You may or may not have read the announcement of the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Figure Subscription Service going live soon. If you haven’t, I’ll give you a minute to do so.
Okay, all better?
Good– let’s talk about this.
It’s been an interesting year for toy fans and subscriptions. Mattel recently concluded their “subscription drive” over at MattyCollector.com for three of their product lines. The DC Universe Classics line went through– but only barely due to the efforts of SaveDCUC.com, the Masters of the Universe Classics snaked by with a last minute surge and the Watchmen sub… well that never seemed to be in question.
With two of these lines, price was a REAL point of contention. A 6″ Masters of the Universe Classics figure had previously sold for $20.00 and was increased to $25.00 per unit for subscribers and $28.00 for non-subscribers on day-of-sale IF any were available. This created quite an uproar in the MoTU fandom as the had previously been plagued by poor customer service from Digital River and QC issues in the form of reversed joints, breakage, and sloppy paint apps. However, the argument from brand manager Scott Neitlich was that these were “high quality collector figures” with unique tooling that was found nowhere else. This was the only way to get 100% original tooled figures like the forthcoming Ram-Man etc.
So, if a 6″ figure with all NEW tooling costs $25.00 and fans clamored at the blow to their wallets, where does that place the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Figure Subscription Service?
First off, fans are going to pay $294.00 for 12 figures. (Okay, some folks will immediately take issue with that claiming that there’s a 13th figure. I’ll refute that by saying that it has been advertised as a “bonus” item and to factor it into the cost is to utterly destroy the Club’s claim of it as a “free bonus”.) This costs out to $24.50 a piece for figures that are built using EXISTING tooling. Sure, some of it is “unused” but not one piece of this line to my eyes has been constructed specifically FOR the subscription. So, the Club is dodging a bullet there in terms of tooling costs and yet is still charging the same price as Mattel for a figure that uses substantially less material.
Secondly, fans will have n0 way of knowing which figure arrives when. What? You mean after paying nearly $300.00 BEFORE shipping, you’ve got no idea who is coming your way? Oh sure, it’s just like Christmas morning when you opened a wrapped present and were treated to a delightful surprise inside. Except that in that case, the surprise was part of the fun. You didn’t have to outlay any cash for it.
Third– as with Matty’s subs, the Club is holding the threat of “no extras available day off sale likely” over fans heads to get them to subscribe. Okay, from a business standpoint this makes perfect sense. After all– they want those order quantities as HIGH as they can be to lower their cost-per-figure. It’s good business sense. However, I for one HATE the perceived threat behind it. I don’t like having a proverbial gun held to my head so that I don’t miss out on that brand new update of Surefire that I’m positive fans weren’t clamoring for. (Notice the sarcasm there?) At a time when more and more Americans are trimming the fat out of their budgets, the club is essentially gouging for those figures that are going to be purchased by those who aren’t “All in”. Funny thing– I’m willing to bet that there will be post-subscriber figures available as the GIJCC has probably already figured out what their production run is going to be. The difference between subscriber figures and produced figures will be sold at $32.00 a pop which is significantly higher than the only other comparable figure subscription model on the market.
Fourth, you HAVE to be a member of the Club to sign-up for the FSS. This means that anyone interested who ISN’T a member is adding a minimum of $44 to their costs for this. Why not just have two sets of pricing rather than force people to join an organization that may not want to? That essentially brings the cost per figure up to $28.16 PLUS shipping. Essentially these are “virtual convention figures” spread out over 12 months without the trip to a city and the ability to hang out with your “Joe bros” in person. Hmm…
We’re at an interesting point in our fandom right now where it’s almost “taboo” to voice a dissenting opinion regarding the GIJCC. Yes, fans are fans and they like to complain about everything from paint apps to character selection to the accuracy of Jinx’s hair style to her appearance in a specific issue of G.I. Joe Special Missions. However, it is also their right to do so. More to the point, members of the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club who pay dues TO the Club are entitled to voice their opinion– positive or negative. It’s part of what “paid membership” gets you. Now, the Club has tried in the past to connect with their fan base but those efforts seem to be mixed at best. There is a very real perception that the Club exists to produce 12″ exclusive items and that the 1:18 items are merely there to fuel that production. Whether this is accurate or not, I’ll leave up to the individual to decide. There’s a real feeling that the Club, in their handling of the recent credit card scandal, almost seems to tolerate their membership as opposed to serve them. (There’s even an active Twitter feed that mocks this notion. Whoever you are– thanks for the laughs.)
Personally, I think the sub is priced out of the range of most of the Club’s membership right now. Oh sure, they’ll get the sales and the sub will go through but rather than bringing the membership together I think it will only further divide the fandom over everything from character selection to the very nature of criticizing an organization that has had a difficult year at best. Honestly– I don’t know if I’ll subscribe or not. Right now, my gut says “no”– due to character selection and price. This is not a line-up that is full of “must haves”– with characters like “TNT” surely destined for Ebay in droves and Surefire being a gratuitous nod to a MasterCollector staffer. Plus, there’s the cost issue– it’s just too high. I’m not a wealthy individual and I am most likely considered “lower middle class” economically. Like most Americans, I’m feeling the effects of a shrinking economy both at the gas pump and in my ever-increasing taxes and day-to-day costs. $25.00 per Joe for a line-up that I’m not excited about just doesn’t make sense to me at all. In the long run, it might be cheaper to just bite the bullet on the few figures and snag them on Ebay as I’m sure the scalpers will be pouncing on this subscription offer in droves, seeing the potential in selling them at 2x the cost. (Golden Ticket holders anyone.) Anyone who thinks this isn’t going to happen pretty much has their head in the sand. However, that’s just my opinion and an opinion is something that we’re all entitled to.
I wish the Club good luck with this. I just don’t know if I’ll be participating.