OK, we're back to normal for Q&A! What's up with Comic-Con Announcements? Well, let's look at several. And what's the deal with MMO figures? We'll look at that too. And do we have some Wedge news? Sort of! Read on, and ask your questions for the next column!
1. I followed the comments on a blog during the Habro presentation at SDCC. At the beginning there was some discussion of "collector fatigue" sixteen years into the modern line. This notion kind of irritates me. When the primary points of discussion among collectors are poor distribution, collector fatigue can be attributed to exactly that—poor distribution, due to poor management of the product line. For Hasbro to talk about collector fatigue as if it were some shortcoming of the collectors is placing the blame in the wrong quarters. Each time they put some product out that is virtually impossible for collectors to get (without ordering a case of 12 figures for four new figures, for example), Hasbro provides the final straw that breaks the camel's back for another fraction of their base, until now that group is winnowed to a much smaller number than it previously was. To suggest that collector fatigue is due to anything else (such as failure of collectors to support the line due to "already having all the figures") is BS. You usually give Hasbro as much credit/slack as possible. Some might argue that having sustained the modern line for 16 years is a marvel of product management. I would argue, the Hasbro Star Wars 3 3/4 inch line collector base could be in much better condition than it is. Do you think that so-called "collector fatigue" is a manifestation of poor line management? (I ask this having forked out over $20 for a second-hand 2010 Gamorrean Guard recently.)
"Collector fatigue" probably stems more from growing up, having kids, and realizing you don't have the time to deal with this sort of thing. To steal from a movie you may be familiar with, it really depends on your point of view. The modern Star Wars line has lasted about twice as long as its vintage counterpart, while generating more product in one year than the original line did in its entire run. There's going to be fatigue. In the 1980s, toy companies have been quoted as saying they took into account things like allowances so a kid might be able to actually buy an entire line. That's over. Even if you just focus on The Clone Wars, the price per year is a daunting number unless you happen to be spoiled or a gainfully-employed adult with few significant expenses.
There is no comparison. There is no other action figure line like Star Wars. It's huge to the point where I don't believe it's reasonable for anyone who jumped on board after 2000 to really catch up.
I always feel toy collecting should be done after a line is dead-- you'll be happier that way. Books will have been written, the roads will have been paved. There will be no more worries about reissues or upgrades, nor will there be any question of something better to come. What's it is it-- and we may not see that day for a few more years. This gives you added hindsight-- in 1996, Lando Calrissian was a rare modern figure who commanded $20-$40. By 2000, he was about $4, and today, $2. There are often many benefits to waiting out the market, not the least of which is not buying stuff that you may not have really wanted in the first place. In the case of current TVC (The Vintage Collection), it's unknown where it will all shake out. Is 90% of it being preserved perfectly in the package so fans can buy it cheaply later? It's certainly not as rare as many think-- time generally acts as a correction mechanism on rare toys, and where time fails, Hasbro promises reissues in some cases. We'll see how that works out.
Having said that, yes, the line is not being managed in a way collectors find appropriate. As someone who works at a company which sells the stuff, I'd certainly like to see a greater emphasis placed on assortments with more than 50% new product simply because the stuff gets stale quick. I'm not entirely sure if I can say with absolute certainty that Hasbro is doing it wrong-- for example, I'm suddenly now seeing Embo showing up in decent numbers, the odd Mandalorian Trooper, and others from nearly a year ago and I have no idea why. Retail shows us that the figures Hasbro cites as selling in the animated line-- Kenobi, Anakin, etc.-- tend to sit a bit these days, but seeing as I can also find evidence of the minor guys selling in some neighborhoods and not in others, it's tough to say what's the best for their bottom line. It's my hope t hat Hasbro will be good to fans who stick with the line by reissuing figures as the line (and eBay prices) see fit, a second release of Hondo Ohnaka is going on right now and we could certainly use more of Wedge, animated Aayla Secura, and others-- some of which are being shipped, but remember that your window to purchase a figure is very small these days. If you are not ordering online or making near-daily trips to the toy store, it's likely that someone else is going to beat you to your quarry every time.
2. I've been enjoying the Comic Con coverage at Galactic Hunter. After viewing the Hasbro Star Wars slide show, I noticed that the CW Obi-Wan Attack Shuttle was missing. Has this been put on the back burner? As a fan of the "mini rigs", I hope not. Anything that you can share on this is greatly appreciated.
