You know when you see the latest releases coming out from Bandai, and the inevitable stream of Gunpla fans start on their lists of ‘what I think Bandai should be doing / making’? We all love a bit of speculation (myself included), and we love to talk about the kits we want and in what form, but what is becoming an increasingly tiresome trope for me is the consistent complacency at Bandai’s marketing, manufacture and distribution, outside of Japan. It’s not a conspiracy/racism against western Gundam fans.
To these serial complainers I say this.
Bandai is far, far bigger than the Gundam franchise. Their core business is spread across not only many toy franchises, but also computer games. They’re big, because they have the ability to make money, and if you don’t make money, you don’t get to be in business for very long. Comments such as ‘only pandering to the Japanese fandom‘, ‘not caring about western consumers‘, ‘why don’t they make a XX version of XX kit, they’re missing out on a ton of sales‘ are so comically presumptuous and self-serving, it beggars belief to think they have insight beyond that of a highly experienced, international marketing team. If they we’re as terrible as these bobolyne dew-beaters claim they are, they would have identified this as a problem long before Gundam fans made it up.
If Bandai really did not care about western markets, they would not be making a fair coin from the many Disney toy licenses they currently own, and have toys stocked in every major retailer across western markets. They would not even bother localising any computer games too.
If Bandai only really cared about the Japanese fandom, the Gundam franchise would be far less prolific by now through stagnation. It’s constant reinvention is continually working to sell to new audiences. Look at the early 90’s – notice how similar G-Gundam is to Dragonball Z? Notice how Build Fighters is so similar to the likes of Pokemon? This is not speculation, it’s actual marketing at work.
It’s fine to complain about what they do, and even talk about how it could work better, but making bold claims like you are somehow ‘in the know’ about things because you once read some guy saying it on some forum who once worked in a shop that sold a few kits and glanced a spreadsheet a while back is an insult to healthy discussion, and only ever results in the same, tired old nonsense self-service debates circling around like flies around shit.
I no longer pretend to know anything at all about how Bandai operates, and I used to say the very same things without ever really understanding what I was saying (more often than not, to actually seek out real information which is largely speculative). Some time ago in a somewhat naive attempt to ‘find out shit for the community’ I met with the same walls that others have tried before me – contacting Bandai UK to ask them if there were any plans to stock Gunpla in the UK. In the months following emails flying around, I was very lucky to make contact with Bandai’s European marketing manager in Japan who set me straight. He said, ‘the hobby is just not popular enough in the UK’. That’s it, in a nutshell, and he’s right. He probably knew that, Ben 10 toys sell great. Disney licensed toys, sell great. Tamagotchi, sell great. Ask a handful of random people if they know what Gunpla is, then ask them if they have heard of Tamogotchi. This is the reality.
I have genuinely no idea too how Gunpla sales are going here in the UK, I know of a handful of companies now that are selling imported goods from their own channels of distribution in Asia, and a few private sellers living over in Japan offering rare kit hunting services at markup, so there’s most certainly a market. With that in mind, it’s probably more healthy to instead of spending time and energy complaining that you’re not getting what you want and complaining at Bandai for being a big meanie corporation of despicable greed that laughs at your obsessions and tiny willy, to go seek out a local supplier and buy a kit from the thousands of kits Bandai have made and show it off to get more people interested in this very niche hobby.
On a side note, it’s not all gloomy for us here in the UK! It is worth noting that SpruKits are at the very least available – step in the ‘kit toys’ direction, and this should be seen as something positive at least. I see people posting that our friends across the pond in the USA are seeing kit’s appearing in chains of Barnes & Noble, and do at least have a branch of distribution through BlueFin, so please, stop making any bold claims about things you are completely unqualified to state and look at the reality – you can still get Gunpla at a reasonable price.
We’ll be disappointed, and amazed. Annoyed and elated, but count yourself damn lucky that Bandai is still around, and still making amazing toys that we love to snap fit, paint and modify. Put a lid on that speculation until you’ve looked at the logical, bigger picture – and let’s be happy with just speculating about what they will do next.
So, what do you think? As always I love hearing from you folks in the community. If you think I am wrong about any of my facts, then tell me! Debate and discussion is good, and everyone should let their opinions be changed with new facts and information. It goes without saying too, that all my blogs are my thoughts and opinions. I am not a saggy old grumpbox (sometimes). I genuinely love this community, and I think if you love anything you should always be honest about what you don’t like about it, as well as what is great about it 🙂