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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