If it had been a financial success and gotten the occasional sequel, I don't think there would be any more murdersprees. Hasbro was genuinely unaware of how traumatic that was going to be. Didn't Hasbro even walk back Duke's death in the Joe movie, because of it? Like, didn't they change it to a dream or something?
As it was written, storyboarded and animated, he dies. But while it was over at Toei, TFTM came back and all hell broke loose. So they had to get the voice actors in for a quick overdub to say he was in a coma (even though it was a fairly gory shot of him being impaled in the heart).
In terms of the fandom though it's a really interesting question as to whether the fandom would exist in the shape or form it does today. Certainly the movie is a major keystone of Transformers fiction, and although it's quite true that Furman would have gone on to write stories just as good as Target: 2006 without the movie, the question is whether they would have had the same impact on us without the tie in to the movie, and whether Transformers would have just become another cool toyline that we'd all look back on fondly. After all, the major UK Time Wars storyline had its genesis in the movie, and it's what gave us the notion of Primus, and all the epic-ness that we're used to today. Again, whilst it's not impossible for Furman to have written something else - potentially even something better - the real question is whether or not it would have stuck with us for long had it not all tied into that central keystone of the movie. And without all that, would we be as passionate about Transformers as we are today?
I'd got pulled in before, but it was Target: 2006 that cemented me as a fan of the comic. That said, it was some time before I read the comic adaptation of the movie (that glorious squarebound special!) and even longer before I saw the film - it was just a great story in itself, and I suspect Furman would have pulled something big out of the bag anyway sooner or later. He was quite influenced by Claremont's X-Men and storylines like Days of Future Past, so I think we would have gotten some kind of time travel epic even without the hook of a movie set in the future.
I'm quite a fan of the smaller scale, earthbound stories that bookended the UK run though, so I suspect I'd have stayed on board, and the phenomenal artwork of the period helped. What would have taken the place of the phenomenal Senior-penciled Galvatron vs. Ultra Magnus showdown though? Maybe something epic between two of the special teams?
Thank ya! I knew there was some sorta desperate attempt to walk it back because of TFTM, I just don't know enough about Joe to remember how.
I did an article summarising the changes and cuts to the GI Joe movie for the archive. Mainly because TFTM has been overanalysed to death and no-one has bothered to look at the other one, even though the script has been on the DVD for a decade.