Friday, October 24, 2008

Transformers: Operation Combination

I have periodically had philosophical rambles on Transformers as a franchise. One facet I haven't mentioned directly is the line's tendency to absorb things. (I have mentioned that the original toyline was started as a combination of a line called Diaclone with some additions from another called Microman.)

Recently, a Transformers news site or two mentioned some information on this toy, an item related to an obscure Japanese franchise from the '80s called Dolbuk (also spelled Dorvack-I wonder if there are door-to-door Dorvack salesmen?), riding the current robo-nostalgia wave in Japan in order to get people to buy high-end collectibles. Why would they mention it? Because this robot sort of kind of used to be a Transformer.

See, when Hasbro's third or fourth or fifth Diaclone repack turned out to be a smashing success, they had a desperate desire for more toys. Hasbro has traditionally turned over its entire product line in the span of two years; each year saw the release of something like forty toys in a single line, which would only (according to Hasbro's business model) sell well for perhaps two years before it became unpopular. So they started outsourcing. They got some quite bizarre items this way that just happened to more or less fit the paradigm of Transformers.

Some of these included Sky Lynx, Omega Supreme, the copyright-oddity plagued Jetfire, the so-called "Deluxe Insecticons," and the aforementioned Roadbuster and his buddy Whirl. (Many of these have become well-loved icons of the franchise. Omega Supreme and Jetfire in particular seem to be "regular" recurring characters; the others... not so much.)

The franchise has been mostly less aggressive in recent years. Still, that hasn't kept it from devouring Gobots whole, mutating the unsuccessful Animorphs line into itself, and even extending its clutches into other regions of the fictional omniverse. (Not that these attempts have always been well-executed, but that's not generally the fault of the Transformers franchise. And not that it hasn't coexisted with some of these things before.)

And if you're wondering how these tactics are working for sales, Hasbro outperforms its analysts' predictions during nearly every financial quarter. Yes, that includes right now, with the craziness of the stock market.

-Signing off.

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