A startling announcement was made the other day by Japanese toy retailer Red Mercury when they cancelled a plethora of 3rd party Transformer toy orders. Although I cannot find any information online even indicating the existence of said seller, I do not doubt the validity of the statement.
The 3rd Party Transformers toy market has ballooned in the past few years. New “companies” appear to develop over night including manufacturers like CrazyDevy, iGear, and the leader of the pack, Fansproject. The products these companies offer span the gamut from add-on accessories to official Transformer toys to fully transforming standalone figures.
Some fans claim that these companies fill the gaps left by Hasbro and TakaraTomy, citing a lack of figures they want and apparently deserve. This of course assumes that customers of Hasbro and TarakTomy deserve to get what they want in any fashion. The unfortunate thing is that the particular customer base for the 3rd party figures is speckled with selfish greedy middle-agers – a demographic that the major toy companies have again and again reminded the world they need not worry about.
It goes without saying that these add-ons and replicas of Transformers properties are in violation of copyright law and intellectual property law. A blind eye has been turned for many years, with the potential gains from stopping production or creating a lawsuit being outweighed by the costs of protecting their properties.
I for one applaud TakaraTomy’s initial stance. I hope it is the first in a long line of crack downs. iGear has repeatedly pushed the limit with figures like down-sized Masterpiece molds and Masterpiece coneheads. It takes more than a non-descript name of the character to save yourself from being an out and out fraud.
Why should TakaraTomy care if there is a ‘gaping hole’ left by not creating a masterpiece Dirge? It is up to them to decide what gets made in the official Transformers line and if you don’t like, become a customizer. Mass-producing figures outside of the realm of official production is beyond wrong. I’m looking at you KOtoys. Sure, you can still do whatever you want, but when the hammer comes down I hope it’s shiesty thieves like you that’re nailed to the cross first.
I had often wondered why the toy companies don’t attack the resellers that provide an easy outlet for these black market toys, namely TFsource, BigBadToyStore, and various other smaller shops along the way. Sure, these shops help Hasbro and Takara sell off some of their stock, but compared to the big box stores, the novelty toy store market is a drop in the bucket. Apparently someone poked the bear and now it’s awake. I have been waiting for this day, and await to see how the dust settles. Let’s ask some good questions at Botcon 2011 this year!