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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?

6 Comments »

  1. I think the cost of producing a single Transformer is probably way more than that of even two Joes because of all the parts involved in a transforming robot. Maybe even the added TF collector demand wouldn’t offset the increase in the cost of commissioning a run of deluxe sized recolors 12 times a year.

    Plus the club has to avoid doing things Hasbro has planned, and maybe a couple of your ideas will see mass release at retail.

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