Accessories aren’t just for fashion models, dahling.
They really can make or break (often literally) a toy, and distinguish it from competitors.
Back in the 80s, Transformers set themselves apart with their accessories. Indeed, one of the main differences between a Go-bot and Transformer was that Go-bots generally only included the robot, whereas a standard-sized Transformer included a whole arsenal of chrome-plated violence, often still arranged on a plastic “tree.”
Even in their cartoon iterations, most Go-bots simply shot energy beams from their hands. Transformers, however, popularized the idea of forearm-mounted cannons, shoulder cannons, and limbs that could be
replaced with rockets. What would G1 Megatron be without his detachable fusion cannon/rifle scope?
Grimlock was cool enough as a robot that turned into a T-rex, but his robot mode featured both a double-barreled gun AND an energon sword. The introduction of the melee weapon heightened the sense of the dinobot’s savagery, showing how accessories could enhance the characterization of the figure itself.
Some clever Transformers even included transformation features into their accessories. Soundwave’s characteristic shoulder launcher and gun transformed into batteries that could be inserted into a battery compartment in his tape deck mode.
Some weapons just had a lot of character in their appearance, such as Prowl’s angular acid-pellet gun, or Optimus’s Prime’s cannon...or Rumble/Frenzy’s twin blasters that appeared to double as jet packs when mounted on their backs.
Accessories extend beyond weaponry, though. Optimus Prime’s famous trailer with repair bay and the scout Roller not only made him distinctive, they added immensely to his play factor. Targetmasters, powermasters, headmasters, and mini-cons all transformed what would otherwise be mere accessories into supporting cast members. Likewise, the sidekicks that came with large city-bots like Scamper, Slammer, and Six gun (Metroplex), or Fast-track (Skorponok) often command hefty sums on the secondary market today...but these sidekicks were often little more than cheaply made pack-ins.
In some cases, tracking down an old accessory on eBay can cost you as much as the main figure – no doubt due to the unfortunate side effect that accessories are often lost. Indeed, this is almost always the case when it involves Nebulons. But the fact that collectors are willing to pay a premium to have a little attachment to toy shows that good accessories are more than just extra bits – they complete the toy. Be sure that there have been many a Transformer that was sold more because a kid or collector wanted the pack-in sidekick than the main figure.
Unfortunately, the number of mini-cons or Human Alliance drivers I have seen stolen out of original packages on the pegs bears testimony to that truth,
But accessories, or poorly executed accessories, can also kill a toy. The merit of pretenders, for instance, is often a debate among Transformers fans. Pretender shells, often large, blocky, clumsy “organic” disguises concealing small flimsy robots inside might have been bad accessories (and might have jumped the sharkticon). Transformer action masters often featured spring-powered accessories that hurt the franchise more than helped it (Jazz’s battle-skateboard is somewhat notorious). As another example, one often heard complaint about the Power Core Combiners sub-line was that the five-packs only included one transformer and four drones. Had the drones also turned into robots...or had they at least been described as non-humanoid robots instead of mindless drones, fans and kids might have received that line with greater interest. This, however, might move more into the realm of marketing than actual toy design.