The Merchandise-Driven show, otherwise known as the "half-hour toy commercial", is not merely a television show (or other work) with a line of toys licensed on the side, but a television show created from a line of toys. The program exists largely to sell these products to the audience, and this is most commonly associated with cartoons and anime targeted at a younger audience.
Note that there are very few instances of the Merchandise Driven cartoons of today that predate the deregulation of children's television in the Reagan years. The FCC classified 1969's Hot Wheels cartoon as "a thirty-minute toy commercial", which pretty well killed the show (along with reruns of Linus the Lionhearted, a show starring the cartoon Mascots of the Post Cereal line).
(Conversely, it was rare that a popular show would spawn action figures and toys when it was actually on the air in the US. Throughout The '60s and The '70s, the only reliable source for the various Cool Cars and Cool Ships from various science fiction and superhero shows were the Corgi line, imported from the UK. Mego's Star Trek: The Original Series figures didn't appear until well after the show was in reruns.)
Today, there is a full symbiotic relationship between the show's production and the toy company (or other manufacturer licensed, show-themed products), which is usually the primary (or even only) sponsor of the show. But the key difference between this and normal licensed merchandising is that here, it is the toy manufacturer who dictates the show's Canon. They may be able to demand addition or removal of characters from the series based on the actual toys in their production line, or that new characters must be something that they can design a toy version for on demand (Military or paramilitary-themed shows and Humongous Mecha anime are particularly prone to this). Another sign of a toy manufacturer exerting influence is the blatant structuring of episode plots solely around the newest merchandisable toy accessories, often where the characters Gotta Catch 'Em All or be declared a failure as a human being ... yeah, something like that. Meanwhile, in Tokusatsu works, it has become common for the production staff to use weapons and Transformation Trinkets from the show's toyline in the actual show itself.
Merchandise Driven shows are not limited to a young audience either. Many works are adapted from manga, video games, toys, etc. only if there's an existing lucrative market, and older fans are often targeted for their potential loyalty and deeper wallets. That so many comic books and late-night anime can maintain a decent budget is due to this small but vocal group of fans.
Can be halfheartedly avoided with the use of a Segregated Commercial. Still, this sometimes produces a Franchise Zombie. However, Tropes Are Not Bad — some fandoms like the merchandise more so than the show itself.
Many musicals ensured that potential hit tunes were reprised a few times. This was as much for the sake of the song publishers as for dramatic opportunities like the Dark Reprise. The revues, which were formed around Sketch Comedy and had little to no plot, could get quite shameless: some of them explicitly introduced song reprises as a ploy to sell sheet music.
Note that a show can have a line of licensed merchandise without being Merchandise Driven, and once the requirements are met the writers are basically given free rein to script what they want. See The Merch for that. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was famously quoted as saying there is nothing wrong with using characters in marketing, so long as the quality of one's work stays refined. That said, Bill Watterson has, equally famously, taken no chances and limited Calvin and Hobbes to the print medium to prevent any decay in quality. (Unfortunately, this caused people to just make offensive unauthorized merchandise...)
Also note while advertising can often be the main reason for a show's existence, it is never the only reason, that's what actual commercials are for. Shows of this nature always do their best to tell a story and to keep the viewers hooked with said story. Keep that in mind whenever viewing a show that falls under this trope.
It's also notable that, when the series is particularly well-done, it may outlive the product that inspired it. This seems to be particularly true of comic books, such as ROM: Space Knight and Micronauts. It's also common for merchandise driven shows to develop a cult following that long outlasts the original merchandise; such a fanbase may result in its eventually being Un-Canceled (usually with accompanying new merchandise), as the current incarnations of Transformers, G.I. Joe, and others can attest.
Compare Misaimed Marketing, where this sort of thinking is applied where it shouldn't be. See also Defictionalization, where the licensed merchandise is also merchandise inside the show; and Breakaway Advertisement. In some instances, this can also be intertwined with Off-the-Shelf FX. Contrast with The Merch, where the merchandise sales came after the work, in order to support it. For derivative works that are (usually) not metatextual focus of the original work, see Tie-In Novel, Licensed Game, and Advertisement Game.
See also Product Promotion Parade, a common occurrence in Merchandise Driven works, and Cash Cow Franchise. See the Analysis page for a list of tropes enforced in these works as ways to sell more merchandise.
- Otome-oriented franchises usually plays this trope straight, with loads of merchandises ranging from decorative keychains, apparels, figures, to housewares. To get a good idea how they win this trope, look up The Merch for Diabolik Lovers, Kuroko no Basuke and Free! These franchises also loves to create limited-edition one-offs that usually costs triple in auctions. Fans use these to make "ita-bags", a bag with a clear panel in the front, behind which merchandise of a single character (or pairing) is artfully arranged, covering the entire front of the bag.
- Not that their male counterparts are any different. With shows like Love Live! and Puella Magi Madoka Magica being huge Cash Cow Franchises with tons of merchandise (some less sexual than others even if it's not the intent of the show) for nerdy shut-ins and Otakus in general to consume. The moral of the story here is that we are equal in Perverse Sexual Lust.
- Out of popular otome franchises, special mention goes to the Tsukipro franchise and its mascots. There's a different animal for each series of two idol units - Tsukiuta's Tsukiusa (rabbit), SQ's Lizz-kun (squirrel), Alive's Arainu (dog), and Vazzrock's Vazzcat - and the mascots come in each character's image color. Not only do they sell a ton of different permutations of plushies of them, they also make clothes and accessories for the original size ones. And they encourage fans to be creative with them - many fans make tiny versions of the characters' costumes from the illustrations and stage plays, for the plushies, and there are plenty of instagram accounts of fans taking photos of the plushies in interesting arrangements. They even had an official photo contest.
- The Pokémon anime is an arm for advertising the video game series, with storylines being tied to the games, certain Pokémon games being promoted near the time of release, and character and plot being de-emphasized over showcasing the newest monsters. And it worked; it became one of the most popular children's cartoons and anime series at the time of release, and helped turn Pokémon into the Cash Cow Franchise it is now.
- Pokémon Origins is a completely separate OVA created to promote Pokémon X and Y, aimed at older fans who grew up with the original games. As such, it still serves as a promotional arm for the games, especially with Mega Charizard X's appearance, but otherwise focuses more on bringing the original games to life rather than shoving all the newest Pokémon and features in viewers' faces.
- Almost all Pokémon manga is this, though as demonstrated by the above two examples, they can handle the Merchandise-Driven aspect in different ways. Pokémon Adventures, for example, isn't as relentless in this regard as the regular anime (as evidenced by its Schedule Slip tendencies), and puts a stronger focus on characters and storytelling.
- Contrary to what some may believe, the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga/anime did not fit this trope: not only was Duel Monsters not originally part of the series, it took a while before it could be developed into a real collectible card game, which explains why the series seemed to be making up rules as it went along before the Battle City arc, which was lampshaded heavily in the Abridged Series. Its sequel series, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, and Yu Gi Oh Zexal, however, were very much this, causing some fans of the original to complain. Ironically, there's a rumor going around stating that the cards were wiped of text not to eliminate the Japanese language from the dub, but because a rule in the FCC prevented "in-show advertising" in children's television to be shown (which the executives felt the show would skirt if the cards were left untouched or translated). Evidence for this is seen in Yu-Gi-Oh: The Movie, in which the cards look like the real cards, and are even translated into English.
- The fourth spin-off, Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, veers slightly away from this trope by valuing character development and plot over the cards. For example duels are repeatedly interrupted or cut out and barely shown to make room for more plot-important scenes.
- Digimon, in all of its anime forms. Even more so in manga for, as C'mon Digimon was finished before the v-pets. Notable as Bandai didn't care about anything except the merchandise and gave the anime writers a free hand, with diverse results. Digimon Tamers even features merchandising from the franchise in the show!
- It should be noted that, nevertheless, it still shows in most series, only not as blatantly as other examples in this page; the exact degree varies considerably. Adventure 02 is a good example — in the series, Takeru's and Hikari's Digimon had to evolve into Armor forms because the plot placed a restriction on normal evolution methods. Later in the series, the limitation was lifted, allowing Patamon and Tailmon to reach their (more powerful) angelical forms; nevertheless, they still went with the Armors most of the time, since they were what was selling then.
- Digimon Xros Wars tightly embraces the marketing side - practically every main character was clearly designed with Combining Mecha toys in mind, and as such the story primarily wove itself around said combining gimmick, but it is unclear how much of the story is influenced by it. It paid off, as its toy sales were reportedly the best of any Digimon line in years and were enough to get the show an extra season. Said extra season, Digimon Xros Wars: The Young Hunters Leaping Through Time, is significantly less toyetic so far, to the point where no actual toys for anything introduced in it are known to exist at this time.
- On the other hand, Digimon Frontier provided a rather blatant example, as Takuya, Kouji and Kouichi's combined forms, as well as their Ancient Digimon, were quite clearly designed as simple amalgamations of their earlier Hybrid forms and thus easily able to be made into toys. Susanoomon, the final hero, was also a visible amalgamation of KaiserGreymon and MagnaGarurumon.
- Beyblade, which focused on a wildly popular world dominating sport where competitors play with little spinning top toys and try to tip each others' toys over.
- Battle B-Daman had a similar premise, based on increasingly ludicrous games involving marble-shooting chibi robots.
- In the same gamut, Bakugan. At least it has a better justification (parallel universe and all).
- Ojamajo Doremi showcased magical accessories that were not only gaudy and colorful, but even in the anime looked like cheap plastic, and featured sounds, lights, and actions that were easy to replicate via the magic of mass production. This Dreamspinner◊, for example, is precisely as depicted in the show, right up to the point where it fails to spit out a magic wand and costume — they're sold separately.
- The entire Brave Series was heavily Merchandise Driven; the franchise was essentially a remake of Transformers when Takara was having difficulty with its other contractors about that franchise and so turned to Sunrise, then already famous for Mobile Suit Gundam, and asked them to animate several toy-driven kid's shows. The brand never did as well as Takara had hoped it would and they eventually stopped caring, which led to both the above example and pretty much everything that ever happened in GaoGaiGar.
- The anime version of PaRappa The Rapper was made purely for this.
- The "success" of a Gundam anime series is often considered to be measured by the number of Gunpla models it sells. The fact that many of these series are either good, great, or mind-blowing, seems completely unimportant to its production company.
- Ironically, Tomino made the original Gundam series in an attempt to make the Giant Robot genre something other than a toy commercial. It hasn't always worked. For example, the color scheme of the titular mech was drastically altered to be more visually appealing (even though it was much, much less realistic). And all of the other modifications to the original story.
- Even more ironically, the Gundam series' continued survival and success is largely down to the fact that Bandai chose to sponsor the series and sell plastic models. The original series' cancellation was in part due to poor merchandising.
- Gundam Sousei discusses this. The show's ratings were absolutely terrible, so Tomino started creating blatantly toyetic mobile suits and vehicles (such as the G-Armor) in hopes that toy sales would keep the show afloat. It didn't work, but the strong toy and model kit sales did help convince the studio to do a trilogy of Compilation Movies, which eventually led to Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, which was far more successful.
- In the later parts of the UC timeline, mobile suit technology is refined to the point where the suits can be built 20-30% smaller and lighter without sacrificing power or armor. And so Bandai gets to market smaller and cheaper models in the same scales, grades, and price points as before.
- Despite the expense of new kits, this has been phased out as newer kits are often priced depending on their weight and complexity. Kits like the 00 Qant and the Unicorn Gundam are hot sellers but they are priced according to how much plastic is in those kits. On the other hand, large kits like the Sinanju err to the more expensive side.
- By the time of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, the price of the HG kits are barely the half of the other kits thanks to the inner frame features, all mobile suits in these lines can interchange parts with each other as well as attaching Builder parts onto the peg holes on the frame.
