If you were a kid growing up in the 1980s in the US, there’s no doubt you were exposed to both Transformers and Gobots, and probably had some of each. In the end, however, as we all know, Transformers increased in popularity compared to the outdated Gobots, with the Transformers eventually winning the robot toy wars of the 1980s, with Gobots falling off to the way side completely and into oblivion.
Fast forward into adulthood, and although the commercial robot toy wars was clearly established with Transformers being the victor, the debate and struggle still wages on in the conscious of robot lovers everywhere on which toy line was better, Transformers v. Gobots.
However, before we get into the nuts and bolts of the debate, pun intended, we need to discuss a very brief history of the difference between Gobots and Transformers.
Launched in 1983, Gobots were vehicle transforming robots produced by the toy company, Tonka, which had bought the US toy rights from Bandai in Japan, which were known as MachineRobo. Gobots were only about 2-3 inches in height, and shortly after the toyline was launched, Hanna-Barbera produced a cartoon series from 1984 to 1985 called Challenge of the Gobots, with consisted of a total of 65 22-minute episodes. The Gobots were divided into two warring factions, the benevolent Guardians lead by Leader-1, which consisted of a robot jet, and the evil Renegades lead by Cy-Kill, which consisted of a robot motorcycle.
Following the Gobot bandwagon, Transformers were quickly introduced into the American market in 1984 produced by the toy company, Hasbro, and its Japanese-based counterpart Takara, which had rebranded its own Diaclone and Microman toylines from Japan. Like the Gobots, the Transformers also had its own cartoon series from 1984 to 1987. And like the Gobots, the Transformers were also divided into two factions, the angelic Autobots lead by Optimus Prime, which consisted of a robot big-rig truck, and the demonic Decepticons lead by Megatron, which consisted of a robot German luger pistol. Interestingly, Hasbro, ended up obtaining the intellectual property rights of Tonka, and now own the Gobots to the very day.
If you are interested in learning more about Transformer and Gobot history, and a historical account of how the Transformers ended up defeating the Gobots in the marketplace, there is a lot of interesting and well-researched articles online already. For a good overview, please check it out.
This article’s focus, however, is not in providing a history lesson. The focus of this article is to bring a final hammer, once and for all, to end the age-old debate between the two robot toy lines, and to show why Gobots reign supreme.
Why were Gobots better than Transformers? First off, Gobots were cheaper and not nearly as expensive as Transformers. Back in 1983, most of the Gobots only cost $3.00 each. Adjusted for inflation, $3.00 in 1983 is equal to $7.72 in 2019.
The cost for Transformers, on the other hand, was much higher. In 1984, the prices of the different Transformers varied, consisting of, for example, Soundwave costing $14.95, Jetfire $29.95, Metroplex $32.97, Battletrap $7.00, and Optimus Prime between $22-25. Adjusted for inflation, this means that $25.00 in 1984 had the same buying power as $60.84 in 2018. Although Gobots are often referred to as the “Poorman’s Transformer,” that is a label that there is no shame in. Brown bagging your lunch and saving money versus buying lunch every day just makes financial sense.
Two, Gobots were less complicated, often being able to transform your robot with just two or three simple steps. Although there may be some who can unravel a Rubik’s cube with ease, I, myself, am not one of them. I certainly am not saying that transforming a Transformer is the same as figuring out a Rubik’s cube; however, I am saying that a Transformer is definitely more complicated, especially without the instructions, and that even the slightest error or slightest exertion of misplaced pressure, more often than not, caused the robot to break or some piece to snap off, resulting in you having to use super glue to try to put it back together. With Gobots, on the other hand, one could just eyeball the robot and almost instantaneously figure out how to transform it. You didn’t have to worry about snapping anything off. Even if you dropped it, oftentimes, the Gobot robot would still remain in one piece. Transformers, however, were larger than Gobots, and therefore had more moving parts, required multiple movements to transform, and you had to be much more careful with them or else they’d break.
Three, Gobots were much smaller in scale than Transformers, often being just 2-3 inches in height, and you could carry them around you more easily than Transformers, just putting them in your pocket, much like Micromachines or Matchbox cars. As a kid growing up, being able to carry around these toys with you and show them to your friends, play with them in the car, or at your Grandma’s house is definitely a plus. With Transformers, you weren’t able to do that with the same ease.
Four, and the most important and last reason, Gobots came out first. Again, Gobots came out in America in 1983 and Transformers in 1984, and although one could argue that it was only a year difference, that year is paramount because for many of us children of the 1980s who grew up with these robot toys and now, as full-grown adults, actively try to collect these same toys we had as kids, Gobots were basically our first robot toy growing up. It wasn’t the Transformers, it was the Gobots. Not only did our parents probably get us a Gobot first since they came out first, but they probably bought us a Gobot first because they were cheaper too. Why buy one Transformer when you can get two or three Gobots? Accordingly, since Gobots were our first robot, I, myself, feel more nostalgia toward them, and remember them more fondly, much how somebody remembers their first kiss, their first girlfriend or boyfriend, or their first car.
Although it can be argued that the Transformers cartoon series was better than the Gobots in that the Gobots were more “kiddy” and that Transformers was designed for older and mature kids, Gobots deserve to still reign supreme. Although people make jokes about Gobots and say that they are just the knock off version of the Transformers, that is certainly not the case because again, the Gobots came first, so actually they were the forerunner of the Transformers. Furthermore, they were cheaper, smaller and more portable, less likely to break, and less complicated to figure out. When it comes to Transformers versus Gobots, I’ll take Gobots all day long. Sometimes simpler is better.
Did you have Gobots and Transformers growing up? Which ones did you have? Do you have a differing opinion from me? What is your preference and why? We would like to hear your thoughts and experiences. Please share. And give this article a share if you think Gobots should have gotten more attention.
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