Q&A For September 5, 2005

 

1. Are there any plans for more fan club exclusive troop builder set 4 packs like the endor rebel troops, etc.? Thanks.
--Jeff

Short dry answer: Not at this time.

Long, funner answer: probably not in the near future. Since 1999, the Fan Club ownership has been passed around like a hot potato and the various exclusives created for the Fan Club were as well. Examples:
Sandtroopers, Rebel Troopers, Endor Rebel Troopers: Shared online exclusives
2002 Holiday Droids: Wal-Mart
12-inch Plo Koon: Shared online exclusive
12 inch Valorum and Senate Guard: Dumped at Kay-Bee
1998 Fan Club 4, Wuher: Eventually Dumped at Toys "R" Us
2004 Holiday Jawas: Entertainment Earth

There are all sorts of rumors going around a hypothetical 2005 Holiday Darth Vader, although I have yet to hear anything as to who has it. It seems like an ideal Fan Club item, although I have heard precisely jack and squat as to if/when to expect it.

The last few Fan Club exclusives have been low cost high profit items, like the holographic Emperor and Princess Leia. (Which, I frankly liked. Although Leia cheaped out.) Going forward, I would expect to see more things like this (1- or 2-figure sets) and not much in the way of troop builders. Of course what I would really like to see is another run of those Sandtroopers and some sort of exclusive vehicle...

If the Battlepacks are a hit, we fully expect to see more of them in fan friendly army building configurations. Emperor + 4 Shock Troopers? Yes. I would like to see that. Minus the Emperor.

2. Do you know which of the store exclusives have ended up being the biggest busts for what the store had to pay to exclusively distribute them? The TRU 12" Sandtrooper with dewback has to be one of them. They were $80 at first and were past around the tops shelves stores for 2 years waiting to be bought before they were clearance at $20. The Target 12" Captain Tarpels is my Least favorite exclusive. I imagine this went into production before Hasbro know Gungans were not going to be well received!!
--Rich

The definition of "bust" will vary from person to person. The Stormtrooper 4-pack from the Fan Club was blown out for a few bucks at the Wizards of the Coast stores, but I heard it did pretty well. I also heard the Fan Club was pretty satisfied with Wuher, but he got dumped too. There are so many exclusives to go through, but the long and short of it is that many of them get dumped to clearance. Some stores, like Toys "R" Us, Wal-Mart, and Target, place a very high value on shelf real estate and will blow out brand new products to make room for something that will turn over faster. This has resulted in items like the pretty spiffy B-Wing being cleared out in many areas of the country, ditto with the Target Cup sets from the Saga line-- while some stores were starved for product, others were stuffed with Anakin and Luke cups for a couple of bucks each.

Some exclusives are created for different reasons. Here's a short list of what may be a factor in making an exclusive for Hasbro or other companies:
1. Nearly finished product needs to see a return on its development costs. (Example: 12-inch Kaadu with Captain Tarpals was originally to be based on the then "popular" Jar Jar Binks instead.)
2. Store wants an exclusive item at a specific price point, company either gives them a pre-designed item that would have been sold everywhere (POTF2 Skiff, Y-Wing, ROTS Plo Koon Starfighter) *OR* whips something up from existing molds (likely to be the numerous TRU gift sets.)
3. Company has "homeless" exclusive (Holiday Jawas, AOTC Obi-Wan with Jedi Starfighter set.)
4. Company needs to make more use of a mold to recoup development costs (Muppet exclusives from Palisades.)
5. Store asks for a specific item because they need something hot to draw traffic (Lava Vader, Clone Troop Builders, Wuher)

Obviously, that's generalized. But that's how these things happen. Wal-Mart doesn't always have a buyer say "yes, give me this highly requested item for the fans!" They say "we have a price point to fill, give us 50,000 units of something we can sell for $24 and make sure there's a figure in it." A lot of exclusives are made for reasons I don't yet fully understand, and some just plain don't sell due to unreasonable size, price, or appearance. The 12-inch Dewback fit all three categories. Others, like the 12-inch Han Solo with Tauntaun, sold so insanely well at first that the first batches went for $300. And then when Hasbro made more, it became virtually worthless and had to be clearanced out.

