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Thread: How did the original line drop from 400 million in sales to 7 million in one year?

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    Let's get Crita in MOTUC! The All American's Avatar
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    How did the original line drop from 400 million in sales to 7 million in one year?

    This is a question that has baffled me ever since I heard about the "actual" numbers. It's difficult for me to imagine how hard MOTU fell within one year. Did Mattel ever say what they thought was the core contributing cause?

    Obviously, some of the major arguments out there are:

    -Failure of the 1987 film (based on the recent MOTU documentary preview, the sales drop was already taking place at this point)
    -Lack of a new cartoon/promoting the new characters
    -Kids getting tired of MOTU/the shelf life of most toylines is only a few years
    -Clogged up toy aisles (by 1987, perhaps most kids had the re-issued old figures that were sold in '85 and '86?)
    -Competing toylines overtook MOTU
    -Mattel got cocky and took their foot off the pedal


    So, what hurt sales enough for Masters of the Universe to drop from 400 million to 7 million in one year, and therefore cancel our favorite 80's toyline?

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    Hero of Eternia zodak74's Avatar
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    Probably kids "growing up" and getting interested in other things most likely accounted for a lot sales-droppin', resulting in the demise of MOTU.

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    Always Hungry.... Megalodon's Avatar
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    Overproduction...And if that's the case and they are SO many figures out in the secondary market why are we getting scalped on E-Bay if they are so common?

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    Plundor Promoter He-Dad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megalodon View Post
    Overproduction...And if that's the case and they are SO many figures out in the secondary market why are we getting scalped on E-Bay if they are so common?
    Because people keep paying the scalper prices....they're only worth what we're willing to dish out

  5. #5
    Let's get Crita in MOTUC! The All American's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zodak74 View Post
    Probably kids "growing up" and getting interested in other things most likely accounted for a lot sales-droppin', resulting in the demise of MOTU.
    I think would be the case for any kids that were 10 or over by the end of the line, but there was still a big market for new fans. G.I.JOE made it all the way to 1994.

    As for me, I was five years old by 1987 and MOTU was there from my earliest memories. I was heartbroken when the toyline faded away. Then New Adventures was the slap in the face.

  6. #6
    Heroic Warrior Night Stalker's Avatar
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    It wasn't just the MOTU line that died in '87, it was the action figure market in general.

    A good analogy can be drawn from the Great Videogame Crash of '83. Within a year the game industry dropped from over 3 billion dollars to something like 100 million- a tiny 3% of what it once was. MOTU still retained 28% of its previous year's sales, so in comparison it was pretty successful.

    MOTU, like Atari, was the great progenitor of the action figure boom of 82/83 and ushered in all the other great toy franchises of the 80's: GI Joe: ARAH, Transformers, Thundercats, etc; just like Atari paved the way for the Intellivision, Colecovision, etc.

    But you reach a point where the market just becomes too saturated to survive. For every Colecovision or Transformers, you had an Emerson Arcadia and MASK or Action Max and Sectaurs, or some other quickly invented item to cash in on the latest boom. Parents become fed up because they're being duly sent to the toystore every week for new crap and kids quickly grow bored with the same old thing.

    Personally, I think it was fate. Anything created for kids has a limited lifespan. The toy industry crumbled for awhile until TMNT came out, just like the game industry was resuscitated by the NES.
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    Human... Robot... Maniac Spacedust's Avatar
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    I think the toyline had in general run it's course.
    Although the 1987 movie didn't go down well with many (though personally I've always liked it), I don't think it had much of a direct impact on the overall franchise's fate. As others have mentioned, sales were already down. Sure it could have helped boost sales if done properly, but I don't really feel it was one of the nails in the coffin, so to speak.

    I think that for some, the line had become too unfocused - and as a kid, I was one of these. The line had started out as a barbarian, "swords & sorcery" line, with greek / roman myth and medieval overtones. It developed into more, but by late stages felt kinda too "throw anything in there" and too gimmicky, like it wasn't sure what it wanted to be any more. Although I've never stopped loving MOTU as a franchise and do like some of those late characters on "stand alone" coolness (Mosquitor, for example), the line just didn't appeal to me as it once did. For one thing, it felt too "gimmick first, character second" by the late days. Throw in POP - which again, is fine - but blurs the feel and emphasis of the overall line, and I think people were starting to turn away.

