Welcome back, first off what is a Gimmick? a Gimmick is any thing in a transformer toy that is something different then other ones, this could extend to one or two figures or a partial or whole line.of toys. Some argue that transformation from one form to another, rolling wheels and articulation of limbs are all gimmicks so that a gimmick free toy is just a statue but I tend to not count these things and go straight into things that some transformers have that others do not have.as true Gimmicks. So let us look at some of these examples.
The Good: This example is actually three grouped together because they all fit in one. These are Headmasters / Targetmasters / Powermasters although we could count Titanmasters but some such as myself feel this more of a return to these gimmicks then a new gimmick itself but I will include an example here anyways.
1): Headmasters. These are any figure that the head transforms into a separate humanoid figure that could pilot the vehicle mode of the larger toy. This line started in 1987 and while the initial gimmick stopped after 1988 there was a true return to the gimmick in 2014 with two new figures. Pictured here is 1987 Brainstorm with partner Arcana
2): Targetmasters, this group originated in 1987 and has stuck around in one form or another into the present time, these guys are any weapon that can transform into a humanoid figure that goes along with a larger Transformer. Some of the original ones were slightly retools of existing toys to allow the figure to hold the bigger weapon handles and to fit on to the vehicle mode. Pictured here is 1987 Kup with partner Recoil
3): Powermasters these are similar to the others but the Humanoid partner turns into an engine that plugs into the bigger figure and unlocks the joints need to actually transform them. These came out in 1988 and was a smaller line. Pictured here is 1988 Optimus Prime with partner Hi-Q
4): Titanmasters: A return to the headmaster gimmick but with notable changes. first off the heads are smaller so they can plug into smaller deluxe figures as well as the larger voyager and leader class toys that have a built in mask that slips over to make the head look bigger, in addition they fit into weapons as well to be used by the bigger figures making them not only headmasters but weaponmasters as well. pictured here is 2016 Titanmaster Scourge with partner Fracas
The Bad: The worst of all gimmicks was the focus of one of my blog entries called the Actionmaster Disaster featuring the… wait for it… The Actionmasters… these toys came out in 1990 when slumping sales made Hasbro try desperately to reach out to kids for sales and they tried to make non-transforming figures that had vehicles to ride on. hey it worked for Starwars, G.I.Joe, He-man, and a vast array of other toylines used for years but it did not fly, it went completely away from what kids wanted and was a bust, although these toys fetch big money to collectors years later. pictured here is Starscream with his turbojet.
The Best: Combiners, I feel this one gimmick is the best because it changed everything. Since it’s debut in 1985 it has been used off and on repeatably and is much loved with the original Devastator allowing 6 toys to connect together and form a bigger toy. Something that was never seen before. In 1986 riding off of the love of this gimmick they brought out scramble city combiners. They changed it up a bit with 5 toys instead of 6 (1 for the torso instead of 2) and some of the figures could be mixed and matched together to make all new figures. It was a hit and kids loved them. With the new Combiner line bringing back the scramble city theme in 2015 it has been a run away hit all over again. No matter how many toys combine together be it 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 the gimmick has been enduring and much loved and sought after. Pictured is a bunch of combiner wars figures combined.
Transformers has had many hits and flounders over the years but above shows the big differences in what works and what does not. I hope you enjoyed my opinion on this matter.