With all this in mind, it's difficult to crown a "worst exclusive ever." Everything has a limited set of merits, from the various X-wing redecoes to the $13 Target "premium" figures. I would say the biggest failure item to date, based on reports and clearance prices, is one of my favorites-- the 2005 Early Bird Kit. As an item with no prerelease publicity, several very rude reports regarding how it was handled at launch, and absolutely no indicator of what the figures you may eventually get in the mail will look like, it was probably the single worst item to sell at a Wal-Mart. If you aren't a savvy collector, you don't understand it. And as a savvy collector, I know I was in the dark for a few weeks before I figured out what the hell it was. With reports of seeing these marked as low as $2 from $30, I'd say that has to be one of the real winners-- er, losers. But your mileage will no doubt vary, and frankly, I really liked the Early Bird kit concept.

3. Just curious, with many years lapsing between ep-2 and ep-3 in the story line. Why did Lucas not take advantage of changing the uniforms of some of the characters to create new figure oppotunities [not to mention it is odd to think these people have been sleeping in the same clothes for years and years]. Examples are Sly moore, Jar Jar [yes even him], Orn free ta and so on?
--Sambo

Who's to say he didn't? If there's one thing that shocks me, it's how many designs were created for the prequels, and even more amazing how many never-used ones made it to toys. While I can't be 100% certain without a DVD to reference, I believe the only Revenge of the Sith Clone Troopers to appear on screen that are coming out this year are Commander Gree, Commander Bly, Commander Bacara, the white Clone Pilot (and I'm not sure of his markings), AT-RT Driver, and the Shock Trooper. Everything else seems to be based on concepts or Clone Wars, and while I'm fine with that... it brings me to a point.

There are no doubt hundreds if not thousands of sketches and fully-realized digital models that may have been on-deck to use and ultimately weren't. It's a shame, really, as some really great designs like that red Clone Commander never saw the silver screen. My more cynical side, though, says for Revenge of the Sith, Lucas played it safe-- redesign characters that need to either look like they've been through a lot, or could sell a buttload of toys. Jar Jar and Orn Free Taa don't need new toys, and even if they had new outfits, odds are Hasbro wouldn't revisit them. Besides, it's not like you need a new outfit for a new figure-- look at Plo Koon, Ki-Adi-Mundi, Luminara Unduli, Aayla Secura, etc.

If you want to get right down to it, I'm pretty glad we didn't see more new designs. As it stands I could probably come up with about 200 compelling figures from just the six movies. Between Jabba's Palace, the Cantina, Pod Race, and the various Padme figures, we're probably staring down at about 50-60 right there before we get into resculpts. George Lucas made a sandbox with so many toys we'll never get them all, so if they want to cut back on variant outfit senators, I, for one, am happy.

4. Granted the action figures are the bread and butter of the 3.3/4" line and the most profit for Hasbro. But are they aware that the tie ins are what make this line so interesting and keeps collectors in it. Granted there are cost blah blah issues. But Hasbro is both big enough and smart enough to work around these obstacles if they really wanted to, they just choose to be a lazy stepchild about it.

For example. Who doesn't want a Sith Infiltraitor, a V-wing. Palpatines Shuttle, the At-Te, a good expanded Dagobah playset or Death Star. Even one of the flying beasts on Utapaun. Just a few examples with many more opportunities out there.

The same applies to the E/U action figures. Cost effective, they just need to do it even if through a series of poles. For example, list 20 E/U figures and fans can choose the 5 or so most popular they would want each year. This takes the risk out of it for Hasbro which has been their sticking point.
--Zak

Believe it or not, the Hasbro design team has a limited say in what gets made. Marketing has a say, too-- as do the bean counters. And you know who else has a big say? Wal-Mart. Toys "R" Us. Target. If the big stores say "we won't take any items above $20," that effectively kills the line. Big toys and gift sets of multiple figures are generally created to fill the needs of the retailer first and the collector second. The results sometimes end up pretty great, but the fact is retailers don't have a lot of faith in large items selling well. It isn't the 1980s and Star Wars doesn't have its own aisle for more than a few weeks. There is demand, and if Hasbro pushed it, yes, there could be a real future for toys like this-- but it'd need help from more video games, TV, and other sources. Things are selling very well today, and vehicles of all sizes (except the Wookieecopter) are selling out in a flash-- even redeco Jedi Starfighters! So there's a real pent-up demand for vehicles, but if you can believe it, most stores don't want to carry them.

