Q&A: Star Wars Playsets, Conventions, Comic Packs, and Beyond

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, April 16, 2017

1. Adam- Have I just missed something completely? I do not recall reading anything about a celebration exclusive from Hasbro yet. Are they going to have one this year? Also, will you be at celebration?

So far, the only exclusive from Hasbro for Star Wars Celebration is slated to be a 6-inch Luke Skywalker in X-Wing Pilot, but on a 40th/Vintage Cardback. In other words, it's kind of forgettable unless you collect packaging or are a vintage fiend (and if you are, you have good taste.) It's one that I don't know if I'd wait in line to get.

Yes, there are items that aren't selling as well as one might hope in a perfect world - we're also seeing stores mark items down one or two months after release, instead of longer. It's important to remember that Force Friday was roughly six months and a week ago, with many stores slashing prices on items that came out in December... in December. Perception is a lot, and we don't know how much stuff Hasbro is sitting on. Its ultimate success or failure is something you and I can't know from here without Hasbro actually saying "This did well for us." Metrics are hard to measure and aren't consistent from manager to manager in most jobs, and for all I know some people will say "anything that doesn't sell through 100% was a flop" when you know and I know most items that sell close to out would be a success. Rogue One was set up for a short life with limited momentum since 2015 if not earlier, because the plan was for The Last Jedi toys to have launched around now. Obviously, that changed.

I'm not going to Celebration myself, in part because I've been to #1-3, #5, and #6 and while I had a perfectly acceptable time at most of them I can't say I had such a good time to warrant the roughly $700 it takes to get there by plane and then get a hotel room for $100 or more per night. As a family trip, it might be worthwhile - you can drive, you can split a room, but I'm the only person in my household who would want to go and to do so would also mean I need to cover the show... which means a lot of prep work needs to be done at this site, 16bit.com, and at my day job so I can step away. If it were local, I'd probably be there - but Phoenix is not a nerd tourist destination and likely never will be.

My favorite things at previous Celebrations were when there were galleries of rarely-seen McQuarrie art (as so much of it is not rarely seen) or when someone like Ben Burtt came out to talk about sound design. That was awesome. I'm not really at all interested in the whole "we made a new movie and we can't talk about it yet but trust us, you should be excited" as that bothered the crap out of me dating back to the very first event in Denver nearly 18 years ago. Show me the movie, or don't - this tease is pointless.



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2. I was made aware of your Q&As recently and have been enjoying them greatly. In your most recent issue in an answer you mentioned the Micro Machines Kylo Ren playset that has yet to be released. (You also mentioned you never saw a photo, so I attached two.) Micro Machines were my favorite toys growing up and they have become my favorite again lately with the lack of focus on classic scaled action figures. With how limited the line is, it's been somewhat easy to collect, but distribution has been difficult (especially with the Gold Series that I never saw at retail but popped up on clearance at HTS). My question is: clearly the Kylo Ren playset was fully developed and maybe produced in quantity. In my view, the first two playsets from the line sold horribly as I still find them on clearance at retail. Do you think this one is being held or production just halted? It had a complete product listing on Hasbro's corporate site including price of $19.99 with a link to purchase, but the page has since disappeared. Big Bad Toy Store also had it up for pre-order. I reached out to them and got great customer service. They looked into it and found it was never formally solicited to them, so they also removed the listing. Any insight would be appreciated as I was holding out hope I could still add this to my collection.

I remember listing this wave at Entertainment Earth, and then setting up an eBay alert for this Kylo Ren playset as soon as I saw that it wasn't coming. Sometimes those items get made and dumped (Star Wars Command Rancor set, Titanium Series Jango Fett forged figure come to mind) without going to mass retail. So far, nobody's found Kylo Ren - but a lot of items get made, packaged, and never actually distributed in the USA or at all. In 2010 there's a whole micro The Clone Wars line with 2 Hasbro vehicles (which I have found) and a handful of small figures (which I have not) that were sold overseas only. In Transformers, a wave of its Reveal the Shield toys were not only packaged up as samples but placed on Hasbro.com - yet nobody has a Demolition Rumble or Bodyblock or Hubcap. Similarly, I seem to recall a variant of a Saga Legends Sandtrooper that showed up on the Rebelscum photo gallery as an advance sample yet never actually made it out until the packaging changed to the next version. These things happen.

