Murdered by Hasbro: The Death Knell of the Transformers Tech Spec
Okay, so maybe “murdered” is a little dramatic. Haven’t you ever heard of clickbait?
The Transformers is far from the only toy series to have a clip and save section on the back of the box with a character’s biographical information and characteristics, but it’s the only one I know of that gave them their own name, Tech Specs, that has endured in the fandom for nearly forty years. Short for “technical specifications,” I spent years hunting down each and every original Generation One Tech Spec. I’m not sure which the last one I found was. I know Fortress Maximus was the most expensive one. I paid almost as much for it as my Fortress Maximus, but that was long time ago. He might have been my last.
I know that some people, for reasons I will never understand, consider the Tech Spec to only be the Numerical Rankings and not the Bio. As you can see in the image above, it says “TECH SPECS Clip and Save!” and the dotted line surrounds both the Bios and Numerical Rankings. For the purpose of this post, when I say Tech Specs, I mean both the Numerical Rankings AND the Bio. Also included was the Character’s Quote and Function, both of which should also be included on a properly done Tech Spec. I am less worried about the art/photo, but in a perfect world it would have that too. Over the years Hasbro has ruined this once great part of collecting Transformers. This is by no means meant to be a complete history of Tech Specs, just a history of how Hasbro has destroyed them. Transformers: Legacy feels like the final nail in their coffin. RIP, Tech Specs, always beloved, never forgotten.
With Generation 2, the shape of Tech Specs changed to something more like a trading card size and shape. They were far more uniform than the G1’s, which could be all sorts of sizes. The worst I can say about G2 Tech Specs is that they lost the full art for a head shot, but they maintained everything that was most important.
Beast Wars kept roughly the same formula, but returned the full art. A small change was coming that would portend big changes down the line.
At first glance, Beast Machines seems to keep the same formula, but it was a trick. You’ll notice the toy photo is not completely inside the clip and save area. Transformers fans should have screamed “NO, STOP, DON’T DO THIS!” Alas, we were too naive to realize we had just seen the beginning of the end of the Tech Spec. (To be fair, the end was still pretty far away.)
Robots in Disguise dealt another even more devastating blow to the Tech Spec. While a Bio was included on the back of the box, it was not inside the clip and save area. I mean, they did give us the Bio, but who cares? If it’s not in the area you were meant to save, then really, who gives a shit? Certainly not me. They also did away with the Function, another blow to the Tech Spec. This was also the first line to release toys with no Tech Spec at all. (In the USA at least.) Believe it or not, the tail end of the Robots in Disguise line got worse.
The last toys released in RID used the upcoming (they might have already started coming out, it’s been a long time, and I don’t remember for sure) Armada package design and had no tech specs at all. Nothing. We got a sticker with nothing on the back. Meanwhile…
While the end of Robots in Disguise seemed like the end of the Tech Spec, they weren’t dead yet. The Go-Bots line did include clip and save Bios, though no readouts. So that was something, I guess.
Of course, with Armada’s full arrival, the lack of Tech Specs prophesized by the late RID toys came fully to pass. (My friend Zabgoth reminded me that most toys did have Tech Specs. Some were online, but Hasbro eventually gave us. Also, there was a Fleer Trading Card Set that had essentially Tech Specs, but I don’t count those as they weren’t meant to be part of the toy line.) But perhaps the future was not so dark as it seemed for the once great Tech Spec. Was Hasbro actually listening to the fans? I think we liked to think so, but in retrospect, I’m not so sure.
Energon (yes, I’m skipping Universe since it was all over the place and would give me a headache) gave us…something. It wasn’t much, certainly not a full Tech Spec, but it was something. Energon toys included trading cards that at least had Numerical Rankings on the back, though it lacked a Bio, Function, or Quote. It was something at least, even if it was a shadow of the great Tech Specs of old. (Towards the end of the line, eight toys had their cards swapped out for cards that were numbered into the Fleer Trading Card Set I mentioned earlier. These had Bios, but nothing else.) Then came Cybertron, and everything went to hell.
Some Cybertron toys had, more or less, Tech Specs, no art/photo, Function, or Quote, but we got readings and a bio. There was no more Clip and Save though, and not all toys were the same.
