Toy Fair is a time to spark imagination and anticipation among we in the toy collecting segment of this fandom. Or it should be; not all years really work out that way, unfortunately. This year seems to be having a degree of success, although perhaps not exactly in the way Hasbro's designers and marketing teams might have been going for. Previously, I explained some of my concerns over what 2019's Generations might be based on the little bit that was said at Toy Fair. But there are ways a big change in process could be beneficial, and I'd like to talk now about one vision of this I have which could be pretty cool. Keep reading to find out how crazy my ideas can get!
In my post early on Monday, one of my main themes was a feeling that we're looking at another cost-motivated change to Transformers production, which might be realized as another reduction in size and probably complexity. Doing that while maintaining the standing price point of "Deluxe" and its evidently soon-to-be-standard pricing at $20 is maybe not something that's going to generate great feelings within the longtime buyer base. And beyond that, it increases the barrier to entry for more casual buyers, along with kids and their parents. So I think the easiest way to start to address this is moving away from the standing structures.
We've had Deluxe as a concept, and the backbone of the Transformers lines for over twenty years. It's the only one that hasn't undergone a major conceptual shift during that time. In the same span, the "Mega" pricepoint of the late 90s fell away, to be replaced by the larger, little more expensive (and originally electronics-equipped) toys of what would eventually settle in as the Voyager class. Ultra class went up $5 and made similar gains, becoming clearly distinctive from what constituted an Ultra during Beast Wars. And the sub-Deluxe pricepoint has ended up all over the map for the number of times and ways it got reworked as prices inched up behind it every time. The only time it went backward in price was when Basics became the home for the Spychangers in the first Robots in Disguise, where generally the price dropped about a dollar versus the previous Beast Machines Basics. Otherwise it was all an upward crawl. But all of these categories have had to shift, evolve, and sometimes simply evaporate over the years as cost and market demands changed and made what they had been difficult or impossible to sustain. It's impressive that Deluxe clung to life for as long as it has, but maybe it's time for that to finally retire and let a new concept move forward. So where do I want to go?
I think we're at a point where serious consideration should be given to embracing something approximately equivalent to our current Legends class as the core offering of the line. There are clear benefits, not the least of which is the reduction in basic on-the-shelf pricing it would offer. It could probably also open the door to getting a larger number, and possibly broader variety of characters out there. This would be the central point of a new design concept for an entire line that I envision as allowing for expanding what a Transformers line can be. The Cyberverse system from Dark of The Moon and Transformers Prime introduced something like this, but as a "surplus" to the core line that still followed the existing ideas. Maybe now it's time to take that further. Here's my fantasy outline for such a series, and I'll explain some of the concepts as we go.
• ACTION MASTER CLASS; SRP: $5.99
Each Action Master Transformer features a vehicle or robotic animal and a Mini-Con pilot figure that can combine and transform to become weapons or accessories that can be used with other Transformers characters or playsets. Combine multiple Action Master Transformers (each sold separately) to create your own super weapon forms for ultimate battle!
What I see here is another round of Titan Master vehicle sets, but with a little bit of Arms Micron added in. There would still be a Titan Master/Prime Master style figure as the pilot, and this round of backpacks would be random tech detailing, or maybe sometimes a 5mm peg for the weapon modes in order to make sure the small figure still feels kind of integral. But I want to expand the play pattern by adding more pegs and ports so the weapon modes can be plugged together like the Arms Microns to make big, goofy constructs of dubious utility. It would promote a "collect them all" methodology in order to be able to make the most and/or biggest weapon combos. Each wave would have some suggested combination, but also strongly encourage figuring out your own.
• LEGION CLASS; SRP: $12.99
The Legion of Transformers charges in to battle! Each 3.5-inch tall Legion Class Transformer figure features multiple points of articulation and a unique accessory. Legion Transformers combine with their accessory to transform in to battle-ready vehicles. Legion Transformers can partner with Action Masters (sold separately) to power up and expand their potential even further!
Legion Class would be analogous to our existing Legends price point in size and general complexity. The $12.99 price level is to permit both some stability for the immediate future against changes in production cost, and to allow accessories to budget back in. The concept of "combine with their accessory" is a way to deal with if the core transformation engineering can't quite get all the way to where it's going, so clipping on the extra part to finish off the vehicle is baked in from the start. It wouldn't always have to be an outright partsforming execution, though. Brawn and Seaspray's semi-integral accessories are good examples of this. It might be fun too if as many of these figures' vehicle modes as is practical could have an extra 5mm port on the front to plug a weapon/accessory mode Action Master in.
