Q&A: Star Wars Triple Header with HasLab, Case Packs, and How's It Gonna End?

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, May 12, 2024

1. Do you think there is a logical "end point" for the Star Wars Vintage Collection 3 & 3/4" Figures? IS this the "last package" we will see for these types of figures? With movies on the horizon, do you think they will move away from the Vintage Packaging and to a "Movie Specific" package or has Hasbro figured out that "Hey this sells anything" (To a degree)

I think we're well beyond the time of a logical endpoint when it comes to appealing to that Generation X and Millennial collector group.

Here's my prediction for what will happen with the next movie if it really comes out in May 2026. The toy lightsabers and roleplay items, Epic Hero Series (or its successor), and any new kid stuff will be in a new movie line look that will most likely seem pretty generic. The Black Series will be in the new rectangular line look dimensions, but will most likely get a new graphical face lift for the new movie. The Vintage Collection will continue as is. The Retro Collection, if it makes it, will continue to ignore the cool stuff at the end - I'm kind of irate that Hasbro hasn't brought back The Power of the Force outside of Yak Face, nor Ewoks and Droids as templates for characters from the new TV shows. The Retro Collection, if it continues, will most likely continue unchanged.

Due to how some older fans see "Vintage" packaging as "mature," I don't think it will ever go away permanently. Hasbro nodded to the style in 2002 and then used it as the basis for the overall line look (with at least some product in proper vintage packaging) in 2004, 2006, a bit in 2007, 2010-2012, and 2018-present. At this point, I think most long-haul fans see black and silver as "normal," with the other line looks as aberrations. If it ever goes away, Hasbro will most likely give us the routine "we're resting it" response before bringing it back again. I don't think fans liked the three 3 3/4-inch The Black Series packaging looks from 2013-2017 at all. I certainly didn't.

Packaging alone certainly doesn't sell everything - you need the right product in the right packaging, despite a few lying collectors openly saying "we'll buy anything on a vintage cardback." I think collectors will happily buy new original trilogy, previously not-in-a-vintage cardback original trilogy, and fan favorite figures (read: figure reissuess with a high aftermarket price) on vintage cardbacks. Fans' tastes change with the winds - but there is no real appetite for sequel trilogy stuff for the common newbie yet. (There will be, it took a while for prequel nostalgia to take hold too, and a lot of old-school fans hated Return of the Jedi until The Phantom Menace became the new whipping boy.)

We're seeing some reissues of reissues wind up at Ross for $3.99, and some new characters from the streaming shows fail to perform at full price. It's a massive challenge for a toymaker to develop a Star Wars line in 2024, where (if you ignore comics, novels, and movies) you can make things from 13 feature-length live-action films at least ten animated series, and (as of the end of this year) seven live-action series. If you just make one or two characters per entry per year, you ignore so many things that some aspect of the fandom will be angry. You could make a line that's 1/3 "this year's new content," 1/3 "spoiler figures from last year's content," and 1/3 "legacy content," and I assure you that nobody would be happy with the results - every slice of the fanbase is going to feel slighted.

Hasbro (and also Disney/Lucasfilm, who frequently hands down packaging style guides) did packaging amazingly well from 2002 up until after Rogue One ended in 2017. Having a specific line look for a new movie was a great idea, and after that year, they pivoted to something more all-encompassing (and usually retro/vintage in appearance) until the next new movie. With ForceLink 1.0 and 2.0, it got increasingly generic and many of the products lacked a movie title on the cardback - that's just not good marketing as it's confusing to people who can't tell if a character is from a new movie, an old movie, a video game, or something Hasbro thought would just make a nice toy. (Go pick up a ForceLink Rose or Kylo Ren - there's little indication of who they are on the packaging.)



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2. Do you think the current case pack is killing the diversity in the action figure lines? I remember seeing Kenner cases in 1983 with 72 or so figures in them, so a few Ree Yees and Squid Heads made sense in there. With only 8 slots, it seems every figure in the wave needs to be a main draw. This might even apply more to the Epic Hero line than the TVC and TBS cases, where weirdos might be more welcome,.

Tangentially, what do you think the impact of the increase of solid-figure cases has been to the planning out of waves in general? As a toy retailer, have you found assortment cases to be much less of a priority. As I recall there was no assortment case sent to out (in the US) for the ROTJ Retro wave last year...do you think that was planned, an oversight, the result of retailer ordering patterns, or something else?

