Sorry for the late response!
Aceoftherebellion wrote:I would argue that trademark retention and an increased focus on a smaller and more specific pool of classic characters with more overall material are part of the same coin and reflect the same intention on Hasbro's part.
Your statement is a contradiction: Hasbro retaining TMs by using obscure characters and conversely NOT focusing on said characters... how is that the same coin? I guess I don't get your analogy, as "same coin" typically connotes two paths to the SAME goal. Focusing on a small pool of characters has the goal of making that small pool more lively and popular. Extending TMs with bogus/cheap toys is purely a legal matter - or one can argue that when Kreo's are so cheap to manufacture, it's only natural to focus on ALL TF characters, versus reprinting Optimus and BB over and over (which is a shock that they don't do more of that in general with Kreo).
Anyway, my 2 year old prefers G1 over BW and Prime (Netflix FTW). Would he "recognize" G1 characters? Hell no. I remember being 7-8 and watching the reruns of G1. Do you think I could name more than BB and Optimus? No. I guess I didn't watch enough, but I clearly remember being confused by the cavalcade of characters that showed up on G1 (sometimes for only a few seconds of actual air time). In other words, save for a few odd children, the Kreo/ConstructBot focus is either on Collectors who know the characters, or more likely for trademark retention. If kids enjoy the mold and buy the toy, that's a bonus. But I don't believe any relevant character association is happening. G1 wasn't the best vehicle to teach kids about characters and military organization, IMO. At least not the cartoon on its own.
Aceoftherebellion wrote:As for the hard data, of course Hasbro is collecting as much information and as many numbers as they possibly can, because that's their livelihood. All I mean to say is that it's not a hard and dry science and that relative outsiders (fans, investors, people on the street) are typically (sometimes intentionally) kept out of the look on that a lot of the time.
OR, Hasbro is incompetent and hides their mistakes like the typical corporation.
I sincerely do not understand how so many Hasbro-fans decidedly ignore this possibility. Make 1 mistake, you're human. Make 2, it's a coincidence. But make half a dozen? Let's just go with the Optimus/BB fetish as the example: you're implying that Hasbro has some amazing sell numbers on those characters, and that, in fact, they are NOT shelf warming as badly as we think they are. And you COULD be right. But then the overall sales figures don't really seem to agree with that theory. If Optimus sold like hot cakes, being the "most popular TF", wouldn't quarterly earnings reflect this "sound" strategy? I mean, Optimus MUST be selling amazingly, as Hasbro continuously banks on his mold. Over. And over. And over.
Ehhh, it's possible Hasbro does a piss-poor job of analyzing sales, and some pompous CEO or executives are making some stupid decisions. That's my concern. That's my lean.
But it's all a moot point when the movies come out. Despite the missteps with overly complex TF toys, they sell amazingly well when tied to a movie. I suppose part of why G1 could never be revived is because of the movies. But that's fine and dandy while the shine and glimmer is still blinding - a few analysts, however, have raised the concern of what happens when the movie fails? What happens when people get over the hype of "transforming cars" and move on?
Well, Hasbro knows best. And my guess is that Optimus and BB will continue selling well.
Aceoftherebellion wrote:That said, retail giants like (especially) wallmart are fairly well known to have a major influence on production of all goods, transformers being one small element of that influence. It's an entirely different discussion not appropriate for this message board, but the simplified version is that many stores like Wallmart have based their entire business model on taking a strong-arm stance with goods manufacturers in so far as having very specific and rigid demands on which items to make and how much of it to make and at what price point, using their size as position as some of the world's largest retailers to essentially bully companies into compliance.
A great point. But do you think this is relevant for non-movie years? I see this happening more when a movie is coming out and Wal-Mart specifically cares about the TF brand. The rest of the year(s)? I doubt they care enough to make any demands. And specifically, my guess is that Wal-Mart helps decide the particular floor display.... but I'm not certain of even that. For example, the TF packaging has remained the same for many years (blister cards) - you think Wal-Mart is behind that? Like they demand peg-able toys only? No, I'm sure they don't really care, as long as it sticks to the general standards of selling toys in the USA. You bring up a great point, but it's a bit of a desperation argument in that I'm not sure how strong or clear the "bullying" is.
