MOTUC to Have “Dramatic” Price Hike in 2013

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.


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  1. muldertp

    But Scott (or the randomly chosen Q&A team) has continued to state that MOTUC is very profitable when it suits his needs (i.e. to assure collectors the line will continue). Whenever it comes to price or qc, the line isn’t profitable. I know you said you didn’t want anyone calling anyone a liar. I won’t say that. It is indisputable that he has made many inconsistent statements such as that, which has created distrust from the fanbase.

  2. How did DR post such a long rant when I tried to post a few short paragraphs and I was told it was "too long"? XD

    Character selection in 2013 is key too… as you mentioned I have more than a few figures I really don't care for, and TBH I really don't care for Horde Prime OR Snake Man-At-Arms, so those are just a couple examples.

    IF they can come to us saying they'll deliver more accessories or better QC/paint apps, that might ease my mind as well.

    Otherwise I'm feeling quite content with my collection and save for a few important characters (Fisto, Mantenna, Mek-A-Nek, Ram Man, Clamp Champ, etc.) I could bow out and not need to get my hands on other NA/POP characters.

    I'll give them this — at least they're being up front and aren't trying to softsoap things.

    • Regarding the paragraph thing – honestly I have no idea. Things are input a few different ways (mobile vs. PC), and sometimes IntenseDebate is or isn't working, so I think that can affect things.

  3. I hope this is just a poor choice of wording…

    Its been weighing heavily on my mind lately as to whether or not I will be subscribing next year. A two or three dollar increase per-figure I could live with but $25 is just about my tipping point. If its any more I really don't think I could, in good conscience subscribe.

    There are a few cavieats: If they do-away with the quarterly figures, thus reducing yearly sub cost by approx $100 AND even further recude the cost by cutting down on the large beasts (I really don't need or want Catra's panther or King Grayskull's steed) then that would asuage my concerns as well.

  4. Valo487

    I’m ok with it overall, I still love the line despite the QC nonsense and Scott’s inability to not rile up the fans AKA the paying customers, although I will be more critical of the product they offer once the price increase happens because I’m paying more, regardless what the reasons might be, so while I’m more or less ok with Stinkor’s swapped arms, I don’t believe for a second it was a deliberate choice but I’m willing to let it slide, but if I’m paying more in the future I’m not going to be a tolerant of QC issues in the future even if they don’t bother me much, because I’m paying more. I know the price increase is not related to QC, but if they’re expecting more money for their product, for ANY reason, they will be held more accountable, so brave yourself Matty, you thought the fans were bad now….

  5. muldertp

    I’m already at the breaking point and this may seal it.

    In these brick and mortar comparisons, you also have to factor in that the physical stores are factoring shipping into their price. It’s not fair to compare unshipped prices to the store prices. When you do that, it makes TRU prices look reasonable.

    I only got the sub this year for Shadow Weaver, a figure I’ve wanted since I was 5.

    Since then, I’ve had constant issues with Digital River (apart from slow shipping…I’ve become more patient lately and that doesn’t bother me, but I understand how it can bother others).

    On April 27 I got 2 emails saying my sub was renewing (more than 2 weeks before the sale). Then I got an email this week telling me my credit card was expiring and I had to call to change it or I won’t get my sub figures. Problem is, neither card I’ve given them is expiring. I’m convinced this is phishing related to the security breach and I’m not going to leave my card info with them a second longer than it takes to get my final JLU figures.

  6. stack32

    I think MOTUC already offers pretty mediocre value (compare practically any figure to the new MS Hulk), so this might stop me from even cherry picking the last few figures I'm interested in.

  7. Monkey boy

    Here’s some points. Take em how you will.
    -TRU price for ML (and other products) is not consistent and varies by area. Some charge $20, others $18. However, TRU is a brick and mortar store, so I expect prices to be a little higher. Mattel doesn’t have the same overhead for MOTUC. Also as others have noted ML costs substantially less at WM and target (I got a fantomex for $15).

