Age of Extinction was by far the most news of 2014, but it was by no means the best. And it may not be the worst news of last year either! ExVee and RAC have looked back over the year's news and chosen the best, worst, and just plain saddest stories of the year. Keep reading to see!
While the temptation existed to lead this article with the end of Age of Extinction as the best news of the year, ultimately we dug a little deeper. This article was largely inspired by a single item on the list - see if you can figure out which one! We grew from there and collected what we felt were the highs and lows through the year, along with the things that give us hope for 2015, and perhaps a bit of concern as well. It's been a long and at times very busy year, but this is our highlight reel.
Best News - Combiner Wars
It's probably more than a little obvious that the pick for 2014's best news would go to Combiner Wars. It was also very surprising news, despite an unsubtle teaser at Botcon's Hasbro panel a few weeks before the official debut at SDCC. BotCon gave us no clue as to the scope of Combiner Wars, which was ultimately revealed to be a rebranding of the entire Generations line complete with tie-in event in the pages of IDW's Transformers comics. Most every new mold yet known for 2015 serves the Combiner Wars concept in some way, be it as a body, limb, weapon, or decorative chestplate. For what had historically been a neglected aspect of Transformers design, with most of its recent attention coming through unlicensed third party items, to see such a dedicated focus on combiners by Hasbro was a very welcome development for the Generations brand.
Worst News - Masterpiece Exhaust
Exhaust has undergone a sharp whiplash effect over the course of the year. From a very vocal subset of the fandom crying bloody murder over its very existence and status as a retail, and individually-numbered Masterpiece release, to a wider cry of disappointment as it quickly became clear that buyers in the United States would have difficulty in owning one, if they could at all. Federal law in the United States forbids use of imagery relating to tobacco products on anything directed, or potentially directed at children. Due to its use of Marlboro-related designs in its racing deco, Phillip-Morris became aware of, and thus legally obligated to block its sale in the US. While hopes were initially high that retailers outside the United States would not be affected by this law, those hopes were crushed little by little as a growing number of stores all over the world sent out messages of cancellation to people who had held preorders. While it may not be impossible for individuals in the United States to eventually obtain this figure, it's clear that it will be extremely difficult and likely very expensive when all is said and done.
Most Surprising - Mega Drive Megatron
While 2014 was no stranger to odd and interesting licensed Transformers figures, TakaraTomy Arts welcomed Transformers to the next level by combining their 30th anniversary with a certain Sega console's 25th. A play on the international name for the Sega Genesis, Mega Drive Megatron comes complete with gamepad and dummy Sonic The Hedgehog cart- which also makes this by default the most interesting and appealing release of a Sonic game in roughly 20 years. The first in a series of at least two TakaraTomy arts console Transformers, there are only a few real downsides to Mega Drive Megatron. The first is that the Sega Genesis version is an even more limited edition that only ships within Japan, and the second is that it's being followed with Original Playstation Optimus Prime rather than Super FamiConvoy.
Most What?! - Masterpiece (MP-10) Convoy Mode EVA
Why does this exist?
No stranger to licensed products itself, Neon Genesis Evangelion launched a crossover project with Transformers in Japan this year that resulted in a Masterpiece Optimus Prime in the color scheme of the "hero" "robot" from that series. That in and of itself would be something of a head-scratcher, but then TakaraTomy's website chose to support that figure with a text story that replays the first episode of the Eva TV series as if the first confrontation with the mysterious Angels were interrupted by the Autobots and Decepticons. If you've not watched Evangelion, just trust us when we tell you that sudden intervention by the ghost of Starscream is actually more comprehensible than anything that occurs in the second half of the series.
Best New Trend - Hasbro Design Team Interacting With Fans
2014 saw what had once been the sole domain of Hasbro panels at conventions now become more frequent and more accessible to all, rather than a lucky few who could travel to and attend these shows. Designer Desk videos and features on Youtube and Facebook have made available information and insights to the design and development of toys, arranged and hosted by the Hasbro design team members themselves. In addition to a much more relaxed policy of interview availability at shows where they appear and even the occasional interactive online event, the current team seems to be making a determined effort to connect and communicate with the fandom. We love this trend, and while there will always be limits to the level of information they can share with us, it's something that we should all hope only carries forward and expands in the future.
Worst New Trend - Too Many Third Party Dinobots!
The title is true in itself, but is hardly a complete accounting of the problem. The trend of repetitious product in third parties is neither new nor unique to 2014, but it certainly felt the most prevalent this year. Including Dinobots, Predacons, various stabs at Masterpiece-styled characters, and even more overlapping combiners, third party has slid to an ultimately unhealthy pattern of self-duplication. Let's be real here - Transformers collecting is a niche hobby in and of itself. Purchase of considerably more expensive, shorter run items that are not even official product is a niche deeper within the niche. There's not that much market to tap, and while it may stagger along for the moment, it's a bubble that is primed to burst. When it does I fear it will take with it otherwise good groups that may have had interesting ideas and products to offer, if only they hadn't chosen to hedge their futures on the 13th iteration of Paddles The Forgotten Dinobot.
Sad Trombone Award - The Rise And Fall Of Transformers Universe
Think back to Botcon 2012. If you attended the show, odds are you went to the Jagex booth and signed up for your character name in the soon to be released Transformers MMO. Fast forward a couple of years...
It took until early 2014 for Transformers Universe to even reach the point of a playable beta version. This was due in no small part by a decision to fully remake the game somewhere in the middle, effectively throwing away the literal years of development process that had already taken place. Soon after the beta had gone to an open state where anyone could start playing - and paying Jagex real money for premium benefits - a round of layoffs was made public. The writing was on the wall by then, but it wasn't long until the final word came down: Transformers Universe was over. The likely very few who actually gave money to the game would be refunded, and all operations would close at the end of January, barely six months after it opened to the public. And for all the years, all the money, and all the anticipation for the game, it never technically left the beta testing stage.
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