For those of you who don’t visit the Mattycollector forums, it appears that ToyGuru has stopped posting as frequently, but another moderator, “Catra’s Wrath,” is a font of interesting information. You can check out some of her posts by clicking here.
I’m not sure whether CW works for Mattel or Digital River–she could just be a fan they hired as a moderator, for all I know. But oddly enough, CW’s posts have provided a more intimate peek into Mattel’s behind-the-scenes thinking on MOTUC. Here’s a sampling.
So onto your question. I will try to answer it the best I can, but obviously I can’t go into certain details, so bear with me and I hope you can understand!
Ok: Mattel signed the original distribution contract with Digital River, because they were the only company that could offer international shipping for the line.
This (by standard toy line standards) is such a small line, that it had to be a distribution deal at a cost that was viable.
The servers for the website, at the time, were capable of coping with the ‘expected’ demand, since no one knew that the line was going to take off like it has. The production numbers have been upped several times now to cope with the demand, it was totally unexpected.
When signing a contract with any company you are locked in for a set time period.
As the fan base has grown, so has the traffic volume to the website, pushing the DR server to its limits, the numbers are upped every time the demand rises, but the figures go on the line 6 months prior to release, so every time the demand rises – the numbers are upped but don’t take effect for 6 months – during which the demand builds again, so you’re constantly trying to ‘catch up with yourself’ and as the line grows, so does the traffic to the website, so does the capacity gets tested even more.
As the line expands and grows it means more potential for the line, which is great, but it also brings with it more sales, AND more people who haven’t managed to get one, and it also pushes the IT systems to the limit.
I know this doesn’t give you a lot of details, I can’t supply those i’m afraid, however hopefully this provides you with enough information to understand the situation and some of the issues at hand.
[MOTUC] is a small line with a very small budget – the fanbase is not big enough to encourage massive investment.
To employ a distribution company and be locked into a contract is very expensive, you’re paying for a whole warehouse for the storage of the stock, inventory staff, machinery, vehicles, staff, customer service staff, managers, IT systems – the lot. This is NOT cheap.
To find a distribution company that can deliver an international service PLUS a server capable of the international orders influx all at one time, plus supply all the staff/machinery/vehicles etc – on such a small budget is extremely hard, especially one that can supply the kind of shipping prices that DR does – another company would charge far more for international orders.
The line is a small one, to keep a line going you have to make enough profit back on your investment to allow you to continue to invest in new toolings and keep it going. If you spend all the profit on the distribution company then you’re left with nothing else to plough into the line – and then the line ends.
I hope that clears it up somewhat. This is a complicated business, it’s not as black and white as people may assume.
The server is part of the problem yes – but here’s the other part.
The server is Digital River’s server.
Digital River are the only distribution company that will deliver internationally, hence why Mattel chose to go with them in the first place and sign into a contract.
So there is the catch-22 of the situation.
When the contract began no one realised how big the MOTUC line was going to be, the server capacity was thought to be powerful enough to go cope, as no one expected the line to take off the way it has!
Because the line is so important internationally and there are many many fans in europe, especially in the UK, France, Germany and Spain, it was important to get a distribution deal with a company that would provide international shipping.
DR could offer that, and a server capacity that could cope with the ‘expected’ traffic.
The line has taken off massively though. It’s a different server situation to buying from say amazon as they don’t have thousands of people worldwide trying to access the site at exactly the same time from all across the planet.
So it’s a tricky one i’m afraid, and Mattel are doing all that can be done to make things run smoothly, but obviously the fan base is getting bigger and bigger (which is great for the line and its future possibilities) but it also of course brings issues with it as it grows with capacity.
Am I posting all this as a way to say, “See, they’re aware of their problems, give them a break?” Nah. Draw whatever conclusions you like. I just thought it was interesting.