Looks like 3rd party favorite FansToys is under a watchful eye right now. They just deleted every post on their Weibo and are telling vendors not to expect any product after the currently shipping Astrotrain they just did. The company’s official website is down as of this writing, and our guess over here is that they are probably just laying low. There’s a lot of counterfeit talk in the media right now in China, which this company totally doesn’t fall under, but just to be safe I’m sure they don’t want Hasbro coming after them.
I’m certain FansToys are probably being investigated because they are a fairly large scale operation. But things like IP infringement are so lax in Asia that I really don’t think they’re in too much danger. Wei Jiang got shut down because their bread and butter was taking Hasbro Bayverse product, KOing it, making it bigger and adding more paint and higher quality materials. FansToys has been making product that fits the aesthetic of Takara Tomy Masterpiece, but never a character that Takara currently had out at retail or even on the calendar for a future release.
I wrote an article here for Toy Wizards back in 2018 about how Hasbro cannot stop 3rd party companies from making Transformers. Our original article still rings true– Hasbro can’t take legal action. The companies can feign closure and start up the next day rebranded. These companies are only in jeopardy because of the media attention. Social media presence is a bad idea for any company that makes a buck off of someone else’s IP.
With that however, comes another question. Without being on social media, how else do you think a company can gain a reputation and sell their toys without social media? Is word of mouth strong enough any more?
At this point enough major retailers, such as BBTS, solicit photos and product descriptions for these toys that the 3rd party companies do not need to be on Facebook or Weibo. Back when this stuff (that is, 3rd party Transformers) was relatively new, FansProject and iGear days, we found out about these upgrade kits and original in house products when they shipped to a vendor. It’s always been a slippery slope and will always continue to be.
There was definitely an explosion in 3rd party toy popularity. Prior to 2010 I would say there were definitely a few garage products like from designer Jizai Toys at Botcon Japan before, but most notably to me was the upgrade kits for Classics Hot Rod and Classics Ultra Magnus that came out in like 2009. FansProject then became a company that would do full fledged in house designed robot toys soon after and many would follow. Add to it the newer policies between the US and China. People just aren’t going to look the other way, anymore.
I feel (this is my opinion) like Hasbro is so damn generous with the Transformers license. Okay yes, Chinese KO makers don’t want to pay anything, we know that. And of course, having the Transformers license would limit the items that 3rd party companies could make.
Remember, even Flame Toys was a KO company at one point? Now their Furai model kits are smash hits. Pretty wild, right?
At the end of the day, IP is IP. I think Hasbro really looks the other way on tons of shit that basically doesn’t cut directly into an exact product scale and play format they currently have running when they could just go after someone. And while of course we are not directly quoting here, there have been rumors around the playground that John Warden himself has said things at conventions like, “Yeah, I saw that, it’s awesome, but I didn’t see that if anyone asks.”
I think Hasbro did look the other way a lot more than they’re going to be now. They’ve said they want to start cracking down on this sort of thing, which makes sense to me. In a recession, you don’t want collectors spending their money elsewhere, if you can help it. I even said in my leaks article, Hasbro is putting in the effort to take eyes away from 3rd party manufacturers. That’s step one. If people are stoked about what’s coming to retail they are less likely to overspend with someone else.
So, keep on making Transformers, Hasbro, and keep on giving the fans the awesome toys they want.