    -when you add on shipping and “mystery tax” these figures really become cost prohibitive to purchase. It’s one thing to accept a $25 price on a figure thats pretty mass market in terms of quality (they even follow mass market safety standards) but when that price ends up closer to $35-$40 factoring in all the extra charges, no thank you.

    -if each figure is made by hand you’d expect somebody to notice the QC issues. A smaller run of toys with more hands-on interaction with the production, you expect more oversight, not less.

    -I don’t think you’ll see a marked difference in the figures, at least not for the better. It sounds like this “dramatic” increase is to maintain status quo.

    -scott neitlich’s people skills are just…just awful. Though I have to respect the man for not sugar coating it. He knows that this can only last so long, and MOTUC has done nothing to gain new collectors while it seems like every other day something drives more fans away. Nice to know he’s not blind to it.

    -if you ask me, MOTUC has been too expensive since day 1. Price hike after price hike will just make it easier not to bite.

  8. Frogster

    Depending, on the price increase, I may be reaching my threshold with this line as a subscriber also. The QC problems and general attitude I get from Mattel and Scott that perhaps they are doing us fans a favor by making MOTUC to begin with gets old and frustrating. Poe, forgive my detour through memory lane, but what initally drew me to your site was your coverage of MOTUC from your reviews and musings over the vintage poster art and so forth. I now rely on you first and foremost for most of my toy news so if anything for me that is a fond memory. I kind of feel you and collecting MOTUC go hand in hand since you loved it, but were fair and even keeled in your support and coverage. I never detected the irrational fanaticsm of perhaps other fan sites in covering the line so to read about your frustration as well and issues especially with how DR and Matty handled your Windraider was disheartening to me. Hopefully things improve with MOTUC from a fan's perspective including QC and customer service. Either way, thanks from a fan for bringing us great coverage and giving us a forum to air our opinions.

  9. ero

    I can live with $25. I mean, these have been pretty cheap in comparison to retail stuff. What I'd like for them to do is ditch any and all 200x weapons, heads and accouterments unless it's a specific character like Marzo, et al. (Although I'm fine ditching more of those guys, too. :P)

  10. clark

    I prefer you not use Toys R Us or your MSRP; their prices seem to always be 30-40% higher than other mass retailers.

    Luckily, after Stinkor they will have made all of my must-haves. Then it just comes down to the occasional cool random figure, like Slush Head, that I’ll pick up.

    • I just did a search for Marvel Legends at, and the one result came up as $19.99…admittedly Target and Walmart are usually a buck or two cheaper, but not, in my experience, anywhere near 30%-40% cheaper than TRU.

    • Paddy Fitz

      Have you been to either store lately? Some recent examples of dramatically cheaper prices at Target vs. TRU:

      TF Prime Voyagers: $19.99 at Target, $26.99 at TRU
      TF Prime Cyberverse Commanders: $8.99 at Target, $13.99 at TRU
      Marvel Legends: $14.99 at Target, $19.99 at TRU
      Lego Superheroes Batman vs. Catwoman: $12.99 at Target, $17.99 at TRU

      TRU's always charged a little more than other big box retailers, but lately it's gotten out of hand.

    • clark

      I pulled the 30-40% out of my real-life experience.
      TRU: Marvel Legends $19.99, G.I. Joe $9.99, Thundercats 6" $14.99, Iron Man 6" figures $17.99
      Target: Marvel Legends $14.99, G.I. Joe $7.99, Thundercats $9.99, Iron Man 6" figures $12.99

      Some of those are cheaper at Walmart.

      Here are the ML figures at target, the ones in stock are $15:

    • Fair enough – TRU charges higher prices. The figures still sell out, from what I've seen.

      As for MOTUC, we're still talking about smaller production runs compared to a mass market line, which is going to raise the price of the figures.

      All that said, I simply don't know enough about what goes on behind the scenes to know to what degree Mattel is (or is not) profiting off this line, but I think most of what is discussed out there is simply speculation. I have yet to be in contact with someone with enough knowledge of what's going on behind the scenes to get the straight dope on MOTUC's profitability.

