New York's American International Toy Fair February 11, 2012
Here's the problem! While there have been a lot of bumps in the road over the last year, it would seem Transformers has had a particularly terrible year if you're a fan. Over 20 toys in 2011 received little to no distribution in the standard US channels, while many others were delayed only to be revealed as Asian exclusives-- you read that right. Hasbro will be making these items, not Takara-Tomy, and will not be bringing them to the USA. This confusing ordeal for Dark of the Moon will continue on to Transformers Prime, with about 10 more toys effectively never seeing any US distribution. The reasons for this are many, but it's hard to tell if someone screwed up the line plan, or if Hasbro's intent to hold back Transformers Prime toys until after the second season aired on TV bit it on the fanny. It's possible those toys could have shipped earlier, and too much product entering the market meant something had to be given the axe.
Very few movie toys will be distributed in the US market in 2012, but we were told theme park exclusives would exist and may show up in the main line. In Asia. The USA will get Optimus Prime with his Trailer, which is starting to show up right now. This is a repaint of the deluxe toy with a container to tow, at a much higher price point. We also saw eight Fall of Cybertron toys including a five-piece combiner of Bruticus, joined by Shockwave, another all-new mold Optimus Prime, and Jazz. We were told that this would be the beginning of a new Generations line which would span no fewer than 40 new toys in 2013. This is both exciting, and disturbing-- this sort of roll-out is huge, and is so big that it probably means resources are being taken away from Transformers Prime to the point where it would seem incredibly unlikely that this line would have much of a life. Hasbro seems to be doing a fine job hurting it before it really comes out, even though the new stuff actually hitting the USA looks quite good.
The biggest new idea for the brand is quite small. Transformers Bot Shots are tiny, automatically transforming toys which seem to combine Bakugan with Battle Beasts. They're just under 2-inches high and are basically a mix of G1 and other "classic" styles-- so Barricade and Lockdown look like they're right at home with Mirage and Optimus Prime. A free sample toy was given out in the showroom, and they're quite fun. If you're like me and bitter about the regular line's treatment over the past year and change, this seems like a fun distraction and a far more worthy substitute for your toy dollars-- plus they're a heck of a lot cheaper.
So in short: if you like movie, prepare for sadness. If you like Prime, prepare to chase down a number of toys which won't be released in the USA, and don't be surprised if the line is a little short. And if you like classics/generations? Well, next year should be very good for you. I suggest giving up, chasing Bot Shots, and calling it a day.
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