But I said it before: at the end of the day, it's a partnership, and non-selling stock hurts everyone. As the company that theoretically does the analysis of TF sales, Hasbro comes from a much more knowledgeable corner than Wal-Mart (who stocks hundreds of thousands of items). Regardless of the "bullying" (that may or may not be happening), Hasbro has the responsibility of guiding the TF brand and setting up displays (or suggesting displays) to these stores. Hasbro has the power to stop the Optimus/BB fetish, even if it's Wal-Mart who started the trend to begin with. I'm a little tired of seeing people give Hasbro an easy out by saying Wal-Mart is all-powerful and Hasbro is an ant. That's not how American business works: you don't have one store crashing a product to the ground due to arrogance and bullying. That DOES happen occasionally, but I'm not so convinced it's an everyday thing to say that it's CLEARLY happening to Hasbro. Or that any product misstep is CLEARLY due to Wal-Mart bullying, and NOT a poor decision by a Hasbro marketing/product exec.
Aceoftherebellion wrote:It should also be noted that Takara does not face these restrictions do to the difference in how business is conducted overseas, and we see the results of this constantly when you compare takara and hasbro product.
I really don't think Takara is as autonomous as you suggest.
If that were true, why don't we see more Takara-specific molds out there? Other than a handful of Prime BH combiners and MP's, they just offer better paint jobs and stickers.
This isn't really a debate on your point, but more of a puzzlement I've been experiencing. Theoretically, Takara should be more collector-focused, I always figured, but they basically do whatever Hasbro does. I know they create molds together, but I get the feeling that Hasbro spearheads the projects and Takara goes along for the ride (as the toy designs seem to benefit American economics more than Japanese). For example, the Cyberverse line is clearly established for customers who can't afford the expensive deluxes/voyagers - it's a way to keep prices low on toy shelves. But does Takara really need this, too? Ehhh, it's a different discussion, as you said, so sorry to go off on a tangent here!
Aceoftherebellion wrote: A sad example of exactly what you're talking about already happened back in the early 00's with the rise and fall of Gundam product in the states. In short, walmart and other stores made overly specific requests/demands on which product to make, only to have unwanted product languish on shelves so long that the store later refused to carry any future gundam related merchandise- With transformer's longstanding history and relatively consistent sales and presence I highly doubt it would face that same fate, but I will concede that it is theoretically possible and does have some precedence.
I was a big fan of the Gundam era here!
The way you talk about it makes me think you have specific examples. I'd love to hear what toys were demanded by the large retailers. Otherwise, I'd venture to say it was pure over-saturation and a natural decline in franchise interest. Gundam was big for a while... but by the time G-Gundam hit airwaves, I think it was already on its way out. So was it the stores and poor planning? Or was it simply a natural death, due to people moving on?
Conversely, TF's have a distinct appeal regardless of animation or tie-in product: they're toys that change from one toy into another. I think part of the longevity of this brand is the pure novelty of the toys, which I believe continues to be novel with each generation. In other words, TF has more appeal overall as a toy, and when coupled with a successful animation, it has lasting strength (as compared to a Japan-centric program about mobile suits).
Aceoftherebellion wrote:I'm not entirely unconcerned with some of Hasbro's decisions, either. I actually do agree that they've pulled some head scratchers, and I also certainly hope that the company has enough footing and foresight to continue to navigate some of these hurdles. But they do have a reasonably consistent track record, and I'm comfortably confident that they'll keep chugging along without more than a few hiccups along the way. Their recent layoffs are troubling but again given the nationwide recession, not entirely surprising. I guess what I'd say is that I might be concerned, but not enough so to actually worry, and certainly enough enough to panic.
