not serve as a tribute to Animated. As such, he took a fair number of hits that may not have been entirely justified. To the good, he makes use of a terrific Cybertron Mode (Red Alert), a terrific head sculpt and an accurate blue shading for the body. Regardless of what I think of the toy mould, however, it doesn’t seem to suit Kup particularly well, particularly the cab. Failure to substitute a real left hand for the pre-existing laser seems to be a shortcoming.  And the orange striping is distracting. The result is that I’m conflicted and Kup ends up skating between Direct and Retail (3.5).

  • (He would have been so good as a retooled Cybertron Mode Deluxe Optimus Prime.)

Time has both helped and hurt Kup. That mold is still amazing, and any toy that gets to use it as a base (be it Cybertron Red Alert, Cybertron Cannonball, or Classics Crankcase) gets a big thumbs up from me.

But Hasbro actually made a Kup for Classics 3.0. A good one too. And there is something wrong about Kup looking so young. Makes me feel a bit dirty. Only because of my love affair with this mold, I’d upgrade my estimate to a Direct (4.0) grade.

Elite Nemesis Scourge - Besides the fact that I have no idea how they are going to keep a story where Scourge is in the past in current continuity without trickery, Scourge fares better, and worse, than Kup. The negatives first - I pretty much universally hate this mold. It really doesn’t do a lot for me. The only time it worked for me was for Ratbat, and then because it looked so much like the War Within depiction of the character. That said, a decent paint application (including an excellent use of contrasting red) and a terrific head retool makes Scourge the winner in the set. Particularly if the “attendee-only” special is a slightly modified Huntsmen Sweep. A Direct (4) grade for Scourge in the final analysis.

  • (Still, how cool would a modified Cybertron Mode Deluxe Megatron from the Optimus-Megatron two pack be?)

Of course, Scourge was worked into the story by telling the story of young Kup as flashback during the tumultuous escape from the Decepticons in Transformers: The Movie. And the attendee-only special was not, in the end, a Huntsman Sweep, but rather obscure Japanese character, Leozak. But we did get our Sweeps in the end, courtesy of a build-an-army set…

But more on that later. Scourge was and remains a strange one. While I confess to continued indifference to this mode, I might actually like the vehicle mode BETTER than the official Classics 3.0 release. (I’m probably in the minority and coloured by my love of the deluxe Titanium line, but Titanium Scourge is still my favourite rendering of the character.) The situation was not helped by Hasbro’s decision not to include a targetmaster for him, like they had for Cyclonus.

In any case, I’d leave Scourge with a Direct (4) grade.

Elite Guard Landshark - I have terribly conflicted feelings on Landshark. I want to like him but I just can’t bring myself to fall in love with him. While it is nice to see a new character, and a name that gives props to one of the molds predecessors, I’m still not sold on the character name. Why that matters in a world of Lugnut and Sixknight is beyond me, but it distracts me nonetheless. While the mould is first rate, I really hoped they would hold out the big bucks for Thunderclash, rather than spend it on the new guy. The paint application would have been really appealing if (a) he had been Roadbuster, (b) a perfectly acceptable Roadbuster hadn’t already been issued at retail, and (c) they had gone for some visor subtlety and used an orange or grey instead of that distracting blue. But I really like that mould, so he joins Kup in limbo between Direct and Retail (3.5).

  • (I think I’ve have gone with an albino Deluxe Sentinel Prime in this case, or called him what he is (Roadbuster) and, resisting the urge to call for a repainted Voyager Bulkhead, kept the price point consistent for the set, saved cost for Thunderclash and deployed a repainted Deluxe Soundwave accordingly. At least he offers the possibility of treating Laserbeak as a repainted Buzzsaw to join with Scourge…)

Not sure where I was going there with the Animated Buzzsaw comment. I must have grander schemes than I alluded to here.

Anyway, I still like the mold, I’m less concerned about the “Landshark” moniker, and the colours are okay. But I can’t get worked up about him, so he goes down a half notch, to Retail (3.0).

Elite Guard Flak - They should call him Elite Guard Fail. Oh don’t mistake me, the fancy new face is pretty. But I’m not crazy about adding an upsized micromaster to this group, particularly when there are so many other Gen 1.5 Euroformers that could be up to the task (Scorch? Pyro? Where are you, Rotorstorm?). Moreover, like Roadbuster Landshark, we already have a slightly-flawed-but-perfectly-correctable Classics version pegwarming at a store near you in Decepticon Dropshop. Unlike Landshark, we now have a lot of the value of the set invested into an arctic rendering of Autobot Overload, also pegwarming in the next aisle over. Frankly, Flak loses a full retail grade based on the simple fact that two version of the two are currently accessible at retail, pretty face or no, bringing him to an Advertised (2) price point.

