Some long ones this week! So are casepack ratios getting you down? You aren't alone! Do you like Fighter Pods? You aren't alone! Did you like the Unleashed Battle Packs? ...you might be alone there. All this and much more, so read on!
1. Imagine this hypothetical scenario. I'm a Star Wars action figure collector with a couple thousand figures. I'm no longer a completist in any sense. Usually I can't tell whether "new releases" of core figures are rescuplts, repaints or a mishmash of arms and legs from different previously released figures. So, now I want to buy new figures from either the Vintage or Clone Wars line that look new, as in when I see them I can clearly say, I don't have that figure. Now, imagine this. I don't want to buy cases of 12 for the 1 to 3 figures I want. At the same time, I try to be a responsible, global citizen of the Earth, living in a sustainable way. That means I simply will not drive around explicitly on "toy runs". If the wife goes to Target or Wal-Mart for shopping, she has the list I have composed of figures I am looking for. Believe it or not, using this strategy, we have very poor look finding new figures in our neck of the woods. The alternative is therefore on-line vendors. However, it appears that there are no longer any sites on the web that will sell any recent figures at the MSRP. If you get lucky, you can find loose (off-product?) samples from Asian ebayers. What else is one to do? Be patient, wait on ebay, until the price goes down to something that is only a few bucks more than MSRP plus shipping? Is this the best alternative? Do you think this strategy will work for Armored Savage Opress or Bastila Shan? As far as I can tell this is the only strategy left to collectors like myself who want to enjoy Star Wars Figures and be a environmentally responsible citizen. It's clearly a bad business model for Hasbro. It seems clear that they must know that this is the situation facing many collectors, but they refuse to adjust their case assortments to make new figures more plentiful to the more casual (but still weekly) shopper at Target/Wal-Mart. It just seems that the problem can be easily stated and the answer is relatively simple to see and Hasbro simply refuses (I guess) to believe that they can make as much money implementing this solution as they can doing something else that irks collectors. I guess the simple solution is to quit collecting figures. It's hard to stop doing something that you could enjoy, that you've been doing since 1977. How can I convey this message to Hasbro? A paper letter? To where? Should a SW figure site start an environmentally conscious petition for Hasbro to adopt a more sustainable distribution model to end toy runs? That might just break the hearts of many a collector!
That's quite the insincere jump you're making here.
Environmentalism and toy collecting are not really compatible ideologies. Repacks have nothing to do with environmentalism, it's what keeps the line going in slim times so we can have our insane 100+ new figure years. It's also not a bad business model for Hasbro-- are they selling product? Do they keep making new things which also sell? Like it or not, it seems to be working for them, which is why you're complaining at me about this nearly 16 years after the line re-kicked off in 1995.
I wouldn't use environmentalism as a conduit for your argument for better casepacks. I just looked at a bunch of Hasbro figure packaging, and I could not find a "recyclable" symbol on any of the items I just happened to have around-- and this is all 2010 and 2011 stuff. That might not be a bad place to start, assuming you are actually concerned about making a difference, and not just getting your figures, so let's stop pretending what you're asking has anything to do with the environment. I'd like to see smaller packaging footprints (and less in the way of plastic, rubber bands, and inserts) myself-- but what your letter tells me is what you want are your figures, the enviro-spin being an afterthought. So let's continue.
If what you want are solid packed cases with 12 each of new figures, this will never happen. Hasbro makes assortments and ships the same ones to pretty much all its customers, so this kind of special mix doesn't make necessarily sense for them to do. (There are rare exceptions, although I can only name two, one of which Hasbro/Kenner denied happening despite my having the empty case to prove it. But I digress.) If what you want is an evenly packed case with new figures (and unique variants like the Black Endor Rebel Trooper) packed so that a case can be evenly divided into reasonable "sets" with no repackaged figures, that's what I want too. Hasbro did a good job of doing this on and off from 2007-2009, but it went away when waves got larger than 6 new figures. (Plus the issue of "variant vs. new" reared its head a few times in here, as it does with other manufacturers.) Hasbro can do this-- as in, they are capable-- and fans have asked and was told we should be hearing something new soon, but that might be next year given what has been postponed and how far in advance casepacks are selected.
So what can you do?
