Q&A: Death Star Playsets, Star Wars Exclusives, Competing, and New Movies

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, December 10, 2017

1. That Kohl's [The Last Jedi 3 3/4-inch exclusive action figure] set is about the worst exclusive in memory. I picked it up for that stacked discount price of $23. For that, the only thing new you get is the stormtrooper's vest/pauldron combo. The figures, including the Stormtrooper, are identical to the basic releases, including the sound chips. $50 MSRP is a crime against humanity. Someone should alert The Hague.

I normally don't post opinions in the question part, but well, I can't really argue. It's largely consistent with Kohl's byzantine pricing - huge mark-ups mitigated by a number of strange stackable sales (3 promotions were used at once to get it down to $23) so it seems that's, well, normal.

The Kohl's sets are largely strange - for The Force Awakens it was all existing figures with exclusive accessories. For Rogue One, 2 of the 4 figures had at least minor changes and there were some variations to Moroff's accessory too. For this one? Well, no bonus weapons, no big accessories... it's just less. And with 3 out of 4 figures being reruns, the item only theoretically works for kids - and in the era of people being able to easily price check and see a single figure is $10 or less elsewhere, it's just not an item that can transcend the shackles of existing product.



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2. Is the BB8 playset based on an unmade Death Star playset from days gone? I had heard hasbro developed one but never put it into Development. Secondly how difficult would it be to retool the BB8 set to be deathstar?

I have seen a couple of the Kenner-era big Death Star prototypes from the 1990s, but there's no way this could have been any of those. Supposedly there were several, sometimes they mock up ideas never intended to be seen by the public just as a proof of concept.

I don't think it would be prudent for Hasbro to retool BB-8/Playset into a Death Star simply because of costs. If they could just recolor it and give it new stickers, that would be pretty cheap - but it costs tens of thousands (if not more) dollars to make small modifications to a big toy mold. A fan (like the Toy Hax crew) could easily make new sticker sheets with a new throne to make it a semi-decent conversion for maybe $50 or so. Given the performance of this playset I sincerely doubt you'll see anything else like it any time soon - Hasbro took a gamble and gave us an item that, while fun, while a nice toy, is a tough sell. It's not labeled as being any specific environment, which hurts. BB-8 as a bad guy playset doesn't make a lot of sense. The item has been seeing regular markdowns at American big box stores, so the message Hasbro will take home here is "playsets don't sell."

Now you know and I know that this isn't the playset we wanted, not everybody takes the same message from an event like this. I'd say right now just grab it (especially on sale) and pretend it's a Death Star - it's probably as good as you'll ever get until someone fan-makes their own via Kickstarter.




3. I'm no longer a hasbro collector - having moved on to sideshow and hot toys but following on from this weeks column (20 Nov) - and the question about the toy box range and all the competing scales my question(s) are:
Do you think that the scales are actually killing collecting? I do - it dilutes the money out there and weakens brand loyalty.

Secondly. As you mentioned the ranges are never finished. Although I don't usually collect the smaller stuff I like the 6" black series - as does my oldest boy- but I want a complete set of rebels - which I can't get. I think i could do it in 3 3/4 but I don't like the figures much and Hera is very expensive. The toy box figures almost did it but no Hera or chopper. Heck even the galactic heroes figures - which my youngest loves- have such a mixed release- the phantom was shown but never released

Again I feel this is detrimental to loyalty for but collectors and just kids.

Is this Disney just grabbing money from the licences and bleeding it dry?

It's complicated.

Competing scales absolutely hurts collecting certain lines. There are so many Star Wars fans that there is a lot of money to be had in making all sorts of products, but Hasbro likes to deal in higher volumes - so the 250,000+ figure runs of the 1990s are never to return, because not everybody wants 3 3/4-inch figures (and the only competition back then were Bend-Em's and MicroMachines.) Whenever you have a new scale (or a new movie), you lose some collectors - you also may pick up some new fans, and sometimes those new kids or 20something part-time fanboys pick up a lot of slack. The Black Series is, largely, doing fine as long as the assortments eschew reshipping old product and Hasbro has struggled with that some since the back half of Rogue One.

