Hasbro’s Transformers Vs 3rd Party Transformers……GO!!
As we continue our Transformers Celebration we must look at a “hot” topic; Hasbro Vs 3rd Party. How does the 3rd party affect the marketplace and how does this affect Hasbro? These are two questions we will be looking at plus more!
As a Transformer fan, I have a deep respect for Hasbro and what they have done with the property. Besides G.I. Joe and Star Wars, Transformers have been a long term property (or cash cow) for Hasbro. With the astounding success of the movies, Hasbro has produced some amazing toys over the years. Now the question to ask is how did the 3rd party get going and why?
A third party Transformer toy is a transformable toy created / intended to be part of the Transformers series by an unlicensed 3rd party toy company. These toys can be completely original designs, new molds based on existing characters, add-on sets for existing Transformers toys.
Copies of existing Transformers molds are generally not regarded as third party Transformers, although the lines are somewhat murky because of examples of collector companies occasionally producing toys that copy some Hasbro/Takara mold work, while adding some original molding as well. One-Off customs are usually not considered third party Transformer toys.
Growth of the third party Transformer industry is largely due to rejuvenated interest in Transformers following release of the Classic line in 2006 and the 2007 Transformers film release. It was largely targeted at filling the gaps Hasbro’s toys demanded by the collectors.
The 3rd Party movement came from collectors wanting more accurate Transformers, accessories, and bots yet to made in plastic form by Hasbro or Takara. In the end you may call a 3rd party item a custom, or even a bootleg but that would do an injustice to the movement. Lets face it, they do fill a gap left open by the big two (Hasbro and Takara).
The 3rd Party seems to cater to what collectors want but so has Hasbro and Takara. Back in the early 2000’s Hasbro released some of the best Transformers to date called Alternators. These Transformers became an instant hit with collectors and proved that a semi accurate bot held some major fan interest. From there Hasbro introduced the Masterpiece scaled Transformer. This was supposed to be a one shot deal but Hasbro realized how much money could be made. Optimus Prime sold really well and set off something we would all enjoy. Hasbro went on and released another fan favorite, Starscream and soon after they dived right into Generations. When the movie hit, it sent the property into orbit and just like that….BOOM! The 3rd party movement was born.
One of the first 3rd Party items offered was the highly desired CliffJumper add-on kit from Fansproject. Even though it was an accessory set, it sold like hot cakes. Following in it’s shoes was the City Commander set for Ultra Magnus. This set took a huge step in getting the movement going and since then it has not slowed down.
Since these icon releases, there have been over 30 companies to enter the 3rd party market. Fansproject, Perfect Effect, Igear, TFC Toys, Maketoys and new comer Warbotron are just the tip of the iceberg. If you check out online retailers such as BBTS you will see a ton of these guys and their products they offer. Most recently the focus seems to centered on the G1 Universe and the product keeps improving. Now we will see more MP styled Transformers and combiners. The overall quality is improving and some 3rd Party Transformers feel like the real thing (looking at you Shockwave AKA Quakewave).
Now back to our original question, how does this affect the marketplace? The overall market is saturated with Transformer products, both legal and 3rd party and this can be problematic (both good and bad). All of these choices gives fans options and as bright as the 3rd party movement is, it cannot last forever. Once the market shifts (which it will), something else will emerge from the ashes. I suspect one of these days a 3rd Party company will go legit and forever shake up the market. All these products force Hasbro to rethink their methods though as each sale can potentially take away from Hasbro.
Personally I think the 3rd Party movement is forcing Hasbro to ramp up their game. Fans got tired of the lacking selection of Transformers and they had zero options available to them. Hasbro and Takara had to change their game to stay competitive in this market. While Takara has done well with this, Hasbro lagged behind….until now. Over the last year or so we have seen better, more recognizable Transformers come from the gig H and the future looks bright. Their Masterpiece selections continue to improve and it seems they are taking a page out of Takara’s playbook. Their Generations line is improving and so is the overall sculpting. This year Hasbro showed off some major players at both Toy Fair and BotCon. Fans are excited for Hasbro related product and so am I. While the 3rd Party produces pieces I doubt Hasbro will EVER tackle due to limitations, it is nice to see Transformers so strong. In a sense, Hasbro will always trump 3rd Party but 3rd Party is NOT going anywhere….for now. Like I mentioned above, there will be a shift in the market and the game will change at some point. There is always the legal threat from Hasbro and who knows what actions Takara has taken but for now, there is a calm.
As we close I will leave you with this. If the 3rd Party movement never started would we have received a Masterpiece Soundwave? How about a Grimlock? Maybe just maybe the movement forced Hasbro to do something different. Only time will tell but I do believe they need each other for now. How do you guys feel about this? Do you think there is a need for 3rd Party? Or how about Hasbro changing up their production? Sound off in the comments section and let us know!