Okay, bear with me folks, this is going to be a complicated multi-faceted topic.
About twenty years ago, it was very straightforward: The United States was Hasbro's primary market when it came to Transformers toys, and all the other international markets were afterthoughts. Toys would usually come out in the US first, then everywhere else, if at all. Meanwhile, international markets often wouldn't get the later waves of a line, because again: US first, evenything else is an afterthought. Also, it appears stores in other countries didn't quite comprehend the whole "wave" system that was a completely foreign concept to them. Store exclusives were also a US-only thing at first, and anyone not living in the US would never be able to get their hands on them other than through expensive imports.
This situation gradually changed. Hasbro's Asian markets started to become more relevant around the turn of the millennium, eventually leading to the situation where new waves would often become available in Asia first before arriving at US retail roughly a month later. Still, this was only a minor change in the system that everyone could adapt to.
About ten years ago, Hasbro decided to make store exclusives available internationally as well. It started with Toys"R"Us exclusives, because if they have a deal with TRU, why shouldn't TRU be able to sell its exclusives in all the countries that have a TRU branch?
A few years ago, Hasbro then decided to make other store exclusives available internationally as well. First it was Walmart exclusives at Walmart Canada, but eventually, they also began to offer figures and sets that were exclusive to one chain in the US to an entirely different chain in another country, with neither chain existing in the other country. For a while, it was an "also available" situation, with most people in the US being none the wiser, though sometimes resulting in surprised reactions (occasionally turning into outright anger, because some people apparently cannot deal rationally with unexpected situations) upon discovering that a toy that was supposedly a Target exclusive was available at Argos in the United Kingdom (where the are no Target stores).
In addition, some toys that are store exclusives in the United States (and Canada, Australia and Europe) are actually available at general retail (i.e. not exclusive to any particular chain) in Hasbro's Asian markets.
Eventually, what was once a rare occurrence worth marking in the calendar became a regular thing: Toys being sighted in international markets (not just Asia, but also Australia, Canada or Europe) before they would ever appear at retail in the United States. Sometimes months earlier. Around the same time, "tail end of the line/of the assortment" syndrome became a recurring thing as well, to the point where there have been numerous toys that never saw a normal release in the US but were widely available in a multitude of other markets. Sometimes these toys wouldn't be available at the major retailers, but would appear at discounters such as TJ Maxx, Ross and the likes. Sometimes these toys were still regularly available from US-based online retailers like Amazon, BBTS, Entertainment Earth or even the online storefronts of retailers such as TRU, Target or Walmart, but sometimes toys weren't even made available through these official US venues, so the figures in question really remain "unreleased" as far the US are concerned despite being available elsewhere.
On top of that, the situation with exclusive figures has become more and more complicated. The following situations have occurred more than once:
- Toys that were officially announced as store exclusives for the US were released as exclusives to other stores in several international markets, but were ultimately never available through the US venue that was officially announced by Hasbro.
- Toys that were officially announced as store exclusives for the US were released as exclusives to other stores in several international markets months before becoming available through the US venue that was officially announced by Hasbro.
- Exclusives were only ever available through the US retailer's online store but were never found in brick and mortar stores.
- The infamous "saw this last week/month at my local store, didn't think it was newsworthy" reaction to new toy sightings.
- The equally infamous "has anyone seen toy X yet?" question being repeated over and over again despite pages upon pages of other people continually voicing their frustration about said toy still being AWOL.
- People in other countries being surprised that certain figures that are shelfwarming at their local stores being considered "rare", or haven't even been found at all yet in the United States.
- People who imported a figure months ago being surprised upon learning that said figure still hasn't been released in the US.
- Keep in mind this is not supposed to be a rant, I'm not complaining about people being unaware of what is available where, I'm just trying to understand and explain the bigger picture which most people aren't able to see because their minds are trained to view everything from a wherever-they-live-centric perspective.