Let’s play some Jeopardy!

The category is Animated Series From The 80s!

This Hanna-Barbera produced animated series that followed the confrontation of two factions of sentient robots across the planet Gobtron. These factions, known as the heroic Guardians and the evil Renegades, battled for dominance over the entire galaxy.

In this series, the fight spreads to planet Earth, where the Guardians search for the “Last Engineer” in an effort to repair their fallen comrade. During the search for the right individual, humans astronauts Allison, Nick and Matt will forge bonds of friendship and companionship with the robots.

If your answer is “What is Transformers?”

You’d be wrong, oh so wrong…but I wouldn’t blame you.

No, they are not the Transformers. The real answer is “What is GoBots?”

While most people in 2020 aren’t even aware that Transformers had such a similar competitor franchise, to some this fact is the subject of great discussion.

GoBots vs. Transformers. Which one came first? Which one is the copy?

Let’s Sell Some Robot Toys

Transformers Toys

The true story dates back to the year 1983 when the Tonka toy company acquired the licensing rights to bring Bandai’s transforming toy robot line, Machine Robo, to the United States. This move, most experts agree, was a strategic play against Hasbro’s then-recent purchase of Japanese toymaker Takara’s Diaclones toy line.

Tonka teamed up with famed American animation studio Hanna-Barbera to create an animated series based on their toys, in an attempt to preempt Hasbro from doing the same with their new line Transformers.

The move did little good for Tonka. Hasbro’s strategy was significantly more successful and their toy line was far more popular. Hasbro’s toys were more elaborate and inside each packaged toy, the toymaker included stories featuring their characters. The kids loved them!

GoBots Were Left Playing Catch-Up

Being first to market and having a significantly lower price-point did surprisingly little to poise Gobots into a competitive position. At the end of the day, Hasbro was far more effective at marketing their version of transforming robots. There is even a rumor that Hasbro sent out droves of employees during the holiday season to buy as many Gobot action figures as they could get their hands on. After all, if they bought them no one else could.

A late-game pivot by Tonka was unsurprisingly ineffectual. In 1986, a spin-off franchise was introduced to an already hostile and overly-saturated market. This new line of toys was called Rock Lords and it was a complete dud.

After years of rivalry, Tonka finally gave up the fight, and to avoid further competition and revenue loss, sold their GoBots intellectual property (characters and storyline) to Hasbro.

Let’s Compare Transformers Vs. Gobots

The Setting And Story

Picture the following scene:

Planet Earth is at the center of a fight between two factions of transforming robots from a planet far away. There is are of course good robots and bad robots. The good robots form an alliance with the human to fight against the bad robots and keep the peace.

Which of the two series do you think I was describing there? The answer is both.

Cybertron and Gobotron

The Transformers fled their dying world of Cybertron in hopes of survival. While the Gobots home planet Gobotron has a similarly grim past, the reason for them being on earth is a little more unclear.

And just like the Transformers have Autobots and Decepticons, the Gobots had the heroic Guardians and the evil Renegades.

The Main Cast Of The Shows

Every Story Needs a Hero

Optimus Prime of the Autobots

Optimus Prime was a true leader. In fact, the development of his character and traits is something you would rarely see in a show made for adults, let alone a cartoon for kids. He is patient, and tactical in his decision making. He listens to his team, takes what they have to say into consideration, and only moves forward once he has all the facts.

Leader-one of the Guardians

Leader-1 is every bit a leader as Optimus. Brave, cares deeply about his friends, both robot and human. Leader-1 is a staunch supporter of the Guardians’ democratic system of government, which is what puts him on a collision course with the evil Cy-Kill.

Leader-1 is every bit a leader as Optimus. Brave, cares deeply about his friends, both robot and human. Leader-1 is a staunch supporter of the Guardians’ democratic system of government, which is what puts him on a collision course with the evil Cy-Kill.

Every Hero Needs A Second In Command

Jazz is considered Optimus Prime’s right-hand man. He is a strong and loyal military strategist who has a likable character. He has a deep interest in the human culture that he has been flung into. His up to date knowledge of humans and trends probably made him more relatable than most of the other cast.

Turbo is Leader-1’s right-hand man and his most trusted friend. Turbo is considered to be one of the bravest Guardians. However, he is also known to have a stubborn streak which gets him into trouble more often than not.

Both Jazz and Turbo take the form of a sports car when transformed.

Every Story Needs a Villain

Megatron of the Decepticons

Megatron is the leader of the evil Decepticons. His drive for supremacy is second to none. With the goal of expanding his race to control the universe, he is virtually unrelenting and unstoppable.

He is such a good villain that it is kind of saddening to see him fail episode after episode. Even if the reason for his loss is usually no fault of his own.

Luckily fans of the Decepticon leader get to witness the ultimate pay off, with his victory over Prime in the first movie.

Cy-kill Leaders of the Renegades

Cy-kill is the leader of the evil Renegades. He used to be a Guardian but his hunger for power led him to a falling out with his best friend Leader-1. Cy-kill is ruthless in battle and will stop at nothing in his path to conquer Gobotron and the galaxy beyond. His transformation is a motorcycle.

Meet The Humans

The humans in both series tend to have very technical and mechanical type traits. With Sparkplug the mechanic and his son Spike staring in the Transformers and astronauts Matt Hunter and Nick Burns representing Earth on the Gobots.

The humans in the Gobots

In both series, the Autobots and the Guardians are often seen working with humans to help fight the forces of evil. In a lot of cases, the humans take center stage in planning and implementing missions that are essential to success.

While none of the robots need human drivers or pilots, humans from both shows take the driver seat from time to time.

The Rest Of The Robots

The similarities do not end there. Both sides of these battles are comprised of countless team members, each with their own forms, abilities, and personalities. I could probably go through every character in each series and list out their matching counterpart.

Perhaps the only real defining difference is that for the most part, the Autobots were based on cars and trucks and the Decepticons were mostly planes. Whereas the Gobots, there was no overarching theme for each side.

This of course changed as the Transformer universe grew. They saw the limitations of using only certain vehicle types per faction and expanded the options for each side to the point where pretty much anything goes.

So Who Copied Who?

Everybody copied everybody, some just did it better than others. At the same time, each side used their own ideas and took independent risks in trying out new things.

Did The Gobots Copy The Transformers

Given the great success and multiple iterations of the Transformers over the years, it is kind of sad we have not seen more done with the Gobots. But given how companies are currently in the habit of rehashing old franchises, I doubt we will have to wait long.

Now you know that there is more than meets the eye to the GoBot vs. Transformer rivalry. Let us know what you think.