My least favorite time of year is here! The Subscription sign-up time! The excitement of the reveals gives way to the arguments over the merits of subs and character selection, opinions become facts, conspiracy theories are abound, and bad marketing is considered terrorism. I should pop some popcorn.
I’m teasing a little bit in the opener, of course, but I don’t really enjoy this time of year. My opinion on the subscriptions should be fairly well known by now. DCUC & MOTUC are two of my favorite toy lines, I like that the figures show up at my house with relatively no stress, and while I have my favorite nostalgic loves, I’m downright ecstatic when Mattel makes a character I didn’t even know I wanted. So this time of year has really just turned into me watching my fellow collectors tear at each other over something that should be bringing us joy (and make no mistake, Mattel can’t be blamed for how we treat each other).
If you’re wondering what I’m blathering about, the usual lively discussion over the sub was amplified last Thursday when Toy Guru made a post on Facebook updating us on the particulars for 2013 subscriptions. The full text is available at that link, but the gist was that he explained the reasons behind the price increase, announced “Early Access” which lets subscribers buy non-sub items before the general public, changes to international shipping, and then dropped a 1-2 punch of bad news.
The first was that Mattel would further be reducing production over the subscription model. That “day of” stock, normally available for the 15th would be even further limited this year up to and including there being none available. If you’re unable to or simply don’t want to collect everything, that pretty much takes you out of the game. I can understand that Mattel is trying to save money by not having excess stock lying around, investing in product that won’t move, but it doesn’t make me feel good as a subscriber and if you’ve been buying things the hard way, this amps up the difficulty level to somewhere near impossible.
To make matters worse, Toy Guru wrapped up by noting that sub sales were down and that MOTUC was “technically” on the chopping block and as at risk as any of their subscriptions. Honestly, my first reaction to this was to laugh. I know that we haven’t had to deal with this particular stressor in MOTU Classics, but it’s been true from day one. It’s true for every toy line ever, in fact. If you don’t buy the figures a company is making now, then there isn’t going to be figures to buy later. Surprisingly, this seemed to catch many of my fellow collectors unaware.
I’m gonna hope, though, that it was merely the timing that was to blame. We all saw what happened to the DC subscription last year: the uncertainty, the thermometer, the gnashing of teeth. We also saw what happens when a subscription dies last year in the form of Ghostbusters. The subscription doesn’t move forward and a handful of partially completed figures are finished up and sold day of. Make no mistake, that is the future of MOTU Classics.
We will eventually get a thermometer (maybe even this year) and we will eventually get to a year where Club Eternia is cancelled and the last few figures will eek out. This isn’t because Mattel is some malicious company trying to figure out how to kill MOTU or even a reflection on Scott’s tenure as brand manager – it’s just going to happen. All toy lines die and nearly all of them do so before all the important characters are made. Personally, I thought 2014 would be the scary year, but it appears that the price increase and international shipping issues have brought about a faster attrition than many of us expected.
I’m not concerned for two reasons.
First, is that we’re five years in. If you’ve bought everything, you should have just over a 100 figures in your MOTUC display. And we know there are nearly twenty figures in the pike – that’s all going to come out, no matter what happens. If the line ended with King He-Man, it would still be one of the best and most comprehensive toy lines in modern times. Yes, it would suck to not have Two-Bad or Mantenna, but it wouldn’t be right of us to discount all the success MOTU Classics has already achieved because of it. It’s already had a good run… but the best part is that it’s not over yet.
See, the second thing is that we’re not anywhere near having to say “it’s been a good run” yet. Toy Guru has made several posts on his forums at Mattycollector and will shortly be making an appearance on He-Man.Org’s Roast Gooble dinner and the general feeling is that 2013 is going to move forward, that 2014 can be reshuffled to be a big Vintage/POP/NA year (which actually makes me sad), and that the line will continue on in some fashion. Basically, Toy Guru is outlining that there can be a DC-like year and a Ghostbusters-like year before we’re over and out. And see, that gets us into 2015. That’s most of the way through Toy Guru’s “road map” right there.
So, we don’t need to be fighting with each other. We don’t need to come up with wild theories about what’s going on behind the scenes. The line’s not dead yet, but it is in the decline. That’s perfectly normal. It sucks, I know. We as collectors have this terrible affliction of looking at what we don’t have and the decline phase only heightens our negative feelings. See, I have this amazing MOTU Classics collection sitting a few feet behind me. When I look at it I’m often reminded that we don’t have Rio Blast. I do that because I’m stupid. I have figures I really wanted like Scareglow, Snout Spout, and Man-At-Arms. I have figures that finally made me appreciate characters I hated as a kid like Spikor. I have great new things like Battle Armor Faker & Vikor. And yet I look at the shelf and ask “Where’s my Extendar!?”. It’s just the nature of the beast, I guess.
Anyway, I know things are a little crazy right now, but remember that we should all be collecting for enjoyment. We should be counting the birds in the hand. We should do our best to not let what characters we haven’t gotten yet or what words Toy Guru chooses to use get in the way of that enjoyment. We should be trying to come together as a community. That’s the very nature that the subscription relies on by the way, but I’m not writing this to pimp the sub today.
The thought of this great line ending before we’re ready for it to is heartbreaking, I know. But it will end someday and it could even potentially be a good thing. I think we’d all be happiest to see MOTU achieve the success of brands like GI Joe or Transformers. To do that, it’s going to have to evolve and grow. To become a perennial franchise requires a healthy dose of reinvention. I hope the day that we transition from Classics to something else is still pretty far off, but ideally there will be something new in the pike when attrition finally brings MOTU Classics down.
Until then though, let’s work on that sense of community and celebrate what we’ve got. Otherwise, we’ll all be too busy dealing with ulcers and hemorrhoids when the real cancellation notice comes.