- Often times, Bandai will find ways to release old kits as a new model with various ways to make them seem like legitimate standalone kits. One such method is to market recolors (0 Gundam and the Celestial Being colors) or spin-off variations of a kit (Astraea, Astraea type F) without having to create an entire set of runners. This can be both subtle and completely in your face like the GN condenser 00 where the frame is the exact same except for an extra clip that gives you the condenser pieces.
- Gundam Build Fighters is what happens when Gundam abandons any pretense at not being merchandise driven. It's basically a typical toy-driven To Be a Master series... except the toys are Gundam models. Build Fighters is marginally more decent about this than its predecessor, Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G, though. The previous show had An Aesop that modifying your kits or scratch-building parts is bad (of course, we know the real reason why Bandai would rather you buy stock parts), whereas scratch-building is very much celebrated in Build Fighters.
- Funnily, this is also the creation behind Sunrise shows that fans call "it's Gundam, only not". Since the Gundam name has such a specific stigma behind it and requires model sales to be successful, Sunrise will make shows that in many ways are essentially Gundam series, but called something else in order to avoid said stigma. Examples being Code Geass, Valvrave, and Dragonar, which was called by fans "the best Gundam show of the 80s".
- Ironically, Tomino made the original Gundam series in an attempt to make the Giant Robot genre something other than a toy commercial. It hasn't always worked. For example, the color scheme of the titular mech was drastically altered to be more visually appealing (even though it was much, much less realistic). And all of the other modifications to the original story.
- Zoids is unusual in this respect, as the original model line from the 80s had no supporting media, aside from two short promotional videos, a few video games and a comic series produced by Marvel Comics. The second model line, however, had numerous anime and manga adaptations, though only the first three (Zoids: Chaotic Century, Zoids: New Century and Zoids: Fuzors) saw distribution outside of Japan.
- Crush Gear Turbo was advertising for a rather strange game where battery-powered toy cars rolled around and collided in a small tray until one of them had the wheels fall off, or something. The merchandise is almost as hard to find as the show itself.
- Hello Kitty and all her Sanrio friends. They have various adaptations including TV shows and comic books, but they are at heart saleable products.
- In Sailor Moon, the Outer Senshi had unique Transformation Sequences due to the transformation wands Bandai sold at the time. Since the Outer wands came with tubes of lipstick, the Outer Senshi were given close-ups of their lipstick magically gliding over their mouths during their transformations.
- In the live-action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, the weapons and accessories used by the characters in the show were the actual toys on sale concurrently in the shops.
- Also, Naoko Takeuchi originally designed the Sailor Starlights with short hair (which fit the androgynous theme behind the characters), but was convinced to give them ponytails after Bandai representatives informed her that it was difficult to produce short-haired dolls.
- Hime Chen Otogi Chikku Idol Lilpri is an adaptation of a Sega arcade game called Lilpri - Yubi Puru Hime Chen, which allows players to scan cards to customize their own Magic Idol Singer. The cards are even used in the show by the three main characters and are advertised at the end of each episode.
- Pretty Cure: Becoming a long running Cash Cow Franchise for Toei Animation. The franchise grew so popular over the years that toys, dolls, accessories, and coloring books are released long before the new season even airs or even proves ratings worthy.
- Mini 4WD related manga and anime Dash! Yonkuro and Bakusou Kyoudai! Let's & Go!! are created solely to sell toy models from Tamiya. They even add tips on how to race the toy cars. The premise is similar to Crush Gear Turbo, except these are even older.
- The Black★Rock Shooter franchise exists to promote new BRS figurines. It would have been less egregious if other Other-world characters have their figurines released, but they just keep releasing BRS variations (regular, 2035, BRSB, IBRS...), and the variations aren't even all that different. Anime distributing company Funimation have even gone on to say that the reason why they were unable to get the rights to the TV series was because of the expensive toy dealings that were practically tacked on to the rights.
- Similar to BRS above, variations of Super Sonico (and her friend Super Pochaco) exist to promote her figurines. While most of her variations are different (swimsuit version, bathing version, waitress version and so on), there are some egregious examples like the Tanned version and color variants (which are, well, recolors), see it for yourself, along with her other merchandises. Note that the link doesn't contain her prize figures. That's also not counting her various manga spinoffs and CDs starring her anime band, as well as her games. It was to be expected, though, as she owes her existence to being a concert poster girl.
- In Queen's Blade the Visual Battle Books are what really ignites any other related product for the franchise, from figurines to Anime/Manga and Video Games; Hobby Japan itself are endorsed by other companies to make merchandise of their products, so making some for their in-house creation comes off as expected.
- Medabots was a vehicle to sell a series of video games and customizable action figures; justified in-universe by having battlers being able to take one part from their opponent on victory and add it to their robot. Fits this trope to a T; and was also pretty memorable in its own right.
- Cardfight!! Vanguard definitely smells of this, with a hefty number of early episodes pretty much being dedicated to instructions on how to play the gamenote , throwing in Real Life Booster Pack names now and then note , and in one instance, promote a CD Single of their theme song.
- Redakai was made in an attempt to support a card game of the same name, with the characters "Unlocking new X-drives" (basically opening a booster pack of cards and listing them off) at the end of each episode.
Boomer - I've got to get me one of those!
- A glaring example of this is a comment made when Ky unveils his "Gold Metanoid":
- Monsuno, a series centered around a card game and a line of toys where monsters burst forth from spun tubes.
- MegaMan NT Warrior existed to promote Capcom's already-popular Mega Man Battle Network video games; as well as the accompanying merchandise for the series itself.
- Parodied in the dub of Crayon Shin-chan with Tokusatsu hero Action Bastard, spoofing toy-driven tokusatsu with open plugs for action figures, role play gear, and mail-away offers during episodes.
- Aikatsu! was made to promote an arcade card/rhythm game of the same name. The events of the anime and the clothes worn by the characters during performances are made to match the content of the expansion pack released on the arcade game. Some episodes are even related to some of the side merchandises. It may be perhaps the most successful of these kinds of shows today in Japan-it makes more money than Pretty Cure does!
- The Pretty Rhythm and PriPara series are based off arcade games as well.
- The movie Oshare Majo Love And Berry: Shiawase No Mahou.
- Beast Saga, due to being the Spiritual Successor to Battle Beasts/Beastformers.
- Yo-Kai Watch, being based on a video game, is this, to the point where it's currently rivaling Pokemon in popularity.
- selector infected WIXOSS is an unusual instance of this played straight. On the surface it looks to be a tcg anime akin to Yu-Gi-Oh! with a dash of Magical Girl for flavor. A closer examination shows that the presentation is a Deconstruction of the Serious Business mentality such shows treat their card games. Wixoss seems just to be a cute game for girls, but those that can see and speak with special cards known as LRIG's are Selectors, unique in that they can battle in hopes of granting a girl's greatest wish. The game is revealed to have a dark consequence for those that fail three battles, quickly reversing the effects of their wish into a curse, and their cute LRIG companion will disappear. The anime delves into what a harsh system will do to girls as they struggle to win battles at any cost, sacrificing friendships in the name of achieving their wishes, and a worse twist that befalls those unlucky enough to win. Ostensibly it exists to promote the Wixoss card game, but unlike most anime of this nature the rules are barely explained and focus more on the characterization of those playing, the psychological complexity of those desperate enough to play, and exploring many Darker and Edgier themes that make you wonder why little girls would buy such a depressing product.
- Suzy's Zoo: Daisuki! Witzy was technically created to increase awareness of the Suzy's Zoo franchise in Japan.
- Sgt. Frog: Inverted here - it's Keroro's love of Gundams that earned them Bandai as its merchandising arm. The KeroPla line of plastic models features Keronian characters and mecha all compatible with existing Gundam models.
Keroro: It's so roomy!Giroro (in monotone): Yes for action figures, and toys.
- It also resulted in the series making it to Super Robot Wars, Keroro's living the mecha fanboy dream.
- And on Keron, the platoon is a super duper popular cash cow... but they didn't actually know this until they got letters from Keronian kids on New Year's. Somebody's really rich, but it sure as Hell isn't them.
- It's parodied in episode 10 of the anime (at least in the dub), where an armored vehicle is introduced just to add it to the toy line.
- Danball Senki, a series that could be seen as a Spiritual Successor to Medabots, existed to promote a series of video games and a corresponding line of customizable, 1/1 scale model kits.
- Kotobukiya has been quite blunt about making the anime adaptation of Frame Arms Girls very much about enticing people to buy kits of the small robot girls. It lends the show a certain charm in its unabashedness in marketing them.
- All of the various anime seasons in the Battle Spirits franchise are made to promote a trading card game. While some of the seasons allow more focus on the characters and story, and may even gloss over the card battles sometimes, later seasons make the merchandise-driven nature more obvious, with the plot being driven by real-life set releases.
- Marvel's Micronauts comic book series was created specifically to sell the action figure toy line, but writer Bill Mantlo successfully turned it into a well-written and sometimes deeply philosophical science fiction epic, while doing all they could to avoid some amazing similarities between the toy line and the recently-released Star Wars: A New Hope. The comics outlasted the toy line, but since Marvel doesn't own the trademark, the Micronauts have rarely reappeared in the Marvel Universe, and their more familiar aspects, and name, have been suspiciously absent when they did appear. Bug still appears without the rest of the team, since he bears so little resemblance to the "Galatic Warrior" figure on which he was very loosely based, that Marvel can claim him as their own original creation.
- Marvel Comics had several toy-based series in the late 70s/early 80s: in addition to Micronauts, there was also Shogun Warriors, ROM: Space Knight, Transformers, G.I. Joe and others. Somewhat unexpectedly, nearly all of them, especially G.I. Joe, are usually regarded as quite good. All of these (except Transformers and Joe) were considered part of the main Marvel Universe, meaning they could interact with Marvel characters. In fact, even after losing the rights to the main characters, Marvel still owns the ones they created (such as the Dire Wraiths from Rom) and they still show up in the comics occasionally. Marvel also created a few series that were intended to be adapted as toy lines, such as Crystar Crystal Warrior with Remco.
- At least for the first few issues, The Transformers was considered part of the mainline Marvel Comics universe, in that there was some overlap, but not as much as there would be between Marvel's main titles. Spider-Man appeared in issue 3 of Transformers, and the Transformers comic villain Circuit Breaker made an appearance in Secret Wars II (so that Marvel wouldn't lose the copyright on the character to Hasbro). Issue 8 had the last specific reference to the Marvel Universe in the series with an appearance of the Savage Land (which was only used as a Lost World backdrop to explain the origin of the Dinobots).
- After merging with a toy company, Marvel produced a comic based on its own "MegaMorphs'' Transforming Mecha toys. Fans seem to regard the resultant comic as So Bad, It's Good.
- The G.I. Joe comic was partly created as an end run around using animation in toy commercials. The amount of animation was limited to a few seconds. However, they could do full 30 second animated commercials for a comic book. That's why it's one of the very few comics to ever be advertised on television. It was really about selling toys.
- The Team America comic book series was conceived by Ideal Toys as a way to continue selling their motorcycle products after Evel Knievel (the previous subject of their line) was arrested for battery.
- One of Marvel's least successful toy tie-ins was a series called US-1, which was meant to promote Tyco's slot-car truck toys. The toyline lasted for six years; the comic only lasted 12 issues. The comic would later become fodder for Atop the Fourth Wall, to the point where the series is referenced in the theme song. Nevertheless, U.S. Archer remains a part of the Marvel Universe (really, the only thing Marvel can't use from that series is the US-1 name and logo).
- Marvel Comics' Secret Wars miniseries was created to promote sales of Mattel's Marvel toys. As such, certain story elements were implemented for the sole purpose of benefiting the toy line, such as Doctor Doom's armor being damaged and rebuilt so that he more closely resembled his action figure. Strangely enough, certain characters who played big parts in the series did not get their own figures, while characters who didn't even appear at all (such as The Falcon, Daredevil, and the Hobgoblin) did.