    • clark

      I wasn't trying to get in a bickering match, I just didn't want you to think I pulled my percentages out of my imagination. Perhaps I should have stated a wider range, such as 20-40% (and the 40% came from G.I. Joe when my TRU had them at $11 and Walmart had them at $6.67).

      Anyway, I was taking a jab at TRU (where I would never shop if they didn't carry Neca), not you and not Mattel even.

      I'm not going to pretend to know everything that goes on with the production of MOTUC figures. Quality control is going to be a bummer here and there (although Phil of recently pointed out to me that Mattel actually owns their own factories, so I would say the QC problems are still a Mattel problem, not an issue with a 3rd party with whom they have a contract). I'm just going to continue doing what I've been doing, which is determining on a figure to figure basis if he is worth to me what they're asking.

  11. Ridureyu

    They are going to cost as much as Revoltech soon.

  12. Monte

    That's it, I'm done collecting these toys!

    …I suppose that might have had more impact if I'd ever started collecting them.

    And yeah, Poe, I think you're mistaken to assume that "dramatic" suggests a $3 increase. I'd predict $30, easily. That said, perhaps that word was strategic, to get everyone speculating about $30 or $35 so that $27 or whatever doesn't seem so bad.

    • Well, for subscribers, $25 would be an increase of $5, not $3.

      And I'm basing my guess on how Mattel handled the last price increase of $2 for non-subscribers. To their credit, I remember getting the sense that they were very aware and up-front about this being a serious price increase; they didn't try to downplay it.

      I think Scott & Co. are aware that, in general, people's sensitivity to money issues is stronger than to figure tweaks or character selection or even to QC issues. There are undoubtedly a lot of collectors – people who never post here or on – who collect MOTUC and don't care all that much about the characters themselves or even notice many of the QC issues, like reversed shoulders or doubled Swiftwing limbs.

      But everyone notices when their toys cost more. So I think the "dramatic" was possibly a somewhat ill-considered attempt to worry people so much that $25 won't seem so serious.

      I will be genuinely surprised (and probably not subscribing) if the price per figure for subscribers goes up to $30.

  13. FakeEyes22

    I say go ahead and knock the price up by $5. Maybe slightly more.
    1) I hope this is to make each release as great as possible. I understand prices are skyrocketing all around. I’d like to see this be the only line with quality that improves with a price hike, unlike retail stuff that’s been shrinking/losing articulation with the 2012 increases.

    2) There’s got to be something that can be done about the shipping. A $5+ increase will sting a lot less if shipping can be dropped slightly, combined more cost effectively for the consumer, or at the very least made to arrive in under 10 days. $15 shipping got me a box larger than Battle Cat shipped from a Hong Kong store in half the time of a Matty order. Figure out why our orders are taking extended vacations in shipping partner facilities.

    3) Sorry to everyone who doesn’t subscribe, but a sub should absolutely come with at least a slight discount like it did this year. It’s the way it works for magazines and just about everything else in the history of ever.

    • As I said in my post, I think MOTUC could have weathered this price increase with minimal problems if there weren't the very obvious and ongoing problems with Digital River and quality control. It's a good thing Scott says the line can survive if sub orders are cut in half, because while unlikely, I don't think that's outside the realm of possibility, even at a $5 hike.

    • Pixel Dan

      I agree with that statement, Poe. The overpriced and slow shipping, the DR problems, the QC issues…all of that makes it much harder to swallow a price hike. I think you're right about it being less of an "issue" if we didn't have all of that other stuff going on.