  • (Again, not that anybody asked, I’d skip Animated Flak and either (a) bring out Big Shot as a remolded Shockwave (now that’s a tank!), or (b) brake plastic continuity (for Megatron is too simple to work…) and used Cybertron Evac to create an Animated-style version of Whirl with a new head sculpt.)

Of course, we would get Pyro in 2010, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, I was little surprised to find so many of the Flak, even with the new pretty head sculpt, littering the Botcon extra tables in 2011. There are those that love him, for sure, but he’s not flak. He’d have done better in his Japanese colours (as Powerbomb!) at least. As albino Flak, he stays at Advertised (2.0).

Elite Guard Thunderclash - I really want to love Thunderclash. I really do! I have a soft spot for a toy that landed on Canadian and not American toy shelves. I genuinely like the Energon Rodimus mould, even if I had hoped that the set would save some of its pricing bang earlier on and seriously upsized him to Cybertron Optimus Prime scale (as unrealistic as that might be to bring a Leader class into the mix) or even used the Energon Landmine mould here instead of with Landshark. I even respect the quality of the paint applications which make the best of what they can of transferring the original’s fluorescent colours onto a completely different body (even if I disagree with moving the Autobot symbol outside the eagle). All this going for him - desire, (compromise) mould, paint application - and in the end he looks like a weird prototype. Because he’s Thunderclash, he skirts the no man’s land between Retail and Advertised (2.5).

  • (Who is Animated Thunderclash? I’m taking my coin I saved with Soundwave-repainted Roadbuster and bringing forward none other than Voyager Class Optimus Prime. Given now the axe looks nothing like the cartoon version but actually looks a bit like a trailer, the mould actually might look better as ‘Clash than as Prime.)

I finally understand the Buzzsaw comment now. Weird.

Thunderclash would also end up as Shattered Glass Thunderclash in the custom class, so some of us ended up with two versions of him. I even scooped up a sale version of him for a future Custom project. But he really is a Advertised (2.0) grade. Sorry.

Wings of Honour (Set) - Despite wanting to refer to the set as “Wings of Steel” (does that mean Scourge is “Screaming for Vengeance”), Wings of Honour comes out with an average of 3.1, and approaching retail land. Based on anticipated quality of the box (I know I know, but I like how they look…), I’m willing to put the whole set between Direct and Retail (3.5), and call it a night.

(And dream of perfecting digibashing so I can bring Animated Kup, Scourge, Thunderclash, Whirl and Roadbuster to a website near you…)

Oh man. When I retire, will I do anything but kitbashes? I love my ideas for the Wings of Honours Animated set. But on this set, the total score fell to Retail 3.0. Which is really where it belongs.

January 5, 2012

Give me something to obsess about and I will freely blog

Filed under: Transformers, botcon — fairplaythings @ 10:15 pm

So Botcon 2012 is coming up in April and we’re counting down the SIX figures that constitute this year’s box set (with the theme of Shattered Glass comes to the Classicverse). I’m having a lot of mixed feeling though because of the toys, and because I’m not going.

Yes, ending a six year string, I’m not attending this year’s Con. It was not an easy decision actually:

  • It is being held in Dallas, Texas, a city (and a state) I’ve not yet visited, so it would have been fun to see someplace new (and I could probably get there on points).
  • The add-on set is Shattered Glass, which I have really really come to love, and showing up is still the best way to get the toys (and get excited about them).
  • There is a better chance this year to get into the customizing course because of a doubling of places. Given the molds from 2010 (G2 Sideswipe) and 2011 (TF:A Minerva), you just know it is going to be something interesting (probably, with my luck, Sunstorm or Shattered Glass Dirge already molded in yellow…)
  • And, selfishly, I really wanted to take a shot at a five-peat in the diarama competition. Since 2007, I have alternately placed first and second every year for the past four, and I have some great ideas to enter to continue the streak.

But these factors are outweighed by the Cons, so to speak.

To do the city right would require more vacation time than I am prepared to commit, particularly with a long-talked about vacation on the horizon. Having just bought the new house and just after Christmas, I’m feeling the bottom line much more than usual, so not attending will also save me several hundred dollars in food and accommodations and transportation, to say nothing of the sums I have been known to drop in the dealers’ room.

