Q&A: HasLab, Star Wars Online and Retail, plus Jabba's Palace's Goons

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, August 26, 2018

1. Not sure if this is a valid topic for your GH Q&A, but...

My friend and I were rattling around some ideas for Haslab's possible next project. He came up with what I think is a brilliant idea that would please a huge percentage of Star Wars collectors...

A Death Star trench playset... Two connected sides, with trench in between, maybe 5 feet long or so like Khetanna... Maybe can fold up to store smaller... Each side outside of trench is cut away with trash compactor, throne room, cells, command center, etc, with electronic death star laser running down one side so my death star commanders can control it. This would fit fans of episodes 4, 5, 6, Rogue One, even could look like sets for 7/8 star destroyer inside. This would also sell TIE fighters and X wings that could be "propped" in the trench... Add your own ideas, I thought it was very cool... Anywhere to submit ideas like this to the geniuses? Do you think an idea like this is doable cost-wise like Jabba's Barge?

Sorry if wrong kind of inquiry.... Just felt inspired by cool possibilities... :)

...who here would be up for a Q&A column wherein I just disappoint people?

Star Wars has millions of fans and thousands of hardcore collectors on many of its product offerings segments. Completists are further and fewer between, and given that some action figures were known to have sold 250,000 or more in the 1990s - so say sources - selling 8,000 of a vehicle is kind of telling. It's not as popular as it once was, and not everyone buys everything, but there are still a few people to whom Money is No Object.

It's kind of a miracle that the Sail Barge - a vehicle from one movie, for about 10 minutes, would get made at this size and at this price, even though it blew up and we saw very little of its interior. Seeing as it was something largely unprecedented - the biggest decent toy barges prior to this one were MicroMachines, Titanium, Hot Wheels, and Action Fleet - it felt like it had to be done by so many fans. We had Death Stars before - admittedly, not great ones - and Star Destroyers too. So I get it.

As much as I would love a big Death Star, the trench is my least favorite part of it. It would be cool to see something stackable - maybe a trench on top like a hat? - but it's hard to say what Hasbro would ever actually do. Death Star cross sections and modular units have been mentioned to Hasbro many times over the past (at least) 23 years, and costing things out can be tough. Hasbro has seemingly decided that paying a lot for amazing paint is something vehicle fans want, and while I might disagree that it's better than a cheaper vehicle, I can't argue that we're getting some fantastic stuff.

I don't assume the Barge will truly sell figures, nor do I assume the Death Star will help sell too many vehicles - maybe some troopers, but the customer is someone like you or me who probably already have a bunch of stuff.

I don't know how and when HasLab will pick its next items, but rumblings seemed to indicate a desire to do Marvel or Transformers next. I'm OK with that. I have to figure out where this Sail Barge is going to go before getting a second, giant toy. I know some fans have unlimited budgets and space, but I'm definitely at a phase in my collecting when I see a smaller line and I don't mind as much when I don't have to think about devoting a new piece of furniture just for a single toy.

As always, I would suggest talking to Hasbro at conventions and getting people on forums behind the idea - but this kind of idea has been in circulation for a while. Hasbro (and Kenner) even considered a few spins on the Death Stars that never saw the light of day - sadly, the way things are going, I doubt they ever will.



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2. In the past, I asked about the future of Star Wars toys online vs. brick and mortar stores. As it stands, you can still find everything in stores, but encompass alot of running around, wrong info for inventory figures, crushed boxes & employees not caring. Yet, using E.E. as an example, I can get everything I need, shipped to my home, for basically the same cost as in store, without the hassle. Will we continue to see this trend or will Star Wars continue to be a 1/2 isle presence in Target & Walmart?

In the next few years you're going to see a lot of people trying toys that haven't before. GameStop and Disney Stores are getting into it. Best Buy is expanding their presence. Will they all stick around and be victorious - or will Walmart continue to shrink its space, Target expand theirs, and overall things stay kind of the same?

Distribution has always been "the worst" for as long as I've been answering fan questions, and the only way it can get better is with a smaller line. If they only make 6 figures a year, the odds are better you'll find all 6 of them. When Hasbro did 50-100 (or more) figures a year, things started getting a lot harder to find.