    As Night Stalker also well points out, the action figure also took a turn. Things generally became more darker, more edgier and adult-influenced. In part of this, as much as I do love it again on it's own merits, I think the Filmation series ultimately was part of the line's downfall - it had, especially during the second season, made the MOTU image seem very childish, almost babyish. Sadly the general public even now immediately associate MOTU with the Filmation cartoon, which always frustrates me ... if only the knew of the spectacular early, edgier mythos.

    Also, by about 1987, animation and action figures (and all things related) took a turn to be influenced by Japanese animation, manga / anime / whatever you care to class it as. Part of this was due to more and more animated shows being produced in Japan, but also early signs of US franchises being heavily influenced by such material (which grew and grew over the next 15 years - just look at MYP and 200x), and I think that "clean-cut, American-influenced MOTU" didn't quite fit into that feel. Although I enjoy Japanese animation and design on it's own appeal, I personally never took to this turn, and missed the "big, bold" American style.
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    Plundor Promoter He-Dad's Avatar
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    I know by the late 80's my figures started to fall by the wayside as I got into Nintendo. Video Games took priority in my tween/teen years. I think that's a big factor. Today, it seems more adults are into toys than kids are. My son still plays with the vintage figures on a daily basis....but only for an hour or so and then wants to play PS3 or Wii for an hour. I think there are lots of kids out there that prefer their "action figures" be on a tv screen and their adventures to be scripted and played out vs. in their imaginations. The only lines that seem to excell are those that Adults are clammoring to collect and scalpers are lining up to sell us!

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    According to what I've heard, despite warnings to the contrary, Glenn Hastings and Tom Kalinske at Mattel utterly flooded the market with MOTU in the Spring (after the Holidays). It was compared to shipping out massive amounts of Winter coats to stores in the middle of Summer. Retailers still had product and couldn't handle the huge influx which glutted the market during a time when people weren't buying as much.

    I'm sure that, coupled with video games and new trends coming into play, did it in.
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    Council Elder Tallstar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Penny Dreadful View Post
    Retailers still had product and couldn't handle the huge influx which glutted the market
    It was the same situation with the Princess of Power line as well, which will be briefly touched upon in my upcoming interview with a former Assistant Product Manager.

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    Quester JonWes's Avatar
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    Yeah, it seems like it was really more about flooding the line at the retail level. Retailers already had stock sitting that wasn't moving, so they ordered less. Remember, "sales" starts at the manufacturer to retailer level.

    I don't think most kids considered things like "oh, this is too gimmicky" or "I miss the barbarian stuff." Certainly not a conscious level. I do think there were some line extension ideas like the Meteorbs that felt odd to me and I wasn't interested (they were like knock-off Transformers to me) but I would have been up for more figures.

    To me, a few things came into play:

    1.) Flooding the market with new product. I'll say for me personally, finding He-man toys in my small town became impossible. I never saw the latter waves at all. The last figure I ever saw at retail (even in the larger nearby city at K-mart or Venture or Target) was Tung Lashor and it was the last figure I ever bought. I saw the others in catalogs years later, and I remember seeing a contest to win "Eternia" (which I thought was going to be the palace) but I never saw that playset until years later in a catalog. Also, She-ra stuff was hard to find too. I got She-Ra. But I never saw Swift Wind or Catra, both of which I wanted.

    2.) Ending the He-man and MOTU animated series. I watched She-Ra and enjoyed it, but I didn't buy many of those toys because they were so different and in my mind they really were for girls. And I really wanted to see more adventures with He-man and the original characters. Those were the characters I was most interested in. If they had kept that show going and it featured later toys like Snake Men, Rio Blast, Extendar and the like I think it would have supported toy sales more.

    3.) Kids did move on to other things. I do think kids can be fickle and move on to new, shinier things. So I think that plays a part of it. But if you are smart and rejuvenate your line from time to time it can survive. I actually think if the top 2 things had been handled better this would have been less of a factor.