- DC produced three mini-series for Kenner's Super Powers Collection toy line. The minis are fondly remembered today due to featuring artwork from legendary comic artists like Carmine Infantino and Jack Kirby. The series worked in some of the new designs from the toys, such as the ones for Mantis, Steppenwolf and the Parademons, with even Darkseid himself donning a cape so he'd look more like his action figure. Some of the vehicles, like the heroes' Delta Probe One and Kalibak's ridiculous Boulder Bomber craft, also appeared.
- Speaking of the Super Powers Collection, George Perez designed Lex Luthor's suit of green Powered Armor so it could be adapted as a figure in the line. Though initially discarded after Crisis on Infinite Earths, the look proved popular enough that Lex has worn variations of it in the decades since.
- A similar mini-series was produced for Kenner's Total Justice action figure line. The contrived plot saw the members of the Justice League donning high-tech suits of battle armor after temporarily losing their abilities. The writer, Christopher Priest, has admitted in later years that the series was pretty awful.
- Ame-Comi Girls, which is based off the Animesque line of statues.
- The original Atari Force started off as promotional giveaways included with Atari 2600 game cartridges. The second series kept the backstory and the characters, but was otherwise an original sci-fi romp.
- This is the entire reason Spider-Man's short-lived Spider-Mobile even existed. In the 70's, Stan Lee was seeking new revenue streams for Marvel to exploit, and thought that giving Spider-Man a Cool Car would make the character more appealing to toy companies.
- Likewise, DC introduced the Supermobile for Superman because Corgi's Batmobile toys had proven to be a massive success, and they wanted to see if lightning would strike twice.
- Also, the entire reason Superman's enemy Brainiac became a living computer is because the makers of the Brainiac toy computer threatened legal action over trademark infringement. As part of a settlement, DC turned the character into a living computer and then included a footnote advertising the toy.
- During the 90s, Scott Lobdell had wanted to redesign Iceman in order to give him a spikier, more Animesque look. At the time, he was shot down by his editor and told that ToyBiz would be pissed if the character no longer resembled the Iceman action figure that was currently in stores. Ironically, after learning of the proposed new design, Marvel's marketing department later wound up okaying the idea, as they realized Iceman's new look was more toyetic, and thus would be more appealing to merchandisers.
- This is becoming more and more common in "regular" comic books, from Events to other stories. Many, many stories now heavily feature rapid-fire costume switches and variants on old costume designs, as heroes gain temporary power-ups. DC's Blackest Night and Marvel's Fear Itself show this most strongly. In the former, a dozen heroes get possessed by Power Rings that alter their costumes more than once. In the latter, heroes and villains get new costumes and weapons. All have the side-effect of allowing whole new sets of toys to be created in their likeness. Although curiously, Fear Itself didn't receive a line of toys, and there haven't been any variants produced of the characters in the toy-lines. Blackest Night, on the other hand? Pretty much every Black Lantern has received a figure, at the very least.
- Larry Hama's legendary run of G.I. Joe was full of this, in spite of his writing. Many, many issues featured an entirely new cast of characters on their "first mission" or a "training run" or somesuch thing, as they were based off of new toys that were coming out. Hama seemed to take it in good cheer, and enjoyed coming up with creative new concepts and character names. Aside from a near-constant recurring main cast, the comic featured an endless supply of new background characters.
- The title was so popular that a second book, Special Missions, was started up with the stipulation that Hama didn't have to write all of the new toys into it.
- In one case, when the "Eco-Warriors" subline (which included main cast member Flint) was worked into the book, Hama added a line about how the team's special new uniforms were made out of recycled action figures.
- Spy Gal, who received a one-shot comic book as part of a promotion between Marvel Comics and Benefit Cosmetics.
- As Cracked pointed out, there's an entire genre of promotional comics published by DC and Marvel designed to plug various products. These include (among other examples):
- A Justice League of America comic featuring Sears appliances.
- An Avengers comic featuring Harley-Davidson motorcycles. This partnership also spilled into installments featuring Captain America and Thor.
- An Avengers comic featuring Audi vehicles, with the cast consisting of characters featured in Captain America: Civil War (Captain America, Black Panther, Black Widow, ect.)
- An Avengers comic featuring Pirate's Booty snacks.
- An All-New, All-Different Avengers comic featuring Western Union.
- A Captain America comic featuring Kiehl's cosmetics.
- An Iron Man comic featuring a DJI drone.
- A Fantastic Four comic featuring tech from Hitatchi Data Systems.
- An Incredible Hulk comic featuring mattresses from Sleepy's.
- A comic starring a Canon Foreigner hero who drove a Pontiac Solstice, featuring a guest appearance from Black Canary.
- A series of Justice League of America comics featuring Subway sandwiches and cameos from famous athletes.
- An Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. comic featuring Lexus vehicles.
- A Superman and Wonder Woman comic featuring Tandy TRS-80 home computers.
- The unforgettable The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man.
- A Black Panther comic featuring Lexus vehicles.
- An Ant-Man and The Wasp comic featuring Dell computers.
- And Marvel's Combo Man, who somehow gained the powers of various Marvel characters by eating Combos.
- Monica's Gang had a comic series about the theme park based on the franchise, the main stories was about the characters having adventures on the park or just enjoying it, one can wonder how the characters can go to a theme park based on themselves but can be explained by the Animated Actors trope, and the comic was quite good and it wasn't much of shameless advertising, the rest of the stories in each issue were not related to the park, when the park was closed, the comic series was cancelled.
- In-Universe example in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) #28, when Twilight notices Well-To-Do has made merchandise of her. Justified, since Twilight's a princess and all.
Twilight: You're still using my face on merchandise?! I didn't agree to that!
Well-To-Do: [holding slightly similar toy of Twilight]: This? This is the park's new mascot "Princess Twilight Sporkle"! See? Totally different from you! Our legal department said it's totally fine!
- It's common for Marvel and DC video games to get Recursive Adaptation comics to promote them, such as Injustice: Gods Among Us, Marvel Future Fight or the third Contest of Champions series.
- Lampshaded in an issue of the "Heroes Reborn" Fantastic Four series, where Sue notices that Johnny has begun wearing a new costume for no apparent reason.
Human Torch: Two different costumes means two different toy figures.
- Way back in The Golden Age of Comic Books, the Chicago Mail Order Company partnered with Centaur Publishing to create C-M-O Comics, which was like very comic anthology of the day, except that it featured Product Placement for items in the Chicago Mail Order catalogue, along with ads for them. The Invisible Terror was part of the series, among others.
- Marvel produced a mini-series based on the popular Tsum Tsum toys made by Disney. Despite the premise, it was generally considered to be pretty fun and well-written.
- Garfield, as its creator Jim Davis would eventually reveal, was created specifically with this kind of marketability in mind. Maybe not as a toy per se (the character was dramatically less toyetic in appearance in the beginning), but definitely as a line of merchandise. Garfield and Friends frequently lampshaded this. In one episode, another cat named Gabriel performs a Hostile Show Takeover, eventually leading Garfield to complain that "He's got my merchandising!"
- Robotman, created by United Feature Syndicate in the '80s to be a marketing icon — a rare instance of a character actually being created by a syndicate and handed over to a cartoonist instead of the other way around, and an excellent example of how Merchandise Driven the comic strip industry in general had become by this point. After looking over a comic submitted for syndication by a young Bill Watterson and recommending that he spin off two of its minor characters into their own strip, they asked him to incorporate Robotman into the resulting product. Watterson, unsurprisingly, refused, and wound up not getting the gig. He moved on to rival Universal Press Syndicate, and the rest is history. And what became of Robotman, you ask? He eventually did get his own comic strip, but it never became the marketing boom the syndicate hoped, and was eventually renamed Monty after the eponymous character was written out at the syndicate's own recommendation when they discovered it was hard to market a strip called Robotman.
- Calvin and Hobbes:
- A repeating gag is that Calvin, for all his artistic pretention, definitely wants in on the market share.
Calvin: Look at the dopey clay tiger Hobbes made.
Calvin's Mom: Gee Calvin, I think this is good.
Calvin: You LIKE it?? Where's the marketabiity?
Calvin's Mom: Ask Hobbes if we can put it on the coffee table.
Calvin: But look what I made! A hundred shrunken heads of popular cartoon characters!
Calvin's Mom: Eww, you stitched their mouths shut?!
Calvin: Gloat now, 'cause some day I'll be a lot richer than you.
Hobbes: I call it "Symphony in Orange, No. 1".
- Calvin's dad especially rails against the consumerism of mass media, a viewpoint that mirror's Watterson's own.
Calvin's Dad: Our lives are filled with machines designed to reduce work and increase leisure. We have more leisure than any man has ever had. And what do we do with this leisure? Educate ourselves? Take up new interests? Explore? Invent? Create?
Calvin: Dad, I can't hear this commercial.
[Calvin is thrown outside]
Calvin: If it were up to my dad, leisure would be as bad as work.
Calvin's Dad: How can you stand these cartoons? They're just half-hour commercials for toys. And when they're not boring, they're preachy. And these characters don't even MOVE. They just stand around blinking! What kind of cartoon is THAT?
Calvin: Meet my dad, the Gene Siskel of Saturday Morning TV.
Calvin's Dad: Watching a Christmas special?
Calvin's Dad: Another show extolling love and peace interrupted every seven minutes by commercials extolling greed and waste. I hate to think what you're learning from this.
Calvin: I'm learning I need my own TV so I can watch someplace else.
- A repeating gag is that Calvin, for all his artistic pretention, definitely wants in on the market share.
- Regularly mocked in Foxtrot, where Jason makes no secret whatsoever that he wants money, not artistic recognition.
- One of his proposed Slug-man comics was nothing but Slug-man and Paige-o-tron using their various weapons against each other (Each Sold Separately, *batteries not included, and all ending in a Trade Snark) ending with Jason wondering if it was customary to approach network executives or toy manufacturers first.
- Another had him submit a comic strip to his school newspaper.
Jason: Honestly, what do you think of my strip?
Peter: Well, it's not particularly funny...
Peter: And it's not particularly well-drawn...
Peter: In fact, it's probably the lamest thing I've ever seen.
Jason: But will it sell T-shirts?
Peter: My, but you do have pure motives...
- And this immortal line:
Jason: Do you think the world is ready for cartoon-shaped Ty-D-Bol tablets?
- Surprisingly, Toy Story was not made for this, although it happens to be perfect for selling toys anyway. But the Shows Within The Movie, Woody's Roundup and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (the latter was Defictionalized) both are, and the two main characters are part of the merchandise. Woody's Roundup is even said to have been Cut Short because the toys weren't selling anymore, the fate of too many real-life series to name.
- Cars quickly became Disney/Pixar's Cash Cow Franchise in terms of selling merchandise. Kids don't want Woody, Buzz, or any of the other characters Pixar created; they want cars. It's a symbiotic relationship: despite lukewarm critical and box office reception, John Lasseter keeps producing Cars films at Pixar, and spin-offs set in the same universe made by DisneyToon Studios, because that world is his personal pet project, and Disney has no problem letting him do it because he happens to pack each film full of more marketable new vehicle characters than an entire Transformers series.
- The first Cars film was green-lit by Michael Eisner specifically because he knew how much money other companies were making by selling car toys. The project Eisner turned down in order to make Cars? An early version of Toy Story 3. THAT is how valuable he felt the Cars franchise could become.
- Gnomeo and Juliet is an interesting variation on this trope. It was put into production by Disney in the late '90s as a passion project for Elton John (who had previously done the music for Disney's The Lion King), who at that point hadn't made a compilation album. Disney's logic was that if they crammed as many of Elton John's biggest hits into the film as they could, they'd then make a fortune by positioning the movie's soundtrack as an unofficial "Greatest Hits" album. Seriously. It turns out this wasn't actually such a good idea, and after nearly a decade of trying to make the film work Disney gave up on it and handed it off to someone else.
- JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time was commissioned by Target to promote its line of Justice League action figures. In an example of Tropes Are Not Bad, the film was pretty well received by fans and critics.
