Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Design Decisions: Sonic Merchandise Design Lesson

What is good design?
It's stuff that's done well......so that you don't notice it's done well! Design really only gets noticed when it does a bad job, or an unusually good job. Otherwise, it sits there in the background & people don't pay it any mind. Sometimes this is ideal, and sometimes not.

What's an example?
The Tomy classic "switching deluxe collector" Sonic figure. The package design is TERRIBLE.
But, the box doesn't expose the figure to dirt & theft and the art is ok...what's your problem?

Something that's not awful looking CAN be "BAD Design" & this is a prime example of it.
Sure, the box isn't terrible. But it does just about 0 things to actually get anyone to buy the product. It's not enough to 'not be terrible' it has to actually do GOOD.

Why is the box bad?
Has NO indication of the load of accessories & parts you get
Has NO item name 'switching deluxe collector' is just some made up name to describe it
Has NO pictures of what you can do with the toy on the box (doesn't show fun)
Does NOT illustrate the money or play value you get when you buy

So, you're in the store and here's a moderately sized Sonic figure for 30 dollars.
"Wow that's expensive, why should I care?"
If the box doesn't answer that question, it's a bad box. There's no reason to spend 30 dollars for just a figure of that size if you don't know that the base is a box & it comes with all the switching parts. Adding a photo montage to the back instead of that random quote would've done a world of good and not cost anything extra. Anyone who hadn't read about the figure online previously would never buy it in the store. A package needs to be able to be its own ad in instances like this.

Another Example: The Puma Shoe (In Prototypes, this week)
Why is this shoe so boring? Why is the fabric so gross? Sure it's just a prototype but there's really nothing Sonic about it other than the tag. "Oh it uses his colors" well that's nice, so does lots of stuff like several famous Gundams, Sailor Moon herself*, the American flag, the UK flag and some donuts. Red, white & blue (with small bits of gold/black/peach) is not some magic combination that instantly adds up to "Sonic" somehow.

Subtle vs Loud
Lots of kids designs are loud. Pictures of characters all over, big logos, big names, loud colors.
Some items (kids or not) are subtle.
There are lots of examples of both all over Gear, with Japan being a bit more of a 'subtle' edge that is sometimes too subtle.

Ok so Puma wants a wide-appeal shoe for adults and teens.
So, pictures of Sonic & Knuckles all over it are out...but just making some blue shoe doesn't mean it's Sonic. Plus, what's up with that awful, pilly fabric? It looks like some white dog shedded hair all over it, then someone wiped it with a gross paper towel and then left little 'bits' of lint & wet towel all over it. Sonic is fast, slick...high-tech! Not grandma's old shag carpet pounded into a sneaker.

There is a good way to do subtle-Sonic & still have it be Sonic and this shoe isn't it so far.

*Sailor Moon is interesting because she's pretty much exclusively Sonic's colors, blue eye/dress, red shoes, gray soles, yellow hair/buckle/moon, beige skin, white gloves/top, gold crown....Does that mean the shoe is also for Sailor Moon?

Next week:
At least 2 uncommon items & a trophy.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Sonic in the Glow Zone

This week's update fell half on April Fools...
And, SonicGear doesn't usually ever do an actual 'fool' post like lots of sites, but it does more heavily feature bootlegs on/around that date and this one was no exception with 4 nasty new things being posted all in one week. One could only hope that horrible Silver was an April Fool--too bad the dumb thing's real. Ugh.

Item of the week:
Sonic in the Glow Zone Coloring Poster Book
Finally, a real look at this real rare book! It was an Australia Only item, and every so often the cover would pop up online with people asking questions. It's notable because it was done under the "Sonic X Treme" brand name / branding but the game never came out. The book itself is fairly unique in a couple of ways

1. It glows in the dark (all the line art)
2. Sonic NEVER has a mouth in any of the art
3. All the art is new / no stock except Robotnick

How'd they get away with removing his mouth completely?
Whoever did the art was good enough at Sonic that the new poses for all the 'xtreme' (but not really) sports look good & not mutant/bad or kiddie scribble which is better than can be said for some Tails art that is official. The book only features Sonic & Robotnick and they use some of his ugliest stock pieces. But if the artist was so ok/good, why's the mouth gone?