• COMMANDER CLASS; SRP: $24.99
Commander Class Transformers control the battle! Every 5-inch tall Commander Class Transformer figure is ready to go in to action with numerous points of articulation and a unique action feature to take the fight to the next level before converting to battle-ready vehicle form. Each Commander Class Transformer includes a Command And Control Center accessory to direct their side to victory, and when a Commander has to join the battle, they can deploy a hidden weapon from their Command And Control Center! The Command And Control Center accessory can be integrated with Heavy-Duty vehicles and Cybertron City environment sets to create the ultimate Command Center.
In this, we have our current Deluxes, augmented with some simple spring or gear gimmick. As implied by Commander Class, this is where you'd see Optimus, Megatron, Starscream, and characters like that. The Command And Control accessory is part of a larger play pattern to incorporate the figures with a playset price point. The basic styling would be like a Teletran-1 console, and colored appropriately depending which faction it was being packed with. I'm thinking it would either have a hidden gun or sword in a compartment, or maybe have a simple flip-around transformation to become a weapon itself. For instance, Megatron's console could flip some panels back on itself and become a fusion cannon-ish weapon.
• HEAVY-DUTY CLASS; SRP: $29.99
The Heavy-Duty Class features a Legion Transformer character with a Combat Deck auxiliary vehicle accessory to carry out the big jobs! From battle platforms bringing extra firepower, to Mobile Autobot Repair Bays to salvage Transformers damaged in battle, these Heavy Duty Transformers are ready to take on the toughest missions! Each Combat Deck trailer opens to reveal a play environment with extra weapons and accessories and room for additional Legion or Commander Transformers (each sold separately) before closing back up to be driven to the next battle field.
The first playset level. Some of the terminology should explain the basic ideas. For instance, you might have a Huffer that comes with a large trailer that opens out to be a familiar battle platform and just so happens to be a good fit for the truck mode of Commander Class Optimus Prime. In that outcome I would see a socket on the inside to fit one of the Command And Control consoles. Ratchet with a MARB is another clear idea from the pitch, and you could start working outward from there.
• CYBERTRON CITY CLASS; SRP: $49.99
Build your world! Cybertron City environments are where Transformers live, work, and battle! Each Cybertron City environment can convert and lock down in an armored defense mode or open to city mode for your Transformers characters (sold separately) to interact with. Every Cybertron City environment set includes one exclusive Commander Class figure that interacts with its environment. Plus you can join other Cybertron City environments and Heavy-Duty Class Combat Decks (each sold separately) to expand the world of the Transformers even further!
Playsets with pack-in, very simple Commander Deluxes. The main example I have envisioned is Iacon Checkpoint, featuring a bridge, and Soundwave that becomes the lamp as seen in the cartoon. Other possibilities could be Autobot City featuring Blaster, Decepticon Space Bridge with Shockwave, etc. The "armored defense mode" is a fancy way of saying that it would fold up to be more compact which is mostly a packaging and storage consideration. The included figure would have space to fit inside of that, but that's about it. These would have sockets for the Commander Class Command And Control stations, and there would be some form of common connector employed along the line of what Titans Return did with its Leaders and Titans.
I have an idea in mind for a Titan Class that fits in with this play pattern. A Scorponok that has a small playset space for its base mode, Commander Class equivalent Zarak, and maybe a Legion Fasttrack. Option B would be more of a general fit with the line pitch so far: Omega Supreme. It wouldn't include any smaller figures, but instead you'd have the rocket base environment that could join with the other playsets, and the tank might have functionality like a Heavy-Duty Class vehicle where it can become a battle platform for other toys (sold separately). In this variation, I'm sure a partsforming transformation like the G1 toy would be considered acceptable.
But I think the underlying notion with this is pretty clear. My feeling right now is that it might be a good time for Generations to turn around and start to reinvent itself as a response to increasing difficulty in clinging to what it currently is. An across the board change that cycles new ideas in and expands what our collector line is capable of being would probably be more easily accepted than an on-going series of reactive reductions in what we already have. The particular direction I've gone in with my fantasy toyline here is also out of some selfishness: I'm getting a little bored. This might be the subject of another article entirely, but I've been feeling a greater degree of apathy lately than I can remember having at any point in the last few years. It's been great having Generations as a constant presence that doesn't take a vacation whenever a movie comes around, but I think we've forgotten something at the same time: Having Generations go away for a little while every so often made it feel more exciting each time it came back again.
By the same token, Combiner Wars and Titans Return spun up excitement by reinvention, offering us something different in a meaningful way each of those times the brand refreshed. Power of The Primes just isn't bringing that in anything close to the same way. Hopefully whatever War For Cybertron does end up being next year will present with such a feeling of renewal and get my excitement in gear again. But right now I feel like things are a little too stagnant. I want to be excited again, and a shift in the very basic concept of the line would definitely do that job, even if it meant embracing the smallness that we all on some level know must be coming, and probably sooner rather than later. It'd be great to see the brand get ahead of the curve and own it, instead of fighting it all the way down.
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