  12. #12
    Let's get Crita in MOTUC! The All American's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Night Stalker View Post
    It wasn't just the MOTU line that died in '87, it was the action figure market in general.
    This, I didn't know, but makes sense. Toys were still popular to me from 1987-1989 (G.I.JOE and Real Ghostbusters), but TMNT seemed to restart the craze with the "must-have" action figures.



    Quote Originally Posted by Spacedust View Post
    I think that for some, the line had become too unfocused - and as a kid, I was one of these. The line had started out as a barbarian, "swords & sorcery" line, with greek / roman myth and medieval overtones. It developed into more, but by late stages felt kinda too "throw anything in there" and too gimmicky, like it wasn't sure what it wanted to be any more. Although I've never stopped loving MOTU as a franchise and do like some of those late characters on "stand alone" coolness (Mosquitor, for example), the line just didn't appeal to me as it once did.
    I agree, even as a 5 year old, I really thought Masters was losing its greatness. I thought King Hiss was kind of lame. Rio-Blast was definitely another "what the?" candidate. There were some great figures during the later years, but overall, it started to become a little too confusing with all these factions. I had no idea what to do with the Meteorbs.



    Quote Originally Posted by He-Dad View Post
    I know by the late 80's my figures started to fall by the wayside as I got into Nintendo.
    This is a really strong point. NES stole a lot of time (and dollars that parents used/or birthday money we got) from the action figures we collected in the late 80's. I didn't love videogames, but my older sister did, so this took away from a lot time we'd play with MOTU and POP. Didn't stop me from collecting MOTU, though



    Quote Originally Posted by Penny Dreadful View Post
    According to what I've heard, despite warnings to the contrary, Glenn Hastings and Tom Kalinske at Mattel utterly flooded the market with MOTU in the Spring (after the Holidays). It was compared to shipping out massive amounts of Winter coats to stores in the middle of Summer. Retailers still had product and couldn't handle the huge influx which glutted the market during a time when people weren't buying as much.
    Was this the spring of 1987? Did they do that in anticipation of the movie release? And what were they mainly flooding the market with, 1986 and 1985 MOTU/POP? I just don't remember seeing many 1987 figures out in my area.



    Quote Originally Posted by Tallstar View Post
    It was the same situation with the Princess of Power line as well, which will be briefly touched upon in my upcoming interview with a former Assistant Product Manager.
    Looking forward to that interview, Tallstar!



    Quote Originally Posted by JonWes View Post
    Yeah, it seems like it was really more about flooding the line at the retail level. Retailers already had stock sitting that wasn't moving, so they ordered less. Remember, "sales" starts at the manufacturer to retailer level.

    I don't think most kids considered things like "oh, this is too gimmicky" or "I miss the barbarian stuff." Certainly not a conscious level. I do think there were some line extension ideas like the Meteorbs that felt odd to me and I wasn't interested (they were like knock-off Transformers to me) but I would have been up for more figures.

    To me, a few things came into play:

    1.) Flooding the market with new product. I'll say for me personally, finding He-man toys in my small town became impossible. I never saw the latter waves at all. The last figure I ever saw at retail (even in the larger nearby city at K-mart or Venture or Target) was Tung Lashor and it was the last figure I ever bought. I saw the others in catalogs years later, and I remember seeing a contest to win "Eternia" (which I thought was going to be the palace) but I never saw that playset until years later in a catalog. Also, She-ra stuff was hard to find too. I got She-Ra. But I never saw Swift Wind or Catra, both of which I wanted.

    2.) Ending the He-man and MOTU animated series. I watched She-Ra and enjoyed it, but I didn't buy many of those toys because they were so different and in my mind they really were for girls. And I really wanted to see more adventures with He-man and the original characters. Those were the characters I was most interested in. If they had kept that show going and it featured later toys like Snake Men, Rio Blast, Extendar and the like I think it would have supported toy sales more.
    I grew up in the Baltimore Metropolitan area, and rarely saw any of the later figures. I remember my parents drove us about 45 minutes or so from our house to a new mall that had King Randor, Clamp Champ, and the Sorceress. I only got the final releases thanks to my father's business trips across the country (California was the best toy spot, so we were always happy when he had to go there) - he got me Blade, Saurod, Gwildor, Mosquitor, Scare Glow, and Ninjor in 1987 or 1988. I never remember seeing any of those figures in my area, or the Energy Zoids and the Powers of Grayskull dinosaurs.