The part of this conversation nobody wants to have, there are probably too many figures introduced every year without consideration for "freshness." Stores may want a case of 6, but fans want a constant flow of new figures, and I would bank on licensor direction (and, frankly, having already made all the good figures from the classic films) as why we're probably getting more main guys and fewer weird guys. But that's just a hunch. The fact that Retro gave us Jedi Luke 1983 and Jedi Luke Mando Season 2 just months apart seems a little odd, when Hasbro could have (and probably should have) just slapped a new logo on the old figure and fans wouldn't really blink. If anything, that's more on-brand with less work.

Looking at most waves lately, I'd say the casepack size is less of a problem than fans looking at the figures and asking "Is this new? Do I have this? Do I know what this is from, do I even want it?" Back in the 1980s, giant action figure cartons made a lot of sense because toy stores didn't necessarily restock as often, and when they did, full pegs with a big variety was increasingly what the market wanted. This lasted until the mid-1990s, when Walmart really started to push manufacturers for smaller casepacks across all their lines. Some figures from Playmates and Toy Biz got the axe as a result - they really didn't have slots left, and some of those lines just ended because they came to the end of their respective runs before a new wave needing new figures came to market.

In the 1990s, cases started at 16, and some were reduced to 12, and then some again were even larger for The Phantom Menace and the then-unprecedented demand. We saw tons of good and obscure figures in there - and repacks galore - showing there was pretty good demand to be had. Also, there was a lot of artificial demand thanks to massive speculation and hoarding, which is why 1990s-era Power of the Force figures are tough sells at $2 in some markets.

My worry with Epic Hero is that if cases have a lot of carry-forward figures, a lot of fans may be unaware the waves are new. It depends on what sells - if Vader and Mando keep selling, and keep being repacked, and then keep selling, that's OK. What really matters is that the stuff moves at full price and never appears on deep discount pegs.

If Vader and Mando stop selling with solid cases going into Walmart, there may not be a lot of hope for the future of any scale. If it sells, that's great - it needs to sell and hopefully will excite people to buy other, less popular characters. (Hasbro might have sold more The Clients if people could have gotten a Mando first without resorting to secondary market prices.) I can't speak too much about specific numbers, but I can say that at work, some people buy solid figures only, and some prefer to buy cases. There's still steady demand for both, as some people want to collect them all and the added protection of the second cardboard box is a real perk while others just want a couple of figures..

To my knowledge last year, Hasbro did not produce assortments for The Retro Collection wave of ROTJ with Luke Jedi/Emperor/Han Endor/Boushh/Biker Scout/Lando Skiff, and I think it was part of a shift that was happening - and now seems to be un-happening - where some big box stores ordered solid cases rather than assortments. That resulted in a lot of build-up on some shelves, so that seems to be going away. To say more would probably invoke some wrath, but stores and manufacturers will often try to change things to better serve the needs of the customer - and assortments are generally the best, safest way to get product to stores without inviting a massive backlog of unsold characters. You can't get 40 pegwarmers from a single 8 piece case. But if you get 8 figures in 8-piece cases, it's a little riskier than a case of 8 figures with 7-8 unique characters.


3. Now that May 3rd came and went, any thoughts on when the next Star Wars Haslab will be announced?

Hopefully soon. Shortly after the question was sent in, this Instagram post made the rounds and it sure as heck looks like it could be valid - and if it is, it looks like it might be physically very big (that's good) but lacks a floor (ooh, that's bad) so someone out there is no doubt coming up with that solution as we speak.

I assume this means it's just around the corner unless someone is firming up pricing or stretch goals - or unless this was accidentally leaked on purpose to see what fan reaction to the pricing was. Frankly I have no idea what the different pricing tiers entail, and it looks like this may have been designed with "you need 2 of this" which I don't think you should even try once you pass $200. At that point whoever's gonna buy this is probably going to want the best version and/or the full version, especially at this point. If you're buying something like this, you've got 30-50 years of figures to put in there, or you're in the process of doing some backfilling. Point is, you're going to be spending some serious cash and you want the best thing you can get.

My only real complaint: what, no floor?



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I'm out of questions! Email me if you have one.

It looks like anyone betting on the Cantina can collect their winnings, and then we can start on the next round.