Some Cybertron toys had multiple pieces in different locations on the back of the cards, which should have served as a warning of things to come.
Some toys only had a Bio and Function, but there was no attempt to make it even look like a Tech Spec. It was complete anarchy, and the best we could do is say, “Well, at least we have some of it sometimes.” Hold that thought.
Classics was a turning point. Since Classics, I have had to keep the back of most packages. Yes, the whole fucking thing. They put the Bio wherever, the photo in the middle, and the Numerical Rankings wherever they could fit them. It was pure anarchy, and they removed the Quotes and while the Functions were present, they was nothing to tell you they were their Functions.
This became the new formula for their bastardized Tech Specs for a good long while. Movie, Revenge of the Fallen, RPM’s, 2010, Generations, Speed Stars, Prime, and Dark of the Moon all used this formula, though towards the end, they made it worse by putting the ratings on the bubble insert or box flaps just to piss me off. (Okay, maybe that wasn’t why, but it certainly had that affect.)
The only exception during this period was Animated, who had no Numerical Rankings, but did get a Function. Then things went down hill hard.
Age of Extinction toys had Bios, but no ratings, no Functions, and no Quotes. At this point, I thought it could not get any worse. It did.
I’m going to skip around a bit. The Robots in Disguise (2015) line had nothing at all on the packages that resembled any part of a Tech Spec. No Bios, No Functions, No Quotes, and no Numerical Rankings. This continued with the Transformers: Bumblebee line. Cyberverse would add, for some reason, Functions, but only on the larger toys. This seems to be the norm now for the “kids” line. I expect the same from the upcoming Rise of the Beasts line.
After the Bio only Age of Extinction toys, Hasbro continued this format through Combiner Wars, Titans Return, Power of the Primes, and Studio Series. And yet, they made them worse. Bios have gotten progressively shorter since Age of Extinction. Some toys have only a sentence for a Bio, which is a joke. Multilingual packaging (which I HATE) have a lot to do with this, but it’s not solely for that reason.
With Siege, Hasbro just stopped even the appearance of caring. There is nothing on the boxes. You would think there couldn’t be anything worse than nothing, right? You were wrong.
I figured Hasbro would do this eventually. They have now gone to including a scannable barcode. Now, I hate this for a lot of reasons. There is no physical Tech Spec. Down the road the site will cease to exist and the barcodes won’t work. Sure, peoples will back up the data, but this thing that is a joke to call a Tech Spec will be worthless. I could go on. I told myself there was an upside. Surely, if they were going to put a Tech Spec online, they would go back to full Numerical Rankings and Bios. We would get Functions and Quotes back. I mean, most of that data exists, it just needs to be gathered and programmed.
If you just heard a bloodcurdling scream, that was me seeing what Hasbro has done. It’s only Tech Spec lists his alt mode. Okay, there is no vehicle picture, so that makes sense. They gave us Function, point for that. What the fuck is a Special Unit? Origin Universe on one level makes sense, but since he looks nothing like Prime Bulkhead, being instead based on a more G1 look for Bulkhead, listing his as being from the Prime Universe doesn’t make a lot of sense. I like Signature Weapon, which as you may recall was a thing during the early days of Beast Wars. Unfortunately, they have listed his signature weapon as his gun. His signature weapon is his mace. He has a one sentence Bio. Are you fucking kidding me? This is the height of stupidity. You can’t cut and paste an existing Bulkhead Bio? Is Hasbro really this deranged to think one line tells us anything more than jack and shit about this character? And then the Numerical Rankings. I will ignore the emojis rather than just writing out what the categories are, but they only gave him four of them. Where are the other four? They wasted money on making his photo animated (on the site, this is just a screen cap). Big fucking whoop. I can’t believe I’m actually going to say this, and it’s entirely possible I will keel over dead for even thinking it, but even Fun Pub did Tech Specs better than this. The content often sucked, but at least they gave us real Tech Specs (I feel sick). When you do something worse than Fun Pub, you really need to reconsider your decisions, because you have made a truly horrible mistake.
And so the Tech Spec is dead, murdered by Hasbro, destined, like the enemies of Megatron ATB… for oblivion. (See what I did there?)
You can see over 4,000 Tech Specs and Character Bios on TFTechSpecs.com.
Thanks for reading!