Fads are phenomena that have always fascinated me. Isn't it kinda funny how quickly something can be shone under the spotlight, only for it to be old news shortly afterward? I'm not quite sure why, but I find this pattern to be oddly... hypnotic. I once spoke to an individual in a YouTube comment section, and long story short, he compared Celebrities and passing trends to fireworks; very colorful, energetic, and exciting... but also very short lived and easy to forget about. While this is an apt example, there's one small crevice in this analogy; what it leaves behind. That is to say, once the dust settles and the next big thing comes along... there will still be remnants of the previous trend, in the form of its core audience.
If you ask me, we're currently undergoing the transition right now. While we as a community have been on a decline for quite some time, the final nails on the coffin are being put into position, and the hammer is about to strike. Stores have stopped carrying brony related merchandise, the show's views have taken a dip, the movie didn't quite live up to its financial expectations, MLPF and EqD have taken a hit in terms of web traffic... you get the idea.
Though there have been debates regarding this, most can agree that bronies were a fad. Considering this, there's only one question left to ask: how many remnants will there be, and how long will they last? Well... I can't directly answer this question, but there are quite a few factors which will play into this (both for and against us). There is one thing I believe will be the determining factor to the future of the MLP Community, though...
In my opinion, this will most likely be the decisive period which will decide everything. While My Little Pony will be around for quite a while with or without us, I believe Generation 5 will decide the size of the brony community in the coming years. As I said; there are a lot of things playing into this, so I'll list the ones I believe to be the most significant.
- Initial Generation start hype. For the sake of example, look up comic book/graphic novel sales statistics on long-running franchises, and you'll find a pretty consistent pattern: the first entries in a series will usually be the top sellers, alongside the finales. In the eyes of the average consumer, a comic labelled "Batman No. 1" is a lot more approachable than "Batman No. 277." Not to mention; first impressions are everything, so if Hasbro plays their cards right with the marketing, they could very well kindle a spark that could last quite a while.
- The brand name's value. This one is self-explanatory, though it's worth pointing out: My Little Pony is (and has been) a very iconic name in the general public, and thanks to the brony community, we might have an even better head start here. Regardless of what happens, most of us can agree that Generation 5 will sell well, though probably not quite as well as Generation 4. Either way, My Little Pony is a household name, and that alone will drive sales and the general fanbase upward.
- The large former fanbase. Due to the fact that MLP was such a huge sensation which as since ended, this means that MLP has a few potential "reserves." Though many people have simply moved on with their lives, some may be itching to return, but haven't had a prime opportunity to yet. This leads to the last (and probably most powerful) aspect...
- Nostalgia. Believe it or not, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is approaching its 7th anniversary. Though this isn't ancient, this is quite a significant time gap; young girls who played with Gen 4 MLP toys are approaching their adolescent or teenage years, which is about the age where they will experience nostalgia for the first time. Not only this, but thanks to the aforementioned former fanbase, Hasbro might be able to play into their nostalgia as well. This doesn't even cover the even older MLP communities which may display an interest in Gen 5, but the Gen 4 fanbase is the most significant. Regardless, Generation 4 has left a profound impact on countless people, and it has created memories which will be cherished by many. If Hasbro is smart enough to recognize this and capitalize... we could see something truly amazing rise form the ashes.
- Lack of similarities to Generation 4. Unfortunately, any long running franchise with a large enough following will start to create more and more subdivisions in its own community. There have been many in the brony community already; Twilicorn, Starlight Glimmer, villain reformations, The Friendship School... you get the idea. Though these are definitely significant, I don't think any of them will be as monumental as Generation 4 moving onward into Generation 5... and whether we like it or not, the transition is going to turn a lot of people off, due to the fact that it won't be what they initially fell in love with.
- The smaller initial community. One of the main reasons that Gen 4 became so popular is because its popularity became a closed loop; it was popular, so more people became interested in it, so it became more popular, so more people became interested in it (...). Though the MLP name carries a lot of weight, the initial draw of Generation 4 isn't going to apply this time around. Hasbro can be as clever as they want, but it simply won't work as well during this phase. Why?
- The lack of surprise. Another huge reason that MLP became a huge sensation was due to the demographic subversion on a nigh-unprecedented scale, which genuinely caught the general public off-guard. This lead to many people investigating the issue, and sometimes even becoming MLP fans themselves. The thing is... people liking ponies again won't catch anyone off-guard this time; that has happened once already, so they know to expect it now. There will always be new bronies to enter the fray, of course... but most of the people who will ever be interested have already come and gone during the golden years. We can't rely on shock value anymore, so we're going to need to play by the standard rules from this moment forward: remain a good franchise, or slowly wither away.
- Overall loss of interest. Let's face it; the MLP fandom has died down for a reason. The fandom rose to prominence, and now it has fallen out of it for the reverse reason it rose: it was getting less popular, so more people lost interested in it, so it became less popular, so more people lost interested in it (...). Not to mention, being exposed to something long enough inevitably leads to one losing interest in it after a period of time; we can't like the same things forever, after all (not many of us, anyways). While the show itself was something that most bronies enjoyed quite a lot, and definitely a key factor in the franchise's rise to prominence... the central reason we were so huge was due to the community. Without this, we have lost our greatest strength, and the primary reason we were ever shone under the spotlight in the first place.
Needles to say, I personally believe that Generation 5 will be a turning point in the franchise for these reasons... but whether we like to admit it or not, the golden years are never coming back.
Nostalgia has been described as "delicate, but potent" many times in the past, and this statement is very true; we are naturally hard-wired to view the past through rose-tinted glasses, no matter how truly good or bad it may have been. Naturally, this will lead to folks wanting the MLP Fandom to return to its former glory... but in my opinion, this isn't a very healthy mindset to hold. I'm sorry, but while MLP certainly has an excellent opportunity to become popular again, it will never reach the heights of Generation 4, due to the aforementioned factors working against us. In my opinion, the best thing we can do here is hope that Hasbro plays the hand it has been dealt well, so the MLP franchise and community can remain healthy after its prime.
I have compared the brony community with Sweden many times... and I always get the same strange look until I explain myself. As many of you know, Sweden was one of the greatest powers on Earth in the early 18th century, and very few nations could challenge it... but as the natural cycle goes, it eventually collapsed. I like to place our community's priorities alongside Sweden's due to this: should we desperately cling onto our glory days, hoping to birth a new era which simply can't happen due to the circumstances that surround it... or should we make the best of our situation, and be sure that we as a group stay happy and healthy throughout the many years to come?
Either way... thank you for reading this ramble of mine, and have a nice day~! May the brony community live a long and healthy life!