One of the things about Star Wars - particularly with old-school fans - is we're running out of things to ask for. The Cantina - if legit, I think we can assume that it is - ticks one of those boxes for things that we thought we were owed 25 years ago and have been waiting for. It looks cool, but I am not crazy about having to figure out how to paint up a base for it. My hunch about the original era of fans (who are still here) is that they'll buy anything new from the original trilogy. You want to make one of the several unmade Emperor's Entourage? Ewoks? Cantina aliens? Rebel pilots? Random aliens tooling around Cloud City? We're in. Do you want to make something new from a recent video game or streaming show? It could be free, and we might not care. I would wager anyone in this hobby over 40 is probably more likely to want the best $400-$500 Cantina money can buy. If the rumors are true there are 3-8 figures in there, which would offset the cost quite a bit if they're good figures. I genuinely think fans wouldn't complain about the $16.99 per figure if each and every figure was new tooling. We don't love shortcuts.

After this "rumored" Cantina HasLab, the next obvious-to-me choice for fans and executives to agree on would be the Death Star. If Hasbro plays their cards right, hopefully we'll get 12-24 months of new (and reissued) figures to go with the HasLab, which I hope will be in stores as many (admittedly, not all) are recognizable enough to people of a certain age. If we get a Death Star next, they could do the same with Imperial goons - but it runs out a lot faster and some of those figures are coming right now. If it's specific to the original film, the main cast could be brought back, we could get some new droids, and maybe a few Imperial officer packs would pad things. But it's not much to go on for figures.

The original Death Star was loaded with locations, like the board room, the landing area for a Millennium Falcon, Trash Compactor, Detention Block, elevators, hallways, and I could go on. Hasbro would probably be wise to carve it up in to multiple items, perhaps making some exclusive to HasLab and others for the fan channel market. Maybe online stores could do well with the Trash Compactor, and hopefully there would be multiple sets over many years that you can cobble together into Darth Vader's Dream House. Nobody's going to pay $1000 in one go for this thing, so spread it out, sell some more figures as you go, maybe include new rooms to store your TIE Fighters... and then sell some TIE Fighters.

Now if Hasbro goes Return of the Jedi Death Star - or some sort of hybrid - that could be amazing. If Hasbro packs the Tonnika Sisters in with the Cantina, I think it would be safe to say someone is thinking about Sim Aloo in a Death Star - because it would sell a few units. Angrily, through gritted teeth, but they'd buy it. There were far fewer cool locations in the Return of the Jedi Death Star beyond landing bays, gunner rooms, and a throne room, but the upsell factor is signficant. Were they so inclined, Hasbro could sell preposed Stormtroopers, Biker Scouts, and others by the dozens just to line up and stand there - as well as the Imperial Dignitaries - but a really big throne room could be cool.

But what else might be fun?

Some fans have suggested a Sandcrawler and I more or less disagree. The original RC one was kind of boring, the 2004 one for Diamond was fine - it looked nice, at least - but didn't have a lot of play area, and neither did Disney's deluxe model. I don't think we as long-haul collectors would benefit from another, bigger one, even though what we have isn't perfect.

I would love a Tantive IV but its absence from the line after 46 years almost seems intentional. It would be great right now, with new Stormtroopers and Vader and Leia on the way, but that's not happening as far as I know. We got a hallway, but we haven't had a Hasbro (or Kenner) representation of the actual vehicle in a remotely figure-friendly scale yet. It would be nice to see.

A Star Destroyer makes a lot of sense - but which one? This is one where Hasbro's current style of small playset stages might be a good fit, as a meditation chamber, a window for brooding, and a platform for the Bounty Hunters would probably be a lot more fun than a giant pizza slice where we lift off a lid to get something wildly out of scale inside.

Without massive TV support, I'd also poo-poo a new Ewok Village. I'd like one, but I just don't think the market exists yet - although it's another one where Hasbro could probably make a construction system, allowing fans to buy multiple sets to cobble together a Bright Tree Village of their dreams limited only by their wallet (and availability.)

I'd love to see them scoot over Retro stuff to HasLab too - make the unproduced figures and vehicles from the 1980s, or maybe concept mini-rigs, or other fun and rare things that you don't have unless you're Steve Sansweet or Gus Lopez. Obviously I'm talking Gargan, Vlix, the unproduced Ewok kids, the White Witch, and anything from that 1986 concept binder. But that's pretty unlikely.

--Adam Pawlus

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