Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Transformers Feature: SDCC 2011 "First Edition" Optimus Prime

The longer the Transformers franchise stays alive, the more toys with the same name are created. The single most egregious example is, of course, Optimus Prime. The TFWiki page for Generation One Optimus Prime toys lists dozens upon dozens of items. While G1 is certainly the largest offender, when you add all the other continuity families that Transformers has embraced over the years, it's easy to see how trying to come up with a concise way of naming each specific Optimus Prime toy can become a challenge. This problem was not helped when the name of the most recent iteration was announced: Transformers: Prime. If I really wanted to be glib, I could call this toy Transformers: Prime Optimus Prime, or perhaps worse yet "Prime Prime" (although these admittedly would work equally well for several other toys, not just this San Diego Comic-Con exclusive).

This SDCC exclusive was the very first toy released for the Transformers: Prime series. An entire series of "First Edition" toys was intended to follow at mass retail shortly thereafter, but were ultimately relegated to becoming Toys R Us exclusives more than half a year later (and many toys created for the "First Edition" line ended up not being available in the States until much later... if at all). Like Animated before it, the entire first season of the Prime cartoon had already completed its initial run before the line made it to stores. This is probably at least somewhat intentional, to drum up enthusiasm for the toys by getting kids familiar with the characters, but I think that someone needs to rethink their planning process, because it seems to me that the result has been that far too many toys are getting designed for intended American retail release that our stores end up never getting.

Because SDCC is much, much larger than BotCon, there are a lot more of these toys made than your average BotCon exclusive. I don't know precisely how many, but this tends to be reflected in the selling price. Whereas BotCon toys often cost somewhere between three and four times as much as a toy using the same mold would cost at retail, SDCC exclusives are usually a bit cheaper. Not a lot cheaper, mind you. This toy cost about $20, which was still about twice as much as a toy of this size would normally cost (although even then, the retail price of this size was creeping above $10, where it had been for many years previously. Indeed, deluxe-sized toys coming out right now are being priced at $15 at Target and Toys R Us!), but most people expect to pay somewhat inflated prices for convention exclusives.

For the past couple of years, Hasbro seems to have been putting a lot of effort into their SDCC exclusive packaging. As seen at the top, this toy comes in a large box depicting Optimus Prime's chest. This box opens down the middle (held shut by a magnet) to reveal a large plastic container for the toy. This container is shaped like the Autobot Matrix of Leadership (although, oddly, the Matrix as it appeared in most Generation One versions, and not the Prime version, which is shaped rather differently), and has a velcro strap around it, demonstrating that the buyer is intended to wear it around his neck. Personally, I would have preferred more of the cost of making this figure to have been used on the toy itself (its rather lacking in paint applications, in my opinion), rather than on the packaging. It's not like I'm ever actually going to wear this plastic monstrosity! Packaging is meant to protect the product before the buyer gets it, and then to be thrown away! It's hard enough finding space for a large and growing collection without having to make room for large packages, too! Sadly, if the recent 2012 SDCC exclusives are any indication, I don't see this trend going away anytime soon.

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