Retro-based Products As The Next Business Opportunity

(Bufori La Joya. Image from Bufori)

When the movie Transformers was released in 2007, how many of us are not dying to watch it the soonest? I know I never belong to that alien group, as I dragged my old school buddy (along with her siblings) and we bought the tickets even though the showing was close to midnight and we still have to work tomorrow morning. But who cares? It’s Transformers! No Gen-X should claim that 80s was the best era if they never watched Transformers, Voltron or M.A.S.K. cartoon series. My mum always went berserk everytime I want to watch those series because either it meant I ran home before the school session was over or I wasn’t studying when I should. A quest to watch those cartoon series was more like an espionage mission for me. Failure to do so would meant I’d be the lone kid during our conversation in school the next day.

(Transformers 2007’s movie poster. No need to explain which one is the good robot and which is the bad one)

Sadly, as I mentioned in my previous article, our family wasn’t that well-to-do back then. Yes I did occasionally watched the series but since we couldn’t afford a VCR, it meant I can only watched it once (unlike current modern era where nowadays  YouTube or Netflix is just a click away) and if I missed it, it meant I missed it like forever (or so I thought). Forget about the toys or action-figures. The only one I ever had was Rhino from M.A.S.K. where my elder brother bought it for me during his school trip somewhere. Yes, my late father bought me a Tranformers-like toy from a flea market somewhere, but it’s just a toy that can transform to a truck (and vice-versa). Close enough, but still not the real thing. And once I grew up and could actually afford it, it’s no longer available for sale.

Until now.

With the launch of Transformers in 2007 (and Iron Man in 2008), Gen-X group like me is no longer clinging to our past or YouTube to feel nostalgic. Transformers movie series and Marvel’s franchise has minted billions and billions of money worldwide and has created a trend of reviving the old-yet-popular movies or franchise for those who were born in 70s and early 80s to feel like kid again. How much it’s worth? Well, Transformers movie series has generated more than $4 billion. And for Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise? A cool $17.5 billion. And they are yet to release their latest movies like Avengers 4 or Captain Marvel! 

Well, at least we can say to our parents that they might be wrong for all this while. Watching cartoons does pay, at least to those who worked on those movies. But of course, not all movie franchise are destined for success. I’m still waiting for DC to find the right formula for their Justice League. And Hasbro got it right only with Transformers, but not so much with G.I.Joe. and Battleship.

And with more and more movies based on popular TV series of the 80s, it’s a matter of time before the franchise owners and the movie studios minting more and more money for their shareholders.

If they got the formula correct of course.

What’s Old Is New Again


(The old and new Nokia 3310. Image from Business Insider UK)

Movie studios and franchise owners are not the only one who revived the retro-based products and then injects it with some current technology features and making serious money from it. Nokia (or rather HMD Global Oy) has revived their popular 3310 model and according to The Inquirer article here (albeit the article was a year ago),  it was immediately sold-out. Looking at the spec, I doubt it can do a lot of stuff that we demand from our (smart)phones today (what do you expect from a phone which has only 16MB storage, 2 MP camera and no app store?) like WhatsApp or Slack, but apparently that didn’t deter people from having their hands on it. I guess a lot of them really like the Snake game (I’m not a big fan).

Either that or they want a phone that the battery can go for a week without recharging.



(Tissot Pocket Mechanical Skeleton. Image from Classic Driver)


And how many of us still remember pocket watch? Or maybe the right question is, how many of use pocket watch instead of some smartwatch from Apple or Google?

I used to go gaga over pocket watch. Yes, I know it sound weird for an IT engineer to use some classic and outdated watch like that, but I really like the elegant design of pocket watch and how cool it would be when someone asked you what’s the time now. Just pull it out and act like some gentleman in 20th century (without walking cane because it’s a bit too much) and calmly tell that person “it’s close to 5 o’clock my dear” (accent is optional).

But now, wristwatch is no longer the only game in town. I’m not going to be so ballsy and claim that one day pocket watch will be a serious competitor to modern watches. But it’s no longer perceived as collector’s item or the one you can only get on eBay. Today, even Tissot and IWC has pocket watch in their collection. And it’s a brand new, not pre-loved.

I’m still looking for the right excuse reason(s) for my spouse to allow me to buy one of the pocket watch for myself. So far, I failed. Therefore if any of you could think of any, please let me know.

Why Retro-based Products Are Poised For A Comeback

(Triumph Bonneville T100. Image from Triumph Motorcycles)

With all technological innovation and minimalist design (to name a few), why retro-based products (including movies, action-figures and TV-series) are poised for a comeback in this 21st century? I think this is not whether or not the retro or classic design can fulfil our demand for the latest, grandest, coolest and most sophisticated technology. Not even modern minimalist design.

This is more towards nostalgic reasons rather than keeping up with the Jones. The romantic idea of reviving what seems to be the great things of the past and try to give it new breath of fresh air. This is more towards psychological aspect of the products which brings memories of our yesteryears rather than any SWOT or cost-benefits analysis of any particular products. I mean if we consider our hectic life and how dependent are we with our smartphones and assume that anything less than that is not good enough, then explain to me why Nokia 3310 went sold-out? It doesn’t even have 3G or 4G, let alone some useful apps that we use on a daily basis (anybody can still go through their day without accessing Facebook or Twitter nowadays?).

Take the example of my historic ‘relationship’ with Transformers series mentioned above. Back then we got no LCD-screen TV, VCR is few and far between and action figures are either quite limited in store or we couldn’t afford it back then. For close to 20 years, I still remember (although not vividly) the scene of Autobots fights Decepticons on weekly basis (I did wonder back then whether or not they have something else better to do), the scene of 5 robotic lions transformed to become a giant robot (Voltron) and fight the bad aliens or M.A.S.K where the mechanical vehicles could transform to become… whatever mechanical thingy to fight the bad guys. And I waited like 15 years before Transformers came to cinema in 2007. My verdict? It’s worth it and it does brings back the nostalgia and sweet memories that I had when I was a kid.

(The revival of PlayStation 1st Gen in miniature form. Image from PlayStation/Flickr)

And if I’m one of those Gen-Xers who craved for those 80s series, imagine how many millions Gen-Xers worldwide? And since the definition of Gen-X is the one who were born until early 80s, it makes the youngest Gen-Xers are around 30 years old now. At that age, quite a number of Gen-Xers are in their prime career (and business) trajectory and it’s one of the demographic that marketers cannot and should not overlook. It’s like “my parents can’t afford to buy it for me back then, but now I can buy it myself” kind of thinking. And since buying and selling involves a lot more of emotional and psychological rather than hard, calculative financial reasons, reviving a retro-design products could be the new opportunities for our future entrepreneurs.

It’s true that there are several things are better off left in the past. I mean, I’m not really looking forward of buying cassette tapes or VCR just to listen to a song or watch a movie. And having a rotary dial phone is a bit too cumbersome for me (what should I do to add pound/hashtag sign?). I still don’t think we should revive floppy disks either, and I don’t think anyone is looking forward for a phone that sized as big as brick to get revived.

I’m still looking forward for my other favourite series to get its own movie and when that happens, the only thing I want to say to them would be “Shut up and take my money”.

If you’re Gen-Xers like me, you already knew these opening trailers. No need further explanation. Just enjoy.


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