I read on the forums (and I do read the forums) that apparently Hasbro is stupid for not making a $90 AT-TE, because it's so obvious everybody would buy one. I disagree. I think a lot of people would buy it and if it were available right now and included a couple of Clones, it'd be hot. But the problem here is you have to sell THOUSANDS of it-- as in, tens if not hundreds of thousands. While I have few doubts that the clone-happy fanbase is absolutely starving for Clone vehicles, the stores don't see it that way.

Do fans really want every vehicle? In theory, sure-- but you can only release so many toys in a year before stores say "too much crap, we ain't buying it." And while people do want great playsets, can you honestly say you believe any of those Utapaun beasts are a missed opportunity? If so, allow me to respectfully agree to disagree. Anything I can blink and miss is usually not a great choice for a $15+ item.

Expanded Universe figures are another beast. Polls aren't the answer, the answer is creative distribution-- AND INSANE FAN OUTCRY. If Hasbro wants to sell figures based on the comics and novels, they need to be made sporadically (one or two every few assortments) or targeted-- for example, a Gamestop/EB/EE/online exclusive series of figures based on non-movies would probably do well. This would also mean a higher price point. While I believe there's demand for some EU figures, I still think those believing that KOTOR can support its own line without a tie-in beyond the two video games are nuts. (Release a few alongside a KOTOR 3, OK, sure, maybe.) But seriously, if you want to see EU toys? Start complaining to Hasbro. Note: I am not Hasbro.

Finally, fans do not often put their money where their mouths are. A few years ago, I saw a lot-- and I do mean lot-- of fans claim they'd drop $500 on a Beast Wars Neo Unicron toy that never ended up seeing release. Obviously, they have no intention of doing so-- many of them were younger fans who couldn't afford a $50 version, and others would never drop serious money on a toy, no matter how big and cool it is (or in this case, isn't). Sometimes, like the Imperial Shuttle (brought to life courtesy of exclusive partners FAO, Entertainment Earth, Kay-Bee, fan outcry and a poll from the great folks at Yakface.com), fans are smart enough to realize "this is an expensive premium limited item and as such costs more. I will buy it." There's also a big outcry for more AT-ATs, but what fans don't realize is that a new one would cost at least $80-$100 and you can buy a sealed box POTF2 version RIGHT NOW for $80. If fans aren't willing to buy one today for a fair price, there's no real demand for it.

5. In Regards to question #1 [a few weeks ago] about the Hasbro Star Wars repacks...
I too am a completist and if a repackaged figure is numbered, I reluctantly have to buy it. It doesn't make much sense to me to buy only certain NEW figures of the numeric run. I know that may not make sense to many but as I said, I'm a completist.
I realize that Hasbro is big business and will continue to repackage figures as long as there is a profit to be made but if Hasbro insists on repacking figures, keep the figure consistant with its original #. If the repack was released before the numbering system (i.e. Power of the Jedi), then don't assign a number to it. It seems pretty simple to me. I do realize that if I were someone from Hasbro reading this, I would be thinking, "Why should I stop numbering the figures if this guys going to buy them?", but have mercy on us collectors. PLEASE!
--Rich

I got this email and at I wasn't sure if it was facetious. You don't have to buy anything. I saw the Wal-Mart Revenge of the Sith Darth Vader case, realized there was nothing new in it, and never bought it-- simple as that. Do I need every variant cardback Han Solo? No, of course not. And neither do you.

As a collector, you have a lot of decisions to make. If you "collect them all," what does that mean? There's close to a few hundred variants in the vintage line if you want every packaged figure on every variant cardback, and Hasbro updates the packaging in the modern line to keep the line "fresh" looking. If a number is really all it takes for you to buy things you don't want, wow, you've got a problem. With The Saga Collection, we're being treated to a line stuffed with great looking packaging and decent repacks-- if you want to collect one of every carded figure ever, congrats, now buy some more variants. You can ignore the numbers, though, if you already have a carded one. It's OK. You'll get through this.

