Q&A: Star Wars Mail-In Figures, Army Builders, and Retro Toys

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, June 21, 2020

1. Since hasbropulse.com is starting to offer marvel legends hydra soldiers and a.i.m. troopers as an exclusive, would you think this will extend to star wars and the upcoming G.I. Joe 6 inch line? I like the possibility of putting army builder figures in their own assortment and at a slightly lower price point of $14.99, but i don't know if having it as an exclusive will have a negative affect. i also noticed that there is an increase in former build a figures becoming deluxe figures. is this a result of the difficulty in finding all of the parts to build the figure, or the cost to purchase the entire wave?


Eventually? Sure! Right now the Joe line is pretty small, so a lot of exclusives or huge line expansions are unlikely.

We're not yet at a stage of army-building, but presumably they'll find a reason to do it. We don't know what kind of things they want to do - or why - for Pulse, so if they want to do a cheaper trooper to bolster business? Sure! I wouldn't mind seeing "lite" versions of figures to fill dioramas and build armies myself, but I'd certainly prefer it to coincide with playsets and/or vehicles - should such things be sensible to do.

I guess where I'm going is "too soon." If this scale is proven worthy of being a permanent fixture for Joes, I assume we'll get troopers and everything in 2-3 years if not sooner. We've only had one wave so far, and it doesn't seem to be hitting big box retail yet, so we've got a ways to go here.

Hasbro is a big fan of variants and reusing tooling - you'll also notice Transformers Selects toys developed with repaints/retools in mind, so reusing Marvel Legends build-a-figure tooling is just good sense. Many figures have changes to deco, and it's also a way to sell a figure which technically hasn't been sold before with no real investment. Hasbro doesn't make money by not selling in-demand figures, and you may have also noticed reissues of recent-ish "standard" figures popping up at your favorite online toy shops, too.



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2. Is there any chance Hasbro may revisit their mail-in figure promotions, or has Disney permanently kill that?

Unlikely, but it's worth noting Disney had nothing to do with it. It's more of the market. Mail-in figures aren't a way to reward customers - with a few exceptions, it was a way to help retailers like Target clear out old stock. "Buy 5 figures on shelves and get this cool new figure for free + shipping!" is a way to use marketing to get you to buy things you probably already bought. It worked really well in the 1980s, and in the 2000s was built-in to the marketing of figures to force your hand to collect them all. Coins, figures, even a reproduction of a holy grail were used as marketing tools to get you to buy more regular retail figures. (If you're just using the UPCs you've been saving it's not a great promotion for the manufacturer - hence the receipts, or coupons, or other specific requests to redeem in the offer.)

There's also the issue on if Hasbro wants to manhandle UPCs which you manhandled - it's a lot of extra work to do a mail-in offer. They've got to cash checks, count UPCs, enter orders, and so on - it's much easier to just add another new figure in an assortment, or give Amazon/Pulse/etc. an exclusive.

A few years ago, Hasbro mentioned to the fan media that the reason for doing fewer mail-in offers was due to the investment. Tooling a new figure means one less figure they can actually sell you, and most fans would prefer just to buy the figure they want rather than be goaded into buying more figures to get the special one. They're not wrong. Since Hasbro was also charging us for those last few mail-in figures, though, I think they were still doing fine business.

It's possible they may do something like this again - heck, I think this would be fun for Vlix, but of course I would - but I wouldn't bet on it. The last time they did these things they were $7 or $8 plus UPCs and receipts, and I assume the same would be true in the future.

There's one other aspect to address, and that's the novetly. In 1979, getting a figure in the mail was unusual. In 2020, many of us buy most of our action figures by mail. Finding something in a retail store is a real novelty these days. I'm not saying it'll never happen again, but it's been so long that I would not place any bets on it.




3. So far, Target had the New Hope Retro figures, Walmart has Empire, so who is going to have the Jedi line, and which figures will be in it?

We don't know what the future holds for this collection, but Hasbro's decision to include never-before-made figures like Tarkin and Snowspeeder Luke cracks open the door for possibilities. I mean, I'd be asking for Jabba's Palace Dancer Leia as that was one of few figures that felt "missing" from my old Jabba the Hutt Action Playset. For all we know they'll do Return of the Jedi, or some other anniversary, or go back and finish the original 12. I hope they reissue 2010 Rocket-Firing Boba Fett, myself.

I would not be at all disappointed if they just kept slowly cranking out the previous figures for a while and meet the demand. I don't know how much more there is, but I assume they could keep 'em coming - even on variant logo or variant photo cardbacks.

If and when Return of the Jedi happens, I assume you'd see Endor Trenchcoat Han Solo, Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker, Boushh Princess Leia, The Emperor, Wicket the Ewok, and Skiff Lando or a random Jabba alien. (I'd prefer Carbonite Han Solo and a new Jabba's Prisoner/Dancer/Slave/Hutt Killin' Leia in there somewhere, but that's me.)

There are also decades of new movies to do figures from - we still could use a Darth Maul and a Jango Fett, too. I don't know if we're necessarily going to get ROTJ next year, but I hope they get to it sooner or later.

Not knowing costs to Hasbro, I assume developing these has to be pretty cheap and there's a built-in audience for them. The marketing has long been done, so all they have to do is cash in and crank out the right quantity, whatever that is. Let's hope they do more than just one wave a year!



One of the most common questions I get is about HasLab. "What's next?" Marvel X-Men Sentinel, it seems.

The last HasLab project was Unicron from Transformers, currently expected early in 2021. "That feels like forever!" people said last July, before any of us truly understood the meaning of "feels like forever." And also "well, uh, I guess it was good they took the money before." As far a I know there's no known scheduled date for the next HasLab project to start, and no immediate plans to revisit Star Wars. Given how last year went, if Hasbro decided to move forward with the Marvel item this year, we're probably going to see it kick off in July around not-SDCC. Of course, we could also see them move it if they so desired - there's no real benefit to keeping every new product announcement tied to a convention which is not actually taking place.

Anybody out there from Phoenix? Metrocenter is closing in a week, but if you've been there in the last few years you'll be forgiven for thinking it had been closed. If you've never been there, you might know it as being the mall in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. A friend of mine was very much looking forward to seeing the third movie in the theater in that mall, but between the mall closing, the virus, and his having just died, that does not seem likely. That was our go-to mall when I was a little kid, as it had multiple toy stores (Kay-Bee, Toys By Roy, Little House Toys, etc.), at least two different board game stores over the years, and during one glorious era a Funcoland, Babbage's, and EB Games all at once. There was even a little anime shop in the distant corner. Over the last decade and change I'd go through it once in a while like a walk through a graveyard, as the food court had dwindled down to almost empty and even the fairly good (and cheap, $7 all day) movie theater was typically vacant. I saw Avengers Endgame opening weekend there.

Right now the only thing working really well in the orbit of the mall Walmart, which walled off entry to the mall and took over the physical space once occupied by Broadway Southwest and later Macy's - and presumably it will remain there. It was near a Toys R Us and the great Castles & Coasters, formerly Golf & Stuff, the go-to destination for birthday parties or your dad's job renting the place out once every few years so you could play mini golf and video games.

--Adam Pawlus

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