Q&A: Star Wars Expanded Universe 6-Inch, Rebels, and New Stuff You Can't Get

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, January 11, 2015

1. Price increases?

So haters, err... I mean fans, are losing our collective minds over a $2-3 price increase on TBS figures at Target.

I've seen the full range of freak out here from "I quit" to "this is a conspiracy by Hasbro to not get our money, because Hasbro hates money."

I'm wondering what insights you have from your day job. Is this a price increase from Hasbro? A Target thing? What explains it? Are the accountants spreading the cost of unsold unshipped stock over next year's product?

And I'll tack on a second question: with Disney throwing open the doors to every possible sub license, do you think ReAction has a shot at a future retro figure license?

Price increases are very real but sometimes they are temporary and sometimes they aren't - but it's probably going to spread instead of being repealed. Given that we're talking about the higher-end figure, which has a shrinking fan pool (for now), and most of the waves are boring to long-term collectors by design, you're seeing a snowball grow while going downhill. Collector figure lines tend to get more specialized as they go, and more expensive, and by the end even the most devout of fans is usually ready to admit defeat. We're not there yet, but yeah - figures are $13 at some stores. They could be $15 later - and 6-inch guys are staying parked at $20. This is the exact reason I was talking up 6-inch a few years ago - when 3 3/4-inch hit $10 and Marvel Legends were $15, it barely makes sense to sell a smaller product anymore. While we're devoted to 3 3/4-inch, look at Transformers - a few years ago, in light of price increases, they completely phased out the entry-level "Scout" or "Basic" toy when it went from $5 to $7, and it went away for a few years - returning later at a slightly higher price. And now that size toy has returned again at $10, because the "Deluxe" toy - formerly the $10 price point - is $13-$15. Hasbro's entry-level figure product creeped up and as such, is no longer the grand deal it once was. Hence, $5 Star Wars Command army men packs... love them or hate them, moms and dads want $5 toys for their kids. People were pretty angry when prices went from $5 to $6, and to $7. But we had a dip before they went back to $7 again, and they've been steadily going up ever since 2006.

So what's the solution? Simple - kill the 3 3/4-inch Black Series line until it becomes all about new characters (i.e., new movie + new collector stuff) or just kill it, period, and put those resources into Saga Legends and Mission Series. Or accept that 3 3/4-inch action figures with 14+ joints are a premium product and you're going to have to pay accordingly.   Hasbro just rereleased the Transformers Insecticons as a Kmart exclusive... for $80. These were $50 on eBay right now from the last reissue.  The pricing is, in a nutshell, nuts.

Why is it more? a) Because Target wants more money, b) because Hasbro price increases happen, and c) because China. It's not materials - it's labor. The Chinese minimum wage has doubled over the last few years. That's a lot of labor. Oil has gone up. The dock workers in the US are asking for a contract renegotiation. It's no secret Hasbro has been quietly shifting most of its Transformers production away from China and to Vietnam to slow price increases and quality cuts - Combiner Wars probably wouldn't be this cheap if Hasbro didn't take the step to move things. Hot Wheels aren't made in China, either - pick up a cardback and see, not everything is as "Made in China" as it once was and that's probably going to happen a lot more now.

Wanna quit? OK, go for it. Old figures are pretty cheap and just as good as most modern releases - with ankles being trimmed and prices increasing, you're probably better off filling in the gaps with figures from 2006-2010 for those that still have lower prices. Back in 2012 we had a similar discussion, of how it was cheaper to buy an actual 1999 Sebulba Pod Racer for $10-$15 with a figure included in the box, while the 2012 model was $20-$25 and had no figure. In the shop-online era, Hasbro engineered the downfall of its own reissues - moms and dads shopping on Amazon or eBay (when they can't find a toy in a store) will see hundreds of perfectly good, perfectly sealed-box toys that exist today because Hasbro made too many and succeeded in convincing the world we had to have MISB sets of this stuff for one reason or another. And now, we don't all need it anymore. And now, each of us and any toys we have to unload are direct competition for reissues of existing product. Things like Darth Vader and Yoda are going to sell regardless of price for quite some time, but a new droid like R5-G19 has a limited audience... and they're satisfied rather quickly.

If the super-articulated figure at 3 3/4-inch dies, that's not terrible because the 2-pack at $11 or the single Saga Legends at $6 is doing fairly well. I know many of you are groaning, but let's be honest - the best, most super-articulated Darth Vaders exist and now you're only going to sell more at a lower price. And do your Cantina aliens all need wrists and eblows? I know you're going to say yes, but be honest - you get it, you admire it, you put it on a shelf, in a diorama, or a storage unit. A $6 alien (or a $6 Yoda) is the right move here - $13 3 3/4-inch figures are just silly. We got "Doallyn" already, but if he was pre-posed would it really be the worst thing - at half price? Most of us came into collecting Star Wars because we liked children's toys. It wouldn't be the worst thing to see the line go back to its roots, especially if pricing follows suit.

Funko will pry an exception from Hasbro's figure license for ReAction from their cold, dead hands. Or if Disney forces the issue. So, write Disney if you're serious about it. Hasbro has the 3 3/4-inch license, period. To do Pop! Vinyl figures, Funko made Star Wars as a) bobble heads with b) affixed stands as to not interfere with the Hasbro/Lucasfilm deal. I suppose someone could make non-articulated 3 3/4-inch "statues" in the old Kenner style... but that misses the point.