Stop trying to pretend there's some other reason for your complaints. Just write Hasbro a letter, hopefully others will join in, you can find an address in their instructions, web site, and probably quarterly reports. It's out there. You can find it. Stop trying to find some moral loophole, just be direct with your complaint and maybe they'll make a change and maybe they won't.
I'm not sure why you tried to play the environmental angle on this one-- unless this was a bit, in which case, bravo.
2. I saw the pictures of the Fighter Pods from the NYCC. These are awesome! As the father of a ten year old son, we collected all the galactic heroes over the years, and my daughter who is three has been playing with the Disney "Squinkies" princesses. I told my wife if they ever make Star Wars "squinkies" I will have to have them all! So, my questions: are these store exclusives? Can I order them by the case through EE? Price? Dare I say play sets? These remind me so much of the Micro Collection from the 80's it's ridiculous.
There may be store exclusives, but no, this line is not going to be a store exclusive. You most likely will be able to order cases online, but that doesn't mean you'll get a whole set. I expect they'll be like the Marvel Handful of Heroes-- randomly packed, blind-packed in spots, and it might be difficult to acquire an entire set without resorting to eBay or trading on forums.
Since they're tiny deformed figures, don't expect playsets. Vehicles are confirmed, but unless the playset doubles as a carry case I sincerely doubt you'll see playsets for this line as they're more of a "collectible" or "action" toy than an honest-to-goodness vehicle-and-playset line like we're used to getting.
3. Looking at photos from New York City ComicCon got me thinking about Star Wars sub-lines from the past. Particularly it was photos of the new Pods line and the return of titanium. What I mean by sub-lines are Star Wars toys not based on 3 3/4 inch figures. Some of these lines are pretty substantial. I was going through some photo achieves and saw the Star Wars Unleashed Battle Packs, which I paid little attention to when they were being sold. There are a lot of them. They remind me of the vintage Micro Collection which I paid a lot of attention to as a kid but never collected. Micro collection for me was much more about the play environments, which were amazing, than the metal figures, which somehow never captured the characters quite right. The Unleashed Battle Packs seem to capture the characters spot on. My question is, are the battle pack figures a scale compatible with the micro collection play sets? And my second question is, of all the Star Wars sub-lines, which is the biggest and in your opinion which is the most successful?
The Unleashed Battle Packs (2006-2010) are not scaled to the 1980s die-cast MicroCollection line. They're significantly bigger, and honestly, scale is a real issue inside this line. Some figures, like the Snowtroopers, are significantly larger than other characters like the Clone Troopers. If you put them all on a shelf, they're not quite all the correct height-- close, but off enough where you'll notice a problem.
As far as the most successful spin-off line? Probably Star Wars Transformers, which seems to be doing quite well despite active scorn from most adult fans and a plodding schedule of new releases. My favorite is probably the Galoob MicroMachines run from 1994 (or so) until about 1999, the prequel line didn't exactly do it for me. I like Action Fleet, but the tiny vehicles really were something special.
4. The R2 with the retractable leg in the Target 3 pack. The 3PO in the Target Genosis Arena pack with 4-LOM parts for added articulation (I'd like o see a gold version). The all new AT-ST driver in the Target Hoth set from 2010. The MIA second Imperial scanning Crew Technician.
Does Hasbro plan to make these figures available as single carded figure or otherwise?
Let's all say it together: "no plans at this time." We're also still missing the variant Utai, a couple of Clone Wars vehicles, at least four "ships in August" Wal-Mart exclusives, and a few other things I'm sure I'm forgetting.
5. Adam, I'm sure you hear this ever so often but I'd like to put it out there again. What is your honest opinion on the fate of Hasbro and the renewal of the Star Wars license by the end of 2017? Many collectors are tired of Hasbro and the way the line has been handled the last few years. You know the problems the community has issues with. The countless repacks, crappy distribution and puzzling figure choices; and for God's sake all of the clones! Even with the all money that was thought to be lost during the Episode 1 release in 99, one would think that Hasbro would have,at least, broke even by now forcing carded collectors and even loose collectors to purchase and even repurchase items to keep their collections up to date.
I doubt that, at least, some of the collector community would mind "the end" of the line. That way, maybe some collectors can final say they have a complete collection. What do you think?
