Mattel on bonus figures & the subscription

I know a number of you asked why Mattel couldn’t include bonus figures in the subscription in the Ask Mattel thread, but I hadn’t planned to include it in my questions because 1.) I was certain every other site would ask, and 2.) I was fairly certain the answer would be boilerplate.

Well, Mattel has pre-empted us and offered an explanation on their Facebook page (emphasis mine):

A lot of fans have asked this question and their is a very simple answer. The bonus figures are our insurance policy that at least one new figure will be available each month. In the toy industry, issues arise all the time which delay product. For example, Faker was supposed to be the Feb bonus figure but because Mer-Man ran late he was slotted in as a standard figure. (for those keeping score at home, this also meant every other 2009 figure was bumped up a month from the intended release date…).

So for 2010’s Club Eternia program, the bonus figures, large scale beasts and re-issues will not be part of the subscription in order to have a back up in case anything gets delayed. In time, after we have another year under our belts and can better judge sales over an extended period of time, we can look at the possibility of adding an “all in” option. But for now, please bear with us as we do all in our power to make sure at least one new figure is available each month with some months having a nice bonus figure as well!

And each subscription will get the exclusive Wun-Dar figure, a new map of Eternia in poster size and a few other surprises throughout the year. It looks like 2010 will be a great time to be a He-Fan!

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Time and again, Mattel has proven to be fairly reactionary in the way they handle their collectors’ brands.

For instance, this year they brought the same number of He-Ro figures to SDCC as they did King Grayskull figures a year ago, despite the explosion of the brand’s popularity and the fact that they’d had to increase production numbers repeatedly already. Now they’re saying they’ll increase production on their SDCC exclusives for next year.

Mattel’s generals, it seems, are always fighting the last war.

Here are just a few obvious instances where Mattel could have been pro-active:

1.) The subscription service should have been ready from Figure 1, or at least by the end of Q1 2009.

2.) The “Economy Postal” option should never have existed.

3.) The Mattycollector servers should have been prepared for high traffic–at the very least, the “Red Screen of Doom” function should have been in place from Day 1.

4.) The subscription service should have been prepared to offer combined shipping with bonus figures/items and other non-MOTUC Mattycollector exclusives (JLU, DCUC, Ghostbusters etc.)

5.) Much better plans and contingencies should have been in place for international collectors, such as at least one European distribution center.

24 thoughts on “Mattel on bonus figures & the subscription”

  1. I love the idea of the subscription and with the bonus figure and map they made up the $20 charge for it. My main problem is that since I'm not a completist with MOTUC I may not necessarily want each monthly figure. I've already skipped out on Zodac and plan on skipping Webstor in Sept. (I may pick up a Zodac on ebay though as he is going for cheaper than he cost on matty and cost is my issue with characters I don't care about).

    Plus since I'm the sort who will be picking up the quarterly DCUC two-packs and Ghostbusters figures I don't want to get murdered paying double shipping for items going on sale on the same day.

  2. Poe, as always you make some interesting points.

    One thing that I'm wondering about is this:

    The bonus figures are our insurance policy that at least one new figure will be available each month.

    Are there going to be bonus figures every month? Will bonus figures include re-releases such as He-Man, Skeletor, Mer-Man, etc. or will those be separate.

    Yes, the line is in its infancy still, or at least by now its got to be in the toddler stage, throwing temper tantrums, not listening, etc. However online retail has been around for well over a decade, so its not like they're trying to learn how to start fire. No, the massive traffic could not have been predicted, but they still should have been prepared. Also, Poe is right that awful Economy Postal option was a poor choice. If you're paying $28, whats an extra few cents to have your package sent via UPS with a tracking number.

  3. The "Insurance policy" excuse doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me….and it really just seems like the best excuse they could come up with to not try and change this years subscription policy mid-stream.

    They are really just hurting themselves. They will miss out on a ton of possible subscribers because people don't want to pay a fee to have the "privleage" of having to spend hundreds of extra dollars on shipping so that they can get an exclusive figure down the road.

