Q&A: Star Wars Big Vehicles, Coin Cards, and Fan's Choice

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, July 16, 2017

1. Hello, I was wondering what do you think made hasbro think the market can support the $349 At-act? Because rouge one line was always planned to be lasting about 6 months? Wonder why they didn't just reissue the big at at walker and retooled it? Wouldn't that been cheaper? How much do you think the big millennium falcon will cost these days for a reissue?

Not knowing where you live, it was $299.99 in the USA - and it came out late, with little fanfare, at a point in the retail season where retailers had zero patience. There was plenty of time for the remaining (diminishing) adult fan base to poo-poo its smaller size, and then when you found out what didn't quite work with it - it was small, the hip joints were unnecessarily bad, and so on - people just didn't see the need to get it.

Hasbro has a lot going on, because it's not one uniform thought. There are lots of plates spinning, and tops spinning, because certain items exist for reasons that are to deliver a key item to drive media interest, or to meet a certain price point. It's not always "let's make an awesome toy," it's "we've identified $X as a target for gifts with no products available, let's develop something there" once in a while. In this case, Hasbro made a higher-dollar item (to compete with the other higher-dollar items), and you could control it with your smart phone, and it's in the basic time frame of the original trilogy, and it had three figures, and it could shoot things. It was a great idea - it just didn't turn out too well, and it came out late, and stores marked it down almost within 2 weeks, and that's just not good. We see this happen with higher-dollar items a lot - even last year's Fortress Maximus Transformers toy was slashed to a ridiculous price on eBay (via Hasbro Toy Shop) within a couple of months, and sold far below that at Ross around Thanksgiving. Chain stores do not have patience for big items with high price points - except Toys R Us and online stores. Nobody else has the real estate or interest.

When Hasbro first made the big Millennium Falcon in 2008, it was about $130. In 2010, the reissue was $250. You don't want to follow this thread. You won't like what you find. Basic toys are going up as a result of increased profits and/or the rise of the middle class in China and Vietnam. For The Last Knight, some Age of Extinction toys are being rereleased in new colors - so in 2017, we're getting toys from 2014. Some of which were $13-$15, and now they're $20. Some of which were $20-$25, and now they're $30. Same basic toy, slightly different deco. (Improved, I would argue.)

Retooling an existing AT-AT Walker would likely inspire criticism as the vehicles were sufficiently different. Perhaps rereleasing it as a substitute might have worked, but even then the costs tend to steadily go up over time these days. This is probably going to be the case until America finds another, cheaper source of manufacturing, resources, and/or labor... and it wouldn't stun me if there's a Disney Tax now too.

There are lots of factors at stake here, Asian manufacturing being a big one and I would also probably point at one thing we lost: uniformity. Music used to be a bit cheaper when we were all buying the same records in huge numbers - economy of scale, and what have you. Now? Nothing is really as huge as it was 30 or 40 years ago. Toys are the same way - from 1978 to 2002, most Star Wars collectors were probably in to action figures and 3 3/4-inch action figures at that. This size was king, and there wasn't a lot of competition from statues, high-end Hot Toys figures, busts, and even LEGO was just getting started. Today Hasbro is competing with Hasbro for Hasbro customers, with increased demand for deco, features, and accessories and a much more splintered audience. If Hasbro made just one size, it's possible - not guaranteed, but possible - we'd all be buying that one scale of figure in big enough numbers to keep costs down. Don't forget, figures were $4.99 in 1995-1997 and 2002-2004. It can be done. You just have to relax your standards, and basically get in line behind a single format. According to manufacturers in other spaces, you can drop your overall price if instead of a limited edition of a thing, and a regular edition, you just split the difference - your cost per unit goes down, but the catch is that you have to hope that your bargain customer is willing to see a low-price fancy edition of something as worthier a purchase than a low-price cheapo item. So if this applies to Hasbro? Instead of All Vintage All the Time, or All TFA All the Time, you'd get something in the middle - like the 2006 The Saga Collection or the 2007 30th Anniversary Collection. It's good, but not the same, and the costs are lower and you don't have to worry about one Finn robbing sales from another Finn in the same costume at the same scale.

The era of big toys is not yet over, but the myth of big, awesome, and cheap should be staked through the heart. If you want something big and cool, stop expecting it at under $150.



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2. Would we ever see a Vintage Collection figure in the 84’ era POTF with the coin.

I've asked and gotten vague and unconvincing answers over the years. I was expecting this around 2007 when they announced a return of coins with basic figures at $7 each - surely the $10 figures would also sport coins. Nope! Mail-in offer instead.

Based on the above answer and Hasbro's reluctance to put in neat-but-not-toy bonus gear, I wouldn't expect a coin any time soon. This was an anniversary year, and we didn't get any. The 30th anniversary of The Power of the Force had come and gone, we didn't get any then either. If Hasbro really wanted to knock my socks off - and get me to pay $15 without complaining - coins in the 2018 The Vintage Collection line would certainly do it. But I don't think that's going to happen.




3. As we all know, Doctor Aphra was the winner of Hasbro's 3.75 inch Fans Choice poll. Fan favorites Yakface and Imperial Dignitary Sim Aloo at least made in the top 6. If I recall correctly, years ago someone compiled a list of the other top 5 runners up to the previous Fan's Choice Poll winners and determined that most, if not all those figures eventually were made into action figures themselves. I was unable to pull up who the runners up were in those previous polls so I could not double check that validity. (Does Galactichunter still have those results?)

