When is a toy "out"?

There was an interesting article posted the other day on Tformers.com, talking about Hasbro's "Combiner Wars." It raises some really good points about the line - namely, the over-reliance on repaints - and is worth a read. But it has one notable flaw.

When discussing the release schedule, they had this to say:

Consider that if the releases were properly quarterly through the year, we would only just now be starting to look at the Protectobots getting released...

We are just now starting to see the Protectobots getting released. It's not like stores have them yet. You can go into Target or TRU or Walmart and buy Aerialbots or Stunticons, but if anyone has Protectobots, they're (mostly) still in the stockroom.

A small handful of retailers got lucky early shipments, so some fans actually got Protectobots back in May. May! But that is an outlier, a black swan. Distribution means toys make their way across the country: consumers cannot expect or consider a toy to be available based on a single sighting, any more than you need to grab your umbrella because there's one drop of water on the ground. The first sightings are a good indication that the toys are on their way, not that they're actually out.

We're not saying that a toy has to reach 100% market saturation before you can say it's been released. That would be stupid. But in the case of the Protectobots, we have a very good source for their release: HasbroToyShop. HTS did not have them in May. They didn't even have them for most of June. The Protectobots (other than Hot Spot, who came in ahead of his fellows) came in stock around the beginning of July - right on target for when they "should" have been released. And if there's one thing you can count on HTS for, it's that they'll put product online a little bit sooner than you can expect to see it in brick and mortars.

It's easy to assume that your local store's stock is indicative of all stores, because it's what you see most often. But that's a fallacy. Just because you don't see something hanging on your local pegs doesn't mean it's not out. However, the opposite is also true, and just because your store got something, it doesn't mean everyone will see it right now. And when you assume it does, you're going to skew your perspective, and set yourself up for disappointment.

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2 Responses to When is a toy "out"?

  1. Sledgehama says:

    I hate to be the hair-splitter, but if the product is available at retail, then surely it is 'out' - it's just a matter of not necessarily being available in all areas yet. To say it's not 'out' would be the same as saying that because it's not raining right where you are that it's not raining at all. Perhaps some more precise terminology needs to be developed here? 'Mass market availability'?

    It's also a case of needing to balance the web retailers along with local physical stores too in terms of saying when a toy is 'out'. Most of my purchasing is done online due to my being outside of the US and those items simply not being available on the local market, so for me a toy is 'out' when BBTS or Amazon, etc. get their stock and can now ship it out. The Protectobot deluxes for instance arrived with me from Amazon in early June. If a major retailer like that has it in stock and available, I'd consider that as 'out' as much as seeing it in my local department store. Conversely, Hot Spot was significantly delayed from them and I ended up getting him at local retail.

    Of course there are some manufacturers that are very specific on release dates - DC Collectibles is the most obvious candidate here - but unless there's a specific embargoed launch date like the various Star Wars midnight madnesses, there seems to be little in the way of coordinated launches, so I always take the 'out' notifications as just a notion of 'hey these things are out in the wild now, might be worth looking for them in your neck of the woods'.

  2. My Common Sense is Tingling says:

    BBTS is good, but I wouldn't trust Amnazon because of their "Z-shops" set-up. You can a lot of times buy things off Amazon before Amazon gets them in stock. I'm waiting for the new Spider-Man Infinite Legends. All of them have pages on Amazon, but "Albuquerque HotToyz" selling White Tiger for $44.95 isn't the same thing as Amazon having it in stock.

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