    • dayraven

      fakeeyes… i would agree w/ your statement about the sub… if the matty sub worked like any other sub on the planet. if you’re going to compare subscription models, i would ask why there’s a VERY short widnow in which to sign up for the matty sub… why, like every other sub on the planet, do not they not keep enrollment open all year? we see in lots of subs now tiered offerings, or tiered durations for a sub (like several bacon of the month clubs give a 3 month, 6 month or 12 month sub option, and have choices for the amount of bacon purchased) yet matty has one sub model… and unlike most subs, there’s no opt out. while many subs apply a fee for an early out, there’s almost universally an opt out function. and in general, most subscription services guarantee the product you’re getting… like, if you got a sports illustrated and a chunk of pages weren’t printed, they’d pay to get you a corrected copy… or just not f*** it up in the first place.

      and honestly, i would be completely about the subbers getting a discount or an exclusive or whathaveyou… but then, you can’t raise prices for only the day-of folks while publicly stating that the 20 dollar price point is costing the whole fanbase accessories and paints. the sub pricing, this year, was a mistake, and i’m one of the guys paying to keep the line rolling. that’s not fair to the day-of folks at all (not that it’s fair to the subbers either… there’s no excuse for not having their pricing in order)

  14. carl

    This IS all about profit margins, and Scott should REALLY stop lying every 5 minutes. His credibility is already in the toilet… keep an eye on which sites *don’t* run this story too…

    Taken for the ass!

    • I understand people are upset, but I'd prefer we didn't accuse anyone of lying without providing specific examples.

  15. Dead Man Walking

    Doesn't Mattel know? More money, more problems…

  16. I think "dramatic" might indicate it's closer to $30!

  17. Well, time for me to become even more of a cherry picker than I already am.

    I'm getting Stinkor this month, I will get Mosquitor later this year, and after that I really just need Ram Man, Mek-A-Nek, Mantenna (to complete the original 4 Horde members), and Rio Blast and I'm personally finished.

  18. misterbigbo

    The price hike was obviously inevitable, but I am concerned about his use of the term “dramatic”. For someone whose job is PR, he sure does shoot himself in the foot quite often while “managing our expectations”. . .

    I am also surprised at the lack of interest Mattel seems to have in regards to softening these blows. Not that I expect them to give freebies in exchange for poor CS, terrible QC, the delays, but maybe some outside the box thinking could help. More meaningful fan involvement, like contests or character selections, may get people involved positively.

    It just seems to me that when Scott isn’t managing damage control, he’s busy telling us what he or Mattel CAN’T DO.

    • But if the price hike turns out to be $4 or $5 for subscribers and not the $10 people are fearing, wouldn't that actually be pretty good (if manipulative) expectations management, because suddenly $25 won't seem so bad? Hell, that's already starting to happen on the boards.

      As for fan involvement, it's very clear that a combination of corporate ignorance, managerial control freakishness, litigious paranoia, and – to be fair – over-zealousness on the part of some fans is strangling any chance that happening.

  19. Mysterious Stranger

    I'm with you Poe on next year's sub. I only got this years to get Shadow Weaver and Sorceress. There are no more classic characters that I need from this line. I have gotten all of the figures I had as a kid so I could have stopped after Man-E-Faces and been okay with picking up on day of sale. I just didn't want to miss out on Sorceress and Shadow Weaver so I got the stub this year. Next year though I can 99.9% guarantee I'm out.

    I'd expect the price hike to be closer to $30. They've already hiked the price of day of stock a couple bucks, so I see a "dramatic" price hike being closer to $27-28 which I think will kill the line, if not in 2013 then 2014 for sure. There aren't any major characters left (except Ram-Man) and POP and NA can't sustain the line as the majority of the figures.

