Q&A: Star Wars Prequel Figures, Force Link, and More Stuff

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, May 13, 2018

1. I'm not getting any younger and Star Wars seems set on expanding year after year, so I need a battle plan: what are all the things I can do to get Hasbro to make a 6" Black Series Super Battle Droid? I know you've previously advised us to write to Hasbro (which email address?) and to get fellow fans onboard. In this brave new world, where 3.75" Sail Barges exist and yet my third-world paws have 100% better access to Toys 'R' Us than yours, do I follow those teachings as-is - or would you have any updates?

It's always good to take a step back and look at things when you've got questions like this. The Black Series has been going since 2013 and so far, the only figures we've seen from Attack of the Clones are Jango Fett and 4 of the 5 movie Clone Troopers. There are still no Count Dooku or Mace Windu, or any of the other Droid Army robots in stores.

I don't think there's anything you can do to expedite things. Hasbro will do it if/when they feel like it, and they don't seem to feel like it. Many of the Clone Troopers exist because of exclusive sets, Anakin (ROTS), Obi-Wan (ROTS), Qui-Gon (TPM), and Darth Maul are the only other figures that readily come to mind that aren't Jango or Clones. I bet it would make for an awesome figure, but all you can do is make a big fuss over it and hope people join your lead. They won't, but if you're a fan of noble causes I'd say make a fuss and see who follows your lead. (We got a Sail Barge eventually, after all.)



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2. Do you know if the original Force Link 1.0 releases of figures/vehicles, i.e. A-Wing will play new sounds using the Force Link 2.0 wristband? I don't fancy shelling out for a 2.0 version of the same vehicle less a year later to get a couple of new sounds.

Also, I liked the Force FX app that came with the Rogue One collection. My daughter and I enjoyed using the FX to make mini-movies. Can I assume this app is no longer going to be supported, or at least have no further updates?

Do you think Hasbro might make the remaining locked FX freely available, now there is no easy way to update them by buying Rogue One items?

Should we assume all these 'interactive' elements are just short-term 'gimmicks'.

At press time I have not been able to test everything and the app is still buggy. A lot of the figures still need a firmware update, even after the firmware update. The plan for Force Link 2.0 was that it would have more and unique sound effects, thus making them "just different enough to make you mad." Maz Kanata and K-2SO are very similar to chipless figures from 2016, but Sequel Luke has a new set of quotes from a soundalike. It's a minor change, and arguably not significant enough to warrant a re-buy. I'm more than a little disappointed that for whatever reason, Hasbro didn't have access to a few of these characters' voices for the toys.

Apps exist as marketing and functionality, but Hasbro loses interest in them after release and they rarely get updated. Hasbro Pulse is wildly incomplete, rarely updated, and just plain doesn't work on a lot of devices. The Rogue One app also controls the AT-ACT, and it'll probably stop working unless enterprising fans start hacking their own RFID applications for fans to use. (I would love to learn how to do this - any advice?)

I would love it if someone put out an app that could use an off-the-shelf RFID reader (like the Nintendo 3DS Amiibo reader) to connect to my phone or computer to have some custom functionality. It could play sounds, or pull up a web page, or something. I'd rip the sounds myself, but heck if I know how to write an application that speaks Bluetooth. Fans may need to do this down the road if the AT-ACT support stops.

I've brought the following up more than once in presentations and meetings and conventions and get looked at like I'm a crazy person. Computers, game hardware, and phones eventually will no longer be compatible with old applications. Hasbro will cease supporting them and all that you're left with is the toy - so the toy had better be awesome, or the app functionality should be superfluous. We as customers pay extra for the RFID chips in the Force Link toys, so their long-term non-value is troubling if Hasbro abandons the Force Link platform over time. I have zero insight into Episode IX toys, but I would be surprised if it keeps going given how poorly Hasbro explains the gimmick and how awful the demo kiosks are at demonstrating what it can do for you.

Anyway, it's a brilliant concept with poor execution. I look forward to some sort of homebrew replacement later. I bet there could be a free Force Link app from fans in no time if one of you all get on that.




3. Have you heard anything further on the plans to sell the top 200 Toys-R-Us stores alongside the Canadian chain?

I've had to rewrite this one as news comes in - it might be outdated by the time you read this. Right now, TRU Canada being sold to Fairfax Financial. Toys R Us UK is going to Smyths, a UK/Ireland outfit. Toys R Us in Asia has had a few bids but as far as I know, nothing is going on there yet. The US stores are still a question mark, as the land is potentially very valuable and the most publicized bid from MGA was shot down. They still have a lot of debt. It's very much in the interests of US toy companies to keep Toys R Us open, as Target and Walmart simply don't have the shelf space to give to toys and a small investment in a retailer could ensure your toy business stays open for another decade. Without Toys R Us, the big giant companies like Mattel and Hasbro are going to have to cozy up to the Dollar Generals and Kohls and Best Buys to spread its massive, thousands-of-units product offering over several chains.

