Q&A: Star Wars HasLab (again) and Boba Bonanzas

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, December 19, 2021

1. I've seen a lot of opinions from various sources about why the HasLab Rancor project failed, but what lessons or conclusions do you think Hasbro themselves will learn or draw from it?


I think they did a good job overall. It's hard to know what the deal is - the other successful HasLabs tended to be reissues (or reimaginings) of classic items or something fans were frothing at the mouth to get. HeroQuest has an audience. Giant-size Marvel guys? People always ask for bigger figures, and there are decades of fans there. Big Transformers are popular. Big ships are in high demand.

I would assume the 6-inch Star Wars collector line is too new for this kind of thing - it also has an iffy track record with any product at or over $50, like the forgotten statue line (Vader, Luke, Rey, Kylo Ren), the creatures and small vehicles (Landspeeder, Swoop, Rey's Speeder, Dewback, etc.) and the like did poorly. That $150 TIE Fighter? It got pretty cheap at the end. Hasbro really wants higher retail priced items for its collector lines - hence 6-inch - but the base may not have quite as much money as the 3 3/4-inch fan, who has gobs of cash to throw at the correct item.

The G.I. Joe Skystriker almost didn't fund, but the Rancor failing seemed to put the fear of the toy gods into fans and the item skyrocketed past its goal - and most of the stretch goals - in a single day. Had the Skystriker ended (and failed) first, I'm sure the Rancor would have funded with stretch goals. I don't doubt Cookie Monster's failure helped goose Unicron's chances in 2019 - but he, too, didn't meet the goal and had to be extended. These things aren't guaranteed successes, but HasLab's scorecard is 2 failure-to-launch items out of 11 total projects. That is pretty successful.

My hope is we'll see Star Wars items kept to prop/costume things and 3 3/4-inch stuff in orbit of the classic era. (So Rogue One, The Mandalorian, or anything +/- 5ish years of the original trilogy.) I'd love to see a Ghost for the 10th anniversary of Rebels. But Hasbro wanted to do 6-inch, and something for the anniversary of Return of the Jedi, and the Rancor did tick those boxes - it's just that the Rancor may not be quite as beloved as Hasbro thought. (A lot of those toys went to clearance, including the original.)

More promotion, and earlier (and better) promotion of Malakili having been added - even a sketch! - would have probably been good. Last-minute additions worked for G.I. Joe this time around, but you got a pretty awesome video with Cobra Commander telling you and showing you what would be inserted in the package. The Rancor got a paragraph most people likely missed.

The funny thing about data is you can use it to back any conclusion you want if examined correctly, so I assume whoever is in charge of the next one will come up with something. (Remember, there's no 3 3/4-inch line now because someone saw a few years of really repetitive character choices with some really poor vehicles and said "nobody likes this scale," not "did we pick the wrong thing?" with each subsequent film.) From where I sit, it was all about price - the Barge was $550, and because it was a piece of furniture, I could justify it. The Razor Crest at $350 was expensive, but it had enough moving parts, figures, and a space toilet to make it seem worthwhile. I could not at all figure out why the Rancor needed to be $350, so hopefully Hasbro will make something really awesome if they decide to try $350 or higher again. "An X-Wing, but bigger" ain't gonna cut it. I need something I can look at and not say "I've got something close enough to that already."



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2. Yesterday I preordered the Black Series Boba Fett from the Book of Boba Fett series. It costs roughly $31 and is billed as "deluxe."

Yet this Black Series Boba Fett is roughly the same as the Empire 40th Anniversary version released last year.

The new one has a removable helmet and a bit of a tooling change and is $10+ more than the 40th version.

Is this what Hasbro is coming to, making minor changes to a recent release, calling it "deluxe," and charging more for it?


Notable: it's a new tool, and seemingly a completely new tool. But does that mean it's worth a premium? I have no idea if there are other factors at work here - was anything rushed at the factory? Are we seeing something as a fallout of factory issues? I don't know. (But I do know your freight charges go up with deluxe boxed figures because you can't fit as many in a container, so that's not great.)

The one example I keep bringing back was that there was a time when the "Evolutions" Qui-Gon Jinn got repacked - there was a $9.99 vintage version, which came with a lightsaber. There was also a $7.99 Movie Heroes version - same figure mold - which not only had a lightsaber, but a stand, a trading card, and a newly-tooled grappling hook launcher. And it was cheaper, because it was aimed at kids, while Hasbro knew adult fans would pay a premium for the "collector packaging" with less toy. I assume you see where I'm going with this.  Remember the 300th figure Boba Fett around 2000?  Same deal.  They charged more for it, and it wasn't really any better than contemporary figures.  And it sold like hotcakes.

I think I've mentioned here a few times that we've had lots of evidence of very variable pricing. Hasbro is going to sell a ton of thees and knows it - it's possible this one may have some special extra paint applications, but from where I sit it's pretty similar to the existing $20 Boba Fett figure, other than the removable helmet with face deco, and that does add a bit of extra cost. (But $10? No.)

Was Walmart's exclusive Black Series Captain Rex worth an extra $10 for a poncho? No. But it's presently sold out, so to Walmart and Hasbro, does it matter? I don't know if Hasbro is charging Walmart more, or if Walmart just said "we're going to oversell anyway let's tack on a couple of bucks", but all I know is that I can't even get one if I want one. (And I do.) Was the Rancor worth $350? Probably not. Was the BB-8 playset a few years ago really worth $200? No. Some of this stuff just gets more expensive because it can sell - after all, Hasbro was able to sell $4.99 figures in 2002-2004 with more gear and more articulation after jacking the price up to $5.99 in 1998 and $6.99 in 1999. Prices change based on volume or the perceived needs (and demands) of the marketplace.

The big question is, is it worth it to you? Hasbro (and Kenner) have never been able to seemingly meet Boba Fett demand. The figure gets reissued, repackaged, retooled, rerun, rerun again, and there's still demand for Boba Fett figures after over 40 years. Hasbro decided to make it its own SKU as a deluxe - not in an assortment - and this might actually help them sell more units. (The extra few bucks, well, that's for them to explain. I assume this one cost slightly more to make than a comparable figure like Tech or Hunter, but more than likely Hasbro just wanted to get a few extra bones out of it and will get those few extra bones since comparable figures from other manufacturers can cost similar or higher prices. And it's Boba Fett, so it's going to sell out.)





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Toy Fair 2022 in New York is happening. Or rather, it's on the schedule for now. With a record-breaking weekend for Spider-Man: No Way Home, followed by Christmas, followed by New Year's, followed by SNL and Broadway pulling back shows due to more outbreaks of COVID, I wouldn't necessarily guarantee that New York Toy Fair will be quite a media event - or even happen at all.

Much like Nintendo Direct, I assume Hasbro got a taste of its Pulse events and liked it, so I would anticipate the full deal being broadcast online regardless of any in-person event happening. (Or not.)

But hey, it's not all dubious/doom and/or gloom. Hawkeye is pretty good and wraps this week. Next week we get The Book of Boba Fett, and if all goes according to plan we'll get the Andor and Kenobi shows, plus new seasons of The Mandalorian and I assume The Bad Batch could both make it out. No movies, but regardless of your opinion of which of the new ones are "the good one" the small screen efforts have been a lot more fun so far. And there are new toys. So. Many. New toys.

May your week be merry and/or bright, or whatever, just don't get sick so you can enjoy the show as the year winds down.

--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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