And while I want to try for a five-peat, the amount of time and effort that has gone into each presentation over the past four years has been exhaustive. Even last year’s nesting dolls took a long time, and in the case of the last three years, I was still working on the entry on site. But KidRobot has what appears to be annual munny contest (or at least one it has run for the past two years) in May and I really want to have the time to do a proper entry - getting street cred with them would be mind blowing and really good for my munny aspirations! (Also, I have the perfect idea, brewing for three years and needing to escape my head…)

Related to this is my planned attendance at TFCon in Toronto in July as a dealer. It certainly means I have access to a toy buying opportunity (with no customs or suitcase hassles). But it also allows me time to overcome the big challenge from 2009, namely having time to put forward Transformer munnies for sale. While I had about 20 for sale, most were non-TF, and I’m curious to know how I will do with an army of cute robots.

But lastly, my long-term Botcon friends aren’t going. Teresa, Toddmichael and Matt, “Crazy” Steve, Josh Miller, they are not going. And while I’m constantly making new friends at the event, I want to hang with at least some of my posse. So I’ll stay put and lure at least Teresa, and hopefully Toddmichael and Matt, up for TFCon in the land of gravy and cheese curds on french fries.

But having friends does have its advantages. Chip and Elizabeth are going and they’re getting the toys for me (and getting in the door with my pass!). So deep into my savings I go to line up payment for tomorrow’s registration. Even if it is not me doing the registering!

(Coming up: My thoughts on the toys! (Hopefully) with pictures!)

January 1, 2012

Here’s a novel idea - a monthly Transformers figure club

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 3:55 pm

Happy 2012 everyone.

(For regular readers of my irregular musings, I’m still putting together a few posts on Green Lantern. I have no real excuse for not having undertaken my assignment - with the figures staring me in the face as I type. Rest assured, we’ll get back to this 2011 toy line soon.)

Instead, I want to talk about the 2012 Transformers action figure club. “But,” you correctly ask, “there is no such thing.” True enough. And yet, aren’t we agreed there should be one.

The New Golden Age of Toys

It really is a golden age for toy fans and the time to get our favourites has never been better. From the sheer volume of DC figures coming out of DCUC (wave 22 planned and counting) to Mattel’s recent foray into the Mego style figures (online and at retail) to the return of Marvel Legends and their impressive ongoing line of 4″ highly articulate Marvels, to new entries from classic Thundercats, the inclusion of classic Joes in the ongoing GIJoe line, and G1-inspired Reveal the Shield characters, there are just so many cool toys on the market and on our toy shelves.

This plastic proliferation has, over at MattyCollector.com, resulted in specialty toy lines aimed at collectors. There is a monthly Voltron and DCUC club starting in 2012, the ending of Club Ecto-1 devoted to all things Ghostbusters, and the long-running and particularly awesome and inspirational Club Eternity, with new and more wonderful figures (and now vehicles) every month!

In the Land that Hasbro Built, The Toys are Alright

But that’s Mattel. Over in Hasbro land, two of its biggest licenses (GIJoe & Transformers) have, for the purposes of fan clubs, been in the hands of FunPublications. Beginning life in 1997 aimed almost exclusively at the 12″ collector’s market, the GIJoe club modernized itself in 2002 by beginning to offer a second range of exclusives aimed at fans of the three-and-three-quarter scale figures. Having built up good credit with Hasbro and following the implosion of the Official Transformers Collectors’ Club in 2004, FunPublications resurrected the Botcon name and created the Transformers Club in 2005.

The Transformers club of FunPublications has proven itself to be much more successful and lucrative than its sister GIJoe club. While exclusive convention toy lines for both factions of the GIJoe club number in the hundred (500 for the smaller Joes, 400 for the larger Joes), 2011 is the first year where the main offering of figures sold out for the three-and-three-quarter inch Joes (with 2010, 2009 and 2008 sets still available for sale).

Compare this to the appetite of Transformers fan:

  • The only convention boxset that lingered for more than 12 months was the very first offering in 2005; currently there are no Botcon toys across seven conventions that are available for sale at the club store.
  • At FunPublications’ second Botcon in 2006 (and the last time numbers were readily available for the number of boxed toy sets), there were 750 sets of the main exclusives available. That is only 20% less than the numbers generated for GIJoeCon 2011, their most successful year.
  • In 2007, the year of Thundercracker, Dirge and Thrust, FunPublications had to go back and get additional sets made because of demand, and stopped publishing the number of boxsets available (widely estimated to be in the range of 2000 box sets). Of the three convention add-on sets, numbering 1400 for each set, they were all snapped up easily at the Convention itself.
  • At Botcon 2009, there were estimated to be 10,000 fans in attendence!
  • In 2011, there were 1500 sets of add-ons available for each of the two animated-themed sets. For the Shattered Glass add-ons, there were 1800 available.
  • In 2012, the number of loose sets that can be added to an attendees order is 500, the same amount as the packaged exclusives available for fans of the smaller Joes.

