Wednesday, April 16, 2014

3rd Party Companies. Or Hasbro Part Deux?!?

 So I was sitting here trying to come up with my next review. I found it difficult to find a balance in describing this toy/ figure/ adult collectible.  I, like other transformers collectors, find it bad form if a reviewer is over negative about a product. Heck, it scares away the watcher or reader most times.  Let's be honest though, we also hate it when a reviewer is overly positive about a product also. Infomercials are for late night TV, not reviews. Well I did a YouTube search last night for this next figure I wanted to review. One very popular reviewer caught my attention, so I sat down and watched their entire 24 minute review.

 Great lighting, strong audio, clear voice and the reviewer starts talking about how the box of the product (yes it is a product) has been "Vastly Improved" . How the new bio card is an "Improvement" over the last.  And yes some issues were pointed out with the figure. Pointed out in a minimal way where someone would either miss them or find them not very problematic at all. The review was so positive that it made me wonder if maybe the Reviewer was being too nice by choice. Almost as if he had some interest or owed something to the company that released this Adult Collectible. I guess he would owe the company something if they sent him a free toy would he not? Was this reviewer just making a paid informercial for this toy company? It sure felt that way.  Hmmm.......

So it made me wonder, is thats what it takes to become a popular reviewer? A jaded, positive, seemingly bought "view"? Are 3rd party companies buying the favor of these popular reviewers? Isn't that like paying a company to make a commercial? Wait, doesn't Hasbro do that too?! Aren't these companies the Anti-Hasbro? They wouldn't do that would they?

When I started writing my reviews, it was in the hopes to give an honest opinion from a regular fan's point of view. But is that what we the collectors really want? Or do we really want an Excuse to buy that high dollar figure that these 3rd party companies sell to us? It really makes me wonder. Should I sell out my morality in the hopes that I get free toys?

 In direct violation of the accepted narrative, I played with this "adult collectible" (not a toy!)  In doing so, I noticed the quality seemed rather lacking. Lacking so much that it affected the playability on the figure mind you. It makes one wonder if this is what passes for acceptable now? Is this where we as fans or heck buyers have finally arrived/fallen to? Is it now OK to get a lower quality figure for such a high price just because its a 3rd party "FAN" company that produced it? Is the belief that they are just fans helping out other fans still enough? Or is it time to see them as the businesses they truly are?

When 3rd party figures arrived at the scene there was a sense of promise that high quality figures of characters that Hasbro had not produced would be given to us. To some it meant "Updated G1" Figures !!! Something that has evolved to characters loosely based on those Transformers characters we loved. Isn't that what Hasbro now attempts to do also? Does the badly recolored Blitzwing really look and feel like Doubledealer? I honestly don't think so. Now, I know that Hasbro probably goes after these guys with lawsuits and such, so there are limits to what can be made. And I can accept that. I am OK with that. Heck most folks are. As a business, how can you not expect them to protect their own characters? That still doesn't excuse the lower quality.

Now I know bunch of folks are probably reading this going "They are my buds, how dare you" or "don't buy them then blah blah blah", But that really is a weak excuse to cover up the issues. Alas, these backers stout defense of their friendly 3rd party buds brought about something else.

The 3rd Party companies noticed , yes they read Facebook and forums, that they would be defended. They realized that anyone with free thought not loving their product would seem to be pushed away and ridiculed by these backers. They read the "You are not a true Fan/Collector" posts. How could they miss them? "Let's start testing the limits of how far we can go." they thought.  Their first test Quality. A tire placed the wrong way, a train wheel not screwed in, 2 Left hands, uncut excessive plastic, Inverted arms/legs, bad paint apps, and/or knees that weaken to the point where a figure can't support its own weight. And we accepted it.

"Hey even Hasbro has quality issues!" claimed the third party backers.

 And yes they are right, Hasbro does have quality issues at times. Hasbro also get ripped a new one every time it does happens and allows for returns. Something that doesn't happen with these 3rd party guys. Heck One company simply changed the toy's description from toy to "Adult Collectible" to make it "acceptable". One online retailer made sure to point that out several times on their review of said figure. Other 3rd party companies took another route and made changes/ upgrades on the 2nd released run of a figure. Which was cool for new buyers, but first run buyers were pretty much screwed over. As there is really no way to return the errored 1st run toy for the fixed and improved 2nd run. Online retailers got smart and gave early bird specials on the 1st run of 3rd party figures. Better to sell them out faster at a cheaper price than to be stuck with faulty product I guess. I wondered "Are these early bird specials really just a way for these companies to have a paid test market for fixing their 2nd run ?" While its nice to save a few bucks on a figure, that may or may not have issues, we as buyers missed something. We missed the fact that all of these "fixes" were just band aids and not really a fix. Which gave these companies a little more leeway.....

