During Toy Fair this year, the Hasbro team gave the invited fan media representatives a special treat, in the first reveal of what the next instance of Transformers Generations would be. Power of The Primes is wrapping up in 2018, and with it comes the conclusion to what Hasbro referred to as the Prime Wars Trilogy. Part of the meaning of this is that 2019 will be the beginning of something completely new, a point they made very clear despite having few real details they could share. But something about the way they talked about it concerned me and got me thinking. The following is a speculative post, so if you'd like to join me on a journey of theorizing the future, please click through and continue reading!
Going in to 2012, we saw a drastic shift in design for Transformers as a response to rapidly changing economic situations. This took the form of the Fall of Cybertron Deluxes and some of Transformers Prime. In the former case we had reduced size and increased price; in the latter, simply price increases. But one important note about that shift was that we didn't see pre-2012 molds come back again at regular retail. The odd few might have come along in exclusives still, but main retail was essentially starting over with a new library of toys from 2012 onward. Aspects of how Hasbro's people talked about War For Cybertron held, in my opinion, notable similarities. But before we go to that, we need to remember that with POTP wave 3, Deluxes are planned to increase in SRP to $19.99, something we had a preview or test drive of in the movie Premier Edition and which will continue with Studio Series.
In the Q&A session, they said something to the effect of that War For Cybertron would feature a different design style from what we have currently. They also noted that they weren't planning to bring forward any existing molds for use in the next line. These factors together come together as a warning sign to me. I hope to be proven wrong on this as the year moves along and we learn more about Generations 2019. But my fear is that we're in store for another reduction in the toys to compensate for rising production costs in order to hold off increasing prices even further. Our price boost will seemingly come in advance of this theoretical design shift which may at least ease the blow of the transition somewhat. The fairly early call of not using existing toys in the main portion of the line could echo then situation in 2012 where the prior molds were suddenly too expensive to cost out at their pricepoints anymore. In that case it was long suspected but went without any confirmation for a long time after, and the same may be in the process of happening now. There's other circumstantial pointers I can see as well. In the 2017 Hasbro financial call that happened about a week before Toy Fair, the Bumblebee movie was held up as being at the center of a "brand blueprint" plan at the end of the year. We don't know exactly what that means yet, but the immediate implication could be a coordinated major change in the status quo of the brand. An overhaul of toy design for cost reduction might fit in to something like that, though it just as easily may have no nefarious undertones at all.
It's also my opinion that the very short run of Power of The Primes seems suspicious. 2019 is the 35th anniversary for Transformers, so it's sensible to want to plan to launch a brand new iteration of the line to coincide with the start of that year. On that basis, a 12-month run for the current line isn't out of sorts, but it's not really getting 12 months. Internally via documentation that we didn't officially see, the expectation is for the end-of-line waves to be at retail as of July. That's typically a "saturation" date, meaning when they're at their peak availability, not necessarily when they first reach stores. Normally we've seen a calendar year split in four full waves with saturation roughly breaking down along the quarters of the year. It keeps things going at a regular pace and notionally avoids large gaps between batches of fresh product. But we're only getting three full waves this time. Once we hit summer, we've got nothing more for Generations according to Hasbro until just as 2019 starts, apparently.
Transformers take up to two years to go from initial design to retail-ready product, so after a certain point they're pretty much committed to bring initiated products to market even if conditions change unfavorably farther in before release. But what if they were able to identify those changing conditions in the middle of planning the second half of the 2018 product selection? And then opt to discontinue further planning and development of anything not already past the point of no return? It might end up looking like an oddly truncated line that can't quite stretch out to a full year. The sudden jump up to $20 with the Terrorcon wave might show that even cutting it off early wasn't enough to get ahead of a rise in production cost that would prevent maintaining the current $16.99 SRP
So let me say again, I'm drawing from a fair bit of just circumstantial indicators and speculating on the tiny bit of information we have using my own experience with the brand and a notable change in production that's happened once already. Other things to consider include that we never get the entire story on a year of Transformers just at Toy Fair. There may be product waiting just off stage to be revealed at San Diego that will fill the last quarter gap that Power of The Primes looks to be leaving behind this year. Mention was made of exclusives not yet revealed too. It's more difficult for me to imagine that there might be enough of that all coordinated around the same time of year to fill in for a much shorter main retail offering, but the possibility exists. Further, with Studio Series and Cyberverse products coming to stores soon, it's not like there will be a total absence of Transformers in the retail space, even if all the product codes may not be filled in all of the time. It's important that we, and especially I, keep in mind that there are equally possible outcomes that are more positive. It is frequently not in my nature to defer to those first, but even so I do hope that they prove to be true and not my primary theory in this article.
SDCC and New York Comic Con will probably have to come around before we have a good answer in either direction. We should have an idea about the situation of exclusives at San Diego, especially if they're to help fill in the back half of the year. And I'm betting on New York being our first real look at War For Cybertron, at which point we'll get to see if there's more than a cosmetic difference evident in the build of next year's toys. So either way, I feel like we actually have quite a bit to look forward to this year, even already knowing the current Generations line's days are numbered. It's a strangely pleasant feeling to end on, from an article expecting so much comparative doom!
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