The thing was basically notorious for not having any images on the internet. In this day, that's generally a rare case because when you know the name of something & be VERY specific it'll usually show up. (The problem coming on stuff that nobody knows it exists or doesn't know what it's called) SonicGear's (one of the) main directives has been fulfilled with this: putting hard to find items online for all real fans to see.

Sign a Petition:
A petition has been made to draw attention to putting Cream the Rabbit into Sonic Boom.


Even if it doesn't hit 10k signatures, it draws attention to the issue that the fans would like to see her in some episodes, so any signing of it would do some good. Comments I think are also available if you want to explain why they should add her.

Next week:
More Tomy stuff to be sure.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Toys R Us Closing: What's it mean for Sonic?

As you may have heard...
Toys R Us is closing all the USA stores because it went bankrupt somehow. It had increasing sales for several years in a row but something went wrong with the debt it had (or something) and now they are all closing. This is bad news for several reasons:

It was the last big dedicated-toys-only retail store in the USA
It carried its own brands of stuff that people liked
It often had Sonic exclusives
It would take risks on smaller brands with licenses that other stores wouldn't
It was really large and toys-only so it would have better selections of stuff
Lots of people worked there
It was very nostalgic & fun to visit for many people because it had been around 'forever'

If you want to find out more about why TRU is closing & what business people think will happen this is a good article


But what does it mean for Sonic?
As you know, TRU was pretty much the ONLY retailer to carry the Tomy stuff, and certainly so for Jazwares. Does that mean nobody will sell Sonic stuff? No. If you hadn't been in a GameStop in a while, there's a clue there. Many people had commented on how GS was getting to be 'more toys than games', because too many games were turning to apps, digital downloads and other stuff that wasn't cartridges & CDs. Well, that IS true, and they ARE more toy-focused now...but in that article up there you can be surprised to read just how much so.

So, a likely first destination for figures will be Gamestop. But they're often WAY smaller than the warehouse sized TRU...and often more costly plus they don't generally run sales or have coupons like TRU does...so what's Tomy going to do? This is probably something Tomy is thinking really hard about right now. The article says Walmart & Target are likely to (slowly) add aisles to their toy sections to fill in the market. In the meantime Amazon could do something too, but because they're online only the whole 'test the toy' and 'carry out now' thing goes away.

Prediction zone:
Sonic stuff like the Tomy figures & plush could get scarce for a while unless Tomy is really on the ball about this. With TRU as basically their only big seller where there was actual selection that kids and collectors had easy access to, they're really going to have to do something because Gamestop's not going to want 2 boxes of emoji booms, a thing of classic/modern pose-plush, their comic n' figure packs, boom packs, collector figure/s, and all that (literally, pun) hedge-hogging up their shelves.

Collector Figure:
This is going into the spotlight next week with photos as it's now in the SonicGear collection. It IS Tomy and it IS in GameStop (only) so if you want one, now's your chance. So, it's proof...ish, GS can work.

But, what will really happen...we'll only be able to wait and see after this bad news.

Regular Gear Stuff:
Boom ban seems to be further lifting, as the Target 'triangles' tee proves with (finally) something modern in clothing that's not Boom & also not scarce or online only. Same with quite a bit of other stuff too like the Display figures and some of the Segashop items. Good to see for sure, as it means Shadow/Chaotix/Rouge & etc fans could finally see merchandise again.

Item of the week: Eggman & Metal Sonic mug
There's nothing exceptional about it, it's just a standard black ceramic mug with a picture/s on it, but it matters because the Eggman symbol takes up 1 whole side & Sonic is no-where to be found on it. A great item for villain fans & collectors. Stuff that spotlights Eggman like this is nice to see, as it adds real variety.

Next week: Really good rundown on the Tomy figure, with review.
A look at a rare & seldom-seen item...The Glow Zone! Get ready to glow with the internet's only images of this item. (Yes there's probably a photo of the cover but Gear's going inside for a closer look)

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Tomy Talk Update

Another nice update this time, with some good fresh stuff.
2018 seems to be off to a better start for sure, with the Boom ban fading/gone & actual modern items coming back around. Another exciting page of the Tomy Toy Catalog is up this week so it's time to talk Tomy for a bit.

