BotCon may have wrapped up last Sunday, but that doesn’t mean the news from the con has to stop. TFW2005 was fortunate enough to sit down with Jerry Jivoin and Ben Montano of Hasbro for a brief discussion of the future of the toy line from the show floor. Read on to discover what the team revealed in this enlightening interview!
Also, please check out the first Botcon 2015 supplemental “The Ichabotcon Chronicles” here: [email protected] Botcon Supplemental 1
If you use iTunes and regularly subscribe to podcasts, you can add us to your player and have the software download each episode automatically each time we update. To do that, and give us a reviews on iTunes, click here: Transformers Podcast on iTunes.
TFW2005: So let’s start with… Combiner Wars has dipped heavily into 80s source material for inspiration, from the standard combiners to more obscure concepts like Masquerade. It’s also dipped into the new fiction options as seen with Victorion and now the new Sky Lynx combiner. Where can we expect to see future combiners draw inspiration from — old fiction, new fiction, or a combination of both?
Jerry: I think it’s a combination of both. What we want to do is offer up the best combiners from the past that are out there from a popularity, and then are there new ones that we can do? I think when you start looking at all the tooling that we have that we’ve created and everything that we have available where we can go from there. But we definitely want to celebrate the combiners that people want to see; you know from the fans and bring those out to the fan community.
TFW2005: Okay, so obviously you guys have a Titan class price point, but to date we’ve only seen Metroplex and Devastator at that price point. But Devastator in the fictional sense is not a titan. Would you foresee additional Decepticons Titans as part of future plans you guys might have? How do you go about balancing Autobot and Decepticon Titans?
Jerry: The Titan, we love the bigger scale characters, granted Devastator is not in the same class level of like a Metroplex type of character from a scale and the IP, but we felt he was… we wanted to do that character, it made sense with the Combiner Wars that we did, the six voyagers, scaled characters made Devastator and filled… almost got from a price point perspective, a similar price point. We like what we’ve done with Metroplex, with Devastator. We feel the success we’ve had with Metroplex has led to Devastator. We think Devastator is going to do well. And so we’re excited and we want to do more and so I think now is what is the selection of the next Titan class characters? Which ones? We look at the fan boards of who people want to see kind of reimagined today and we look at what’s the right character due for storytelling and so we’re… as far as mixing Autobot or Decepticon and you can see we’ve done one of each now so I don’t know if that really matters as much it’s more of it’s the character that the fan community wants to see and it makes sense with the storytelling that we’re doing for the year.
Ben: I think you started the question with “only”… we have two of them, which is a pretty big step. But a lot of it is story driven for us to be honest with you so along with IDW and other partners, that really drives… and also we see the fans or if we ask the fans to create a new character that’s what driving our decision a lot is like Jerry said is what do we hear the loudest of. So Hall of Fame vote no matter how silly it may seem that’s information for us. That feeds to us what do people care about? Who do they want to celebrate? So all that stuff really comes into play and helps us decide who’s going to come in the toy line but also… in some sense if we’re going to do something Titan class…if it’s pricey it has to be something that we know people are going to jump at.
TFW2005: Cool. Metroplex was released in 2013, Devastator will be released in 2015, and it’s looking like you may have another Titan class character in 2016. Do you expect to maintain a release schedule of one per year like that, or is the gap between Metroplex and Devastator more indicative of what you’re going to do at that price point?
Jerry: Ideally I’d like to keep it to where we’re doing one every year. The reason why we didn’t one in 14 was cause of the film. We felt we had a lot of product out there from a consumer…cause what consumers would be spending their money on and so we wanted to test Metroplex out to make sure that it worked. We had to see the results first we couldn’t commit to one in fall 14 cause of the development timeline, but we already committed to 15 but now we’re sort of seeing success with it that we can ideally that we would try to do one every year. As long as it keeps up from the success…
Ben: It all comes down to the fans. Are fans buying into what we’re putting on the shelves and if they are we’ll do more and we’ll do it more often.