  20. dayraven

    please forgive the mini-rant, it's about to get real up in this piece.

    the guy is a serious tool, firstly… his methods of delivering information remind me of the doctor from family guy.

    that aside… let's talk shop for a moment… i don't think 25 a fig is at all out of the realm of possibility, and honestly, i don't think 30 is far off… what scott isn't saying in correlation to the price hike, is what that hike is buying. he doesn't even have to get specific, it could be something as simple as "this price hike will preserve the kind of per figure commitment that fans have come to expect from figs like man at arms and fisto." that's not really telling us much, but it gives us an idea, by invoking images of figs we liked, we emotionally embrace the idea of more figs w/ good heads, good QC, weapons, etc… rather than letting our minds wander to shouldergates 1-3, the ever-ongoing anklegate, crotchgate, dropped accessories, mishandled wind raiders, reduced paint aps, week and a half ship times… etc. but that's not what he did.

    and for me personally, i would imagine because there's no promise or even implied offer of a continuance of kind. notice he hasn't even hinted that that's the case. the QC statement is basically saying "the new price will not buy fixed QC, bird's gotta fly and all." so we know that's not on the table… but what is? he's not offered any statement at all on the subject, "the price hike means we can get to the accessories we dropped this year" or "the price hike ensures we can keep the line as is" and certainly no "the price hike means we can open up new possibilities for deco, accessories, and certainly, improved QC." and he's not saying it, cuz it's not true. i don't think the price hike is necessarily for maintenance of any aspect of the line, save the profit margin.

    and i say that, because i'm a day-of buyer… the guys they marginalized, remember? "we need a price hike to keep the line going" but also "we're reducing the number of day-of-sales so the subbers feel more special" well that's hilarious, because PERHAPS if they were selling more 22 dollar figs, we wouldn't be having this discussion right now. but they're not, by their own hand. i'm one of the small percent that got reduced for the 2012 sub year who is not important enough to get cool exclusives, but i'm certainly required when they can't calculate their costs out for a year to develop an adequate pricing scheme. right about now, they SHOULD be offering all the day-of buyers free shipping for the year or something, as a thank you for keeping the dream alive while their piss poor bean counters are flop-sweating a dusting of red spray paint from an airbrush. he's talking about their margins of sale being totally OK, that the line is doing well… if that's so, if the line is fine, why is the margin so tight that that dusting of red paint is a factor for horde prime that is 'make or break" for the fig to cost out. the line is at her financial limit, they've proven that… despite the rampant part re-use that is supposed to save the production end of costs. and which we're still in on… how many new parts are there in spector? new head, new left forearm, spade harness and gun? that's 4 new pieces, on a fig of what, 30 re-used pieces? if the expense of toys is the initial molding costs… man, i have to say, that's done. the minimal use of paint in the line doesn't inspire sympathy for their paints costs either.

    it seems like they're trying to sell me on the idea that because the on tai factory workers haven't been going to the bathroom enough lately, they're passing the fines the factory isn't collecting on to my bottom line. how exactly is some poor family making 35 dollars a week last year, now making 36 dollars a week costing me 2 dollars more this year, and very likely 3 dollars more next? it doesn't compute, labor, transportation, etc… are extrapolated across the entire production run… if they're not making their margin, they're not selling enough units. a price hike will only serve to reduce the potential customer base. which of course means they'll sell less, so they'll need to price hike…

    that said, i love your idea poe, remove the quarterly figs and reduce the number of deluxe slots… but that would, if presented to the higher ups, likely not work out because it would mean less product for us to buy, and they need us to buy, relentlessly, while the iron's hot. they already know that, to make their nut, they need to sell X number of units at 20 bucks a pop, and Y additional units at 22… if we drop the number of units available to be bought, they would have to raise the per unit cost to keep their nut. if you can figure a way around that, i'll back your idea all over the bloomin' web. 😉

    • Well, I would assume – note the word – that if they eliminated quarterly figures and minimized deluxe figures while raising the price to $25/figure, that would allow them to do a better job on the figures they actually produce, with more accessories, detail, and paint apps.

      So overall, that's less tooling (esp. if there are fewer deluxes) for figures that will most likely be more popular, thereby allowing them to make as much, if not more, per figure. If it's combined with a strong campaign to fix DR's customer service and improve QC (looooong shot there, I realize), MOTUC might be able to regain some of its collector buzz.

      And if they really want to get the buzz back, skip the deluxe figures entirely in 2013 (though it would make me sad never to get a Tyrantisaurus…) and make a few Grayskull diorama pieces.

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