- The reason Thrax has the power to change the appearance of cars in Osmosis Jones is because the creators thought it'd help sell toys. However, the film's toy line was never released, making the gesture somewhat meaningless.
- The television movie Furby Island was made to promote the emoto-tronic Furby toys.
- Twinkle Toes was made to sell Skechers' new Twinkle Toes brand of light-up shoes. Yup, not even a toyline. Just shoes. Those kids' sneakers with the electric lights that flash every time you take a step, which were popular for a solid generation before Twinkle Toes. It's a charming kids' film in its own right, though, and if anything, the scene that introduces the shoes encourages kids to use their creativity to decorate their own shoes rather than buy Skechers.
- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, a feature length movie widely regarded as a classic. Quaker Oats Company agreed to underwrite the production in order to help the launch of a new line of candy. While the film may have been Merchandise-Driven, it was based on Roald Dahl's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and follows the book closely. While Quaker failed, Nestle, the eventual owners of the Wonka license, did succeed with the re-releases of the film, as well as the remake.
- Possibly the most blatant was The Wizard which was basically a 90 minute infomercial for the Nintendo Entertainment System. They not only include showing characters playing popular video games at the time, they also showed the Nintendo hint line, and most (in)famously the Mattel Power Glove (which never worked as well as advertised, making one character's Totally Radical statement "it's so bad" more true in the literal sense). The climax of the movie has them going to a video game championship where it's revealed that they will be playing a secret game. The not-released-at-the-time SUPER! MARIO! BROTHERS! 3! The climax of the movie is the new Super Mario Bros. game!
- Singin' in the Rain is a rare example of a merchandise driven product that turned out beautifully. The studio had the rights to a catalog of songs, and asked some filmmakers to make a movie with those songs in it for promotional value. A more crass motive you could not imagine, and yet Singin' in the Rain is considered one of the best movie musicals of all time.
- The Batman films are pretty good examples of this:
- Part of the reason Batman & Robin sucked so bad was because Warner Bros. forced Joel Schumacher to make the film "more toyetic" (a word the director had never heard before then). The films oft-derided visual design choices were partly a result of the art design being rushed so that they could start producing the toys.
- In fact, this trope is partially what led to Schumacher being hired to direct the Batman movies in the first place. In 1989, Tim Burton's Batman proved to be a massive hit in both theaters and toy aisles, bringing in an estimated $500 million in merchandise sales. However, the Darker and Edgier (and more sexual) nature of the sequel outraged parents, resulting in a letter-writing campaign aimed at the studio and McDonald's, who had run a Happy Meal promotion based off of the film. The WB execs came to believe that Burton's dark and disturbing vision of Batman wasn't conducive to selling merchandise, so he was removed from the director's chair so that the series could shift to a lighter and more colorful (and therefore more toyetic) tone with Batman Forever. This time, McDonald's refused to pony up any money until they'd seen the script for Forever, wanting to avoid a repeat of the previous controversy.
- The DC Extended Universe Batman changes his suit from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to a more armored one with goggles for the final act of Justice League.
- Pretty much the same thing happened on Street Fighter. A lot of the stuff involving tanks and other vehicles was put there at the behest of Hasbro, who wanted the film to promote their tie-in toy line.
- At least part of the reason why the Superman movie franchise was in Development Hell for so long is due to executives wanting to depower the Man of Steel so they could give him Batman-like toys that they could sell to kids. Several of the script drafts for Tim Burton's Superman Lives movie (including the one by Kevin Smith) featured Superman donning a suit of Powered Armor and using gadgets like high-tech goggles and S-shaped throwing stars.
- Star Wars as a whole is rooted heavily in vehicles, gadgets and exotic characters, making it very lucrative. Previously, toylines based on films were not very successful because films were one-time events and fade quickly, compared to tv shows on for years. As such Fox gave George Lucas the merchandising rights in lieu of salary as director, assuming A New Hope would would flop. Not only have the films been massive box office hits, the merchandise sells so well that it's a key reason why a major film often needs merchandising potential just to get greenlit these days. Lucas himself has admitted that while the movies are very successful in their own right, his wealth is primarily from the toys.
- The Pirates of the Caribbean movies were created to promote the already popular Pirates of the Caribbean ride, then the subsequent merchandise. Which led to the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride being refurbished to feature umpteen Jack Sparrows, to hype the movies' DVD sales and box-office receipts. Predictably, this disgusted fans of the attraction's classic layout but was a blessing for fans of the movies who always wanted to see Jack and the crew as part of the original ride.
- Mattel execs hoped Masters of the Universe would save the then-dying franchise of the same name by reigniting interest in the brand. Unfortunately, the toys and tv show being on a downward trend affected the film production itself, which flopped and couldn't do anything to save the toyline.
- Similarly, Hasbro started the Transformers Film Series out of a need to revitalize the brand after the Dork Age of the Unicron Trilogy. It worked. The films were all box office hits, and the toylines were big sellers. The toys for the first Transformers film surpassed Power Rangers in sales for the top boys' toy series. The second film proved to be a big example of Critical Dissonance (it made several worst of 2009 lists, but made over $836 million worldwide), and had steady toy sales. The third film made over $1 billion worldwide, and the toys make that much every year. It even got to the point where Transformers: Age of Extinction was greenlit largely due to the toy sales; leading to a further array of figures including fan favorites like the Dinobots.
- G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was created as a revival of the G.I. Joe toyline. While the film wasn't the biggest hit, the toys were major sellers; so much that the sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, was funded with the money made from the toys.
- Marvel Cinematic Universe:
- In Iron Man 2, the helmet and repulsor toys worn by the kid who Tony rescues from nearly getting killed are actually from the toyline. This is quite possibly the only superhero movie where using the actual toys used to promote the film is completely appropriate in-story.
- In general, it's speculated that one of the reasons Iron Man changes suits in every MCU movie (sometimes sporting multiple armors in a single film) is because it gives the toy companies more products to sell. Iron Man 3 in particular had an entire fleet of new armors that got very little screen time but nonetheless featured heavily in the merchandise for the film.
- Similarly, other recurring characters like Captain America, Thor and Spider-Man have gone through multiple costume changes which are reflected in the merchandise.
- In universe, Jingle All the Way has a show to promote the Turbo Man toyline.
- While not itself a victim of the trope, Spaceballs lampshaded and parodied it throughout for the laughs. Countless background objects have the movie's name on them culminating with a few lines from Yogurt. Apparently one caveat is that Mel Brooks received help from George Lucas on the condition that the film didn't have a toyline (which would have competed directly with Star Wars).
Merchandising. Merchandising. Merchandising. We put the picture's name on everything. Spaceballs the coloring book. Spaceballs the lunch box. Spaceballs the breakfast cereal. Spaceballs the '''flamethrower''', the kids love that one.[...]God willing we'll all meet again in Spaceballs 2: The Search For More Money.
- Several of Margaret Snyder Picture Books come with a Toy.
- The American Girls Collection of books is this trope combined with the need for role models. Every book in the series features a new outfit for the starring character, and for her corresponding doll — a school outfit, a Christmas outfit, a birthday outfit, and so on, along with accessories, sometimes even extending into doll furniture. They'll bend the universe of the characters in order to make this work — how does Addy, an escaped slave who is starting life over in the city, manage to get nice new dresses regularly? Her mother is a seamstress. The merchandise ends up working for the series, though, because the accessories are impressively well-researched, and usually end up contributing to the sense of history, or to the story — or both!
- Deltora Quest, which started as a standard fantasy series; but gained an anime adaptation with a card game and series of collectible figurines.
- The Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 novels published by Black Library sometimes seem like this. Occasionally, it seems like every named character in the Horus Heresy series who doesn't die is condemned for his heresy to spend eternity as an expensive piece of plastic.
- Horus Heresy isn't really the best example as GW proper does not produce any Heresy-era miniatures (their sister company Forgeworld announced a series of Horus Heresy campaign books and models, but the book series had been going for years before). Many BL books heavily feature special characters from the games and sometimes you can catch hints of new models in books released shortly before a new codex/armybook that feature the army in question.
- A series of Barbie novels was published in the 1960s that portrayed the character as a high school student. In 1999, a new series was published for Generation Girl line.
- An in-universe example: in Bruce Sterling's Zeitgeist, the girl-band G-7 was created by Leggy Starlitz primarily to sell The Merch. The music is only of secondary interest to him.
- The degree to which Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was merchandise-driven actually drove producer J. Michael Straczynski off the show.
- iCarly: Parodied when the webshow started advertising for sneakers on her show. The foot warmers and wi-fi pedometer linkup exploded and wiped hard drives, respectively, so they obviously didn't advertise them for long.
- Super Sentai and Kamen Rider have devoted whole episodes to new merchandise, and Power Rangers takes it further.
- In the original Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, the Rangers' Power Morphers were designed to be worn on their belts while in civilian gear, but this gimmick was dropped after the first episode, with the teens usually just keeping them in their pockets instead. This is likely because in Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, the Morphers ("Dino Bucklers") were supposed to be stylized belt buckles with golden "Z" symbols on the back (with the Z visible when the heroes put their Bucklers on backwards), but the American Morpher toys neglected to include the Z stickers or the holsters needed to attach the toys to a belt. Since the toys completely missed out on the whole belt buckle disguise aspect, the show didn't use it either.
- This may also be why in the movie, the Rangers' costumes were redesigned to incorporate emblems of their respective dinosaurs on their chests. This had long been a feature of most of the Power Rangers action figures, merchandise, and promotional material, but couldn't be incorporated into the show itself because of the reliance on Japanese stock footage. When it came time to make a movie out of 100 percent original footage, the Rangers now conveniently looked more like their action figures.
- A particularly bad example is when, in Power Rangers Mystic Force, the debut of the Red Ranger's motorcycle overshadowed the debut of one of the show's staples — the team's Humongous Mecha. Worse, there was a monster that turned into a car not too many episodes later. Perfect for debuting the bike and working with the plot rather than against it.
- The Milestone Celebration episode Forever Red in Power Rangers Wild Force was a hideous example of this. The original finale to the episode was supposed to have had the classic Megazords fighting Serpentera, but was shot down because they didn't want to promote old toys. Even more, because Bandai was helping finance the episode (as it was made during the transition between Saban and Disney), they were forced to use the brand new motorcycle Cole got the episode before, leading to the ridiculous Curb-Stomp Battle between it and Serpentera.
- Power Rangers Samurai has a nasty case of it. The toys don't really look like the show versions due to the show being rushed to production and the toys being manufactured before the show was even finished casting. So the Rangers' Transformation Sequence involves transforming first into the suits minus helmets but with face-concealing masks (as that is how the toy makers did the usual head-flipping figures without actors to base heads on) and then the helmets form. During mecha fights, the toy versions of the Rangers' gear is used while in the cockpits, and only there. This means there are enough all-new suits and weapons that you could make a whole new series out of them if you wanted... and all this stuff only exists while piloting the Megazord and serves no purpose whatsoever within the show. (You'd think morphing from the show version to the toy version would make a good Mid-Season Upgrade, but that'd mean making expensive new fight scenes instead of being able to use Stock Footage from Samurai Sentai Shinkenger.)
- Later seasons (Power Rangers Dino Charge and Power Rangers Ninja Steel) would follow Samurai's example and have the Rangers continue to don new armor and weapons in the Megazord cockpits. On the plus side, these were better justified in-show as assisting in powering and operating the Megazord (Samurai had no such explanation) and were strictly secondary merch where the Samurai toyline focused on the zord armor at the expense of the regular suits.
