Friday, 13 July 2018

Repaints: Noble fanservice or lowly cash-grabs?

 - Dorian MacQuarrie

Repaints are nothing new in the world of Transformers. Even in the halcyon Diaclone days there were a fair few releases of the same dude wearing different clothes. Hasbro, Takara and Third Party companies know the value of cranking out repaints; you just pour different coloured plastics into the mould and boom, a completely new character. It's something we accept and rarely question. 

With the last few lines from Hasbro leaning heavily into repaints and a number of repaints suddenly on the horizon from Fansproject, when, I ask you dear reader, does a repaint go from a smart reuse of a mould to an outright cash grab? I imagine it's in the timing....

The classic repaints from Hasbro, from G1 to Power of the Primes are often spread across a couple of years of releases. Starscream, Thundercracker and Skywarp do not all come out at the same time, being released over time, padding out future waves of toys whilst giving collectors the characters we want. Maybe the original release of such repaints were seen as a pure cash-grab but I wonder if many kids were savvy enough to clock this or even cared enough for it to matter. At this point in the franchise, we accept certain repaints are inevitable and welcome them with open arms. 

What about when a repaint is released years after the original? Or what about when it's an obscure character, meant only to facilitate a further usage of a mould? Is that just good business sense or is it maybe leaning too hard into greedy companies wanting to get the most bang for the buck, possibly at the expense of the customer's buying experience? 

Turning my attention to the world of Third Party, I can think of three key instances when 3P fell foul of some cash-grab repaints. 

Firstly, Unique Toys Mania King. Originally released in colours which definitely sang from the Galvatron hymn sheet, it was met with a fair amount of approval as a well sized and well designed Generations Galvatron (lack of wrist swivels notwithstanding). This was shortly followed buy a much more accurate, and might I say attractive colour scheme, all pointing towards a touch of greed on the part of Unique Toys or at least a touch of incompetency (I'm not sure which is worse). Had the two colours schemes reflected Galvatron's G1 toy-grey and cartoon-purple colour schemes then there would be a clear intent to provide collectors with two distinct options. Going from "vague Galvatron colour scheme" to "wow, this toy just stepped off the screen!" seems a bit of a bad move which left some collectors feeling a little swindled by Unique Toys. 

Secondly, Mastermind Mind Creations and their myriad repaints. On the whole, MMC are pretty clever with their repaints. The problem I feel is their remoulds. All too often the base figure straddles the fence between one character and another (or several) and in turn lacks enough identity to really own the character the toy is representing. Their Whirl is a little too much Obsidian going on and vice versa. When there is always a primary character the mould is released as (often the case for MMC), I'd rather see that have the bulk of the moulding dedicated to said character and the repaint as a bonus, rather than trying to cater to more than one character. The more we see of these repaints (albeit with some remoulding) the more it becomes clear how much their business model relies on repaints and that leaves a slightly sour taste in my mouth. 

Thirdly, and finally, Fansproject. Of course I was going to finish up with my favourite company. Like a revenant, dragging it's ragged body along the floor, Fansproject have shown a spark of life and along with finally releasing a couple of long awaited moulds, have shown off some repaints of previous releases. Their Monstructor repaint of Dinoking was a nice surprise, especially as the word on the street was that this would never see the light of day (some parts were originally shown at conventions several years back). Images have also emerged for a Construction themed deco of their magnificent Steel core, a second repaint of that particular mould after their upcoming SDCC exclusive Severo repaint. I find it interesting that they are finally releasing more version of one of their most popular toys when at their peak, any further releases based on Steelcore didn't even seem to be in the pipeline.

While these will no doubt delight fans of Fansproject (myself included of course) I can't help but feel it's scraping the bottom of their creative barrel in a bid to make some of that dolla dolla. If this then results in a boost in production and new releases, then yeah, great, they're trying to get the ball rolling again. Sadly, I can see this as just their last salvo before finally going dark (again). 

Yes, I understand a company's primary goal is profit but there are still lines that should not be crossed or at least should be artfully navigated so as to not show this obvious intent to your customer base. We know these guys just want our money but it's nice to pretend they're actually interested in catering to our every whim and want. 

With that said, I'm off to buy these new repaints from Fansproject because I have no self control.....

Until next time, keep it #Refined.

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