I will add this basic business fact: the size of a company determines its ability to withstand poor corporate decisions. Next, you must factor in the idea that Hasbro has a pretty strong presence in toy stores already, and shelf space is limited (i.e. newcomers have a big barrier to entry). Thus, I submit to you that just because the company is floating along does not mean the ship isn't full of holes. It just happens that the boat is too big to instantly sink. But you can't deny that other boy brands have crept up and taken over stores. You also can't deny that Hasbro's boy-toys section has diminished over the years, and will likely continue to diminish under tougher competition and limited shelf space. Then there's the overall decline in interest in toys, thanks to iPads and video games. The layoffs are meant more to increase profitability, which I suppose it what you said, but I would still prefer to express it in cold terms: people aren't as important as profitability, and though this is a recession, it's better to fire people who may not be able to find new work. Awesome. The problem I have with the layoffs (and cheaper-looking, smaller toys) is that they manipulate the company data to make Hasbro look more profitable than it is. They're facing a crisis and are being quite clever: cut costs and it won't seem so bad. But if things don't turn around, we could be looking at a downward spiral. I'm not panicking; I'm concerned. Girl toys and games are seeing better growth than the boy division. This is concerning. One flash-in-the-pan movie release will not change this trend of boys playing with toys less these days. This is why Hasbro has such an interest in video games and mobile games lately!
Aceoftherebellion wrote:As for the quality of toys, I'll have to politely disagree with your opinion on that one- I wasn't all that thrilled with mechtech but overall the movie lines (especially ROTF) have been some of my favorite transformers ever made, with their complexity being one of the reasons. But then again, I didn't much care for animated, which everyone else seemed to absolutely love so opinions are just one of those things. And of course that's also an entirely different discussion.
No, I agree with your statements completely. You misunderstood me: I meant the Prime and IDW toys. They're smaller. They're hollowed out and not hiding it as well. The prices have gone up, and the toys look more SCOUT than DELUXE. The Cyberverse line is bigger than the Deluxe line, and puts out more characters/toys - they're cheaper to make and can be sold at a lower price.
Your statements about the movie toys were accurate. I meant more recently than the last batch of movie toys. Look at the newest Leader class Optimus: he looks a lot smaller than the previous movie Optimus, wouldn't you say? But does he cost less?
I've been told that I don't understand inflation, so maybe this is "inflation" (even if it's only been 3-4 years since the last movie).
Aceoftherebellion wrote:As for bot shots... I can't say I disagree with you in the slightest. Definitely not my thing.
Honestly, I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm not looking for agreement or opinion. I'm just trying to discuss the company strategies, and bringing up concerns about the brand moving away from actually transforming. It's not cause I'm old and "afraid of change", but that I simply believe the appeal is in the actual novelty of TRANSFORMING. Construct Bots and Bot Shots have their own appeal... but it's hardly married to the TF brand (they could be from any other brand, even G.I. Joe). It's just my observation that Hasbro seems to be interested in finding cheaper ways to make TF toys (and this is clearly evident with their cost-cutting plans of reducing spending by a whopping $100 MILLION). Not all of that money will be pulled from TF toys specifically... but I believe the boy division is their most profitable section AND the TF brand, in specific, is either the best or second-best seller (as compared to the SW toy brand they also manage). You'd think that'd guarantee that the money would be kept in the TF brand... but remember that the boy division is seeing stunted growth (and even decline, I'm sure), so it makes a lot of sense to pull money from TF's and SW and GI Joe. In fact, you can see that the GI Joe toys have been simpified with less articulation (the ones included with vehicles, specifically). Same thing with SW toys, I believe (less articulation).
Well, if part of your business is in decline, you face some choices: do you pump more money into it? (Hasbro says no). Do you move onto more profitable areas, such as mobile games? (Hasbro says YES!). Do you focus on other divisions such as Girl toys, which saw significant sales increases? (Big YES). And where can you pull your spending from, at the end of the day, in order to improve company profitability and outlook? Probably the boy toys. Probably TFs.
I'm just saying I predict that boy toys will soon become a collector's niche market (i.e. Takara sells expensive MP toys to Collectors, not children). As the young buying population dies out (we're seeing strong evidence of that now), so too will the product choices on the shelves. Hasbro is doing what any large corporation would do: tightening its belt in preparation for hard times. Some of that is from recession, sure, but then again, you don't necessarily see the effects of recession on Call of Duty sales.
Hasbro is a stalwart captain who has done fine for many a'years... but with excellent 3rd Party choices out there right now, it begs the question: is it time to retire? Can other companies do better? Essentially, should George Lucas have complete control over SW, even if the fans have come up with better material than he has over the last few years? (And don't say let's have Disney buy the brand, as I've been secretly hoping that was possible several threads away - alas, Disney has no interest in toy companies, and the TF brand is married to Hasbro).