When you think of mighty warrior robots that can transform into vehicles (and other things) most people would immediately think of the Transformers range. There’s no doubt that this brand captured the market, spreading from toys to cartoons to videogames to Hollywood movies. However, there were another set of contenders for the robot toy crown, and they were the Gobots.
Gobots actually started life in Japan (where else) as the Machine Robo series of toys, slightly before the Transformers even came into existence. In 1983 western toy manufacturer Tonka licensed the toys for the US market, and renamed them Gobots in the process.
Sales of the toys were initially very good, as the concept resonated with many a young lad. However, when Hasbro launched Transformers the Gobots suffered. This can be attributed to many things, but ultimately the Transformers toys were just a whole lot cooler. The Transformers looked more robotic an futuristic in many cases that their Gobot cousins, and they had better names too. Where the Transformers had Optimus Prime and Starscream, Gobots had Scooter and Tank (no prizes for guessing what they transformed into).
Another area in which the Transformers excelled was with their design and backstory. The look of the toys, their packaging and eventual cartoon told a coherent story and it was easy to see the strengths and weaknesses of each robot from the statistics printed on the box. The Gobots tended to look a little more chunky and basic looking, although some had very complex transformation seqences that easily rivalled those of certain Transformers toys.
The last new Gobot toys were released in 1987, and they had to concede defeat to their more famous cousins, but the story doesn’t quite end there. In 1991 Hasbro bought out Tonka, which gave them ownership of the Gobots brand, although not the toys themselves as they were only made under license from Bandai in Japan.
Hasbro confusingly went on to use the Gobots name as part of the Transformers line up in no less than three different ways. First, they released a Transformer named Gobots, then there were a sub-range of toys named Go-Bots, then finally a range aimed at younger children (released under Hasbro’s Playskool label) called Transformers: Gobots.