I see online improving as time goes on, but I do mourn the loss of the on-package co-sell and impulse buys which are what get people buying this stuff in the first place. When I bought a figure as a kid, I'd look at the cardback and the catalog on the drive home to see what might be next. We don't get that anymore. More marketing efforts like that - or something in-store like a poster, who knows - might be helpful, because I don't think online toy distribution exclusively can work over the long run. You can't grow your toy line when it's opt-in only. You have to put things in peoples' faces. (See also, Playmobil's recent expansion back into Walmart and Target. They have catalogs showing the entire line, while stores carry maybe a dozen SKUs.)

I don't think the toy aisle is likely to ever return to the ridiculous presence we've had in previous decades. Online stores with unlimited space will sell everything they can - at least mine will - but we're going to see more stores carrying small selections of toys from here on out. Best Buy, GameStop, and even Party City are trying their hands at toys - they will never give you an amazing selection, but it's another place to hunt for action toys.




3. With the Sail Barge due in February 2019, does this give Hasbro a nudge to re-release more of the Jabba's Palace / barge / skiff gang? Looking on ebay the [price] for these guys are rising.

Hasbro has yet to announce any, but there are open slots in assortments still. I assure you conversations on this topic have been taking place, but at this point if it's going to happen they're probably already doing it. I also assure you that certain smart, handsome parties were sure to bring this up at the right time a few months ago.

I would suggest trolling your local comic, toy, and collectible shops now - prices on old toys at "antique" stores run the gamut from absurd to wildly undervalued, so prepare for your new arrival today!



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I don't buy a lot on Kickstarter these days, but I got a bundle of kicks out of this Kaiju Big Battel Keshi line. If you want modern M.U.S.C.L.E. and have room for more since the end of OMFG and apparent end of SUCKLE, give these a look.

I also don't start a lot of new collections, especially of similar things I've been buying. I was all-in on Galoob's die-cast metal MicroMachines for Star Wars. And then Hasbro's Titanium Series. (Yes, including the nose art variations on the ARC-170s.) So when Mattel started its Starships line, I wasn't terribly interested - Hasbro was doing basically the same thing, so I had no reason to start back in 2015. Well, two years after the final wave of Hasbro ships shipped, I'm starting to look into Hot Wheels starships. Apparently I missed a lot. (And no I won't be paying $60 for a fancy painted TIE Silencer. I'll take a standard one, thank you.)

So far I've picked up a couple dozen odds and ends at 99 Cents Only stores over the last year or so, the Best Buy 11-pack for $12, plus three of the recent Colin Cantwell concept ships - because who wouldn't buy those? I'm having a rare opportunity to do something I've often suggested others do, which is collect something after the fact. The good news is that some items are quite cheap. The bad news is some items seem to be priced, well, bonkers. If you've got a collection of these buggers you want to sell, reach me at the below address with a list and a price and since I'm missing most of them, I might be down.

Vehicles are one segment Hasbro isn't doing much with lately, as MicroMachines are taking a nap, the action figure line usually only does about a half dozen in a good year, and the new MicroForce line - while I am getting it as a continuation of Fighter Pods - isn't exactly brimming with hope for an ongoing collection. Hot Wheels got to the point where there are enough new and exclusive molds that I'm interested, and I would've started sooner had I actually ever seen the Yoda Jedi Starfighter in person other than at trade events. Such is life.

I make the shift over - and not necessarily as a completist - begrudgingly, because it's unlikely any scale of Star Wars toy will ever be truly definitive. There are characters in MicroMachines, Galactic Heroes, Action Fleet, and even Sideshow's 12-inch line that may never make it to the 3 3/4-inch scale of action figures. When it comes to vehicles, there are also a few ships in MicroMachines or the X-Wing Game and now Hot Wheels that won't make it into the fairly expansive Titanium Series line - and on top of that, there are 3 3/4-inch scale vehicles that were never made as a 3-inch die-cast ship, either.

There are complaints I make to people on teams when they ask - but I don't think people care - about a "definitive scale" or "definitive line." There are certainly expansive lines with a lot of stuff in it, but with things like role-playing miniatures packed with unique, non-movie characters, there is not now and I dare say there may never be a definitive scale to collect vehicles or characters. If Wizards of the Coast or somebody really leaned in to role-playing miniatures, I would wager that could potentially eclipse 3 3/4-inch scale stuff some day - but the rarity games make it too irritating to take seriously as a toy collector.

I like what Mattel is producing, although it seems some ships are punitively hard to find in its short run - amusing, as the Hasbro equivalents are often fairly common in many cases. If I have to mix-and-match, I think I can live with that. And if I have to buy somebody's collection that they dump on eBay, well, I can wait.

--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.