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Gobots / Machine Robo Series / Machine Men / Robo Machine / Mutante / Convert / Bootlegs

Toy Catalogues with History of the 600 Series Below

 
 
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Toy Catalogues 1982 - 1986

 
 

Popy Machine Robo Series catalogue

Issued in Popy boxes

1982 Japan

Popy machine robo series first catalogue page 1 Popy machine robo series first catalogue page 2 Popy machine robo series first catalogue page 3 popy machine robo series first release version box example image intentionally left blanki
 
 
 

Popy Machine Robo Series Orange catalogue

Issued in Popy and early Bandai Diagonal Stripe boxes and Popy & Bandai dual logo cardback blisters

1983 Japan

Popy machine robo series orange catalogue page 1 Popy machine robo series orange catalogue page 2 Popy machine robo series orange catalogue page 3 popy machine robo series cardback backing card blister 1982 example bandai machine robo series diagonal stripe / strip box example
 
 
 

Machine Men (AU) catalogue

Issued in Bandai Australia and Bandai cardback blisters

1983 Australia - while not pictured the Devil Invaders were released in AU

machine men australian gobots catalogue page 1 machine men australian gobots catalogue page 2 machine men australian gobots catalogue page 3 machine men australian gobots cardback backing card example intentionally left blanki
 
 
 

Robo Machine (EU) catalogue

Issued in Bandai cardback blisters

1983 Europe

robo machine catalogue 2 page 1 robo machine catalogue 2 page 2
robo machine catalogue 2 page 3
robo machine catalogue 2 page 4 robo machine example cardback intentionally left blanki
 
 
 

Bandai Machine Robo Series Rainbow Band / Stripe catalogue

Issued in Bandai Rainbow Band / Stripe boxes

1984 Japan

bandai machine robo series rainbow stripe catalogue page 1 bandai machine robo series rainbow stripe catalogue page 2 bandai machine robo series rainbow stripe catalogue page 3 bandai machine robo series rainbow stripe / band box example 1 intentionally left blanki
 
 
 

Bandai Machine Robo Series Blue Text catalogue

Issued in some Rainbow Band / Stripe boxes

1984 Japan

Bandai machine robo series black and white background with blue text catalogue page 1 Bandai machine robo series black and white background with blue text catalogue page 2 Bandai machine robo series black and white background with blue text catalogue page 3 bandai machine robo series rainbow stripe / band box example 2 intentionally left blanki
 
 
 

Bandai Machine Robo Series VS Devil Invader Series catalogue

Issued in Bandai Machine Robo Series Devil Invader Series and some Rainbow Band / Stripe boxes

1985 Japan

bandai machine robo series vs devil invader series catalogue page 1 bandai machine robo series vs devil invader series catalogue page 2 bandai machine robo series vs devil invader series catalogue page 3 bandai machine robo series VS devil invader series box example bandai machine robo series rainbow stripe / band box example 1
 
 
 

Bandai Robo Machine catalogue - French

Issued in French language Challenge of the Gobots cardback blisters

1985 France / Europe

robo machine french catalogue page 1 robo machine french catalogue page 2 robo machine french catalogue page 3 robo machine french catalogue page 4 robo machine french cardback example image
 
 
 

Bandai Machine Robo Battle Hackers catalogue

Issued in Battle Hackers styled and later run rainbow stripe / band boxes

1985 Japan

bandai machine robo battle hackers catalogue issued in late run rainbox stripe boxes page 1 bandai machine robo battle hackers catalogue issued in late run rainbox stripe boxes page 2 bandai machine robo battle hackers catalogue issued in late run rainbox stripe boxes page 3 bandai machine robo series battle hackers box example 1 bandai machine robo series rainbow stripe / band box example 2
 
 
 

Bandai Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos catalogue

Issued in later run Battle Hackers styled boxes

1986 Japan

bandai machine robo revenge of cronos catalogue number 1 issued in late run battle hacker boxes page 1 bandai machine robo revenge of cronos catalogue number 1 issued in late run battle hacker boxes page 2 bandai machine robo revenge of cronos catalogue number 1 issued in late run battle hacker boxes page 3 bandai machine robo series battle hackers box example 2 intentionally left blanki
 
 
 

Bandai Machine Robo Red Band catalogue

Issued in 1986 cardback blisters and some Battle Hackers styled boxes

1986 Japan

bandai machine robo series 1985 1986 red band catalogue page 1 bandai machine robo series 1985 1986 red band catalogue page 2 bandai machine robo series 1985 1986 red band catalogue page 3 bandai machine robo series 1986 blister cardback backing card example bandai machine robo series battle hackers box example 2
 
 

Hitsory of the 600 Series

The story so far;

In 1982 Popy (Bandai's find us cool things to release branch) issued the first twelve figures in Japan under the title
'Machine Robo Series' and they were popular. Each figure was given a traditional Bandai/Popy model
number such as 'MR-01' / Machine Robo 01.