I think it would be nice if Hasbro kept the same number for the same figure regardless of the package if there's no changes to the figure, just in the interests of fans getting used to the idea of a "Han Solo #123" or a "Clone Trooper #41" over time just for identification purposes. I personally have no problems with the current system-- it lets fans know quite easily that they missed something, and then they can figure out what it is and if they should care.

When it boils down to "repackaged figure vs. New Figure," I usually prefer repackaged if it was good. We got the perfect Boss Nass in 2000-- so let's leave it at that and move on. Spend your sculpting energies on something new and save me a few bucks from having to take up more space in my collection-- which eventually WILL reach a breaking point-- and just save the development costs with a rerun. It worked in the 1980s and I welcome it today.

6. By the way, any chance of a protocol droid multi-pack in the future?
--Toltec

None I know of, but like anything, make a fuss and vote with your dollars. If you like figure multipacks, buy them and send a message to Hasbro and retailers that you want more droids, more figure sets, etc. I personally think the opportunity exists but the dollars may not-- there aren't as many color varieties to pull from as, say, Battle Droids, Clone Troopers, or Astromechs. But if Hasbro wants to repaint the molds from R-3PO or ROTS C-3PO into new characters (or a "new" TC-14), I'm OK with that.

7. I missed buying the ROTS Republic Gunship when it was first released. Now, I can't find it anywhere. I hear conflicting reports. One, that it will ship again this fall, the other is that the product is no longer being made by Hasbro. The ships are going for waaaayyyy more than they are worth on eBay. Will we see them again or will I need to dish out the extra cash for one on eBay to complete my ROTS collection??
--kenobi96

Well, congratulations! It's your fault. Indirectly, anyway. Much of this goes back to what we call "voting with your dollars." Some of it is the stores not wanting more high dollar items... but there's a reason for that. And that's why vehicles are usually damned to being exclusives.

Hasbro, Target, Toys "R" Us, and the rest help determine what gets produced. If an item sells slowly, they'll not make another batch-- if the demand is insane, you'll see more. Those Gunships sat at $29.99, a FREAKING BARGAIN PRICE. The Clone Wars Command Gunship was a slow seller as well, and the Republic Gunship, at $39.99, did fairly well. (And if you want to see a ship "more than it's worth," check out the eBay rates of the Command Gunship if there's one around for sale this week.)

With so many fans saying "oh, I'll just wait" and "already got it!" or "I don't want to spend $30 on one toy," you're helping to doom future big vehicles and at the same time, reduce the number of these that will see production. Some are supposedly still in the pipeline, but not a lot, and you'd better be prepared to suck it up and buy damaged box ones and pay for shipping online if someone gets them again. That said...

What you're seeing now on eBay is, to some extent, heat from the new film. Heat comes and goes off of various products from week to week, so if you can't find one, wait it out and see what happens. $100 is a lot, but for a lot of fans-- maybe not specifically you (kenobi96) but you (the readers)-- $30 was too expensive for you. This is what happens-- like a little plaque at the very last location of my very favorite mall pizza chain in Arizona once read, "It's worse to pay too little than too much."

...it's also bad that Hasbro doesn't seem to get it that a $30 vehicle going for $100 means they should rerelease it. Or a couple-- I still want a Clone Wars one painted up to look like some sort of freakish space animal with the maw and eyes and everything. Stores do monitor your buying patterns and if you're not buying a lot of large toys, those are things they don't want to keep around long. Some stores like Toys "R" Us like them because it makes their store better to have them-- and Wal-Mart likes cheap things they can turn over in 10 minutes. My advice to you is to, as I often say, make your opinions known, I'll be sure to pass along what I can if I can, because there's really no reason for this vehicle NOT to be made again if there's this kind of markup here.

