1985 was the year transforming robots took the world in general and America in particular by storm. Not only were Gobots and Transformers selling rapidly but a host of further ranges sprang up, including Select's Convertors, Remco's Zybots, Buddy L's RoboTron, Ertl's Pow-R-Tron, Lanard's Ro-Bots and more. Few of these toys measured up to either Gobots or Transformers in terms of quality or profile, but such was the boom in the market all experienced some mild success. Tonka's own revenue from Gobots more than doubled, reaching $132m. The problem was Transformers was doing even better, to the extent that they had to license Bandai's back-catalogue of Takatoku designs simply to meet demand for new figures.
Gobots continued to do incredibly well with the ongoing range of $3 figures. Some new additions were drawn from the 600 series (with American and Japanese releases now coming out near-simultaneously), but Tonka also had to fork out to meet demand, commissioning Bandai to make five brand new 600 series-sized figures for them. They also possibly had a hand in the Big Machine Robo range that would make up the second series of Super Gobots (including large deluxe versions of Leader-1 and Cy-Kill). They also imported the Japanese Machine Puzzler five-figure combiner and reissued the best-selling regular Gobots of the past year or so with collectible hologram stickers added to the blister cards.
Challenge of the Gobots returned with 60 syndicated episodes from Hanna-Barbera, while a quarterly magazine based on the series was published by Telepictures. This generally only featured a short comic strip and was otherwise padded out with spurious articles on anything vaguely technological that might appeal to kids, and couldn't really be considered any sort of counter to Marvel's Transformers comic.
The cartoon was exported to several countries, most notably Europe. There Bandai attempted to take advantage by incorporating Challenge of the Gobots branding into the packaging of Robo Machine. However at a time when subline branding was rare the results were largely clumsy, toys carrying the mouthful Challenge of the Gobots - a Robo Machine Product (often exacerbated by the cards also carrying the French translation as well). Bandai also used the Robo Machine brand to market anything vaguely robotic they had on the books - including figures from Winch Robo and unsold overstock of Chogokin figures - resulting in a very schizophrenic line. In addition, Eagle's comic serial ended in September 1985 when IPC declined to renew the license. In Australia by contrast the original Machine Men brand proved so strong that the imported cartoon was retitled to fit the toyline rather than vice-versa. Through being directly handled by Bandai, both the Australian and European lines received several Japanese figures America didn't, notably the Blackbird Robo - dropped by Tonka after a few carded pre-production examples for unknown reasons, but not before the figure had featured as Snoop in the cartoon series.
While Machine Robo's derivatives were a success overseas, the property was struggling in its' homeland. The 600 series received just six new moulds, while the Big Machine Robo, Machine Puzzler and two more Devil Invaders were the only other releases. The problem was that Takara had imported the Transformers cartoon and reissued their older figures packaged accordingly, with very successful results for minimal outlay. Compared to Hasbro and Takara, who effectively formed a partnership, Bandai's relationship with Tonka was relatively distant. Bandai did commission a test dub of an episode of Challenge of the Gobots which was reportedly shown at an industry fair - unsurprisingly the crude animation received derision and the idea of importing the Gobots mythos to Japan went no further.
On paper, 1985 had been even more successful than the previous year for Gobots. However, cracks were continuing to appear. While sales had massively increased they were now dwarfed by those of Transformers, now undoubtedly the market leader. Tonka were still struggling to make a real success of more expensive figures, lumbering the brand with a downmarket image. Schoolyard wisdom saw the line allocated the role of a cheap pocket money toy purchased by those who couldn't afford Transformers, and the rich surroundings and high media profile of Hasbro's line only reinforced this impression.