    If Mattel flooded the market, it doesn't seem like they did it with many new products.

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    Quester JonWes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The All American View Post
    If Mattel flooded the market, it doesn't seem like they did it with many new products.
    That's the point. They flooded the market before those later items were released. So the later items became harder to find because retailers didn't order as much.

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    Heroic Warrior Night Stalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The All American View Post
    I grew up in the Baltimore Metropolitan area, and rarely saw any of the later figures. I remember my parents drove us about 45 minutes or so from our house to a new mall that had King Randor, Clamp Champ, and the Sorceress. I only got the final releases thanks to my father's business trips across the country (California was the best toy spot, so we were always happy when he had to go there) - he got me Blade, Saurod, Gwildor, Mosquitor, Scare Glow, and Ninjor in 1987 or 1988. I never remember seeing any of those figures in my area, or the Energy Zoids and the Powers of Grayskull dinosaurs.

    If Mattel flooded the market, it doesn't seem like they did it with many new products.
    Growing up in central NC, we had all of the later figures- BUT it seemed like they were only ever available at K-Mart. Places like Toys R Us and Kaybee Toys had seemingly phased out all of their newer MOTU stuff. But walk into any K-Mart and the shelves were overflowing with the movie figures, POG, King Randor, Clamp Champ, etc. I have no idea how well they were selling through that channel, but it seemed like all my friends also had the quote/unquote "rare" figures that came out at the end of the line.

    Somewhat off-subject, I remember feeling cheated when I walked into the store one day and saw King Randor sitting on the shelf. The original set-up was that you had to send in X amount of UPC proof of purchases in order to get him, as he wasn't available in stores. I was quite proud of having instructed my parents into sending off for him. Then when I saw him amidst all the other figures, I was like "But... but... they said he wouldn't be in stores! They LIED to me!"
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    Heroic Warrior hopewell's Avatar
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    I can tell you what it was for me and my grade school class. One day it lost its cool factor. The boys in my class were all united by a love for motu 82-85. It's all we talked about and brought the toys to school all the time. But by 1987 we were all 11. We splintered. Some us went to gi joe, some to transformers but most discovered sports, wwf, MTV, even girls. It spoke to a specific generation and then we grew up. Sure we noticed cool things like blade and that they finally made a sorceress figure but we were so over it by them. Most of us waited for VHS to even see the movie!

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    Eternian Henchman motu77's Avatar
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    I blame loss of interest in the line and boys looking to other hobbies. By the time I was 11 (in 1988) I was the only kid I knew who was still collecting/playing with MOTU. GI Joe, Transformers and TMNT were the toys that everyone went after. Also comics and baseball cards were gaining in popularity and were see as the cooler and more mature things to collect at that time. I missed MOTU so much I was actually excited to see the New Adventures stuff when it came out. Sadly it too would soon be gone and I would not get to see MOTU in the stores until the 2001 Comm Edition.
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    Heroic Warrior Akai's Avatar
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    TMNT was definitely the craze and by '89, MOTU seemed all but forgotten and nobody in my grade school even talked about He-Man. It was always TMNT and Nintendo.

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    Human Mutant Power! carlo's Avatar
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    what ticked me off the most, is that the line gets canned before he-ro and eldor were released.. everything was all set, then just bang, gone

    i just wished that they would have canned the line AFTER these POG figures were released.. the giants were released in europe, but not 2 more important pog figures with their 3 parter comics, grrrr..

    the motu film was not released in theaters until August 1987, but they canned pog before that
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    Heroic Warrior mk1138's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by He-Dad View Post
    Because people keep paying the scalper prices....they're only worth what we're willing to dish out
    that, and ton's just didn't survive. Once the legs broke, they were done for back in the day. Not to mention loss to attrition in the war with house pets. My vintage Man-At-Arms got turned in to Man-At-Arm...