- Power Rangers Megaforce didn't have the cockpit armor of Samurai, but it was just as bad of a case, if not worse, due to the first half adapting Tensou Sentai Goseiger, a series with a rather large amount of mechs as well as collectable cards. Due to Nickelodeon forcing Saban to limit each season to 20 episodes, the zords basically debuted back-to-back - for an idea of just how forced this was, by the end of episode 5 in Megaforce, the team had the same number of Zords that the Goseigers had gotten by episode 9 of that seriesnote - in fact, of the 20 episodesnote of Megaforce, the team gains mechs or some other powerup in 12 of them. The second half, Super Megaforce, was a bit better in the mecha department, since the majority of the zords the team gained were from older seasons,note but it was just as bad if not worse overall, since Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, the sentai Super Megaforce was adapted from, had ranger keys, which allowed the team to transform into past ranger modes - one key for each ranger; while they didn't release all the keys used in the seriesnote they did release several toyline exclusive keys.note
- Power Rangers Ninja Steel has another major example of toys dictating the show. In the source series Shuriken Sentai Ninninger, the Rangers' Cool Swords are their transformation devices; when Saban was adapting the show, Bandai asked them to make it so that the Rangers' secondary Swiss Army Weapon (which is shaped like a giant ninja star) was the transformation device instead, since they wanted to move as many toys as possible and knew the sword would already sell well by virtue of being the Rangers' primary weapon.
- Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger is yet another dinosaur Sentai, coming a few years earlier than the franchise usually likes to recycle that theme. The reason they went back to dinosaurs so soon is that toy sales had been slumping for the last few years, and dinosaurs sell.
- The production staff of both series have even said that TV ratings are an afterthought compared to merchandise sales. The reason behind the increasing amount of mecha and Rangers in newer Super Sentai seasons are to recoup the losses of an underperforming Power Rangers under Disney's tenure with the show. Power Rangers is also typically the best-selling boys' toyline in America; so it's often a big deal when it's outperformed, as other examples of this trope can prove.
- Notable examples of awkwardly introduced pieces of merchandise: the Faiz Axel in Kamen Rider Faiz and the Zect Mizer in Kamen Rider Kabuto.
- For the past number of years, both Sentai and Rider have added to this by making the Transformation Trinket depend upon a number of smaller collectable items that provide new weapons, equipment, form changes, etc. This adds a pseudo-Gotta Catch Them All aspect, since Bandai spreads the devices among multiple bits of merchandise,note meaning the only way to get all the trinkets is by buying all the role-play toys. Bandai shows mercy with a few series like Kamen Rider Double by having cheaper versions of the trinkets available as Gashapon prizes, but if you want the high-end ones, well, better crack open that wallet...
- Super Sentai and by proxy Power Rangers have power cells in Engine Sentai Go-onger and Power Rangers RPM, discs in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and Power Rangers Samurai, both cards and "headers" (mecha heads) in Tensou Sentai Goseiger and Power Rangers Megaforce, keys in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger and Power Rangers Super Megaforce, batteries in Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger and Power Rangers Dino Charge, trains in Ressha Sentai ToQger, shuriken in Shuriken Sentai Ninninger and Power Rangers Ninja Steel, globes in Uchu Sentai Kyuranger, vehicles in Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger, and knight figures in Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger. In many cases, the collectible isn't just tied to the roleplay gear but is built into the mecha as well (in ToQger and Lupinranger VS Patranger, the collectible vehicles are the mecha). Occasionally, there's still a season without a collectible (Tokumei Sentai Go Busters, Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger), but they're increasingly rare; and when Power Rangers adapted Go-Busters as Power Rangers: Beast Morphers they took the opportunity to add one in (a set of keys).
- Kamen Rider has cards for Kamen Rider Decade, USB memory sticks for Kamen Rider Double, coins for Kamen Rider OOO, switches for Kamen Rider Fourze, rings for Kamen Rider Wizard, padlocks for Kamen Rider Gaim, cars for Kamen Rider Drive, eyeball-like gadgets for Kamen Rider Ghost, video game cartridges for Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, bottles for Kamen Rider Build, and stopwatches for Kamen Rider Zi-O. Not only do these objects work with the toys such as the transformation belt, but they also provide powerups in the arcade games Ganbaride and Ganbarizing.
- In fact, you can see the different priorities in toy sales between Sentai and Rangers by what gets featured in the show: Japan favors the roleplay gear, hence the collectibles; while America pushes action figures more and so promotes Super Modes and Environment-Specific armors.
- Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger, despite being a spinoff series aimed at an older target audience, is just as merchandise-driven as the mainline Sentai seasons. Specifically, the show is sponsored by Bandai's Tamashii Nations division, who are in charge of producing the SH Figuarts line of collectable action figures. As a result, guest Sentai warriors in Akibaranger tend to be characters who are being released as part of the Figuarts series.
- This is also why in all these franchises, an overpowered Super Mode or giant overkill mecha combination will be used for almost every episode after it's introduced, even against monsters that are clearly no stronger than the ones who came before. Some series justify it by showing that the heroes really are going up the Sorting Algorithm of Evil; for example in Kamen Rider Fourze, the Monsters of the Week give way to high-level commanders. Meanwhile, Kamen Rider Kiva had real-life reasons: the original costume was so heavy that it almost killed suit actor Seiji Takaiwa during the filming of one episode, so Kiva gained his Emperor Form (whose costume was made to be much lighter) relatively early in the show and started using it far more often.
- A common cost saving measure the Power Rangers production team used was to replace props with the Super Sentai toys. This was because the Sentai toys were of a higher quality than the Ranger counterparts. This is most apparent with Power Rangers Dino Charge, where their blasters are more plastic than the Sentai footage. The American toy blasters are even more cheap looking.
- Another toku franchise, the Ultra Series, is quite merchandise driven with its numerous Transformation Trinkets, weapons, planes, spaceships, kaijus and Ultras all waiting to be turned into plastic toys. Taken Up to Eleven in the most recent versions of the franchise such as Ultraman Orb and Ultraman Geed, where the Transformation Trinket has collectible parts (cards and capsules, respectively) that are constantly added to the show whenever a new Ultra form is introduced.
- Every single episode of Madan Senki Ryukendo is devoted to the introduction of some new toy. The main character has four different forms (with four different action figures) each with its own robot sidekick — that's eight episodes to introduce everything. Then towards the end of the series he gets a Super Mode that upgrades everything he has, meaning another eight episodes to introduce all of his new powers. And then at the end of that, he gets an Ultimate Form. With equally Ultimate robot sidekicks. This isn't counting the episodes where he gains a new piece of barely-useful equipment (Madan Dagger, anyone?) or one of the two other main heroes gets a new upgrade/robot sidekick/finisher. God forbid he use the powers he already has in a new and interesting way.
- The Metal Heroes franchise of the early '80s to mid-'90s featured the same kind of toys most sentai do, however a lot more emphasis was placed on firearms such as Blue Swat's famous Dictator, which fired frighteningly similar to a real gun. Also, they had crazy arsenals even when it was just one hero, as much gear as the average Super Sentai series (right down to the giant robot in some cases.) Bikes, tanks, drill-tanks, fighter jets, and at least one giant mecha-dragon all launched from a huge flying base. There are whole sentai teams who don't have as deep a bag of tricks as a Space Sheriff may on his lonesome.
- For a time in The '60s, it was de rigeur for eccentric characters in high-concept Sitcoms to drive George Barris-customized show cars. They would invariably be available as AMT model kits. Examples include Batman's Batmobile, The Monkees' Monkeemobile, and The Munsters' Munster Koach and Drag-U-La.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus parodied this with "Trim-Jeans Theatre," which presented plays and movies with the cast members all wearing Trim-Jeans.
- The newer seasons of Glee have basically gone from a TV show about life in a glee club to a commercial to sell cover albums. Is it really a surprise that the ratings have gone down?
- Bandai produces toys for the Indonesian tokusatsu BIMA Satria Garuda, just like for the Japanese franchises it was inspired by.
- In-universe example in the NBC Wonder Woman pilot. The heroine's garish costume was explained as something she wore specifically to sell Wonder Woman action figures, as this version of the character was a corporate businesswoman who used merchandise sales to fund her vigilante activities.
- Although Sesame Street, as a PBS program, is not as merchandise driven as most of the other examples from network TV, Word of God says that Zoe, a Monster added in the 80s-90s, was designed specifically to be marketable—her orange fur was chosen to complement the red Elmo, etc—while most of the other characters before were designed more organically. This has made her controversial among Sesame Street Muppeteers. Abby Cadabby, the newest female Muppet, was created in the more traditional matter.
- Parodied in RoboCop: The Series with the Show Within a Show cartoon superhero Commander Cash. Created by OCP to sell toys (some of which are explosive), cereal and promote the positive side of shady business practices; because OCP cares about the future.
- Romper Room effectively became this when Claster Television, the company that created the show, was bought by Hasbro in 1969.
- Parodied in Garth Marenghis Darkplace when the plot of an episode slams to a halt so Garth can moralize about how you always buy name-brand batteries, then proceeds to give an obvious advertising pitch for Duracell and Everready. Note that this sort of thing can get British TV shows in serious trouble with Ofcom.
- This sort of work is homaged by the energetic Hip hop/Dancehall act Major Lazer with the video for their song "Hold the Line." The film is a mostly animated adventure featuring a Lazer-armed superhero fighting vampires, cut with footage of kids playing with Major Lazer action figures. Even down to the video quality it looks exactly like an '80s toy ad for He-Man or similar. Sadly the toys are unavailable, made for the promo only - especially irritating because they look beautiful.
- Gottlieb's Canada Dry (a rethemed version of their earlier El Dorado) was produced for a promotional contest in France.
- Corvette was released in time to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the car line.
- ...and Stern Pinball's Mustang was released for the 50th anniversary.
- Played straight with the various Harley Davidson pins.
- This used to be a staple of the Southern USA, where it was often part of a baby face's duty to shill merchandise during intermissions. Thrill Seekers Tag Team, arriving in the country via SMW, were baffled by the concept and felt there was a passive aggressive attempt to push them out of the company given they weren't good enough at shilling wares to justify how much they were getting paid. As it became increasingly clear that the territories were not coming back though, this practice became more common in other regions.
- Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling were accused of hiring Megumi Kudo for the purpose of selling catalogs after she had been cut from the Zenjo roster and faded into obscurity. However, their most infamous case was perhaps during the "World Entertainment Wrestling" era when Mr. Gannosuke appeared in a porno wearing Hayabusa's mask. Supposedly this was an attempt by Team No Respect to destroy the Hayabusa Brand.
- While FMW faced accusations and ran a few over the top angles, Xtreme Pro Wrestling was actually founded by a pornography company and used its wrestling ring to film porn. In the event a wrestler wouldn't do porn(most who worked for it never did), XPW would merely film the wrestler doing something mundane, possibly to appeal to some kind of kink or maybe not, nothing explicitly sexual, then edit in clips of pornography in between clips of the wrestler so it could sell porn videos with the wrestler's name on them. Disappointed workers and customers all around.
- D-Generation X's later runs. Which they promptly lampshaded at every opportunity, shoving in every cheap plug they could find. At least they made it funny.
- Parodied in Gateway Championship Wrestling by Matt Sydal, the shameless wrestling shirt salesman.
- All Japan Pro Wrestling's infamous "Puroresu Love" era was all about getting as much merchandising and sponsorship as possible after the bulk of its roster deserted the company in favor of Pro Wrestling NOAH, going from serious presented sport to...silliness. AJPW was noticeably behind the other majors critically and financially during this era but made enough money to stay open and eventually get back on track.
- After Toru Yano snapped in 2004, he became the drunken DVD advertisement of New Japan.
- In TNA, the Suicide gimmick was devised to sell copies of their Midway developed video game. To this end, at least five men were put under the mask to keep it going.
- Subverted by Sami Callihan in EVOLVE, where he mentioned a video game that featured every member of the roster but couldn't remember its name, just that more people were playing as him online than as Johnny Gargano.
- Kevin Steen used this for one of his three reasons for joining Adam Cole and The Young Bucks in Pro Wrestling Guerilla (the other two being an inability to beat Cole and disrespect he and the bucks got from the fans), saying he wasn't selling enough shirts.
- An episode of Feral TV (spinoff of the Australian programme The Ferals) had an episode where the boss of the station had, for reasons best known only to him, purchased a container or two full of colourful plastic lampshades and demanded the characters make up a programme to sell them. The result: The ''Mighty Dorky Power Whingers!'' Cancelled after one episode due to all the lampshades selling out, including those on set. The boss then announces that he now has a load of bananas and pyjamas, which require a programme to be created to sell them.