Toys R Us is being carved up, and any new version of it isn't going to be what you enjoyed over the previous decades. Much like a new KB Toys, it's a new business with an old name. Everything that made it magical will be long gone, sort of like your youth and the toys you enjoyed perusing at these stores. It's a new thing for a new generation - you won't find 3 for $5 Toy Biz figures and you probably won't have video games behind a counter covered in key chains and glitter toys.

Without a massive cash infusion and a similar amount of locations, the low prices (and they were low prices) you enjoyed at Toys R Us are likely to not return to a new store. Those of you who are a bit older may remember Kay-Bee Toys' prices were a couple of bucks more, consistent with non-discounters of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. If you look at global toy prices, on the whole the USA is pretty fantastically cheap thanks to exceedingly fierce competition.



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I was going to write a thing about the industry, but you see how it is. Numbers are shifting, stores are closing, new stores are... probably not going to be significant to your bottom line as a collector of Hasbro stuff. At least, not this year. There are lots of shifts happening and some you're going to see coming, while others are going to surprise you. Just keep gas in the car, you're going to be driving around a lot more to places you don't normally think about going again. It'll be like the good old days... but not. Diversification is often good to any industry's bottom line, and as far as pounding the pavement goes at least I'll have more places to go than Target and Walmart in this new era of less. So much less.

I'm trying my best with Force Link 2.0 and what I'm getting is mixed results - so far I'd say negative. I'd be curious how it's going for you - the app itself crashes on my iPad, even after the latest 1.6 update. I can't seem to navigate the collection pages without it quitting on its own. The first version of it let me navigate those pages, but they didn't do anything - now that the bracelet functionality was updated, the app doesn't work.

Heck, the bracelet has problems too - a number of figures stay buzzing "Firmware Update Required!" like the BB-8 and BB-9E 2.0 figures, the Wampa, Rathtarr and Bala-Tik 2.0, plus a few others. On the bright side these things can be fixed - the question is, will they? And when? The potential to let an app be a good, ongoing, and constantly refreshed thing could make these toys the best ever. If there are placeholder quotes, they could roll out new ones - instead, we're still dealing with a lot of soundalikes. Non-functioning figures after launch is sort of horrible, but it might set back interactivity for a while.

I'm hopeful fans will make their own Force Link readers over time, because RFID chips are RFID chips and readers are increasingly cheap and common. Some are even built in to phones - so for all I know, by this time next year, you can just swipe a figure over your handset and it'll talk. And because it's a fan thing it'll just work until the inevitable C&D order comes in.

This week we got some interesting news. Apparently Jon Favreau's live-action show takes place 3 (or 7) years after Return of the Jedi, which is kind of where I want to be. Luke's still out there, and so are Ackbar, Han, and Leia. There could be an Imperial remnant, and Thrawn might be around. We don't know a lot about Resistance yet, but it's coming, and I'd suggest setting your expectations to or below those of Rebels. Right now it seems Hasbro has very limited support of a new TV show at launch, which tapers off completely by just after the show runs half of its course.

I can't say I completely understand why the line has diverged so much, new movie lines are increasingly bland and lacking in support for the weirdness we once enjoyed. The prequel lines were loaded with weird droids and aliens, plus a hearty mix of classic characters. The Solo line doesn't even have a title character figure on the market for kids in the basic figure assortments yet. Comparing it to Mattel's Jurassic launch is just sort of depressing, especially when you realize how much stuff is being made for Solo that it would seem stores are not putting out or stocking just yet.

For anyone who keeps wondering how high their hopes should be for the future, I'd say "not very" for the short term. There are still plenty of reasons to be excited - more movies, more TV shows, a Sail Barge, and we've even got a new movie next week. It just doesn't feel like a particularly celebratory time because there have been so dang many awesome character designs - especially Rogue One - and we're not getting toys of many of them just yet. There are always opportunities to keep things interesting, especially in light of the lack of movie for a year and change. We're getting some neat stuff.

I'll probably spend the next couple of years going back to study the Disney-era movies more and all. Heck, maybe rewatch The Clone Wars. We've got time.

--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.