Do you suppose that even though Yakface and Sim did not win this poll, because they at least made it in the top tier, are their chances of eventually being made/updated that much higher?

I might have answered his one - I hope not! Here it is anyway.

Right now we don't know Hasbro's ideas for the future of non-Disney-era-figures. If you look at the line since The Force Awakens launch, other than 6-inch figures and droids we've had no new Lucas-era movie figures. We've seen some returning favorites, it's been crappy.

I think Fan's Choice Metrics is what you seek, but it hasn't been updated for years and likely won't be. (Blame exhaustion.)

It would not surprise me if Yak Face and Sim Aloo split the vote among old fans - this happens. If you have 5 old dudes against 1 new dude, there's a divide there - all of us old fans will be split up, and the comic/cartoon/new book character will get a unified front. If Hasbro only had 3 finalists, it's more likely (but not guaranteed) to swing a different direction because of things like known ballot box stuffing and the fact that people who have time to read are hardcore. They'll organize. We spend most of our time just trying to figure out if the thing that was announced was even released.

Under previous regimes, Hasbro said they'd take who made the finalists' tiers into consideration for future years and future waves but we haven't exactly seen that translate into product for the last few rounds. In some cases they were planning to do those guys anyway, but the output hasn't really been conducive to do more classic guys outside the 6-inch line as of late. It's enough to make you reconsider your loyalty to the collection.




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I could be wrong, but it feels like we're in a weird spot for toys and have been for a while. I don't just mean Star Wars, just in general. The lightning-fad Fidget Spinners were something completely unknown to me until about May - and it seems that the entire product platform may have peaked in late June, just in time for countless imitators to flood the market with their versions before any of the major players even knew what hit them. We got another look at what it looks like when China decides to move on a dime, something American toy companies can't seem to do just yet for whatever reason. We've seen some players move quickly - Funko can get stuff to market with alarming speed when they need to - but this is unusual. I don't think we've ever seen Mattel get the new "it" car into Hot Wheels overnight.

As for me personally, I feel that the last 20 years have been fascinating but the last decade seems to be riffing on a lot of the same stuff. Nintendo, Power Rangers, and Transformers have seemingly transitioned into dual roles between "kid line" and "collector nostalgia gambit" with varying levels of success, but they're succeeding. Jakks Pacific is selling Entertainment Earth an SDCC exclusive based on an NES sitting on top of an old CRT TV that kids born after 2005 may have never actually used. Playmobil's Ghostbusters line is my younger self's dream come true and from all accounts a success so far, but it's also weird in that it's a nostalgia property for a brand that caters to children - specifically European children - by baiting the hook with something the modern American father might adore. Or grandfather, really. I don't think Ghostbusters is as big of a part of grade school kids media diet as super heroes or Star Wars these days - but I'd love to know if I'm wrong. (I loved the movie and cartoon as a kid, but I as the age group for it too.)

As strange as this may be to consider, the 1980s were really the last time that the big dominant brands of today were absent. It's true - for most of the 1980s, Marvel branded action figures weren't on toy shelves. Batman and DC characters would come and go, being absent more than they were not. Even Star Wars went away almost completely for years - and now it seems no major franchise has gone away and returned strong for as long as I can remember. Transformers kept rolling along since the original line save for about a year in the USA. G.I. Joe got a couple of relaunches but failed to return as a fixture after the last launch. Marvel and DC and Star Wars may never go away forever again, with TMNT and the Power Rangers enjoying regular reinventions to keep things interesting.

Right now I'm really curious to see how The Last Jedi toys will do - I expect a huge surge because interest in the movie is high and people will want to see something, anything, from the movie. Toys are a something, and Lucasfilm has been oddly quiet compared to The Force Awakens and seemingly about as quiet if not quieter than Rogue One. I'll remind you, last year I was in San Diego before I knew they had a Jyn Erso exclusive - that's how stealthy the announcement was. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I'm not super fond of it. This is the sort of thing you should know before you enter the reality distortion field that is the San Diego Convention Center.

It seems difficult to see any action figure as a reality-changing experience at my age, and given just how many options we have. Humanoid figures with 5 or 14 points of articulation are fun, but it seems that we've moved away from figures that can sit or stand by design to ones that, well, you don't know until you buy them. Figure/vehicle compatibility in Star Wars seems to have peaked in the 20th century, and now we're seeing changes in toy lines and attitudes. LEGO's Star Wars offerings are expensive but they work - rarely do I hear complaints that the figure can't fit in the ship. Possibly never! With Playmobil getting in to movie lines, I expect the same from them - more licenses, better toys-as-playthings, and increased competition to divert business from the big boy toys. Meanwhile, Funko has gone the other way - its $10 Star Wars figure looks cute, the selection rivals Hasbro's, and articulation isn't a worry because the format doesn't require it. That's a clever workaround!

If I had my way, 3 3/4-inch would probably be a dominant fixture with 6-inch waves a few times a year because they're good products that make people happy. And sell really well. I'm glad there's enough money out there for Hasbro to experiment, but I certainly wouldn't complain if they reeled it in to just dump more marketing dollars and resources in delivering a 3 3/4-inch action figure line for the ages. I don't know if such a thing is possible, given the national attention span, but I can dream!

--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.