Metal 'collector cards'- Great.
These make the classic/modern figure pairs more appealing. Something like that hasn't been done before for a figure, so that's even better. Metal is always a big positive because it resists damage and aging better than most things. (Solid glass being like...#1 for age resistance it's pretty much immune to everything and immortal)

Neutral Chao- Pretty good
It's great to see chao (of any sort) getting made, but they really ought to have the yellow blushing for the limbs. Toy Island had it, and theirs was just an accessory. The best way to sell these is of course up for debate because of course you have to put them with a figure, but everybody better be real careful who they buy because you'll get like 6 Sonics and spend too much if they just keep putting him with everything making you buy over & over.

Zavok - Good!
Deadly 6 has some fans, and he looks good here. BUT the question is "will he be big". This villain is larger than the Sonic characters, he'll be really disappointing if he's tiny or the same height as Sonic. Opinion zone:
They're going to cheap out and he's going to be the same size as Sonic because I don't believe they've overcome their laziness or cheapness yet. They're doing better, but Zavok will be a victim.

Infinite- Looks good.
He looks pretty much like the game. The mask could have had metallic paint* (as the mask was metal in the game) but as long as he can stand up ok, it should be fine. He's the size of the other characters so scale won't be a problem. 

Hopefully some of this stuff can start appearing soon.
Figure collectors have been left high and dry for quite a while with disappointing re-releases, expensive Boom stuff, and bad articulation. Their 'posed plush' for Knuckles is pretty good but the Amy not so much. Tomy still seems to be 'finding its legs' regarding plush, BUT they ARE improving, which is good to see.

Item of the Week:
Eggman Wallet! Woo! Seeing a solo-character-anything that's NOT Sonic is always a nice sight. This is the first one we've had in quite some time. It's fun, it's different, it's totally Eggman's style with the slogan & the sign post. Looks good, will satisfy eggfans, this one's a winner.

Next week:
More expensive Segashop stuff for sure. Another Tomy page will also appear.

*Metallic paint: Because Jazwares would've given him metallic paint for his mask.

Monday, January 22, 2018

2018: An All-Right Start

Well 2018 is here & SonicGear is...Still Here.
However, the Net Neutrality worries are also still here. So why no slowdown? Why no close of Gear? Was all that noise on the blog & in the update spot all a cry of wolf or hoax?

None of that was able to happen because a few good people are actually suing the FCC to get neutrality back. And, as long as courts and lawyers and things are fighting over it, the ISPs aren't going to be able to make good on their sinister plans to ruin pretty much everything except huge companies. And even then, if they shut down all of America's small businesses I have no idea who they expect is going to buy stuff over at Amazon or who's going to afford all that cable TV they're itching to sell.
So, we're safe as long as a bunch of people are arguing. If the good guys lose, it's still bye-bye so be sure to continue to call your senator if you can-especially if you are in Florida or one of the other senate-votes that needs to change.

2017 for merchandise ended on kind of a boring flat note.
Mania had kind of poked around with some merchandise but it didn't bring stuff that really excites the fans like all new cool clothing lines, action figures, plushes, statues or household collectibles. The Boom Ban was still kind of flopping around in effect because even after stuff like that ends, it takes a long time for companies to produce/design/market/then shelf any item.

2018 is off to a decent enough start.
Tomy released their catalog and it DOES include an Infinite figure from Forces & a few things we've never seen before in figure format like Zavok & various expression neutral chaos. They've got some duds like their plush Super Sonic, and some 'cg stand ins' but that's to be expected. On the whole though, it seems pretty encouraging if they can keep the price down and not be obnoxious. Yes, Boom is still in there, they're still trying to make Boom happen. "Now with an Eggman figure we've painted black and also a green one because reasons"

More like $ega$hop--gee whiz a fan can appreciate what they're doing but nobody's going to appreciate those ridiculous prices. This place will continue to have the items added upon future updates no matter how marked up they are. But, at least it's Modern Sonic & a good enough variety of characters appearing on various categories of items.

Sears: This home of Sonic tees (that were unique to it) continues to become rare-er as more of its stores close leaving fans with no real decent shirt destinations with any consistency. JC Penny may have an item now and then but Sears was the reliable place.

A few more stores like Spencers & Target seem to have a few Sonic homegoods like bottles & cups, so merchandising is clearly continuing. Aside from the bad news about Sears....and if the internet doesn't just up and get killed by jerks, 2018 is looking like it could be a pretty decent time for Sonic collectors.