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    Plundor Promoter He-Dad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mk1138 View Post
    that, and ton's just didn't survive. Once the legs broke, they were done for back in the day. Not to mention loss to attrition in the war with house pets. My vintage Man-At-Arms got turned in to Man-At-Arm...
    The only thing about them not surviving.....there are alot more of the earliest figures going for a lot lower prices then there are later figures that are deemed "rare". If it was a survival reasoning you would think the opposite would be true. I think it just has a lot to do with many areas not getting the later figures. There's probably a warehouse somewhere full of them...lol.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Night Stalker View Post
    It wasn't just the MOTU line that died in '87, it was the action figure market in general.

    A good analogy can be drawn from the Great Videogame Crash of '83. Within a year the game industry dropped from over 3 billion dollars to something like 100 million- a tiny 3% of what it once was. MOTU still retained 28% of its previous year's sales, so in comparison it was pretty successful.
    The "great video game crash of 1983" gets more and more embellished as the years pass. The impression given is that one day the video game industry just ceased to exist and that simply is not true. People got fed up with the sheer amount of garbage produced during the previous years and it finally caught up to the industry. I don't believe MOTU suffered for the same reasons. Rather, it was the amount of competition. This time period was one of great transition.

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    Heroic Warrior Night Stalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolarYellow View Post
    The "great video game crash of 1983" gets more and more embellished as the years pass. The impression given is that one day the video game industry just ceased to exist and that simply is not true. People got fed up with the sheer amount of garbage produced during the previous years and it finally caught up to the industry. I don't believe MOTU suffered for the same reasons. Rather, it was the amount of competition. This time period was one of great transition.
    I don't think it's over embellished, personally. The numbers don't lie, the companies/systems that crumbled over this period are indisputable, and my memories of walking into toystores and seeing stuff like the 2600 and the Colecovision marked down to 19.99 (and the games marked down to .99) are very vivid.

    I still think that the comparison is a good one. The fall of MOTU and the fall of the gaming industry were precipitated by shovelware/shovelfigures from the biggest name in the field (Atari/MOTU), a vast pool of lackluster competition/knockoffs, retailer frustration, and kids just moving on to the "next thing."

    I do find it funny that the Videogame market crashed just as the action figure market was hitting its peak. Then the action figure market crashed after the NES was released. Now it looks like Videogames have finally beaten the action figure market for the long run.
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    Heroic Warrior yeahthatsme1973's Avatar
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    By fall of 1986 I was in 8th grade and MOTU was definitely falling by the wayside with most of my friends. By that time it was sort of taboo to be playing with action figures although Transformers seemed to last a little bit longer. I remember secretly buying the new figures and not telling anyone. Even at that age I was a completist I guess. The Meteorbs really kind of ticked me off because there were sooooo many of them and very hard to find but I didn't feel like I had to have all of them. I managed to find all of the movie-based figures the following year and even threw down some grass-cutting money to buy me an Eternian Playset. Woot. But MOTU was never the same for me in 8th grade. I simply stopped wondering if there were new figures.

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    Heroic Warrior Dr_SLUMP's Avatar
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    In my humble opinion, She-Ra was responsible for the decline. I remember that when the cartoon came out, children we're very snobbish of the whole franchise thinking it had turned into a girly thing.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Night Stalker View Post
    I don't think it's over embellished, personally. The numbers don't lie, the companies/systems that crumbled over this period are indisputable, and my memories of walking into toystores and seeing stuff like the 2600 and the Colecovision marked down to 19.99 (and the games marked down to .99) are very vivid.
    Over embellished in the fact how the industry was still there and people were still gaming. The "crash" is made to seem like the movie "The Day After." Things became cheap. Quite cheap actually and even then it was still hard to make the sale. People were fed up with the production of garbage. E.T. certainly didn't help matters. The amount of garbage produced during this period absolutely dwarfs what happened during the late 80's with MOTU. I don't feel the video game era had as much competition as did action figures (during the demise of both). One imploded based on its own doing while the other dealt with numerous and vast competition. A regrettable movie surely did nothing to help the situation. Could it have helped? If the route taken was akin to Transformers The Movie? Maybe.

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