Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Exclusivity Revisited

In one of my earliest posts, I commented on the high price of the BotCon 2005 exclusives. Now that the 2007 convention set has been revealed (fewer toys at an even higher price, I note, but to be fair, all five of these will be "deluxe" toys or larger), the usual arguments have cropped up again. Many fans are offended at the very fact that some highly desirable toys are exclusives (lots of folks simply can't understand why some of these toys weren't made available at retail), and therefore cannot be purchased without paying large sums of money.

But it's not just that the toys are expensive that people argue about. I'd rather not get into name-calling or finger-pointing here, but in at least one fan's case, the argument is this: his problem isn't that the toys are too expensive (although I believe that he thinks that they are), his problem is that, if he is unable or unwilling to actually go to the convention, he can't get the toys, even if he's willing to shell out the cash for it.

Of course, this isn't technically true, and never has been. Exclusive toys have always been available on eBay after the convention, and they often sell for very high prices. But the argument goes that the fan would like to give the money to Fun Publications, the people that have actually gone to the trouble to create the toys, but that they have made a decision not to take his money by selling these toys to him, simply because he won't be at the convention. (I should at this point make clear that I'm aware that the 5-figure box set is available to non-attendees through FP, and I myself will be getting these toys this way. Non-attendees do have to pay the same price that attendees do, though, which seems high to some considering that they don't get the benefits of the convention itself. Still, there are other toys that will only be given to those who are there.)

Battles have been waged on the message boards between people with this attitude and those who argue that such people don't understand what the meaning of the word "exclusive" is. And there is something to this: an "exclusive" is something that's available only through a particular source. If a convention offers an exclusive, it stands to reason that attending the convention is the only way to get it.

However, I find myself wondering if the apparent misconception of the word "exclusive:" being taken to mean "something that is special or rare" as opposed to "something only available through a particular source," is a wider problem. Take, for example, one of Slacktivist's criticisms of the Left Behind series of Christian novels (for those wondering about the acronyms, "L&J" are "LaHaye and Jenkins," the authors of Left Behind, and "GIRAT" means "Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time," which is intended to refer to Buck Williams, one of the lead characters, who in a previous scene survived an car bomb intended for him, and who has supposedly been operating under an alias since then, although no one, including the authors, seems to have noticed):

Rosenzweig doesn't ask what happened. He doesn't ask how Buck survived the car bombing, or if he was its intended target, or why it seems someone is trying to kill him. Instead, he says: "[Carpathia] had so wanted to meet you and had agreed to an exclusive interview."

"Can we still do that?" Buck whispered, to the boos and catcalls of the competition.

"You'll do anything to get a scoop," someone groused. "Even have yourself blown up."

L&J's image of the press corps seems to be based on the City Hall boys from His Girl Friday, which I guess means Buck is Rosalind Russell. Rosenzweig assures him that he can still get his exclusive interview and in doing so demonstrates that neither he nor Buck (nor L&J) knows what "exclusive" means:

"It will probably not be possible until late tonight," Rosenzweig said. His hand swept the room, crowded with TV cameras, lights, microphones and the press. "His schedule is full all day, and he has a photo shoot at People magazine early this evening. Perhaps following that. I'll speak to him."

So, yes, after Carpathia speaks to the entire gathered press corps, and after a jam-packed day of interviews and press events, then Buck can have his "exclusive." This is like those "exclusive" interviews that local reporters claim when they take their last-in-line seat opposite an exhausted and distracted film star at the tail end of a three-day press junket. Even People gets to talk to Carpathia before the GIRAT does....

If the wider culture (of course, one wonders how much conservative Christian writers can be said to represent the wider culture, but the kind of mistake they make here seems to indicate something wider), let alone Transformers fans, has started to think of the word "exclusive" as synonymous with "special," rather than meaning "only one way you can get it," perhaps we can understand why people are miffed that FP won't take their money.

But even if we grant that people are undereducated or misinformed, the sheer intensity of the arguments on the fan boards seems to indicate a greater problem. It seems to me that it's not just that people get really touchy when you put them behind a wall of anonymity. It looks a lot to me like people are actively trying to get into fights. That's just not healthy.

Life's not fair. Either deal with it, or leave us alone. We've got better things to talk about.


  1. I like these. I really, really like these. I also really, REALLY wish they weren't exclusives.

    I would have LOVED to have a set of six Classics Seekers, but I'm not going to pay $329.00 to do it.

    I'm surprised. I honestly expected this year's Botcon toys to be movie themed (flameless Prime, anyone?)

    Ah well...

  2. I certainly understand the issues re: money. I'm taking a risk myself, trusting that I can sell some of the figures I'm getting to recoup my costs....

    As to the theme: I forget when we were told, exactly, but we've been informed that these would be "Classics-themed" for several months now.

    In any event, I think it would be impossible for any convention set to be based on toys that haven't even been released to retail by the time that the brochure comes out. Although the folks at FP get a considerable amount of "insider info" on toys that we regular folks don't get, they still need time to think through what molds are available and consider possible repaint options. I doubt that they've had anything like enough time to think such things through regarding the upcoming movie toys.

    Of course, that's not to say that "movie themed exclusives" aren't a possibility for the future....

  3. I can understand where these folks are coming from. I mean, who WOULDN'T want a complete set of Classics Seekers? Yes, they'll sell out -- fast!

    But I can also see where the outrage is coming from. It seemed to be implied at last year's Botcon that all six jets would see a release. True enough, they are... but at a price point that puts them out of the reach of many fans.

    Me? I like them. But not enough to shell out $329.00. Sorry. I can get a Brave Max for that.

    This week's TFWire podcast puts it much more... bluntly. Episode #81.

    Dirge, Thundercracker and Ramjet would've made just as nice a Sam's Club or Costco exclusive set, wouldn't they?

    Whatcha gunna do...?

  4. I hope that my post doesn't come across as not understanding why people are disappointed. I think that's fair. Outrage? I'm not sure.... I think that's an overreaction, I guess. (The post intends to focus more on what seem to be misunderstandings related to the issue, and heated arguments arising out of those, rather than the issue itself, though)

    As to whether these toys would have made a nice CostCo set (per your example), that just wasn't in the cards. If they could have done that, I'm sure Hasbro would, since there's a lot more money to be made that way than by allowing FP to do this. But none of the stores were interested in such exclusives. Even Target apparently didn't sell the Ultra Magnus/Skywarp set as readily as they wanted to, if the sets currently on clearance are any indication (although I do think they went on clearance AWFULLY fast. Why not clearance some of the regular pegwarmers?)

    But seriously, it really does seem to be one of those cases where if FP didn't do this, the toys simply wouldn't exist. At least this way, some fans will get the toys.

  5. "But seriously, it really does seem to be one of those cases where if FP didn't do this, the toys simply wouldn't exist. At least this way, some fans will get the toys."

    Yeah, you're probably right. But it's still a shame. Not for FP -- I'm sure they'll sell out fast!

    But I generally don't buy the con exclusives because even though I *could* afford $300+ for a set, I just can't justify it.

    I guess that's what kitbashing is for. ;)


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