Thursday, June 30, 2005

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

For as long as I can remember, I've always enjoyed that moment when I can see new Transformers on the shelf for the first time. Although some of the surprise has admittedly been blunted by the knowledge gained on the Internet, almost ensuring that very few new arrivals come as a complete surprise, there's still a feeling of sheer joy that washes over me when I finally see firsthand a toy shelf filled with new Transformers. I then spend several minutes going over the new packaging, looking at each of the new characters, reading the profiles (which have finally been returned to the packaging itself, rather than being available only on the Hasbro website, I'm very pleased to say), and deciding which toys I will want to save up my money for (ironically, a necessity that seems little different now than it did when I was a child).

Yesterday, I was arriving home later than usual from what seemed to be an unusually long day at work (for no good reason, as it wasn't that difficult of a day, and I actually left the office at my usual time). After stopping by Target and Wal-Mart and seeing nothing new, I arrived at the Toys R Us just a few blocks away from my home. And there they were! A large assortment of the new Transformers: Cybertron toys! While I could not find any of the cheapest toys (which usually retail at about $7), I think the entirety of what was intended for the first wave was otherwise totally intact on the shelf, including the impressive Supreme (read: $50 or so) Starscream toy, which I must admit looks a lot better in person than I expected it to, although $50 is more than I'm generally willing to spend on a Transformer. (To give some perspective, I waited to get Unicron, arguably the most long-awaited Transformer of all time at that point, until the price had dropped from $50 to about $20. And I didn't buy the $75 "20th Anniversary Prime" at all, but finally got it as a free gift for joining some music clubs. I'm a bit of a cheapskate, I admit.) My favorite toy in this first wave of new Transformers is Vector Prime (who looks to retail at about $20), although I can start to see why so many of the message board folks were complaining about the lack of paint applications when compared to the Japanese version (if you see one in stores, just look at the picture on the back of the package and compare it to the actual toy inside). I expect that I will still pick this one up, but I may wait to see if the rumored Vector Prime/Starscream 2-pack (including Starscream in a smaller, more manageable size) actually comes out. There are hopes that such a pack might restore the missing paint applications, but I wouldn't hold my breath. However, the price per Transformer in such a 2-pack would definitely be better.

In parting, a word about paint applications. This kind of thing tends to spark heated debate about how Hasbro doesn't care about its fans, and that Takara does everything much better (or occasionally vice-versa, but not usually). I expect Hasbro has very good reasons for their actions, but I really would like to hear what they are. The amount of money saved by not using paint applications would most likely be negligible, so I'm not convinced that economics were the reason in this case. But if not money, what?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Would You Like Fries with That?

I've been hearing wind of this for a few days now, but finally have a date to share. August 1-21. Burger King will be doing a Transformers promotion. So, if you like grabbing extra Happy Meal-style toys (What can I say? McDonalds' version has the collective consciousness better than the generic-sounding "Kid's Meal.") based on the Transformers, make sure to go to Burger King in August.

Here's a link with such information as I myself have.

Update - 6/30/05: Found an actual advertising picture. Unfortunately, they don't look too good. Time will tell.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Quickie Transformer thought

Why is it that, whenever a Transformers fan talks about "Generation One," they seem to REALLY mean "the first two or three years, and only those, that Hasbro made Transformers"? There's at least four more years worth of toys before the original line was discontinued, and before "Generation Two" hit the stores in the early '90s to give fans a need to call the original line "Generation One."

Should I start calling the later four (or five) years of the original line "Generation One-and-a-half"? And what should I call the "new" "Generation One" toys that Takara puts out? "Neo Generation One"?

And what should I call Ricochet, recently available in Toys R Us stores with "Generation One" explicitly on the box, despite the fact that it was never available domestically in the United States during the original run, and was called something entirely different when it was originally available in Japan?

Enquiring minds want to know....

Friday, June 10, 2005

The cost of being a fan

When I started this blog, I intended it to be about Transformers once in a while, as well as my musings on Christianity and my perspective on subjects that matter to me as a Christian. The latter has obviously gotten more attention than the former. This is at least in part because the Transformers world has been moving slow lately. Finally I have something new to talk about in this regard....

About a week ago, I was pleased to finally receive my Transformers Club exclusive, a little plane called Skyfall. You can follow this link for pictures, although I should be clear that these pictures are not of "my" toy, but a gallery put up by another Transformers fan (and that Skyfall's the clear blue one). Skyfall was a free toy that came with the cost of a year's membership in the official club. So far, the only other benefits have been a monthly magazine, which only has actual Transformers content every other month; access to the club store, which has members prices which are lower than anywhere else online, but still higher than going to the local toy store (not even including shipping); and about a $50 discount (which is, admittedly, more than the cost of the membership itself) to attend BotCon, the Transformers convention, in September. And this is where the discontent begins....

Since BotCon is to be in Texas, and at a time of the year when my job is starting pick up full steam after the summer lull, I'd already decided that I could not go this year. After seeing the prices for attendance ($120 just to go to the convention for members, assuming you don't want any exclusive toys), I am even more convinced that it is best for me to stay home this year.

But I did hope to be able to get some of the exclusive toys through a non-attendee package. The club does indeed offer such a package, although it is the same price as an attendee would pay if they want to get the toys: $265 for the seven exclusive figures. Now, when you do the math, this comes out to less than $40 per figure, which isn't that much higher than most convention exclusive figures in the past (and some were even higher, though this is very uncommon). And to be fair, the exclusives really are intended to get people to come to the convention, so we can safely say that the club intends the "street value" of these exclusives to be about $140, which translates to about $20 per exclusive, roughly the same as for previous exclusives any larger than the "basic" (read: smallest) size.

But the problem is, you have to get all 7. You can't just get one or two! This puts the exclusive set well out of the price range of most Transformers fans, who've been used to getting only a few exclusives at a convention (I think 4 is the all time previous high, and you could definitely get those sepearately, or at most 2 in a box).

I therefore find myself torn on this convention: not on whether I'll go or whether I'll buy any of the toys. I won't. Simply can't afford it. But I do want to see the current club owners succeed, so that the club can continue to thrive and improve in years to come. But I'm concerned that by pricing so many of the members they obstensively wish to serve out of the market, they won't make the sales they need to continue to make the club succeed.

It should be noted that we've gotten used to lower (if not "low") prices under previous management, which clearly wasn't able to make enough money to survive. The previous owner went bankrupt and left many club promises unfilled. It is unclear whether this was because he didn't price his product and services high enough, or if (as is often assumed) he simply didn't know how to manage funds properly. Clearly, by charging higher prices, the current club seeks to make a profit and avoid bankruptcy due to underpriced services. I only hope that they don't fail because they priced on the other unwise extreme.

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