There's no question that the 3 3/4-inch line is hurting, but it's a slow death by a thousand cuts. The product's perceived value versus price has been out of whack since Hasbro sold us $5-$6 cheap figures in 2014 and then made them $8 in 2015 with few improvements, plus dumped the collector-friendly super-articulated mainline during the introduction of 6-inch figures that are a better deal, and on top of that character selection is pretty iffy lately. Competing products like LEGO don't help either.

Not all collectors can afford everything - they may jump ship when their segment is "complete." Original Trilogy fans may not wish to buy Disney- or Prequel-era product, for example. Some people will buy literally everything 3 3/4-inch. Others just want the best version of everything - and they're agnostic as to the format. There's a lot of money going around, but few fans can afford to buy Sideshow and Hot Toys and multiple toy scales too. Or if they do, they're hardly completists.

I will never blame Disney on not "finishing" a scale - toy companies rarely have the foresight to do this (one exception being Mattel under Scott Neitlich, who actually lobbied to finish Super Powers and Masters of the Universe under his tenure.) Kenner/Hasbro have been making Star Wars 3 3/4-inch action figures almost nonstop since 1995, and they still haven't updated all of the original 1970s-1980s figures. The original team of Joes took years to finish in the 2007-presentish G.I. Joe action figure reboot. Hasbro took about three years to finish the Transformers original three Insecticons, and they're only just now finishing the Dinobots after releasing Grimlock in 1996. A lot of toy companies work from the prospect of having one or two figures to hold back so you keep coming back - now-former Hasbro employees have said they did that with Star Wars, but I don't get that the current team has any sense of awareness that figures like Sim Aloo are different characters not yet produced in the modern era. When you get in to accuracy in Ewoks or Kenner-style Cantina aliens now canonized by the cartoons, it gets tricky. Beyond that, I'd say they'd be best off just updating those figures, or even making a sub-collection based on the original 92/96/99/whatever for collectors where the sole purpose is to offer a complete, modern version of the old Kenner line.

But I digress.

If you stick around for the long haul, you're going to get a lot - but probably never everything. Disney has made more astromech droids than Hasbro had made total figures in the original line, and their weird one-offs could eventually be our salvation as finishing things go. I don't know what it would take for Hasbro to humor us and release at least a couple of collector-oriented, not-from-the-newest-movie figures each year. You know, things that any fan could recognize as new and potentially worthwhile. I assume that era ended and we didn't even realize that the golden age was over.



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This is it - The Last Jedi kicks off its presumably short marketing window. What you're about to experience is what Rogue One was supposed to have - 6 months between it and the next movie. The compressed release window (provided Solo doesn't get delayed, and I still think it might after this release so people don't get confused) but what's important here is that the movie may be on home video weeks or days before the next toy line launches. That's kind of nutty - and if you ask me, overkill. There really won't be time to adjust the line plan to fit in more The Last Jedi of Solo gets delayed (remember, 12-18 months of lead time for a new sculpt figure with approvals) and it's my sincere hope Hasbro gets to play catch-up until Episode IX because there are tons of great things left from the new Disney era - and of course, the old Lucas era.

Stuff is hitting markdown before the movie release, which to me says we've hit saturation. This didn't happen with the prequels, or The Clone Wars, or even the last two new movies - it seems that Star Wars has finally gone from being the be-all, end-all toy line event of the half-decade to this thing that just won't go away. I was making the rounds this weekend, and I'm still seeing significant amounts of The Force Awakens product when that should've been cleared out last year before Rogue One. And I say this as someone who likes the new characters and new movies - we need a break. Big annual launches like Force Friday are bad. I think they're bad to do every three years - eventizing announcements will always be welcome, but I've certainly gone beyond what I can take for caring about a giant product launch event. From the look of stores this year - fast markdowns, broken street dates galore, and new product that looks a lot like old product - I can't imagine that things are going to be smooth sailing for a Solo launch in April, provided that still happens.

I'm looking forward to the new movie this week, but more as a "Hey, cool, let's see this" than an epoch-shifting event. It's a new Star Wars movie... and after having lived through 16 years of anticipation for The Phantom Menace and a decade for The Force Awakens, a year doesn't even give me time to catch up on the big guide books and tomes of lore for the last two movies. Confession time: I still have unopened The Force Awakens figures I need to get to.

May ths be the greatest movie ever - may we be surprised with awesome aliens and cool villains of which we'll get figures later. Good luck everybody, happy 2017 Star Wars day to you all.

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.