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2. Do u think they'll ever release a 6 inch starkiller or any other expanded universe figures because there's lots of opportunities and I'd love to see a few force unleashed figures in this.

Given that Star Wars Rebels basically contradicts the entire The Force Unleashed storyline, I would expect the opposite - Hasbro will most likely bury the game as new product goes. With a low yield, the 6-inch line has so far been mostly reserved for easy repaints (various troopers, white Bobas) and all-new movie guys, it doesn't mean we'll never see Expanded Universe figures but given that The Force Unleashed as a campaign is dead in the water I certainly wouldn't hold my breath. Unless they show up in another project, which is probably equally unlikely.




3. What is your take on the sale through of the Star Wars Rebels figures? Visiting family in different states I saw that Star Wars toys (action figures) are few and far between. Was there a mad rush on the figures or does a short supply create a high demand for even a lot of 5 POA figures.

My guess is given the fact that a case sells through within 1-2 days at any given big box store, fantastic. Stores were often low or completely sold out of the new Mission Series and Saga Legends while I found The Black Series quite often late last year. Even the new Yoda 6-inch (and 3 3/4-inch) wave I saw several times over the holiday sales window, but very rarely saw all the new Mission Series 2-packs and maybe only saw Saga Legends in full. What I don't know if this is by design - an intentionally reduced run - or if the line was really just so popular stores couldn't keep them around. Knowing Hasbro I'd be inclined to guess the latter, as Mission Series is seemingly a big hit. Oh, plus there's the whole dock strike thing that stranded tons of product, meaning we could see a glut later on. That's pure speculation as I do not know what product is stranded right now.

Considering that it seems that even the repackaged movie figures in the Rebels assortments are selling through in my local haunts, and that Mission Series commanded a 100% premium ($20!) on Amazon over the holidays, they pretty much have to be doing well. The thing to remember is that points of articulation are not a consideration for gift giving season or really, anyone but seasoned customers. This is something collectors and big fans notice, but not generally moms and dads. (If you knew how well Hasbro's 12-inch "shampoo bottle" figures performed, you'd scream. They're huge.) Simpler toys do very well (see: Imaginext, Rescue Bots, LEGO) and character representation tends to overshadow other considerations. Look at it this way - you want a Boba Fett, and you aren't the kind of person to watch coverage of new toy lines online. You see a Boba Fett. Are you going to sit there and count the points of articulation before taking it to the register if it's the only one you've ever seen? Probably not. If it's a 12-inch figure, Galactic Heroes guy, Pop! Vinyl, Mighty Mugg, or whatever, you're just happy to have Boba Fett. And right now, there are a lot more of that kind of customer - the "I like Star Wars but not enough to ever read a collecting web site" person - than there are of people like you or me. This may change around June.

Similarly, non-exclusive Rebels vehicles also commanded $50-$60 price tags on Amazon over the holiday season, meaning (depending on your point of view) Hasbro either aced it or missed the boat. What you want as a toy company is to make enough to fill demand - high secondary market prices usually indicate missed demand, but how much? If Hasbro missed it by a tiny amount, big success. If they could've sold two or three times as much stuff, well, that ain't great. We don't know, and odds are neither do they, but I'd guess everything we're seeing shows that Hasbro (and not LEGO) is in a place to lose kids this generation. As a toy the action figure is something of a throwback now - collectors and manufacturers are so obsessed with wowing adults that they seem to neglect kids, and there are millions of kids who need a toy on their birthdays. And if they're getting a LEGO set (which is fun, regardless of your age) instead of a $40 Jabba with no extras, Hasbro is missing out on a lot of potential new customers.




What's new? Well, my local Kmart isn't very new - or very local. I've been finding great deals on video games there lately, and while it's mostly empty now I snagged Nintendo 3DS Star Wars Angry Birds for $5 because, well, $5. I know everybody wrote in to tell much how displeased they were with the toys, specifically not recognizing their right to exist, so naturally I had to try the game. I played a few levels and while the interface on this port feels clunky, for all I know it's like that on the phone versions too. It's fun enough for $5, if you happen to see a console version in a clearance bin, it's probably worth it for a couple of bucks.

Targets are marking down old stock - unsurprisingly, some Command SKUs are getting a discount, but you may find better markdowns on Amazon or online. (Do your research, is what I'm saying.) While - like Star Wars Angry Birds - the initial reaction was revulsion, I have to say that I like Command in the sense that the army men are charming if you also like Galaxy Laser Team and other old, simple toys. Granted, you could get 50 of those for twelve bucks, so clearance pricing helps a bunch. Anything you can get for $5 or less is a bargain in this line, as they're great desk toys. The problem is the value proposition, despite the piece count, is low compared to similar items in the current toy marketplace. Hasbro's continued love affair with "hey knock this over" which we saw with Fighter Pods just doesn't resonate and they really need to come up with a better sales pitch than "gravity = fun." They're good figures, they're retro, but there's really nothing about this line as action features go that makes it exciting at the price - but as I alluded to above, it may be a gift item given to a kid.

I am assuming that we're about due for a new wave of Rebels real soon and everything else shouldn't be too far off. Hasbro has done a major reset on Transformers so hopefully we'll see some newness in our line soon, but given the movie relaunch in several months that's probably me being too optimistic.

I'm seeing weird stuff showing up really late at stores, so if you missed a jumbo figure or a regular figure, hit up your local whatever and take it to the price scanner. I've seen a lot of late arrivals with good surprises, so you should probably take a few extra seconds to make sure you didn't stumble on a surprise clearance item.

--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.



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