These model numbers were stamped on the figures along with the manufacturing details and even appeared
on some of the stickers. For example Buggy Robo's model number is MR-08 and it has an '08' on the bonnet;
in later US Tonka releases these Machine Robo Series specific stickers were dropped along with the pack-in sticker sheets.

The figures bore simple names directly relating to their alternative mode (eg. 'Cycle Robo') and retailed for around 600 Yen
leading to their almost official name, the 600 Series; approximately $3.50USD / $6.25AUD 1982

After years of success, in late 1982 Popy was struggling financially leading to it being absorbed by the parent company
Bandai and Machine Robo Series along with it.

1982 - 83 Bandai re-released the first twelve models along with a string of new figures still sporting the same naming and
model number convention. The small scale yet high quality of the toys with a comparatively low price saw popularity
continue to rapidly grow.

1983 Bandai released most the current figures as 'Robo Machine' in Europe and this too was a success. Robo Machine models
were stamped with new 'RM' model number (eg. RM-37) that was stamped on the toys. They were given even more simplistic
names seeing Cycle Robo released as ‘Bike’. Robo Machine figures for the most part retained the colour scheme of the original
Machine Robo Series releases and more often than not had the Machine Robo Series sticker sheet included;
still printed with the original MR model number.

Bandai Australia (later to become Bandai) released most of the series as 'Machine Men' which also did well,
showing the MR model numbers and having their own simple names; eg. Cycle-Man.

At around the same time Machine Men were released to the US and Canada by Bandai America where unfortunately they weren't
embraced in the same way and pretty much failed as a line.

Keep in mind that robots that turned into things was a new idea in the West and that Hasbro's Transformers (initially mostly
copies of the Japanese Takara 'Diaclone' and 'Micro Change' lines) didn't emerge until 1984.

1983 Bandai needed help to crack the US market and Tonka were keen to take a piece of the change-o-robot toy pie that
was predicted to be swamped by Hasbro's Transformers in the following year. Bandai licensed the Machine Robo Series
models to Tonka who released them local to the US as 'Gobots'. With more US suitable advertising, new figure names
(Cycle Robo becoming 'Cy-Kill') Gobots quickly became a success.

Curiously, while they had new names and were released by Tonka, figures were still stamped with the original MR model
numbers and Bandai.

As with the Robo Machine and Machine Men lines some of the Machine Robo Series figures were not released as Gobots;
MR-06, MR-12, MR-27, MR-30, MR-38, MR-53 and MR-747.

Shipping diecast toys to the US from Japan was killing Bandai's profit margin on earlier toy lines so manufacturing switched
to more local areas such a Macau and Hong Kong.

1983 - 84 Bandai re-released the first run of figures (16 I think) in Australia. They were still Machine Men, however this time
with their US Gobot names This linked them nicely to the Hanna-Barbera 'Challenge of the Gobots' cartoon released in 1984
even though the title sequenced needed to be changed to reflect the Machine Men branding.

In Europe the same naming convention change occurred for Robo Machine, however without the re-release and they retained
their unique RM model designations.

1985 (early) As Machine Robo Series sales were flagging Bandai started to wind the line up. This was in response to the
Japanese market losing interesting in Super Robots and focused on Gundam-style robot military hardware. Hasbro had also
teamed up with Takara to release the Transformers cartoon in Japan with the related toys. This allowed Takara to reuse their
existing Diaclone and Micro Change moulds with updated colour schemes, names, packaging and marketing. It was extremely
cost effective and low risk for Takara making them the market leader and killing off the Machine Robo Series. Machine Robo Series
didn't have a supporting cartoon in Japan like The Transformers because basically Challenge of the Gobots was really not
up to scratch. There was a test screening of a dubbed Challenge of the Gobots episode in Japan but the response
saw it not go any further.

Other nation customers were still begging for new robot-change-o-toys and Tonka were desperate to keep their market share.

Tonka needed new figures but they didn’t have the in-house talent to make their own. Bandai had stopped designing them and
so Tonka convinced Bandai to license them a number o rejected prototypes. These rejected figures made up much of the
Gobots Series 3 release leading to many of them being a little on the odd side.

Tonka sold them in the US while Bandai released some in Europe and Australia. A few of these Series 3 figures broke the
MR / RM convention and adopted MRT (probably Machine Robo Tonka) identifiers (eg. MRT-43). This confuses things further as
the new codes do not appear on the packaging and were just stamped on the figures.