I asked Hasbro about this one moments before the presentation, and it was said verbally during the presentation that it and the Boba Fett Speeder Bike should be coming later. I'm not sure what that means-- exclusive or otherwise-- as they would not elaborate at this time. So... uh... stay tuned, they're aware but it seems they might not be pushing these out the door in the immediate future (2011) just yet.
3. I've seen some nice characters in the previews and gameplay samples of [The Old Republic PC MMO game]. The Return video is not only stunningly beatiful but introduces some good looking jedi knights and two sinister Sith. Previous videos have also been equally as breathtaking. First question. Are there any plans for TOR figures to expand the line of figures in a vintage format. It seems that it could keep the line going nicely. I'd like some. Revan is one of my favorite figures from the Expanded Universe so some of these would look good on my shelf. Second question. Why the hell do the troopers all look similar to Jango? I've seen this in other places with sketches and animation featuring troopers. But when we get to figure version, there seem to be dozens of variations. No (dozen) clone looks alike. Even the clone in training armor looks very different to what Jango looks actually looks like. LucasArts digital magicians couldn't reverse age him well enough? They needed an actor to fill in that looks Jango-ish? And Hasbro can't come up with one single head mold that would adequately portray them as clones of Jango?
Hasbro has stated there will be The Old Republic figures, but has not specified the format (single, exclusive, box sets, etc.) or the quantity. History shows we may only get a handful and not the dozens some fans would want. (As someone who doesn't give a crap about MMO games of any kind, I support this.) I'd be surprised if we got more than a dozen, unless there are a few retailer exclusives I'd assume it would be closer to 5-8.
As to your second question, I don't understand it. As there are two actors who portrayed Clones in the movies, there are a couple of head designs (plus variations on those head designs) in the figure line. You say "LucasArts" so I'm not sure if you're specifying games or are using the video game software publisher wing of LucasFilm's name as an accident-- as far as I know LucasArts isn't dictating the appearance of clones outside the armor and they did basically OK there. So in short: what?
4. Ok, I wanted to get your thoughts on San Diego Comic-Con? My thoughts are this; as someone who has collected Star Wars since the beginning (pre-1995), this is the worst SDCC I can remember. For those of us who do not collect Clone Wars or the pre-school figures, we are basically getting the "Revenge" figures (which you could get at SDCC) as well as Echo Base Trooper and Ponda Baba this year. That is it? The big news was basically that we were not going to be getting much of anything in terms of figures for the rest of the year, that is pretty much what I got out of it. In addition, all we really learned about for 2012 is that we are getting deleted scene figures (3 out of the 5 I already knew about, though they are fairly cool) and Episode 1 figures. I only collect vintage, but if I collected prequel I would be upset to know that the Episode 1 figures are not coming on the vintage packaging and instead on the new Darth Maul packaging. Not much to look forward to for the rest of the year!
Ultimately 2010 and 2011 seem comparable when taken as a whole as it comes to Hasbro's products. I'm not sure what you want me to say-- enjoy what you got? After this year's convention, most of what I got were long emails with a litany of complaints. (Those of you who kept it down to one paragraph, I thank you.)
If you don't collect whatever flavor-of-the-month it is at Hasbro, well, tough I guess? I mean, I'm... not upset, but certainly not pleased with the direction 2012 is taking with The Phantom Menace. Hasbro's bringing back Ric Olie and Darth Sidious, which I assume means they really didn't learn their lessons from 1999, or 2009 when they said "Hey, remember how the Rancor Keeper Malakili sold in 1997? And the 1998 reissue? Let's try that again!" So yeah, I expect there to be some significant problems early in the new year, no questions.
If you only collect Vintage-- like someone only collects Zoids, or Star Wars Prop Replicas, or Battle Beasts, or Sideshow-- there are good years and there are slow years. You're darned lucky Vintage went from under a dozen figures a year to dozens, and I've always been of the mindset that a narrower product focus is a blessing. (I'm happy "classic" Transformers take a hiatus every year or two.) In 1999, if you collected classic stuff, you were out of luck. In 2002, you were mostly out of luck. And in 2005, you were out of luck again. It happens. Take advantage of the slow season to organize your collection, sell off stuff, build displays, or take up another line as a hobby. I for one would not mind if Hasbro opted out of "movie" toys for a year-- I've got a lot of stuff to get in order and not enough time to do it.