That is not to say everything is a big hit with the Transformers club. Animated Cheetor remains available in small numbers, as have the exclusive figure that comes with annual renewals. And it is only recently that the Club was able to get rid of, at great discount, Airrazor and Astrotrain from 2006. But given the exclusives that continue to linger (and in dramatically smaller numbers) from the GIJoe club, economics alone provides a rationale for more support for Transformers collectors.

With between two and four times the number of toys sold to Transformers fans compared to GIJoe collectors, more toys simply equals more revenue. And in challenged economic times, that’s a win for the bottom line.

Me Thinks Thou Doth Protest Too Much

So why go into details about economics and a comparison of the number of exclusives sold? Because Transformers fans still feel like we are the poor cousins to our GIJoe brethren, despite our overwhelming numbers and sales. Despite promises of yearly club only toys, it wasn’t until 2010 that this became a reality. To look at what is offered for GIJoe fans on a regular basis is to be overcome by toy envy, particularly as these exclusives linger.

In spite of the picture painted for GIJoe fans, it was recently announced FunPublications would start a figure-of-the-month club in 2012. 12 figures (two per month for six months) would be available as a group package to members of the Club, with a 13th figure thrown in as an incentive. Prices are not yet available although they are rumoured to be about 10-20% more than the cost of a 6″ He-Man figure.

I’ve railed about the proposed club previously, particularly the need to join the main club first (a blatant cash grab if there ever was one) and the cost. And I’m not sold on all the characters. But the ones that have caught my eye just won’t let me go. Covergirl, TNT, Tan Grunt, Nano B.A.T.s, and particularly Quarrel and Iron KLAW make it really hard to resist despite my significant reservations to the contrary.

Which brings us, almost 1000 words later, to the crux of the argument. Transformers fans deserve a monthly club too.

What a Transformers Monthly Subscription Could Look Like

Transformers would certainly be more expensive to put together, but the numbers that could be generated from such a project would certainly make it worth it to the bottom line and for fan interest. A good indication of the success potential is Punch/Counterpunch. Offered in March 2010, the figure (with a run of 1800 and at a cost of $59 before shipping and handling) SOLD OUT in three days. A second limited run of an additional 300 likewise sold out in hours. That’s 2100 X $59 = $123,900 in gross revenue.

A significant amount of retooling wouldn’t even be required - in most cases a simple repaint would all that would be required.

So imagine a club offering between 1000 and 2000 sets of figures, at between a $50 to $60 per figure price, for 12 figures (with a thirteen thrown in for an incentive). To make calculations easier, let’s presume $55 per figure and 1500 sets, and you have gross revenue of just under one million dollars.

And who would you offer? Well, sticking primarily to repaints and not wanting to run afoul of Hasbro’s store, and keeping things to deluxe scale offerings, there is a lot on offer. South American exclusives. Proposed but never actualized Transformers: Animated. Shattered Glass. Diaclone. New characters.

For the benefit of argument, allow me to put forward 13 figures that offer some real punch:

  1. Diaclone Bluestreak (Generations Silverstreak in Diaclone Bluestreak colours)
  2. G1 Bumber (Reveal the Shield Bumblebee with new head) *
  3. South American Camaro (Reveal the Shield Tracks with new head) *
  4. Transformers: Animated Cliffjumper (recoloured Bumblebee with new head) *
  5. Shattered Glass Hound (with Howlback) (from Generations Hound and Ravage)
  6. Shattered Glass Ironhide (Black Diaclone colours of Generations Ironhide)
  7. Shattered Glass Punch/Counterpunch (recoloured club tooling of Punch/Counterpunch)
  8. Robots in Disguise Scourge (recoloured Reveal the Shield Optimus Prime)
  9. UK Predator Snare (recoloured Terradive)
  10. G1 Sunstorm (recoloured Starscream)
  11. G1 Toxitron (recoloured Reveal the Shield G2 Optimus Prime)
  12. Transformers: Animated Wasp (proposed TF:A unreleased figure with new head) *

Bonus Figure: Shattered Glass Frenzy and Rumble (repainted Generations Frenzy and Rumble)

So there you go. 13 figures, with only four retools that spans different lines. If the cost of retooling were a factor, substituting in an unreleased TF:A Mercenary Swindle or a Robots in Disguise Scourge would work well. And this doesn’t even touch on possible new toy molds that may lend themselves to other characters.

Really the skies the limit, so it most definitely can be done. And it should be done, given the potential appetite. If it can work for the GIJoe collector (and other toy fans) it can definitely work for one of the biggest toy fandoms in the world. The question is can we make this happen in 2012?

Powered by WordPress