Mattel is laying the groundwork for an announcement (presumably at SDCC) of a major price increase on Masters of the Universe Classics (including for subscribers) in 2013. In answer to a question about the diminished paint applications on the Horde Prime production figure compared to the prototype, Mattel’s Scott “ToyGuru” Neitlich wrote:
The Horsemen tend to “overdeco” figures. Every figure in 2012 is delivering $22.00 worth of paint apps. In 2013 we are dramatically raising prices so we can afford more paint and accessories. If we wanted to deliver all the figures exactly as the 4HM painted the protos we would need to charge more and we already sold in the sub for 2012, so that is not an option. Legally we can’t raise prices on the sub after it is sold in. This is why we will start 2013 at higher prices.
While some fans have taken issue with the “overdeco” comment, I suspect the Four Horsemen tend to put more detail into the prototypes with the expectation that some of it will be removed/downgraded for the production figure. (Basically, Mattel will look to cut corners on whatever they provide, so the more detailed the Horsemen go – in sculpt and paint – the more detail there is on the final figure – in theory, anyway.)
Neitlich later expanded on the reasons behind the cost increase:
Labor and raw material have gone up. Factors we have zero control over.
We are not making any more margin on the figures. Our margins (i.e. profit for non biz majors)are flat. Price increases are 100% because the raw cost to produce the figures has skyrocked since 2008. We could keep prices at 2008 costs, but then we would need to majorly reduce accessories and deco.
Just look at retail lines. 3 3/4 figures at retail are over 10.00 in 2012 and 6″ figures are between 16 and 20. We just can’t produce these figures for what we could in 2008 when we set prices.
We are choosing to increase prices in 2013 vs cost reduce the figures (like we had to do in 2012 removing deco and accessories). It was a tough call!
This should not come as a surprise to anyone, because MOTUC has had the same price since 2008 while every major toy line’s prices have gone up (even Marvel Legends sell for $20 at TRU, and they’re produced in much larger numbers). While Mattel hasn’t announced what the new price will be, I’d put my money on $25 apiece.
As you’d expect, this has elicited expressions of outrage in some quarters, support from others, and cynical disdain from others. One topic that comes up a lot is that it’s wrong to increase the price when so many QC problems are still occurring, to which Neitlich responded:
We always do our best to control QC. There is never a guarantee that there will not be QC issues but we do our best to control them. All figures are assembled and painted by hand so their will always be some level. You simply can’t eliminate this fully. There is always human error. But we are committed to doing our best!
I don’t think that’s going to ease many minds, but there it is.
Setting the QC question aside – it’s an important one, but sadly, not one I think Mattel is going to address – my question is this: will this price mean we will get more with MOTUC figures in 2013 than we currently are – more accessories, more paint apps – or is it necessary simply to preserve the current status quo? I suspect it’s the latter.
So, what are my thoughts on this? The price increase was expected and inevitable, and I think the line could have weathered it fairly well, with minimal fan outrage, if the line hadn’t suffered so many problems with quality control, Digital River’s shipping and customer service, and recent fan disappointment over issues such as weak figures like Snake Man-At-Arms and several of the 30th Anniversary figures.
That said, I do think the line will continue in 2013, but personally I’m not even sure I’ll be subscribing. The pull of being a completist is strong, but I now have more than a few MOTUC figures I have little or no interest in. In order to make the 2013 sub more palatable (and working on the assumption Mattel will continue not to offer tiered subscriptions), my recommendations are:
- Remove the quarterly figures (their purpose – to fill in when a monthly figure runs late – is obviously moot now, since we’re getting monthly figures late all the time) and simply make those guises (e.g., Ice Armor He-Man), part of the monthly line, so more money can be spent making them good figures;
- At most, make 1-2 large figure/beasts a year
Twelve monthly figures and two beasts (figuring the beasts are around $45) works out to $390; with shipping you’re up to about $550 or so. Over twelve months that works out to $45/month, or the price of a cheap utility bill – something I think most current subscribers could deal with.
I’ll leave you with this surprisingly fatalistic comment from Neitlich:
We will keep the line going as long as their are customers buying. But, yes, as I stated on Roast Gooble dinner, one day these figures will cost more to make then fans are willing to pay. Hopefully that day will be far in the future.