- Rattus: Bananas AND pyjamas? Forget it, Kezza! (to camera) There isn't a TV show in the world that could sell that!
- Homaged with the Cartoon Action Hour role-playing game. The first version even suggested players think of gimmicks for a corresponding action figure when creating characters.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- What once started as a joke among the fanbase became less of a joke in light of the more obnoxious army rules sets that come out. In the memorable case of the 5th edition Codex Tyranids, the iconic Carnifex, which was once a staple of any Tyranid list worth using for decades on end, was nerfed into near oblivion. But fear not, for Games Workshop's new Tyranid model range is full of winning units, such as the Trygon / Mawloc kit, and the now-ubiquitous Hive Guard. Have fun buying new models, kiddies!
- Some players think that Games Workshop is steering away from this due to the increasing number of units with complete rules developed long before the models come out. Former examples include the Space Marine Drop Pod, Ork Battlewagon, Tyranid Gargoyles and Tervigon, Chaos Daemons' Seekers of Slaaneesh and Dark Eldar Razorwing, while current examples (as of October 2012) include various special characters like Old Zogwort, Justicar Thawn and Baron Sathonyx and a vast number of Tyranid units including the Harpy, Shrike Brood, Doom of Malan'tai, and Parasite of Mortrex. Forge World, a separate modeling company specializing in resin kits, will sometimes sell kits for these units, but crack is not only cheaper, but has an infinitely simpler assembly.
- Oddly enough, the company has almost no merch beyond the models and books themselves. Given the rabid fanbase, including many who love the setting but don't play the main tabletop game, this seems an odd choice in an age where even every webcomic sells T-shirts.
- Currently, apart from selling licences to third parties to make computer, board and role-playing games set in the universe, the line of merch includes generic gaming accessories (not all those GW custom dice sets do anything you couldn't do with a pocketful of regular D6), figure transport cases and paintbrushes, in the hope that the punters won't ever discover that Officeworks also sell paintbrushes. Some of their tools seem to have a reason to exist, e.g. not many manufacturers make a mould line removal implement; but there are some you'd just get at Spotlight or another craft store, and not to mention their special branded super, plastic, and white glues. These are a people who insist on trying to sell you a pot to fill with water to rinse your paintbrush in. They once had a souvenir mug, but apparently it went wrong and was not cleared for food use, so was sold as a different brush-washing pot.
- Games Workshop undoubtedly swung back in this direction for a while, after their legal team's trademark debacle with the author of Spots the Space Marine a few years back. Almost all units and characters that had rules, but never got official models, eventually disappeared from the tabletop as the books containing their rules were superseded, with only a few exceptions (usually units with official models that went out of production and were never replaced). Likewise, practically all model-less units and characters in Warhammer failed to make the transition to its successor, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, although Games Workshop acknowledged that some players and collectors made their own models for them by recommending units that they could be used to proxy.
- Another sign of a more merchandise-driven approach was a move towards artwork that replicated the miniatures, detail-for-detail, rather than focusing on exploring the setting beyond the tabletop like in the past (although this may also have been due to an increased reliance on freelance artists). However, recent information about the art direction of Warhammer 40,000's 8th edition suggests that they may be swinging back in the opposite direction again.
- BIONICLE was something of an experiment in this trope for LEGO, in response to increasing financial trouble and realizing that reliance on their Star Wars license wasn't a good permanent solution — the company theorized that promoting a line with a story would bolster sales compared to lines without a story. It's hard to tell whether the story was much of a factor, but they were proved right for a while — no other LEGO line sold better until around 2007, this being when the story really started to become bloated. Though the toyline was terminated in early 2010, the line's head writer continued to write story serials (until LEGO shut down the story website in 2011, ultimately resulting in Four Lines, All Waiting all being Left Hanging), making BIONICLE an example of a merchandise-driven property that outlived the merchandise.
- Its Spiritual Successor, Hero Factory, is still merchandise-driven but doesn't push its story as much in comparison. BIONICLE received a short-lived reboot in 2015 with the revamped building system from Hero Factory, which sports more versatility than a lot of classic BIONICLE building systems and massively sturdier molds.
- LEGO also tried this with an Animesque Humongous Mecha set clearly inspired by stuff like Voltron. LEGO Exo-Force lasted three years; while short compared to City or BIONICLE, it was very popular during its run, second only to BIONICLE and LEGO Star Wars sales. It died in its third year due to the loss of the studio producing the related comics and because the bigger sets of the second year stayed behind in stores like solid rocks.
- The practice of crafting a story behind the toys has clearly caught on, as two of Lego's current flagships are Ninjago and Legends of Chima.
- And again with The LEGO Movie, but this time the movie itself has more control than the toys. In fact, the movie itself is essentially a love letter to the LEGO brand, and the toys are on the side.
- One notable failure for LEGO in this area was Galidor, mainly because the figures were not constructed — they instead had mostly-incompatible stuff; not only that, the show was pretty boring, the video game sucked, and the show got screwed over in the switch from Fox Kids to ABC Family; it served as a lesson for LEGO not to deviate from their main area of expertise (which they forgot when they created a Ben 10 line that had pretty much the exact same setup, and also flopped).
- There is a whole genre of video games that only exist to promote a product. They are called Advergames.
- Both McKids and Cool Spot, which are remembered for their great gameplay. The problem is that neither of them have a lot of relationship with what they are trying to sell.
- Zool (Chupa Chups).
- ChexQuest was probably the coolest thing you EVER got out of a cereal box if you grew up in the 90s.
- This one actually became so pervasive that it spawned a fandom of its own and is a popular subject for Doom modders (since it is a Doom-engine game). There are both unofficial and moderately official (as in "with the input of the original developers", although Chex themselves not so much) follow-ups to the original series as well. So Merchandise-Driven as it may have been, it no longer is bound to that and the "Chex" name and setting remain simply because that's what started it.
- Pepsiman, based on a series of TV commercials that also had an associated toyline. One big difference from other advergames is that while the rest have little in common with what they are advertising, Pepsiman succeeds in making you remember which product you are supposed to buy. How? It brainwashes you with a song  that repeats the product's name, "PEPSI-MAN!"
- Darkened Skye is probably the weirdest case. When you look at it, it could have probably be an RPG on its very own (even the title doesn't look any Advergame-ish), but it's a game to promote the Skittles candies, riding the coat-tails of a similar venture by Mars Candy to promote M&M's. Since the makers had freedom (no Executive Meddling, since the executive producer flat-out refusedshe is quoted as saying, "you can fire me now, or you can, like, not make me do this"and only consented once she was good and schnockered), they decided to do it in a parodied way.
- In the early 2000s, Wonka.com had a plethora of "Wonkanized" (and quite good) remakes of arcade games—Pac-Man, for example, became "Gobstopper Gobbler;" there were also several original games such as "Oompas Wild Rush."
- Brütal Legend does this in-universe, by using Merchandise to power the Command & Conquer Economy.
- Urban Rivals manages to do this without a tangible product. The Web Comics promote characters on the cards, often with gang team-ups, sometimes with what appears to be a Crack Pairing that actually hints as to how the cards could work together in a hand. The showcased character cards enjoy a boost in popularity and price, and purchasable booster packs tout the inclusion of the characters.
- The genre of games known as "toys-to-life", with Loads and Loads of Figures to buy:
- Skylanders is Activision's foray into this area: An Action Game with collectible physical figurines and a device through which they can unlock virtual versions of themselves for player use. To date, consumer response has been positive due to the surprisingly high quality of the game component. You get three figures for free with the purchase of a game, and they're great characters, but in order to fully explore the game, you need a character from the other five elements. Of course, nothing's stopping the completionist from collecting all the characters. And their variants, if you're so inclined.
- Disney has Disney Infinity, an Action-Adventure series with a main focus on its LittleBigPlanet-like Toy Box mode which uses the company's massive stable of well-known characters, along with those from Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars.
- LEGO has LEGO Dimensions, which is a Massive Multiplayer Crossover LEGO Adaptation Game using their own franchises and multiple well-known franchises from various companies, although Warner Bros. (and various properties acquired by them over the years, like Hanna-Barbera toons and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films) is a little more prominent here; they published the game.
- Nintendo has entered this genre twice, first by using Pokémon for Pokémon Rumble U, which didn't work out well, then later gaining far greater success with the amiibo line of cross-game compatible figures.
- In the early 90s, a bunch of Amiga games were released that advertised certain products (mostly from Germany). Examples are
- "BiFi - The Snack Zone" (promoting a popular sausage-like beef snack food called, well, BiFi, which is known in the UK as Peperami, where it is made out of pork)
- "Das Schmutzige Erbe" (The Dirty Heritage) 1 and 2, promoting the German Ministry of Environment and "living green"
- "Das Telekommando" promoting phone company Tele Kom
- "Helikopter Mission" promoting the German Armed Forces and specifically service as a Helicopter pilot. Gameplay and graphics were similar to Desert Strike, but no enemies, weapons or violence was involved and missions consisted of dropping paratroopers and supplies.
- Die Anstalt is a flash game made to promote a series of plush toys of various cute animals with severe mental issues (the goal of the game is to help the toys overcome their issues).
- Earthworm Jim was born of a collaboration between Shiny Entertainment and Playmates Toys, which was riding high on the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. The original game was intended to kickstart a multimedia empire on the same scale as TMNT (albeit even sillier), complete with tie-in toyline, with all of this being unsubtly shilled in the game manual's "Hints and Tips" section. In the end, though, this attempt ended up as a dud, and while the first two games and the animated series are fondly-remembered Cult Classics, the action figures wallowed in obscurity and are largely forgotten.
- There's no actual real-life merchandise, but side-scrolling Shoot 'em Up Geppy X is framed as an old 70's Humongous Mecha anime. As such, levels are often broken up with live-action commercial breaks advertising fictional Geppy X merch.
- Homestar Runner:
- Parodied with the Show Within a Show Cheat Commandos. The show is not only blatantly market-driven, it doesn't even attempt to hide this fact. Buildings are routinely referred to as "playsets," and one of the toys is called the "action figure storage vehicle" within the show. "Cheap as Free" (the name of the fictional toy manufacturer) appears every time a new object appears, and the show's theme song includes "Buy all our playsets and toys!" In one episode, they even go through the battery compartment of the Headquarters Playset, where the batteries have been left in too long and have leaked.
Silent Rip: No wonder the electronic lights and sounds stopped working. These batteries haven't been changed since Donnie's twelfth birthday!
- This is particularly ironic since Homestarrunner.com is, itself, entirely supported by merchandise. In fact, they sell an actual set of Cheat Commando figures in the shop, and papercraft playsets are downloadable for free.
- Parodied with the Show Within a Show Cheat Commandos. The show is not only blatantly market-driven, it doesn't even attempt to hide this fact. Buildings are routinely referred to as "playsets," and one of the toys is called the "action figure storage vehicle" within the show. "Cheap as Free" (the name of the fictional toy manufacturer) appears every time a new object appears, and the show's theme song includes "Buy all our playsets and toys!" In one episode, they even go through the battery compartment of the Headquarters Playset, where the batteries have been left in too long and have leaked.
- Mattel created Monster High just for this reason, also planning a book series and a movie from the get-go.
- BIONICLE had many different online animations in its original lifespan (Bohrok Online Animations, Vahki Online Animations, Piraka Online Animations, Stars Battle Videos, etc.) and its 2015 reboot featured a series of 90-second online animations as a means of storytelling (alongside books).
- Blank: A Vinylmation Love Story exists to promote Disney's Vinylmation figures.
- The DC Super Hero Girls web shorts exist to promote Mattel's line of DC dolls and toys.
- Deconstructed in Sailor Nothing, when Himei notes that "I'm very tired." wouldn't sell any action figures. Nor would her second catch phrase, "I want to live."