1986 The fairly tidy anime 'Machine Robo: Revenge of Cronos' was released in Japan and Bandai re-released a number of key
600 Series figures... again with different number; MRJ-1, MRB-1, etc. – however they kept the original Machine Robo names.
In the same way Challenge of the Gobots hadn't helped Bandai in Japan, Revenge of Cronos did nothing help Tonka in the US
as it needed to be dubbed into English (pre-subs 80s) which I'm guessing they didn't want to pay for.
Which is a shame really as it may have saved the line.

1992 The Gobots Battle of the Rock Lords film was re-released on VHS in Europe. In the wake of people going nostalgically nuts
over Gobots, Bandai wanted to re-re-leased the figures again on that continent. The issue was that by then Tonka had been
taken over by Hasbro and they owned all of the Gobots names and intellectual property. As Bandai still had the rights to the
models a decent selection were released, however this time with even more basic names. Robo Machines 'Eagle Robo' later
re-released as 'Leader-1' was re-re-released simply as 'F-15'. It's unclear why marketing didn't revert back to the first
Robo Machine names to attract original fans.

Robo Machines wasn't the success Bandai had hoped it would be. This may have been in part due to the marketing as all of
the fronts of the backing cards were identical bar a unique name sticker. This gave the whole line a cheap, bootleg feel sadly
matching with the overall build quality of the toys that feel cheaper than the originals. This was especially noticeable in the
quality of the plastic and overall finishing of the pieces; moudling dags, wheel axle pins not properly pushed in, etc.

2002 Hasbro suddenly realised that their license on the Gobots intellectual property was about to expire so as a joke they
gave Megatron a little Mini-Con personal slave named 'Leader-1'. Oh the humiliation!

...and that's about it for now for the 600 Series. This does not take into cover Brazil's fully licensed Mutante or Convert lines
or any other official releases that I'm not confident about yet. Text will be updated as more information is found.

Tonka VS Hasbro / Gobots VS Transformers

To get it out of the way, there were certainly some rubbish Gobots AND Transformers.

Tonka's Gobots have often been seen to be the poor neighbour to Hasbro's Transformers regardless of their moulds being
sourced from the same toy line (unlike The Transformers) and released two years earlier. Most of this stems from them
being simply cheap and small and a US market at the time pushing bigger is better.

This was all part of varied marketing plans by Hasbro and Tonka that consumers at the time (and especially one sided
Transformers fans) bought into.

Hasbro marketed their Transformers line from the top down. Every kid wanted Optimus Prime, Magatron, Soundwave, etc.,
who were prominent characters in the cartoon, larger figures and expensive. For kids with less well off parents there were
smaller, more affordable figures that Hasbro and the cartoon for the most part barely focused on. Kids WANTED the big ones.
They were cool, you were cool if you had them and parents wanted their kids to be cool.... cool.

Tonka in comparison worked from the other way up by issuing LOTS of small figures at a cheap price making them widely
affordable. Low profit margin with high turnover equaling lots of product with consumers helping it selling itself. The toys of
the main characters in the supporting cartoon where no bigger or more expensive than any other figure in the line. So while
only select kids ended up with an Optimus Prime, any kid who could afford a Gobot could get Leader-1. There were more
expensive Gobots toy but they weren't the marketing focus and were produced in far lower numbers.

If Challenge of the Gobots had been a lot more like 'Machine Robo: Revenge of Cronos' there's a good chance that Gobots
would have given The Transformers a real run for their money. Keep in mind that there were a lot more Gobots on the
market by 1985 than Transformers and lots of the Transformers were well out of many child's budget.

challenge of the gobots vs machine robo revenge of cronos

Negative comparisons are often made between figures such as 'Road Ranger', a $3.00 USD Gobot and 'Optimum Prime' a $40.00
USD (almost triple the size) Transformer. A more fair comparison would be to Transformers Huffer who has no diecast parts,
backwards arms and death pipes for hands. Whereas Road Ranger's chest and back are metal,
makes a decent robot and has hands; and I quite like Huffer.

Transformers 'Gears' VS Gobots Small Foot or Scratch would be another good example.

When making a comparison, consider that many of the Machine Robo Series / Gobots are only three and a quarter inches tall,
have a large amount of quality diecast metal in their bodies and joints and often greater complexity in their transformations
than their usually more revered, fair comparison Transformer chums.

For the most part smaller vintage Transformers don't look like any specific vehicle while the Machine Robo Series and related
lines mostly hold a close likeness to actual vehicles; something only the larger, more expensive Transformers do

Which is a better toy?

Who knows?

Most of us played with both as a kid and those of us that can see the merits in both as adults still do! 

 
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