Until the sub period ends on August 6 or there’s some actual news to report, this post is going to represent a hiatus on my Club Eternia 2013 coverage, as this will officially flog the horse to paste.
I was intrigued by this comment Rustin Parr made a few days ago:
I’d argue too that the subscription is also at fault because it created a false perception of security and success to the Team and Mattel. Because the bulk of us had put in for everything we simply lost our ability to “vote with our dollars” and help guide the team on what kinds of figures and price points were actually desired and viable.
Obviously variations of this argument have been made over the years – often in discussions regarding Mattycollector offering pre-orders – but Rustin articulates it succinctly here. More than once, a figure was revealed that I probably would never have bought in a store for the same price. To its credit, this made MOTUC a wonderfully inclusive line; small subsets of the fandom got figures that a more traditional mass market release would never have gotten around to. But Rustin’s right: denied an ability to vote for specific characters with our dollars (and in fact, forced to subscribe before even knowing half the product we’d be paying for), we had virtually no control over character selection or price point – aside from whether or not we subscribed the following year.
This year, it seems, collectors are indeed voting with their dollars – and suddenly, they’re being listened to.
There’s a touch of irony, too, in the fact that the subscription itself came about because of fans requesting it. For an entire year, every figure was day-of-sale. The subscription model allowed Mattel to produce sufficient amounts of MOTUC to meet demand, but once demand went down, the subscription model became not only a liability but a potential death sentence.
The truth, I think, is that giving fans on an Internet forum what they say they want isn’t always the best idea, even for a niche toy line. I’m not sure Mattel should have added the bonus quarterly figures to the subscription; those were originally designed to serve as fill-ins should a figure be delayed, but with the subscription model they became another $80 subscribers had to spend every year (minus shipping)…and then the delays happened anyway…a lot.
Similarly, there’s the issue of the large figures/beasts. After Battle Cat sold out instantly, fans – including, I’ll admit it, me – clamored for beasts to be added to the sub so that we’d never again have to wait six months for the figure to be re-released. But Tytus, Megator, Gygor, the Shadow Beast, Swift Wind and the Griffin never sold as well as the iconic Battle Cat or even Panthor. In hindsight, the large beasts/vehicles, due to their higher price points, were never going to sell the way a popular regular figure did. They should have all remained external to subscriptions. It would have made some of the more vocal fans gnash their teeth, but in the long run, it might have been better for the line.
Then there’s the 30th Anniversary subscription. This should have been an easy win for Mattel, but instead it was a disappointment at best and a near-disaster at worst, with only two unquestionably well-received figures: Draego-Man and Castle Grayskullman. There’s an infinity of other directions Mattel could have taken with the 30th sub, and the best ones all involve paying attention to what collectors actually buy – not what they say they want, but what they buy. Characters with strong sword-and-sorcery elements (i.e., Vikor, Draego-Man) always sell well, especially to the casual collectors. Spandex-clad superheroes do not. I don’t think we should underestimate the bad taste the 30th Anniversary sub has left in many collectors’ mouths (and their wallets).
Returning to the Club Eternia 2013 subscription: in reading the comments on my previous Poe’s Point, I developed a slightly modified take on what may have happened this year.
- The “casual” MOTUC collectors will soon have most major vintage Masters of the Universe (not POP, NA, 200X, and so forth) character, with the significant exception of Ram Man. Combine that with what I’m seeing as a pretty significant crowding by rival lines right now (the return of Marvel Legends, new Ninja Turtles toys, NECA’s great run right now, Mattel and DC Collectibles superhero stuff, and everything Hot Toys), I can see why many casual collectors have chosen this year to stop subscribing. They all probably figure they can get a Ram Man on the secondary market.
- Most importantly, as casual fans have dropped off due to character selection, diehard fans have been driven away by the ongoing customer service issues.
- Finally (and this is less of an issue), with most of the core vintage characters done, many diehard collectors have splintered as they push their respective preferred faction (POP, Snake Men, Horde, NA, 200X); the end result is no one is completely happy with whatever future offerings are revealed, and a significant number are unhappy enough to not subscribe. (Particularly POP fans. More and more, I think Mattel should have tried POP as a separate sub, maybe during the peak years of 2010-2011.)
All that said, I suspect that next year’s Club Eternia will make it – just barely. But just as Club Infinite Earths barely made it last year to die (what looks like will be) an ignominious death this year, I don’t see how there will be a Club Eternia for 2014.