    I think Mattel really missed the boat on this one.

  4. I do understand why Mattel is doing this, but it would be great to have an 'opt in' feature where club Eternia members can opt in to have each bonus figure maybe a 1-3 months in advance. This would:

    – keep fanclub members happy

    – reduce traffic on the 15th of the month

    – give Mattel an earlier idea of volumes (I don't know if 3 months is early enough to impact production run though)

    – offer shipping combinations for monthly and bonus figures at least

  5. As I've said elsewhere, adding figures to the subscriptions doesn't have any factor at all in delays. So their explanation doesn't even make basic common sense.

    Mattel makes me want to beat my head against the wall sometimes.

    I understand a lot of their guys are nice folks, I know Toy Guru works hard, but I seriously question the logic behind Mattel's practices more often than not.

  6. It sounds like the bonus figures are going to cancel out any reduction in site traffic that may have resulted from the subscriptions. It also sounds like Neitlich is already setting up Faker Matty to take the fall when he fails to produce the promised figures each month. I think the subscription is fairly useless, so I'm not participating, but I'd be pretty annoyed if I'd signed up for it thinking I'd get Teela one month, and wound up with a lame Zodak repaint instead.

  7. You know, I 've given this how subscription thing a lot of though and I've decided not to do it. Don't get me wrong I still love the Masters of the Universe Classics line and am very happy with the DC Classics and the upcoming GHostbusters line. The thing for me like I'm sure is the same for a lot of collectors is the money aspect, as well as just how much do I really want a certain figure.

    I've been looking back and thinking to myself as to why I have certain figures, Faker and Zodac are the main two, both are very nice figures but outside of having them to complete the collection there is is no personal reason for me to own them.

    I personally think that collectiong anything from toys to comic books or even movies should be about what makes you happy and going after what you really want.

  8. This means Scare-Glow was originally meant to be an October figure and Trap-Jaw would have been the first subscription figure. That makes sense.

  9. Poe, you sum it up very well as usual….and without any need from me to add any swearing.

    Mattel are basically idiots – but with this latest excuse at least they are being about as honest about it as I've seen them be.

    The bonus figures get to be cover if the actual sub figure goes too far south – I get it, but basically you are admitting that you have so little confidence in your own competance that it's kind of sad. Your plan B is going to dictate just how unecessarilly messy and expensive your plan A is going to be for the poor suckers that only want to buy your toys. Wonderful.

    World's Least Competent TOY Company – what a refreshing slogan that would be.

  10. All these Mattel problems point to two issues for me:

    1) they don't have a reliable Chinese manufacturer. Are the Chinese becoming so expensive that Mattel can't even utilize first-rate Third World manufacturing?

    2) The Mattel brass are nervous about committing to this IP. They won't increase production numbers and they are instituting a subscription to test out whether or not there will be considerable interest in this line going forward at least a year. My prediction is that the line won't exist after next summer or it will be subscription only. How many of these figures can they sell in substantial numbers?

    IMO they will run out of characters sooner than later: Zodac is a good example of a toy that sold out to scalpers at isn't holding his secondary market value like He-Man and the rest. You'll see the same thing I think with Wun-Dar and Scare-Glow.

    The line has some major hits incoming, and I really hope it sticks around long enough for me to grab a Battlecat and Battle Armor He-man, but I just don't see it lasting long enough or selling well enough for Mattel to invest much more than already have. No matter all the bitching and moaning, these damn things sell out within an hour.

  11. So it makes me wonder, will there be a bonus figure every month? This could start to become very expensive. For instance in December when Randor is release, Green Goddess is being released as the bonus figure, and that being one that I really want, I'll have to spring for that. But wait, there's more, Ray Stanz is coming out that month too, so thats three figures I'm buying from Mattel which is $60 right there, nevermind tax and s&h. Of course theres nothing saying you have to buy everything, but it just seems like they're heading in the direction of giving us too much product. Looking even further down the line, in Feb, we've got Trap Jaw and Battle cat going on sale… but does that mean there will also be a bonus figure that month too? Not to mention Ghost Busters Ghost Containment Unit with bonus Walter Peck figure is being released that month too!