- Parodied by the Joueur du Grenier in his special about Merchandise-Driven shows: He reveals that his show was originally created to sell JdG dolls, but for some reason they never took off. That a pull-ring doll that tells racist jokes might not be marketable to children apparently never occurred to them.
- Parodied in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series' first movie, where the climactic scene (the Big Bad getting his attack laughed off then getting pulverized by a giant dragon with Ode to Joy blaring in the background) is only slightly marred by the fact that half the action is obscured by a gigantic "BUY YU-GI-OH CARDS TODAY". Characters in-universe refer to Duel Monsters almost exclusively as "a children's card game", and much humor is derived from how everyone treats an innocuous playground activity as Serious Business.
- This ended up being one of the reasons for the cancellation of the Mega Man cartoon show, due to strife between Bandai and Capcom about the sales of the toys based on it. It also overlaps with What Could Have Been, as the cancelled action figures included Proto Man in his Break Man outfit and Bass, suggesting these would have been status quo changes for the third season. Of course, the series also served to promote the video games it was based on.
- Maxie's World: Hasbro introduced a line of dolls in 1988, and there also was an animated series that aired during the 1989-1990 season.
- According to Rob Liefeld, he almost had a deal for a Youngblood cartoon on Fox Kids, which would've been created for the sole purpose of promoting an action figure line from Mattel. When Fox signed an exclusive deal with Marvel (thus killing Liefeld's cartoon in the cradle), Mattel dropped the idea for the toy line.
- Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys was intended to be this trope but the action figures didn't sell, which led to its cancellation despite the fact that the show itself was pretty damn clever and well received. Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars met its doom after one season for the same reason.
- All the G.I. Joe cartoons. This is most blatant with scenes where the plot stops to have the team's bridge layer tank, piloted by Toll-Booth, appear out of nowhere to lay a hinged two-piece bridge down, extending the size of the bridge to fit larger gaps. Of course, real-life armored vehicle-launched bridges can't extend their length like that, nor can the toy.
- Transformers. An odd instance of the fandom embracing this. Toy reviews abound, fanfic tends to feature toy characters who weren't on the show, etc. Most notably, if a character doesn't have a toy made, you'll often hear fans clamoring for it... the Rule of Cool applies here, and the Rule of Fun even more so, but they're double-edged swords: a sub-standard figure tends to garner far more backlash than a sub-par episode. The Transformers Wiki has a whole page about this.
The original 1984 cartoon had its canon (or the closest thing a relatively episodic series can have to a canon) more or less entirely shaped according to corporate whims. Hasbro and Takara wanted to showcase so many characters, often at the same time, that episode premises were usually written without any specific characters in mind (aside from big names like Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee, Starscream, etc.) so that they could be slotted in later once they knew which toys the companies wanted them to push. Since this left very little time for character development, especially for teams like the Combaticons and Aerialbots, it resulted in the show's characteristic "introdumps"—sequences where four or five characters would be introduced in rapid succession with one or two lines of dialogue to establish their names, personalities, and occasionally special abilities before rushing back to the plot. (The Grand Finale "The Rebirth" is by far the worst as a result of being edited down from five parts to three; by the writer's own math, the absolute most time that passes without a new character showing up is a minute and a half.) Later, more experienced incarnations of the franchise are much better about this, although the toy companies' influence occasionally still results in unorthodox plotting.
It's a good thing that Transformers works both ways — the shows are always based on toys, but if the characters are popular enough, they may get toys made of them long after their cartoon has ended. That way, Hasbro can rectify the occasional bothersome dissonances between what the toy and the on-show model looked like, and get more money for themselves.
In fact, the adult Transformers fandom has embraced this to such an extent, that a number of third party companies exist by producing unofficial Transformers toys. They typically make high quality figures of Generation One characters which Hasbro / Takara (the licence holders) never created, which can retail for up to four times the cost of an official figure of the same size, due to higher production costs and niche market power.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983). Mattel originally intended the toys as part of a Conan the Barbarian line. However, focus groups determined that an alternative design was more popular with children. These were sold each with its own "mini-comic" to establish the Masters of the Universe franchise, and the television series followed a couple of years later, coincidentally throwing out most of the established backstory. The toy-based version of He-Man appeared in a few DC Comics, teaming up with Superman, before getting his own series from Marvel Comics. According to J. Michael Straczynski, who wrote some of the episodes, He-Man was the Trope Codifier for the Merchandise-Driven cartoon.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002), was a short-lived attempt at a relatively more serious revival. Despite the show being well-received by fans, it was short-lived largely because of its poorly executed toy line. (Near non-existent promotion and inconsistent timeslots didn't help, but the flop of the toy line was the killing blow.) Glutting the shelves with virtually nothing but He-Man and Skeletor (often in the form of ill-conceived variants rather than their usual on-screen outfits to boot) and making it near-impossible to buy any of the supporting heroes and villains turned out to be a poor strategy.
- The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Interestingly, it was originally an indie comic created by two guys who were trying to push the genre as far as it would go, in order to make a not-entirely-serious point. Hence Comic Book Raphael calling his 1987 counterparts "sellouts" in Turtles Forever.
- Though it originally didn't start out this way, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) wound up falling into this trope by the last few seasons especially with Playmates Toys still having a good amount of control on the franchise, particularly with the Fast Forward and Back to the Sewers seasons.
- And of course, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) owes a lot to this as well, hence why nearly every episode is a Monster of the Week one with new mutations, and even ones that aren't usually still involve one - that way there's more monster toys for the kids to buy and pit them against their turtle figures.
- A short-lived British animated series called Child's Farm was made to sell, out of all products, shampoo. Although the shampoo is still being made, it is more popular than the show and so the show was cancelled.
- Jem and the Holograms existed solely to sell dolls and playsets. The dolls were a hit at first, but as the show gained more fans, sales paradoxically started to wane, so the show was canceled despite the big ratings.
- Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, which was cancelled after the first season because the toys didn't sell well as none the characters were in the Wheeled Warriors toyline. That's why the show has No Ending—the plot would have been resolved in a movie that died along with the series.
- Ben 10: The original series didn't start out this way, as the first toyline didn't sell all that well and the network had more faith in The Secret Saturdays as their toy-selling cash-cow... but then The Secret Saturdays failed to gain much popularity, while the Ben 10: Alien Force line was a huge hit that outsold the Power Rangers line one year. Which is a big accomplishment. The entire series became much more toyetic as a result.
- Winky Dink: You are incapable of watching the show to its full interactive potential without the kit. Literally.
- The producers of Batman Beyond later confessed that they were ordered by their bosses to produce this series as simply a means to selling more Batman toys. However, the producers, creators of the DC Animated Universe, worked their talent and created a dynamite television series after all. Ironically you would've been hard pressed to find any Batman Beyond toys even when the show was still on the air.
- The same thing occurred with Spider-Man: The Animated Series and its story editor John Semper, who managed to sneak in compelling plot Story Arcs into the limited animation cartoon, which was specifically supposed to be designed to sell a line of action figures.
- Pryde of the X-Men was conceived as an attempt to chase the success of similar cartoon and toy combos like He-Man, G.I. Joe and Transformers. The pilot was originally going to be a simpler story involving the Sentinels as the villains, but the toy company insisted that Magneto and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants be used instead, so that all of the major characters in the show's potential action figure line would be introduced as quickly as possible.
- Iron Man primarily existed to sell toys, which is why there was such a heavy emphasis on Iron Man's Environment Specific Armors. The first season's overall premise of Iron Man leading a team of colorful superheroes into battle against a team of equally-colorful supervillains led by the Mandarin was also very obviously conceived with the action figures in mind. When the show got cancelled, the remaining toys were ReTooled and sold as Spider-Man and X-Men figures.
- The 90s Fantastic Four cartoon also had a pretty heavy emphasis on the more merchandisable aspects of the comics, such as the the Fantasticar. There was even some initial resistance to the heavy Retool that took place during the second season, as the ToyBiz execs disliked the fact that the new FF costumes did not look like the ones featured in the show's action figure line.
- My Little Pony, to the point where, because there were costumes and accessories as well as the ponies in the toy line, there were entire episodes in some installments where the pPonies are dressed as cheerleaders and in bathing suits, apropos of nothing.
- Given the massive Periphery Demographic for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Hasbro switched gears extremely quickly (by toyline standards), rapidly introducing new/recoloured/retooled ponies and minifigs over the course of 2012. Of course, they still devote entire episodes to toy lines, though they're mostly the season premieres or finales.
- As with Transformers, there are numerous instances of toys being made specifically to appeal to fan demand. In particular, G4 is the first generation of My Little Pony to release toys based on antagonists; characters like Trixie, Nightmare Moon, and Chrysalis would almost certainly have never gotten toys if not for the fanbase. The most extreme example is probably Derpy Hooves, who ended up getting a limited edition Comic-con figure (among other toys and merchandise) despite most of her popularity stemming from the fact that she had a goofy expression in her initial appearance.
- And then there was Equestria Girls — dropping pivotal part of the title solely to create new versions of the characters so Hasbro can have a line of dolls to compete with the trend of fantasy 'alternative' doll lines, such as Monster High and Ever After High, both being made by Hasbro's rival Mattel. Starting with the Rainbow Rocks line, however, the toyline diverted away from the dolls being Monster High-clones and more into their own thing. The Friendship Games dolls, however, did not sell as well as Rainbow Rocks or the first line did, so Hasbro came up with a new idea: the Equestria Girls Minis were introduced in late 2015 as a separate line to Equestria Girls. It was an overnight hit, selling out on Amazon in 10 minutes and being sold out at numerous retail outlets. By 2017, the full-sized Equestria Girls dolls were completely phased out thanks to the Legend of Everfree dolls doing even worse than the Friendship Games ones, with the 2017 lineup of the Equestria Girls Minis becoming the sole Equestria Girls line.
- Parodied by Mr. Poniator's "What I learned today" and "What I Learned This Time", where the lessons of the season finales and openers of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic are usually variations of "BUY OUR TOYS!"
- Anything having to do with The Real Ghostbusters cartoon that came out in the late '80s/early '90s. If anything, the toy lines weren't exploited enough. There were still several vehicles and ghosts from the series that never made it into toy form.
- The Batman: There was even a toy that responded to the on screen appearance of the Batwave, which popped up at least Once per Episode. Thankfully, it got a lot better with each passing season.
- An excellent example would be the Dino-Riders cartoon, designed specifically to sell a line of Tyco dinosaur toys. The Home Video VHS tapes even had commercials during the show.
- The Bratz doll line has managed to launch several direct to DVD crapfests and a major motion picture, and a short-lived animated TV series that was actually pretty entertaining.
- Barbie dolls have been the basis for a series of direct-to-DVD (or VHS) films. Because they are based on the idea of Barbie and the rest "playing" characters, each film (including those in the ongoing Fairytopia series) has its own line of tie-in products. They even sold plush doll of a cat from the Barbie movie "The Prince and the Pauper" that interacted with said film via a special box-like object.
- Chaotic: Researching online archives suggests that it was more merchandise-driven before it came to the Americas.
- Strawberry Shortcake. Cue dolls, houses, makeup.. the whole works.
- Parodied in Peanuts, with a short-lived character named Tapioca Pudding. Her father is a merchandiser who's determined to license her image on an infinite number of knickknacks, including lunch boxes.
- Ruby Gloom, despite its charm, was created to promote a line of clothing and stationery; given which, you'd think said clothing and stationery would be a lot easier to find.
- Care Bears: Originally created to appear on greeting cards, according to The Other Wiki, it was spun off into a toyline, with the main reason of existence of the cartoons and movies being a shill to market the toys.
- The Merrie Melodies cartoons were originally designed to promote music owned by Warner Bros. Eventually, however, that distinction was dropped, with the names Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes basically becoming interchangeable. I Love to Singa, a Whole Plot Reference to The Jazz Singer (which starred Al Jolson), was a cartoon made to promote the title song, which was used in a soon-to-released Al Jolson film.