8. I have about 100 clone troopers with only one gunship. Why is Hasbro dropping the ball on the gunships?
--Nor

Because they don't cater to spoiled collectors? But seriously-- if you have the scratch to buy 100 clones, which, at the cheapest, means you dropped $340-$525, you had enough money and many chances to buy a Gunship. Many gunships. There's no way you can buy that many clones in one trip to the store. Army building isn't a right, it's something you have to work toward. In my day, I had to go to garage sale after garage sale and crappy collector show to maybe get one Stormtrooper or a broken TIE Fighter, and I'll tell you what, those weren't pretty looking figures when I found them.

Hasbro isn't dropping the ball-- you had a chance to buy it and for whatever reason, you didn't luck out. Maybe you live in a country that didn't import ships, or maybe you just decided too late that this was something you needed to do. All I can say is that you are very fortunate to have so many Clones, and Hasbro would probably be wise to rerelease another batch of these because it makes some sense to do so. But seriously dude... you obviously have the income and resources to track one down.

We're not entitled to anything as collectors or as fans, and I don't like it any more than you do. I've seen one Green Clone Commander (and it wasn't for sale), and I have yet to see Sith Eyes Anakin or Red Shock Trooper. (And let me tell you, I LIVE in the stores.) If you want to do something ridiculous, like get all the Gunships you can to outfit your armies, well, good luck to you. There's enough fans that can't even get one for one reason or another, be it iffy distribution, passing them up one too many times, or not wanting to buy online. Hasbro has given us three Gunships which have all turned out to be pricey in the long run, I'll be shocked if we don't see this mold as an exclusive in the future, so hold your horses and/or just start selling off them clones while the selling is good.

9. What was Hasbro thinking when they decided not to make an action figure of the George Lucas character? Do you know if George told them they couldnt make it? It just seems like a no brainer and I really thought it would be one of the final 12. Do you know if Hasbro has this one planned? Second, what is up with that rope thingy accessory that came with the Clone Commander? Hasbro doesn't even give you any indication of what the piece of crap is for. I cant figure it out...maybe you could enlighten me. Keep up the good work and see if you can get Swami to take a look into his crystal ball and give us some info on future goodies.
--Orbles

I'm assuming you mean The Baron. As of yet, there's no plans-- it's unknown why (no interest, just "not yet," George saying "No," etc.) but Revenge of the Sith is still unexplored figure territory. Characters with actual speaking parts that had significant screen time aren't available yet-- there's just one Padme, no Commander Cody, very few Battle Droids, and so on. Given time, I assure you that you will eventually start to see characters so minor you won't know which movie they're from. For a movie year, though, Hasbro has performed quite admirably. 72 carded figures-- 72!! And that's not including the variants (the significant ones) like the Black Pilot, Red Shock Trooper, Green Commander, Sith Eyes Anakin, and Red and Blue Guards. So let's say that brings it up to 77. Then there's four unique deluxe Clone 3-packs for a total of six more Clones. And roughly what, 9 or 10 other deluxe figures? Four Evolutions sets, counting repaints? Vader 500? 6 Battlepacks? 2 Droid packs? 4 Clone Trooper trooper packs? There's a limit to their powers and if you ask me, they're overdoing it this year. Fans don't seem to be burning out yet, but depending on how items do in the next few months, it could still happen. I mean, there were like 100 figures to buy this year if all you bought were one of every unique opened figure. That's excessive, so I'm going to say I'm VERY HAPPY with the fact they left something for 2006 and beyond.

As to the Final 12, the line was too hot. Hasbro wasn't planning on the insane merchandising success that was Revenge of the Sith to require MORE figures, but they had to come up with something quickly and cheaply. And, as you've no doubt figured out, they're all repaints, 9 of which from ROTS proper and 3 from previous lines-- Saga and Power of the Jedi. When there's a need for new product in a hurry, that's why you have the repaint. Fans have already noticed that Commander Gree could have been better served by a new sculpt... with with the demand and need for more Clones, well, to quote John Lydon: This is what you want, this is what you get. There's always opportunities to do more figures, and the future is wide open for more new releases. But for this final dozen, Hasbro needed to do what made the most sense given time, budget, and other demands, and I think it was more or less excellent. (Although I think some new Anakin or Obi-Wan would have been nice to see... seriously. How many of these two do you see in the stores these days?)

