article from the not really reputable NY Post (basically rumor magazine pretending to be a hard news type newspaper) suggests that various toy lines, including Transformers: Age of Extinction, are experiencing "action-figure fatigue." The basic idea is that too much product from too many action movies, especially all being sequels, has resulted in movie licensed toys not doing well on shelves causing retailers to start discounting them heavier and sooner than normal. “You’ve got all these action figures chasing mind-share, and they’ve all got the same backstory and the same characters,” [BMO Capital Markets Gerrick] Johnson told The Post. “Every kid already has Spider-Man and Captain America.”
The article suggests that with the toys only out for two weeks, they are 50% below the sales of Transformers: Dark of the Moon toys. However the more detailed article from The Globe and Mail indicates they are not experiencing a 50% drop in sales but getting 50% less shelf space that is hurting toy sales. That makes more sense as 50% seems extreme and the TF4 toy lines has not been out long enough to make any credible sales measurement.
Observationally I have not noticed Transformers 4 toys selling any different than the previous lines as the stores in my area have maintained a now years long tradition of getting toys to shelves late, doing a poor job of keeping them stocked and holding back next waves far longer than should. As for shelf space, Toys R Us seemed to have doubled the amount of space for Transformers 4 but Target and Wal-Mart have maintained the exact same space they have been allotting the line for the last few years which is about half of what they use to get when a new movie line was coming out. So since the status quo is maintained, I am just assuming sales match that. Regardless, Hasbro isn't likely to have any idea of the success of the toy line and their new simplified transformation direction until at least a month after the movie is out.
While collectors are turned off by the toy line, I can see kids enjoying it as the transformation sequences really harken back to the Generation One days only now have greater articulation and detail. As with most things, extremes in either case can be a problem. Too simple a transformation, it doesn't maintain interest and repeat playability resulting in kids will tossing them aside too fast. Too complex and frustration kicks in and again lose the fun and interest in the toy. The previous movie lines were too complex and TF4 may have over-corrected in the opposite direction (again too soon to say for sure). From the last decade or so, it seems the Generations line has come the closest to finding that sweet spot between not being too complex while not also being too simple a transformation sequence. Its a hard line to find but its good for the long term future of the franchise that Hasbro continues to explore different ways to find it.
As for the over-all thesis of action-figure fatigue, I can definitely see that happening. I remember when Transformers, Lego, GI.Joe, etc. took up entire aisles twice as long as today from the top of the shelve to the bottom. Nowadays that equivalent space, spread over four aisles, holds about 3 dozen product lines that are further divided into at least three or more sub product lines. That is a whole lot of choices that seem to grow year after year on shelf space that isn't expanding to accommodate the growing variety. In short, parents cannot afford to keep up and something has to give. When its a sequel and your child already owns X number versions of Spider-Man, Optimus Prime, or whatever, it becomes much easier to deny the purchase and wait for a seemingly new thing to become available (say Godzilla).
It is really the same thing that happens as summer movie season progresses. After June, the big blockbusters continue to come out at a ridiculous pace and each one enjoys less success than the previous. Hollywood comes up with lots of theories (some valid, some not) but it seems rather simple - empty wallet fatigue. A family of four drops around $50-$100 going to the movies. With so many big movies, its simply impossible financially to keep up so if can only afford to maybe go out 3-5 times during the summer then you are going to try to choose carefully. Which sounds easy until your bored, just done with school children, want to see a movie now and man that movie looks good. Result is that budget gets blown by end of June so July and August movies takes hits they may have not otherwise had if not for the dense volume of releases in such a small window. Applying that to toys is really much of a reach. All the theories aside, by end of summer we will have a better idea if Hasbro's direction was wise or not.