 3rd party folks, ok Igear, then thought "How can we make more money on these molds? REPAINTS!!" Why make a new mold when you can recolor the ones you have. Igear's Rager is in black, yellow, blue, Light orange, dark orange. I am waiting for one in red, white and blue called American Eagle Rager!!! Yet not a word was said. It was accepted. I bet Hasbro wishes the same was true when they released their 3000 different Bumblebees during the movie lines. And if the collectors would buy 15 different repaints that means they would accept anything!! Which leads us to the overkill being attempted now. So much so that we are getting 3 different predaking combiners. All of which will add up to the $500 range once completed. With the promises of all these figures, the companies are having products being pushed backs by months on their release dates because they can't meet their own promises. While nice in the attempt, it really throws off budgeting for these figures. How can we budget for a toy that was supposed to be released in March when it actually comes out in Dec? Would this be found an acceptable action if Hasbro pulled it?

 When the first of these 3rd party figures came out the plastic quality was close or as close as possible to retail released toys. We cheered as fans!! That cheer soon turned to regret. Hasbro, to meet safety standards and save money, started lowering the quality of their plastic. Figures were released with stress marks from simple transformations, and after a while breakage and a forced repurchase ..... we as fans accepted it from Hasbro. Makes you wonder if Hasbro planned this from the beginning. Again 3rd party companies noticed!! Since these 3rd party figures started at a slightly lower quality than Hasbro to begin with they too followed suit in lowering their plastic's quality, so much so that this $90 figure I have in my hand feels like a bad knockoff from Big L. The plastic quality is so bad on this figure that it has stress marks right out of the package, as if someone had played with it at the warehouse. Somehow, we accept it anyway. The reviewer I saw said it was a better plastic than in their first released figure. He said it was strong and that it felt like nothing would break, even when describing a very difficult connection point that required extra force to unlock the legs for transformation. Just an FYI, I took mine apart to see if I could shave that connection point to help the disconnection a bit. Well there were stress marks on the waist piece of the figure due to the force needed to unlock the legs. I had only transformed the figure once. Now I am not here to try to sway you but that doesn't resonate quality, long-lasting plastic to me. That or I have strong gorilla arms. Me want Banana!!

Now at some point Hasbro decided to go small!!! I guess size really doesn't matter! Lets reduce the size of our figures to save us cash and, oh, I don't know, charge a higher price to the customers!!!. We as fans accepted it. The 3rd Party folks in turn noticed and smiled. Cha-Ching $$ !! At first we got figures that were voyager sized and we loved them. But now the toys have gotten smaller in stature to meet the Hasbro "Standard". Heck this $90 figure is the size of a deluxe figure. Not the old larger deluxe format mind you but the new smaller deluxe. But since they match the Hasbro deluxe size it must be ok...... right?

 After all these thoughts I have to ask

 "Are 3rd party companies becoming the new Hasbro or Hasbro Jr.?"

 Does this in turn mean we should have the same expectations from them as we do from the big bad Hasbro? If I have issues with a Hasbro toy, I know I can call them ,toll free, and have them replace the product free of charge. Something we all know doesn't happen with most of these 3rd party companies? Should these 3rd party companies be held to the same standard of the company they are trying to emulate ? Heck Warbotron seems to have taken that business over fan stance if you believe the rumors. Should a higher standard be expected since they charge 5 to 6 times the costs of Hasbro's similar sized products? How long before they price themselves out of the market? Don't the demands and standards placed on these 3rd party companies need to be more critical at these price points?! Are we as fans responsible for their actions? Have we treated them like a distant family member or best bud for far too long instead of the companies they truly are? Companies who are honestly trying to turn a profit just like Hasbro? You know, just like every other company out there? Are we doing them a disservice by not expecting more from them?

We also have to ask ourselves this. How long before Hasbro or Takara notice what folks are willing to accept from these 3rd party companies. Heck how long before they give us deluxe sized figures for $70 . Oh wait that kind of describes the new masterpiece line figures. Daaaaamn..... How long will people be able and willing to back these companies? Remember the same folks that buy these 3rd party figures are the same ones that whine and cry about paying $15 for a deluxe at Wally world. The same folks that complain about the bad quality of the cheaper retail line. The same folks that let Impossible Toys die the way of the VHS tape. Who is next to go I wonder? Unique toys, due to their bad Predaking line? (update their crappy Sharkticons and Galvatron saved them it seems) Will the support of the few really overpower the dissatisfaction of the many? Are my expectations too high? And how many hate emails will I get with the header:


Only time will tell.