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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19 Comments

  1. Jack Static

    I expect $25, $30 is pushing it, and at the line where people will still subscribe, but $31 people will stop, i believe matty will do the $25 and gove themselves the room foor that last final price increase in a few years

  2. Enigma_2099

    Price increases… let's see if the quality follows suit…

    Oh who am I kidding, this is MATTY!!!

  3. Zach S.

    $25 or even $30 is fine by me…I love these figures.

    That said, I totally agree with eliminating the extraneous figures altogether (quarterly, anniversary, etc). Why do they keep expanding the line, then complaining about how much it costs? They're going sub or bust, trying to pump as much stuff into the sub for automatic sales…only issue is that isn't working because sub sales are down (because of all the added unnecessary and unwanted figures). So they end up sitting on a lot of unsold merchandise that wasn't fan-demanded. They've created their own Catch-22 and try to blame us for it. Simplify it…sell us the monthly figure, forget trying to trick us into buying the Star Sisters or whatever…

    Seems to me that it was working pretty well back when they released one figure a month. Before the TRU exclusives, before the beasts, before the vehicles…they had a pretty good thing going.

    All that said, if we never get Ram Man and Two-Bad I will be terribly upset.

  4. Ridureyu

    I only got the warning on my computer, not my phone. I’ll check when I get home.

  5. Hey, just an FYI – for the last two days, I've been getting malware flags while visiting here. Is something goingon with the advertisers?

    • Huh…I don't know. It could be the blogads, but I wouldn't think so…I'll look into it.

    • I did a cleanup…are you still getting the malware warning?

    • Braystreet

      There's an error with a recent update to most Android phones where malware warnings come up due to internal processes of third-party applications and accuse web sites, but I can't say anything of ridureyu's phone, so that may not be the cause.

    • clark

      I too was getting the malware warning while using my laptop, but it seems to be gone now.

    • It all looks good now!

  6. Ridureyu

    Over decoding is an industry standard. I learned this from words
    FTP
    The D&D ministers developers. You ALWAYS put as much detail as you. An, so you can pick and choose which to keep.

  7. 3B_

    Unfotunately, I'm one of those that reads "dramatic increase" as being at least $30 a figure. My belief is that a tiered sub would have helped this line in the long run. I've never joined Club Eternia for the simple fact that I don't want EVERY figure, it's just way to expensive for me. However, if I had the option to sign up for just the 12 monthly figures + an exclusive figure, I would have joined from the beginning!

    Now they've backed themselves into a corner because I doubt they'll want to reduce the number of items sold in the sub and having a radical price increase will more than likely turn off a lot of fans. Even though I'm not a huge MotU fan, I'm saddened that they've managed to fracture the fanbase instead of growing it. This year's SDCC will prove to be a huge turning point not just for MotUC, but Matty Collector in general.

  8. AmericanHyena

    Cutting back would be fantastic. The quarterly figures REALLY need to be eliminated. I mean…what’s really left to do as a quarterly figure anyway?

    And I feel like I would be very content with two deluxe figures and a non-sub vehicle / play set a year.

    At this point I’m looking at passing on the sub this year but I have a sneaking suspicion the sub exclusive is going to be another crazy integral character because Mattel knows that’s the single best hook to strong arm someone into getting the sub. Although I’m not sure who they could get away with doing without fans just going apesh*t and revolting.

    • If they make the 2013 sub figure someone like Ram Man, I highly doubt fans will revolt. Instead, I suspect they'll just say "Okay, but this is my last year" and subscribe again.

      Aside from Ram Man (who makes sense as a sub figure because he'd need so much unique tooling), I can't think of a character who would draw in the fans to subscribe to the same degree. Maybe Modulok? Or a Filmation He-Man?

  9. until they announce an actual price, I will just assume the "dramatic" increase is $5 to $25, thats a 25% increase, which is actually alot, but i can GO to $30….. as long as they cut back on the number of figures per year. I honestly don't need too many variants, but ill be collecting this til the line ends. Ive personally had very small and minor issues, any problems i have had resulted in free figures cause of dr's incompetence, and i just enjoy the line. I just need like, 10 more specific characters and this collection will feel "complete" and everything else would be icing on the cake

    • i've been wishing they'd cut back for a while now. i really hope they do next year.

  10. Thebloodyawfulpoet

    I've been a cherry-picker, day of, for this line since the beginning. Honestly, a $5-$8 price hike won't change that. The few figs I bought this year I probably would have paid $30 for: draego-man, demo-man. Though, a price hike like that will discourage me from some of the figures I took a chance on: keldor, bg teela, etc.

    I think 2013 will be last year for motuc.

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