So, as you say, it probably exists in some limited form. Maybe 20, 30, or more units were made to do whatever safety tests, product photography, and other stuff that Hasbro has to do on the way to getting an item made. (Remember AMP'D? Boxed samples of those got made too.) For the hardcore among us, these units might get out (stolen) from the factory or from employees who depart Hasbro's employ, but it's unlikely at this point that we're going to see a lot of them dumped somewhere. It's not impossible, but if Hasbro neglected to sell any units at full price to anyone, the chances of them dumping it to blowout channels wouldn't be terribly high. It's not impossible - as shown above, this sort of thing does happen and I've found stuff when it did happen - but I'd say just keep your ears to the ground. It could be years. It could be never.

I think this is unfortunate because the Kylo Ren playset was the only one that looked decent. Galoob's sets were cool little environments with touches from the films. The Hasbro First Order Stormtrooper and R2-D2 sets are bland, confusing, and not really worth owning - not for $20, not for $7, unless you're just bonkers for the format. "Goes from robot to nondescript snow field" isn't quite what we want - sure, it's cool that it exists and yeah, I like 'em for being weird, but the whole "let's make a toy from a movie without any shared plot" is a real problem. The results aren't always great.

An added bonus, 99 Cents Only stores - the chain with the blue and pink logo - are now getting these playsets (R2-D2 and the Stormtrooper) for about five bucks. They're 100% worth the five bucks. (And yeah, I know 99 Cents Only isn't Five Bucks. They need a brand makeover.)




3. My favorite modern sub-line was the Comic Packs. I'd like your insight into what happened to the line, and what will happen (if anything) to the developed but un-released packs that were confirmed by Hasbro to exist. (I attached a picture of one of the 'upcoming' packs that was never produced, the one in the middle with Luke and Han.) If molds of one-off characters are made, is there any benefit to Hasbro not fully producing the toys? I know when they initially came out, I bought every one for a while, but the repacks in 2008 made it not as pressing to continue despite all the amazing ones (which I paid more for later). Hasbro continued G.I. Joe Comic Packs longer, and is still producing an all-but-named Marvel Comic Packs line (which I often see at discount stores). I personally think these would make great online-only exclusives aimed at collectors and the best way to get more background and Legends characters, not to mention the current Marvel Comics characters like BT-1 and 0-0-0.

The comic packs were one of the great underappreciated things from the entire line's history. I still can't believe how fans just seemed to shrug - for $12.99, you got two newly-sculpted super-articulated action figures and a full-size comic book during an era when a single figure was $6.99. Fans didn't buy them as quickly as stores would like, so stores didn't order as many. This means Hasbro slowed production and delayed some waves to give stores time to sell off existing product. The chestnut about stores not wanting any isn't exactly 100% correct, but the market forces certainly conspired to put this concept to bed early. If you look across the aisle to Transformers, you'll note that their deluxe-class toys for Generations included comic books from 2013 to 2016 - at which point they were removed and replaced with trading cards. Cards which are not called out on the packaging and are hidden behind the toy, invisible to the buyer until a purchase is made. (Why even include them?) Even Hasbro's Marvel comic packs have started to phase out the comics - now you just get two figures.

For a toy line that was widely collected by adults who keep everything perfect (or packaged) the high secondary market prices of some of the later comic packs says a lot. The Entertainment Earth final wave struggled to sell. The last few units took years to unload, at markdown. When this sort of thing happens, you've got evidence of why it didn't work - those were great figures, well-designed, nicely made, and priced pretty well too. People like Baron Fel, but maybe not enough to buy an officer's uniform. Mandalorians, Sith, and even the first and only Zeltron weren't enough to make those runaway hits. They sold eventually, but it took a while and the current prices show people didn't buy extras to keep in the package to sell like they did figures from the previous decade.