Right now, it's fine and depending on what Lucas has planned for the next few years, it's entirely possible its best days are ahead of it. Collectors are a small part of the picture-- a big small part, the part that gives the brands millions of dollars of free marketing, but there is a lot of money in lightsabers, Star Wars Transformers, and the other stuff aimed at kids under 10. The line would still be fine without us, it might look more like The Clone Wars with less emphasis on new figures but hey-- at least they don't have cases with 3 new figures most of the time.
Due to the nature of collectors, well, who cares what we want? Hasbro is a financial eatbeast and they want to make money. Collectors are toy-collecting eatbeasts, the original line in the 1970s and 1980s was not made with people like us in mind. The relaunch in the 1990s was made with a very vague idea as to what a collector was and what they might want. If Hasbro stopped "vintage" tomorrow and switched entirely to "Movie Heroes," we'd switch. Because that's what there is, and as an audience, we want to buy this stuff. I know it may not be the answer you want, but you can print money with this license without ever addressing the desires of older fans. If the Four Horsemen and Mattel teamed up tomorrow to make "Star Wars Universe" 6-inch figures, they'd get a whole new audience, some of the old audience, and probably another 3-5 years with minimal effort.
With Return of the Jedi theoretically hitting 3D theaters in 2017, the line has at least that much meat on its bones-- odds are we'll still get one big vehicle a year, 30 or so new figures to coincide with each movie rerelease, and at least 20 new animated figures for as long as the cartoon continues. (And odds are next year many of them will be Darth Maul.) Right now, I'd say the most interesting that could happen to Star Wars is to jettison the collector mentality and focus squarely on kids-- fun figures with neat gear that will, I hope, be designed to sit inside vehicles. I'm far more interested in next year's electronic, spring-loaded, and otherwise funky "Movie Heroes" than I am in the continuation of the vintage line. We haven't had a completely new Jake Lloyd Anakin since 2000-- one with a goofy backpack should be fun.
If you look at The Clone Wars since 2010, one thing that's been sorely lacking is generic Clone Troopers. You can't buy a plain white clone by itself, or any generic trooper of any of the various squadrons without buying a $20+ set of toys. This, I find to be bizarre, the line has moved to mostly specific hero characters with a reduced emphasis on unnamed heroes. (There are, of course, a few.)
So if you're sick and tired of the line, I suggest either altering your focus or quitting. As long as there are toys, there will be toy collectors. Gormiti has adult fans, even if Hasbro changed course to be a completely kid-focused series we'd probably still buy a lot of it. (Although, admittedly, I have little interest in new, smaller-scale figure lines outside of Jedi Force.) If Hasbro plays their cards right, and they will, you will still have the opportunity to buy new and "new" stuff for at least six more years... hopefully with a decreasing package footprint.
Sooooo... what's left for this year?
Probably not much. Now that Target's items have hit, it seems there are few to no items yet-to-be-released as the movie lines go, with a smattering of unreleased Wal-Mart exclusives (overdue from August) from The Clone Wars not yet showing up.
It looks like no additional Vintage will ship before year's end-- although we might be surprised-- but right now I'm wondering if the Wal-Mart items are being held for a late November launch for the holiday season, or just got kicked down the road to 2012 or even to another retail partner. For the record, Wal-Mart had repaints of the BARC Speeder and AT-RT as well as a pair of figure/DVD sets with two new Clones added to the mix.
With the Episode I relaunch just around the corner, it seems possible-- even likely-- that the bulk of the 2011 product line is done with. Granted, some items are still making it out, like the newer The Clone Wars waves, but the stuff is out and it's a little depressing to think that we might actually not see much new ship for the next 12-13 weeks. Unless of course the mass retailers all ignore the set date for the Phantom Menace stuff and put it out as soon as it shows up after Christmas, which is where I'd currently be placing my bets.
The onslaught in 2012-- with a mix of new 2012 product and unshipped 2011 product-- is going to be mighty. I do suggest you all whip out your abacus and estimate what you'll probably want to have around for January, because it looks like-- and I could be wrong-- my conservative estimate is in the low hundreds, and that's not counting any surprises between now and then. There will be a lot of repacks, and a lot of stuff so similar you might skip it, but there are still going to be hundreds of dollars worth of new, movie-based product in a very short window.
Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now!