Saturday, February 27, 2010

Eternian Observer: Of Beasts and Men, or, Keep Your Damn Dirty Apes Out of My MOTUC Subscription

I have tried to stay away from the drama in the always-controversial world of Masters of the Universe Classics. It seems that every week or two there is some huge point of contention in the MOTUC collectors community: Hordak's half armor, Teela's waist, Battle Armor He-Man's plates, Moss Man's ears, Mo-Larr, inclusion of POP characters, etc. For the amount of passion and intensity generated, you would think we were talking about something actually important like civil rights or health care reform. That being said, there are some very legitimate issues with the line, although none of them are artistic. There have been serious problems with delivery, customer service, and the website from the beginning. All of these have to do with Matty's fulfillment service, Digital River, but now there is a very important decision being mulled over regarding the 2011 subscriptions: whether or not to include "beasts" in the subscription plan. Based on what I have seen so far, I really hope that they don't.

Note to Mattel: If you are looking to sell a new subset of a popular toyline, don't show off your most ridiculous looking character as an example of what that line is going to be.

I bought a 2010 subscription despite the fact that the bonus figures were not included and the shipping was not combined. This is where the problems begin, as Digital River is not able to walk and chew gum at the same time and do a simple thing such as combine shipping for items ordered by the same person and mailed to the same address. Rightfully, people complained about this and Matty and Toy Guru said that they would re-evaluate including the now-scaled back bonus figure program in the 2011 subscription. They then introduced a line of beasts, of which Battle Cat was the first and was incredibly popular and well-received. Additional beasts were revealed at Toy Fair, Tytus and Gygor, and now it looks as though Matty will not only be including quarterly bonus figures in the 2011 subscription but quarterly beast figures at anywhere from $30-$60 each all in one subscription.

Now, the reasonable way to do this would be to offer two or three subscription plans but Toy Guru has been clear that there will be only one subscription option. They are not entertaining the idea of tiers or bolts or anything like that. Are you just interested in only monthly figures? Tough. Are you just interested in only monthly figures and quarterly figures? Tough. You either get everything, or you take the chance of getting nothing. If you want the only way to guarantee your figures, you have to get the beasts.

Despite the greatness that is Battle Cat, I'm not feeling the other beasts we've seen, two obscure z-list characters. At their expensive price point ($30-$60), these are figures I am going to want to cherry pick. While Tytus is a cool addition to the line, I will be saving my money (and shelf space) for something else. Gygor is...a yellow gorilla in a cape. Somehow he manages to look silly even in the context of MOTU.

I find it odd that Mattel was extremely cautious about the bonus figure line and their possible inclusion in the subscription. For a long time, it was, "Let's see how Zodak does," and then, "Let's see how Goddess does," and then, "Let's see how Battle Armor He-Man does." Now they've adjusted the bonus figure program and are seemingly ready to include it in the2011 subscription after several months of trial and error. Regarding the beasts, they seem to have all but made up their minds to include them in the plan, having sold only one beast character so far. And one can hardly use Battle Cat as a gauge of the beasts as a whole, as he is a beloved core character. Even the next most popular beast, Panthor, will not do as well.

If Mattel wasn't happy with the sales of the Goddess, imagine if she had been $30 or $40 and had never appeared in any media at all. Perhaps before sticking these expensive, large-scale figures in the subscription, it would be wise to give it a year and see how they sell. By February next year, there will have been four or five beast figures released and there will be a better gauge of their popularity. Unless, of course, it Matty thinks the only way that they will be able to have the sales they want on these kinds of figures is to compel people to buy them in a subscription...

Again, the only reasonable solution is to offer multiple subscription options. Perhaps because of a lack of trust in Digital River, they will not do this. It is unfortunate that they have a dysfunctional relationship with their fulfillment company but, as a costumer, it is not something that I should have to worry about. If Matty is opposed to a reasonable option, then the only truly fair way to go is to include only monthly figures and the quarterly figures that have proven their popularity. It seems that Mattel is orienting itself to the unfortunate position of "The subscriptions are for those people who want everything," which denies the basic fact that these figures are produced in very small numbers and have become even more difficult to get off-subscription than they were last year. It has become that the subscription is almost the only way to get the figures from, and, sadly, even then the subscription is not always a reliable way to purchase these figures. Mattel should not be putting people in the position of having to buy expensive extra products several times a year just to get the monthly subscription.

Please check out this poll on the matty forums and make your opinions known:

Patrick Garone
Senior Reviewer


boob said...

Right on. Passionate nerds are a delicate bunch of dominos. Set 'em off and you'll have a mess in no time. Which is exactly what Matty has on their hands.

I agree completely with your comments. I've been up and down the forums trying to talk some sense into Mattel. Albeit a snarky, sarcastic belittlement of their business model. Maybe not the best way to be heard :)

The most deplorable part, is that they're pushing subscriptions like Gamestop pushes presells. In fact it's the same business model only better for Mattel because you're tied into a full year of figures. It's just disgusting that Mattel can't figure out a better plan for selling toys. That is the business they're in right? I mean, they've been making toys for how long as one of the biggest companies? Instead, they'd rather let the fan do the work for them. They'll gladly sell a subscription (for $20 with the eventual offset of an exclusive figure or a poster or whatever down the road) if it means they just need to count up the names and set their production numbers to that. And thus, they sell out in minutes when, heaven forbid, someone wants an extra Trapjaw. Or low and behold, Battlecat was never included in the subscription.

Figure it out Matty. Do some work. Supply and Demand and all that.

Sorry to get off track. So now the "ALL IN" 2011 subscription is hardly a solution to any of this. Basically it's just a way to get more money.

Why the heck can't I stroll on line, say within the first week of a figure's release, and buy it without a problem? At this point, is MOTU still such a high risk venture that everything has to be pre-sold and production has to reflect that? There's NO room for slight over production?

I won't be buying a 2011 subscription at all. Mattel hasn't proved to me they're attempting to fix anything including the horrible website and customer service.

Thanks for the post.

Russell said...

that's exactly *why* they're doing an "all or nothing" sub though....they *don't* know how well the others will do, and based on what h*ll they go thru with people complaining about having a sub, and having to go to the website on the 15th regardless to get the bonus figures, I think it totally makes sense what they're doing.

It may not be considered the popular choice, but we all know what happened when Mattel gave us a really obscure character that fans were "so enthusiastic" took nearly two weeks to move.

I want to blame them for this decision here...but I can't.