Monday, August 10, 2009

Aesthetics Wins Over Functionality

This won't matter to some of you (especially the non-TF fans out there), but this is a big deal for some of us. Pictures of the upcoming Perceptor reissue have recently been released. The person who posted these has noted that the Hasbro reissue will not have springs in the missile launcher, as the Takara version has done. This is due to differences in safety regulations (perhaps as much meaning cultural realities as legal ones) between the United States and Japan. While some fans will no doubt decry this as another way in which "Takara is better than Hasbro," I actually see particular decision by Hasbro as a very good thing.

It's not so much that I'm glad that Hasbro cares more about safety than Takara (I am glad Hasbro cares about safety, of course) as the fact that I remember the reissues of other Generation One era Transformers not that long ago (Thundercracker, for example) which were released in America with gargantuan oversized missiles in order to meet safety regulations. As I understand it, if a toy launches missiles, the missiles have to be either above or below a certain size so as not to be a choking hazard. If the missile doesn't launch, it's apparently not held to the same standard. So, back in 2003, when faced with the choice between keeping the missile launching feature of Thundercracker (and changing the missiles) or losing it (but keeping the missiles the same size), Hasbro chose to deform the missiles to retain the launcher's functionality. Presumably they did this because they wanted the toy to retain a (comparatively?) high play value for young children.

With the upcoming Perceptor reissue, Hasbro has chosen the other option. Visually, this toy should be nigh-indistinguishable from the original version (and the more recent Japanese reissue). The missiles won't launch, but I for one couldn't care less about launching missiles. Working missile launchers just make for more easily lost parts, as far as I'm concerned.

Here's what I think happened. Back when Thundercracker was released as part of a fairly significant number of Generation One reissues in the early 2000's, a lot of them didn't sell very well at all. I assume that Hasbro had hoped that young children would buy these toys, since they generally make for a much larger portion of the Transformers market than collectors do. By changing the size of the missiles, they actively angered collectors (who tend to be more concerned with a toy's aesthetics, especially when talking about reissues of toys from 20 years ago), yet still failed to attract those kids (who might presumably have appreciated the retained functionality of launching missiles) who Hasbro usually depends on to buy the lion's share of the toys sold. I'm assuming that Hasbro learned their lesson. If they're going to do reissues at all (which will almost certainly be few and far between), they're not going to get a significantly greater number of kids to buy the toy by changing the toy's aesthetics, so they might as well not anger the fans. I can only speak for myself, of course, but I'm pretty happy the aesthetics won out over functionality this time.

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