- Most of the shows created by Giochi Preziosi, an Italian toy manufacturing company. The biggest ones being Gormiti: The Lords of Nature Return and Dinofroz.
- There was to be an Incredible Crash Dummies CGI animated series. The pilot was free with several action figures for sale. Sadly, it never quite took off. Which is a pity, the show was fairly humorous, Product Placement aside. And as they were crash dummies, dismemberment was not unheard of, and in fact was quite frequent, showing just how bad a crash could in fact be.
- The toyline originally spun off from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Crash Dummy PSAs, starring dummies Vince and Larry. They were licensed to Tyco for the toyline, which was initially known as "Vince & Larry, the Crash Dummies", and the packaging included a U.S. Department of Transportation trademark for their names (as well as the PSA slogan, "You could learn a lot from a dummy; buckle your safety belt!"). However, the PSAs ended up getting pulled for fear of being misconstrued as toy commercials (even though neither the toyline nor Tyco were mentioned). At that time, Tyco rebranded the line as "The Incredible Crash Dummies," and Vince and Larry were replaced with original characters Slick and Spin.
- Visionaries: The main characters in the show could undergo Voluntary Shapeshifting by projecting an image of their totem animal from their chest. The action figures had 1980s hologram stickers on their chests where you could sort of make out the animal if you already knew what it was.
- Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers was screwed by this trope. Series creator Robert Mandell and crew launched the show first, then planned on negotiating a toy deal, exactly the opposite on how it was done in The '80s. The show got pretty good ratings, but the more serious tone attracted an audience of teenagers and college students who were a little old for toy marketing. Because the show was more popular in Europe, the toys were released there. However, it was too late by then, as the show was already cancelled.
- Parodied in an episode of Garfield and Friends in which Garfield wakes up in the wrong cartoon, one with giant robots. At one point, when Garfield is wreaking havoc with the giant robots, one of the robots says "The toy company will not like this."
- Parodied in The Simpsons episode "Girly Edition" when Bart and Lisa's news show gets canceled in favor of the "Mattel and Mars Bar Quick-Energy Choc-O-Bot Hour", a Sentai Super Robot show designed to sell action figures, chocolate, and "Entertaining Mattel Products" (ironically, said show was mentioned in the beginning of the episode as being "barely legal"). And again, with Trans-Clown-O-Morphs. In the episode "The Front", an episode of Action Figure Man titled "How to Buy Action Figure Man" is somehow nominated for a Best Writing award despite being indistinguishable from a toy commercial. Doubly ironically, Mattel was the first company to make Simpsons toys, making these jokes examples of Biting-the-Hand Humor.
- Parodied in Johnny Bravo with Clam League 9000, a bizarre cross between Pokémon and Dragon Ball where the main character literally shouts at the viewer to "BUY OUR TOYS!"
- The creators of Batman: The Brave and the Bold stated that the entire Starro storyline was pushed upon them by Mattel in order to sell toys. The writers were also usually forbidden from doing solo episodes about female heroes, as they did not have figures in the tie-in toyline.
- Lampshaded in-story when Booster Gold sarcastically remarks that "The toy company" won't like the idea of him changing into civilian clothes.
- It also gets parodied in the final episode, "Mitefall!": Reality Warper Bat-Mite tries to make the show jump the shark; one of the things he does is insert obvious toy product placements, such as the "Neon-talking Super-Street Bat Luge".
- Hot Wheels has had three series (Hot Wheels World Race, Hot Wheels Acceleracers, and Hot Wheels Battle Force 5) under this trope, all in the same overall storyline.
- Very evident in The Avengers: United They Stand, where the heroes wore brightly colored, Animesque battle armor for no apparent reason other than to shill toys.
- In its final season, Super Friends was renamed The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians in order to tie-in to Kenner's popular Super Powers Collection line of toys. Accordingly, Cyborg and Firestorm were added to the cast due to their prominence in the toy line.
- Averted by the Seventies episodes, however. While there was a line of DC superhero action figures on sale from Mego at the time, the World's Greatest Super Heroes line had its own branding and also included Marvel characters like Spider-Man and the Hulk.
- Freakazoid! did a famous parody of this trope in an episode that showcased the Freakmobile, even lampshading the goings on by using and defining the term "toyeticnote " onscreen. Series producer Steven Spielberg popularized the term "toyetic" after a Kenner Toys executive warned him that Close Encounters of the Third Kind wasn't suitable for merchandising. Spielberg told the executive to license Star Wars instead... However, as toyetic as it was, Freakazoid never had a toy line.
- Although it never was made, in the early 90s Mattel planned to make a Wonder Woman toyline and cartoon. The popularity of Sailor Moon in Japan at the time inspired them to create a similar series for America called Wonder Woman and the Star Riders. The series would have been about the exploits of a teenage Wonder Woman as she fought evil alongside four Magical Girls. Then suddenly the plan was dropped without a word. The only material that ever reached the public was a tie-in comic DC wrote as part of a promotional deal with Kelloggs.
- The Oblongs spoofed this to hell and back with Velva (a Show Within a Show parody of Xena: Warrior Princess), where the characters actually pull out the toys during the show and use them to diagram a rescue plan.
- The Nicktoons series Zevo-3, as the show's shoe-themed superhero premise arises from a series of Sketchers commercials. It got to the point that parent groups tried to have the show taken off the air for what they viewed as such blatant marketing towards children. Despite this, however, the shoes were rarely, if ever, mentioned in the show itself; instead, it focused on telling an actual story, hinting at darker plots and a vast conspiracy.
- Robotix. Strangely, the animated series entry on Wikipedia is many times bigger than the toyline entry, while in other countries (such as France) the animated series is totally unknown (while the toyline is merely "obscure").
- Pound Puppies. The version from the 1980s is more prominent in peoples minds, though the newer version has toys as well.
- Littlest Pet Shop (1995)
- Littlest Pet Shop (2012)
- The Wuzzles
- Sky Dancers and its Spear Counterpart, Dragon Flyz.
- When you get down to it, Captain N: The Game Master was more or less a vehicle for advertising NES and Game Boy games, even though the show rarely portrayed the games accurately. Frequently they would actually name the game world after the game it came from, even when that was very wrong, (apparently Metroid is a place instead of an energy-sucking jellyfish creature) possibly just for the sake of this trope.
- Street Sharks, plus being a (good-hearted) ripoff of a few then-popular cartoons.
- In an inversion, the series ThunderCats (1985) was created before the toy line but due to issues wasn't aired until after the first wave of toys were released.
- Sadly not the case with ThunderCats (2011), which is officially "in the air" because while the show was massively popular, the toys didn't sell as well as expected.
- This was also the reason Sym-Bionic Titan was cancelled as Cartoon Network was trying to get a toy deal for it. No company was willing however and they pulled the plug on the show despite a small dedicated fan base, a growing story arc and none of the loose ends being tied up due to a dispute between Cartoon Network and Genndy Tartakovsky as the former wanted the latter to retool the show into being more toyetic like Ben 10, so they could get those toy deals. Why it was so hard to get a toy deal for a series based around Humongous Mecha fighting Kaiju is anyone's guess.
- Mighty Max (which you could say was the Spear Counterpart of Polly Pocket) was of course made for this reason.
- Popples. Heck, there's a website listing every piece of Popples merchandise ever!
- M.A.S.K., which was created to sell a toyline of the same name by Kenner, which combined elements of the aforementioned Transformers and G.I. Joe.
- In the early 1960s, many TV cartoon shows were tied in with a cereal company sponsor (Jay Ward with General Mills, Hanna-Barbera with Kellogg's, Looney Tunes with Post), often with said characters in cereal ads and on boxes. Post then had new mascots created for their cereals, and they all became characters on the Linus the Lion-Hearted show. This proved too much of a blur between programming and commercials to regulators, and the show was canned. The only current remnant of the series is Sugar Bear for Sugar/Super/Golden Crisps.
- Rescue Heroes, both the show and the accompanying Fisher-Price toyline.
- One of the chief complaints about Ultimate Spider-Man was that the toy promotion was obvious and sometimes illogical (such as the Spider-Cycle). It proved successful enough for Disney and Hasbro that the show ran for four seasons.
- While not as blatant or illogical as the United They Stand or Ultimate Spider-Man examples, Avengers, Assemble! has the Aven-Jet Prime, a massive, transforming CGI airship. Especially notable since it replaces the Quinjet, the Avengers' comparatively Boring, but Practical plane from the comics (and the beloved but less toyetic The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! that Assemble replaced).
- Bruce Timm attributed the failure of Green Lantern: The Animated Series to the lack of merchandise. Apparently a toy line for the show was in the works, but retailers scoffed at it due to the poor performance of the toy line from the live-action Green Lantern movie, seemingly unaware that this was because no one liked the movie.
- Several LEGO series have been the subject of such cartoons.
- BIONICLE had several Direct-to-Video (later DVD) movies, and the later Hero Factory got a TV series on Nicktoons.
- Cartoon Network had a TV show based on the Ninjago line, likewise for its Spiritual Successor, Legends of Chima. Ninjago is actually so story-driven that a large portion of fans consider it the successor to Bionicle. Which, seeing as Bionicle was featured in about half the possible media types and every type of merchandise, says a lot about it.
- Meanwhile, Mixels is a direct collaboration between Cartoon Network and LEGO, with LEGO handling the toy portion and CN the shorts.
- Sylvanian Families. It's hard to imagine any reason beyond advertising the toys, that this was given an animated show.
- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
- Young Justice, like its sister show Green Lantern, was formerly canceled due to the toy line selling poorly (the fact that the toys were low-quality compared to Mattel's other DC-based toys is another story entirely). The toy line was itself canceled before the second season aired but after they displayed prototypes and box art of Batgirl, Blue Beetle, and others. Ironically, the second (and for a time final) season added a few dozen marketable characters.
- Parodied on the Futurama episode "Futurama and Friends Saturday Morning Fun Pit" with Purpleberry Pond, a Strawberry Shortcake spoof interrupted by ads for Purpleberry Cereal. At one point the show itself becomes a commercial.
- Chuggington in SPADES. Even the buildings' architecture (especially in the first 3 seasons) feel like they were built to be toys!
- The entire point of Jingle All the Way and its sequel is to tug your heartstrings hard enough so you'll end up buying more Jingle and Bell stuff from Hallmark. Not to mention that the special will require you to own a version 2 Jingle Interactive Story Buddy for the full experience (see, the toy responds to the dialog and narration in the special). The sequel to the special ups the requirements to both a version 2 Jingle and version 2 Bell.
- The concept of dinosaurs crossed with construction vehicles seemed so lucrative, DreamWorks Animation picked up the license for Dinotrux before the first book was even published and started taking pre-orders for the toyline the day the show premiered.
- Super 4 is based on the Playmobil toyline. A series of toys based on the characters was later released to little fanfare.
- This seems to be the main reason for The Powerpuff Girls (2016), as they made the toys months before the show even aired.
- Voltron: Legendary Defender: Shiro, the pilot of the Black Lion, was initially slated to die at the end of Season 2, mirroring his fate in the original GoLion anime. However, he was quickly brought back in Season 3, as the toy company execs were worried that killing off Shiro would jeopardize his action figure sales.
- Ben 10 (2016) appears to be even more toyetic than its previous series, especially with its redesigns of Stinkfly and Wildvine to look like superheros in costumes rather than a huge bug and a Plant Person.
- While Pocoyo wasn't going to be this at first, Executive Meddling caused some changes to be made in order to help sell toys, such as removing the titular character's pacifier, changing the appearances of Pato and Ellie, and the introduction of a vehicle called the Vamoosh.
- The Disney Junior show T.O.T.S. appears to be this, as it has a collectible line mainly consisting of baby animal figurines and playsets for them, as well as other versions of the baby animals like plushies.
- PAW Patrol, being made by Canadian company Spin Master, is this, being The New '10s' answer to the Thomas the Tank Engine toy line, with a whole line of toy dogs, playsets and vehicles.