  12. I think the major problem here is that Mattel is not good at handling collector's boys toys lines (at least action figures) combined with the fact that nobody has tried something like this before on this scale. The fact that they're a very conservative company hasn't helped them much, either.

  13. It's kinda hard for me to be too mad at Matty for not having faith in the line – after all, how long ago was it that everyone was saying, "oh, this line'll tank!" and then "oh, figures only sell out quickly because of scalpers!"?

  14. plain observation, but they're overdoing it… if you can't even ensure you can out 1 figure a month, you (as the world's largest toy company) have much bigger issues at play than trying to throw me 2 or more toys a month. they stick w/ 1 until they have down pat, exactly the right production numbers and consistant, reliable web service… THEN graduate to more than one product a month.

    i still think it's overload. if they did 3 bonus items a year, an extra figure, a vehicle, and an army builder 2 pack, that would be PLENTY of product to keep he-fans coming back.

  15. @prfkttear: Battle Cat IS the bonus that month.

    BTW, I love how you consider the containment unit accessory the main attraction and Walter Peck the bonus. 🙂

  16. I don't like their excuse for why the bonus figs can't be added, like others stated, it makes no sense. it also worries me that they are already apologizing in advance if figures don't come out on time.

    if there were only 2-3 bonus figs or re-releases throughout the year i'd be fine but it looks like there is extra stuff EVERY month which will incur extra shipping charges.

    MY SOLUTION- give each subscriber a promo code that is tied directly to their account that they can only use once a month that gives them 10% off if they place an additional order. i think that is fair and would help alleviate people's concerns about the added extra costs.

  17. Thomas… Pure genius! A solution that would help. I signed up for the bonus figure. And at least with the way it is now I won't be forced into getting reissues and minor repaints, like Tatooed Zodac.

  18. "A promo code? Sorry, to do that Mattycollector would have to be reprogrammed to accept promo codes–what? We already can? Oh…then how about just 'no'?"

  19. Another update on Facebook:

    We know a lot of fans are still asking about combining shipping on bonus figures and subscription orders. For this, we went right to our friends at Digitial River for an answer:

    "Unfortunately this functionality does not exist because the purchases are from two different transactions. Each transaction is sent individually to the warehouse, which has a unique fulfillment request sent through an integration from Digital River to the DCL warehouse. There is no way to combine separate transactions into one fulfillment request. Furthermore, shipping rates are billed based on weight. There isn’t a way to view a previous transaction, extract the weight from that transaction, add it to the second transaction, and recalculate the shipping cost for the total weight."

    -We've been through every possible scenario and unfortunately there just is not a way to work this for 2010. We will do our best to get ahead for 2011 and possibly add the "bonus" figures into the 2011 subscription, but for this first full year in 2010, the scubscription will only include the figures of the month.

    We'll keep working on things to make this the best buying experience possible. I think we've made leaps and bounds since we launched last summer and the site crashed when you tried to make a purchase! We can't solve every issue overnight, but we are commited to working with the fans and doing all we can to make imporvements as we go along! One step at a time for better toys and happier fans!

    Check out the first paragraph. Does this mean they didn't ask DR about this until today? Not when, say, they were planning the whole bonus figures thing in the first place?

  20. They need to replace Digital River. It's obvious they are not very technologically advanced and the Mattel tech guys stay faaaar away from matty collector.

  21. Do we know when the subscription ordersd will be filled out? I.E. on the 15th of each month? When they get them in will they be automatically shipped?

    If they don't fill sub orders until say the day after the 15th, then fans who order bonus figures, or figures from other lines should be able to add their "user name" or subscription "promo code" to their bonus figure order thereby adding it all into one order for the people who handle the shipping.

  22. i love how they're saying it's technologically impossible to do things bbts and amazon have been doing for the better part of the last decade… yeah, thanks matty, way to do the leg work there! yeah, they need to can digital river YESTERDAY! they're techtards!!

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