The Clone Commander's extra accessories are a sort of rappel line. I'm on the fence if it's any good or not. On one hand, the hook is great and I love the idea-- but the rope is so short it's worthless. As a kid, I used to make my own ropes with hooks for figures to fly across the room, and I assure you those ropes were more than six inches long. It was a great idea, but as far as an action accessory goes, it sucks. Still, I prefer these extra, disposable accessories over an action feature, as it generates far fewer "Adam, this sucks, Hasbro is stupid" messages. I do, however, agree with you completely that Hasbro would be well served to indicate what everything you get with a figure is-- I mean, why not? These accessories and action figures are selling points for non-fanboys. It's not obvious what these all are, and if a parent looks at a figure and says "hey look Billy, you can do all these fun things!" it would help out at retail, I'm sure, and frankly there's no reason not to explain the ins and outs of a toy on its box.

10. There's been a lot of talk recently about wanting Hasbro to do a new and better R5-D4.

Which other older figures would you like to see revisited ?

Personally I would like new Luke & Leia Endor figures - not been done carded yet, would be great with removable helmets and ponchos & some extra articulation.
--Philip

I'm a simple man and at this point, pretty pleased with the line as a whole. From 1995 to today, only one figure has offended me to the point where I thought a new version was inevitable, and that was R5-D4. And here it is, 9 years later, and no new one is in sight.

Hasbro's been good about making sure they revisit figures that sucked-- or ones that generate enough complaints. The 1995 lineup has all been redone, and even most of the movie-based figures from 1996 have seen new editions-- the exceptions being the Death Star Gunner and, surprise, R5-D4. The Death Star Gunner is mostly remembered fondly... but I don't think anyone would complain if a new one came out.

As for me personally, I'd like to see Episode I Obi-Wan Kenobi done better, as well as Wicket, Han Solo as a Stormtrooper, Luke Skywalker as a Stormtrooper, R2-B1, Jango Fett, and General Grievous. The latter two may surprise you, but for me, they make a lot of sense-- Jango Fett hasn't had a new sculpt since the end of 2002 and none of them were super-posable. General Grievous figures so far have been rubbery, iffy in articulation, and in need of a soft goods cape with a more appropriate pose for the figure itself. There's a lot of opportunity in existing figures, and really, is there anyone out there that doesn't think there's a market for a super posable ARC Trooper?

FIN

Some of you may have been puzzled about the "announcement" of the cancellation of the final wave of Unleashed-- I know I sure am. I haven't heard anything of the sort, so before everybody freaks out, let's wait for Hasbro to say something. One report on something this big usually isn't enough to go on, and the product seems far enough along that it will come out, eventually. I'm going to give this a "wait and see." If you've been with us for a while, you'll no doubt remember all the crazy rumors from 1995-- C-3PO and the Speeder Bike were said to contain lead paint! Carrie Fisher personally caused the recall of the ugly Princess Leia figure! And some of these even came out of Hasbro, like the entire line being limited ala Starting Lineups action figures!

As far as my opinion goes, which ain't worth too much, I think this is another one of those wacky rumors that has some element of truth but is ultimately distorted. But you never know.

I also finally got and opened a Jedi vs. Sith Battle Pack last week-- that's the "Clone Wars" one. Buy it. The good news is that it's filled with great figures and it's sold at a fair price. The bad news is some of the figures are just shy of being awesome, but as Expanded Universe figures are far and few between, I think you should run out and get it just the same. Asajj Ventress is a big improvement, Yoda and Grievous are nothing special, Obi-Wan Kenobi was too ambitious for his own good (but is still quite excellent), and Anakin is so close to perfection it'll make you cry like a little girl. Aside from the abundance of face makeup, he's PERFECT. The action features on Obi-Wan and Anakin are pretty cool too, so this is a set I'm quite happy to have seen.

The Jedi vs. Separatists set I'm still looking at in its box. I'm not sure what to make of the big box of head swaps just yet.

For next time, just email me with your question and I'll put it in queue. (If you do not put "Q&A" in the subject line I cannot guarantee it will get through due to the high volume of spam these accounts get.)

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