TFW2005: Okay let’s see. This one might be a little wordy. So Combiner Wars really focused on multi-priced point teams of characters it seemed, but it also appears from the outside that it has been a very successful line. There seems to be a shift from the traditional flatter horizontal teams of figures at the same price point to vertical teams of figures comprised of multiple price points. Can you tell me what lessons were learned from Combiner Wars from both the play and purchase patterns that would be replicated in future lines? Can we expect to see additional vertical teams of characters? Can we expect to see that play / purchase pattern extended to other size, classes like Leader or Titan?
Ben: So we’ll split it, I’ll let Jerry talk to the toy side how we kind of got to that from the insights we gained. There’s definitely value in the vertical and I think when we look at vertical we look at it’s story driven. Everything starts out with the fans, consumers, what people want… and we do a lot on insight gathering there but story universes will sell. You guys when you’re buying into Combiner Wars if you didn’t have something to connect it to if you weren’t reading the comics or some of the things we do or you know the old show. So we definitely want to bring the stories to life. I think when we’ve seen maybe not as successful lines is when we’re just throwing out disparate characters and then it becomes say fan favorite purchase and you’re not engaging with everything or with our whole offering. So we are now more in tune with telling the story whether it’s retelling or telling a new one and that gives us the luxury of bringing more characters to life that help our fans kind of commit and engage with a full range. That may be a connected system or it may be just a story universe like the Fall of Cybertron. There’s a lot of different ways we can slice it but it all starts with just a kick ass story.
Jerry: I think when you look at… what we love seeing is that when toys can work with each other so you’re building almost what we’d call an ecosystem of play. Where if you have something where the individual toy itself is fun to play with but if you’re able to combine it with another figure and another figure and all that even with it taking it outside of the system…say you’re building Superion, the way we design the joint system, oh if I bought a Drag Strip I can put Drag Strip on the arm or leg, so it makes it just more fun. Now you can make your own, fans or kids can make their own combiner, which is really cool.
Ben: I mean it’s for the kids, they can work together
Jerry: Yeah it’s just adding play value I think when you look at it and so being able to do that across different scales and so they do work together it just adds more value it makes it a more fun toy to play with and your collection you can buy deeper into it and it all works together.
TFW2005: So one thing I noticed today is the presentation it seems we’ve only accounted for five waves of Combiner Wars in 2015 with the Combaticons kicking off 2016. Will we only see five waves this year or can we expect to see the traditional six?
Ben: I think if you look closely at the slides and stuff you’ll see there’s some question marks for the future so I think we tipped our hat a little bit there and all I can say is that in the coming months just keep your eyes out, there’s more coming soon. I think the reaction today obviously was…we were very excited as it gave us goosebumps up front and reassured us that this doesn’t have to stop where we so far what we have revealed.. that you know the stuff is doing great. This outpouring of fans, kids and adults are buying Combiner Wars products. So we would like to keep it going and I think what we show today as future yet to be revealed figures and we’re looking forward to sharing them with you guys.
TFW2005: Let’s go with this one. Alright. You guys really hit it out the park with generations Rattrap and Rhinox. What can we expect to see for the Beast Wars 20th anniversary?
Ben: I think the team has done a really good job celebrating and not just creating new stories with Combiner Wars. I think the 30th anniversary line in total I think we got a lot of good feedback on, not just Rattrap and Rhinox and the others but the full collection. So we want to, where it makes sense, celebrate. We have a couple anniversaries next year we have obviously have 20th of Beast Wars, we also have 30th anniversary of the 86th movie so you know it’s really as we look at our franchise is what does that mean? Does that mean a whole toy collection or is it more of a kind of lifestyle play. I think there’s a lot of things we can do to honor and celebrate the past so hopefully you guys….
TFW2005: The fifteenth of RID. The original RID. I’m throwing that in there.
Ben: There’s a lot of anniversaries so hopefully we’ve shown that we honor and want to celebrate and… Do you want to add anything to that Jerry?
Jerry: I think it’s just picking the right toys to come out at the right time and which anniversaries we celebrate and it also comes down to consumer demand. Looking at… everybody’s looking for a new such and such figure or a re-issue of a certain figure. If we see that and it makes sense from timing with an anniversary, obviously it’s something that we’d want to celebrate with a toy release. We like the anniversaries. It kind of depends on when…
Ben: Or we can wait till thirty years and we can actually do that.
TFW2005: Okay thank you very much, appreciate it.
Ben and Jerry: Yeah.