The parts of Star Wars that presently get me the most excited are The Clone Wars, anything genuinely new (deleted scenes are a good example), and stuff from the 1980s comics and TV stories. As I've alluded to many times in the past, there's just so much Star Wars from which to pull, here's no pleasing everyone. Tim wants The Old Republic, you want more Vintage Original Trilogy stuff, and I'd be super-pumped if Hasbro put out a batch of figures based on the Fromm Gang episodes of Droids. With 40-50 "realistic" carded figures per year and an increasing pool of what is no longer considered too obscure to make as a toy, not all of us are going to get exactly what we want. (Although I did get Lumiya, so I consider that a big win.)
5. Which of the 2 TVC Wedge Antilles packaging variations is the "rare" one? I’ve never seen either one at retail, but ebay prices are through the roof. Were some shipped to brick and mortar locations and others shipped just to online retailers, or what exactly happened?
We'll know for sure when Hasbro reissues it in 2012-- it's tough to say right now, as they sometimes bring back the "wrong" version. (See: all 2006+ releases of Commander Bly.) Maybe one with a 2011 production date stamp will be what people go nuts for-- we're a crazy bunch. Right now both command a huge premium so as lame as this sounds, it doesn't matter yet. Ultimately I feel it won't matter at all, collectors are far more concerned about the front of the packaging than the back. The days of variant photos on the cardback's reverse side are largely over.
As far as I can tell, Wedge is presently a de facto online exclusive, although I've heard one unsubstantiated report of a retail sighting. (Heck, if you've got one, let us know.) If you find new Gamorrean Guards at retail, that's possible evidence that you missed a Wedge. Since nobody's seeing any, I presently believe it's showing up online and through certain distributors without making the jump to the big US toy retailers like Toys R Us, Target, Kmart, or Wal-Mart.
The thing I found the most amazing about Wedge so far is that carded samples temporarily cost more than the entire assortment in a sealed case online. THAT, my friends, is friggin' nuts. (After all, the case has an extra Gamorrean Guard and Wicket in there. Get the case!)
I didn't cherry-pick mostly negative questions. That's the bulk of what all you people are sending me these days. One was several pages long, unfortunately not an acceptable length for this column. I'm not sure if you think Hasbro is paying special attention or what, but sheesh-- I've got a foolproof way of dealing with toy lines I don't like or can't get due to poor distribution. I stop buying them. It works well. And if I change my mind later, usually, people dump their collections on eBay for cheap. I don't know if there's anyone else in other collecting hobbies who, as a fellow FAN, gets as much hate mail for the line we supposedly all like. But I digress.
If you want to know what ticks me off, it's the new The Vintage Collection Y-Wing. Why? Because Hasbro engineered the toy out of it. We have the finest packaging, wonderful deco, a good price, and excellent action features like a new target computer. The Astromech Socket works perfectly. So what went wrong? The redesigned interior is too tight a fit for most pilots or Admiral Ackbar. Ironically, real 1980s Vintage Figures fit the best in the 2011 vehicle. I can live with paint errors, design goof-ups, and forgotten accessories, but the fact that Hasbro released a Y-Wing Pilot in 2011 that does not fit the Y-Wing Fighter in 2011 is just plain sad. As a collector, I'll live with it-- but if I got this as a gift and I was a young kid, I would expect there to be much screaming.
Having said that, the new Y-Wing is absolutely stunning and a wonderful display piece. Your figures will look great standing near it, just know that it's just a crap toy. If you want a good toy, check out the new Jedi Force Landspeeder (HAWT) or the new Clone Wars vehicles-with-figures, a.k.a. Mini-Rigs. The new Jedi Force Landspeeder has a pull-back motor (GENIUS!) and seating for 2 figures, and the figures actually fit. It doesn't take much to make me extremely happy.
Oh, and you'll want to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes. If you saw and liked Conquest of the Planet of the Apes I'll go out on a limb and say you should run out to see this.
Got questions? I bet you do. Email me with Q&A in the subject line.