The developed-but-unreleased packs will not come out. Probably ever. There are a lot of items that got pretty far along - even shown to the public - that will most likely never be produced. Darth Vader's Funeral Pyre was too expensive for when it debuted, today it'd likely cost as much or more than a new Xbox One game. Some of the older tooling may not be working, so redeco packs like the Marvel Hoth pack on the back of the final wave (under a sticker) may be financially risky to try to bring back - moreso when you consider that the assortment no longer exists.

These wouldn't make a great online exclusive. Nothing really makes a great online exclusive. It's fun to say "hey, Hasbro could make this and sell it to a limited audience online" but that's not how Hasbro works. They want to sell as many of an item as they can, and that also means making as many as they can - the audience of online collectors doesn't exist like it did 20 or even 10 years ago. Nothing aimed only at first-generation fan collectors, is going to succeed given Hasbro's current requirements for production. If you can make something that spans generations or can spread itself across many stores, it's possible to score a hit - but some of these characters are obscure to the point where even some pretty big fans couldn't recognize them as Star Wars without a logo on the box. The Expanded Universe has a small, loyal, and very vocal following that can stuff the ballot box for Fan's Choice resulting in new figures. At this point, that's pretty much going to be the only way to see some of these characters short of their appearing on TV or the movies.

I'd love to see BT-1 and 0-0-0 some day. I can also point to Hasbro's current track record, which has virtually no nuMarvel or Dark Horse-era characters being developed for any kind of product since Disney logos graced the packaging. This could all change tomorrow, all you need is one or two people to quit or get promoted to change the direction of pretty much any product line. With The Last Jedi and Untitled Han Solo Movie apparently slated to be released six months apart, they're not leaving any room for the wild experimentation we got in the 1990s and late 2000s when Hasbro had nothing to lose with what was fundamentally a dormant property.




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Star Wars Forces of Destiny was something I was dying for the world to see. From a toy industry perspective, it's fascinating - it's the Disney Descendants model with dolls, kid's novels, and special video things to watch. But it's also like Monster High in that it takes something traditionally a boy line and tries to sell it to girls. It's also fascinating because Star Wars has spent 40 years selling products mostly to boys, but to some girls too - and now there's a line that basically says "we'll skip the boys this time, thanks." I'm guessing it'll be a hit with dads and maybe kids, but the bread and butter of my Q&A column are probably scratching their heads. It's like LEGO and Pop! Vinyl figures - it's a different audience, and maybe it's you and maybe it's not. I've had a lot of time to chew on it and I'm not sure myself, but I can say that Chewbacca is an amazing throwback to those 1990s Collector Series figures we all tried to forget.

I wish it success. I also wish the grim bony hand of death would stop reaching out for me and giving me reminders that the world of the young isn't for me anymore. I'm also glad Hasbro announced the re-introduction of vintage at about the same time so I didn't have to sit through years of "So Hasbro's doing dolls, but can't do vintage packaging?" emails.

I found this weekend to be draining - and I wasn't even there. $400 or more worth of 3 3/4-inch Star Wars droids from Disney parks. $140 of SDCC exclusives. GameStop exclusives. It's gonna be a long march to the end of the year... and we haven't even seen any of The Last Jedi yet.

Fan's Choice is on now - click here for voting stuffs. Based on the data it would seem like with Jaina last time, it would seem that there's a campaign to hack the election for a different character from the Legacy novels. I'm predicting right now that he'll likely be the winner at the last minute in the final tally.  Based on the overwhelming support for this character, were I a gambling man, I'd throw down a few hundred dollars on the outcome of the final tally.

I would suggest fans organize behind a choice and support it on the nomination and voting levels. Last year we saw Jaina win despite seemingly none of my regular readers voting for him. Being organized and on-message, as we've seen in the news, is important for any campaign. If you guys want any movie-based figures I would strongly suggest organizing your efforts as a group.

--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.


Thank you

Thank you for answering my questions! I appreciate the background for both. I hope Hasbro returns to those great experimental lines after the movie machine slows down a bit.