Q&A For October 3, 2005

 

1. After Return of the Jedi, the original Kenner toy line only staggered along for about a year and a half before dying in 1985. For me (I was 11 in 1985), Transformers coming out in 1984, Masters of the Universe, and no new movies seemed to overwhelm any chance of Star Wars figures really surviving.

Not only are there no more movies, but kids have a lot of things besides just toys competing for interest and $$$. Just like you have other collections that your talk about on 16bit.com, lots of other adult collectors also buy things like Transformers, or McFarlane/Spawn figures, or NECA and other movie figures, etc. etc.

Not everyone who collects action figures is a real-life Napoleon Dynamite type who lives in his parent's basement. I am a lawyer with a wife and two kids, and I have at least 300 Star Wars figures (post-1995), let alone McFarlane, Halo, etc. etc. etc. I don't think I 'm the only person who isn't a nerd who likes little plastic people. So I don't think it is a valid assumption that anything "Star Wars" is a multi-million dollar enterprise because it will be bought by hordes of geeks who argue about Dr. Who continuity or whether Sauron would beat Darth Sidious, yet have never been voluntarily touched by a female.

So what do you think makes Hasbro believe that Star Wars figures have 14 more years of life (and I hope they do)? Or do they even really believe that? I speak as someone who plans to spend almost $90 on all those damn R2 units you got them to do for EE.
--Stanley

If anything, the world of business has revealed that people have very short term memories for successes as well as failures. Revenge of the Sith toys did well. Episode I did not fare as well. And yes, Return of the Jedi was part of a three-year death march for Star Wars in toy stores.

Right now, the big worry from where I sit is that Hasbro will put their energies into properties like Transformers and GI Joe that they own most of, can make more and cheaper toys for, owe no royalties on, and, worst of all, can do whatever they want with. Star Wars is a hassle-- you have to get approval, pay the George Lucas tax, try to keep in the spirits of the movies (although that seems over and done with), and what do you get to show for it? Angry, fickle fans who don't understand your job dissecting you in a weekly Internet column.

Like you, I do not have the luxury of living in my parents' basement with no rent. And, like you, I buy other things too-- food, DVDs, crap for the wife, and so forth. But this begs the question, what does Hasbro really expect to get out of Star Wars?

I don't know, but I can tell you, this situation where they have the license through 2018 is not without precedent. Kenner (and Hasbro by proxy) had the license from 1977 through about 1998 before they had to renew. It's just them making sure that if something comes up, Mattel or NECA or McFarlane doesn't take the license from under them. Consider it a form of insurance-- they have the license if they need it, but the question you're wondering is will they need it?

It's possible Wal-Mart and Target and Toys "R" Us will all turn on Hasbro and say "well, we're done." It's also possible Hasbro's bean counters will say "Star Wars isn't generating the right profits, let's move our Star Wars people on to other brands, repaint and repackage stuff until the line dies, and move on." And it's even possible that things will continue with a smattering of basic figures, a few vehicles here and there, a mail-in or two, and two or three sub-lines of things that you won't touch with a 10-foot pole that Hasbro is going to try as an effort to reach out beyond their core customer.

I don't think Star Wars will continue at its current pace for long, but I do think that as long as there's 20,000 or more dedicated fans, retailers will probably keep asking for exclusives as long as fans keep buying them. The line will probably die, but unlike last time, the whole nostalgia thing can keep it going for a little while (they still sell Wizard of Oz crap) while we wait for a 30th Anniversary retro line, a cartoon line, and a live-action TV line. Basically, this is Hasbro's chance to take it in any direction they would like. Fan support means a lot, so obviously, those of us who have spent more thousands of dollars on these toys since 1995 or 1977 are important to keeping it going. But so are the millions that don't own a single plastic Star Wars toy. Things are going to be weird, that's for sure, and I bet you'll see some very surprising items in 2006 that will most likely grab your attention. Not that I know of such things.

This one line is going to have to compete for attention and dollars, but then again, as far as movie lines go, Star Wars has no peers. There isn't a single toy line that has this diversity of characters from a movie, and my guess is given the nature of the toy market, there never will be again.

Frankly, I can't take too many more years like this one. 2004 was a nice year-- my wallet is starting to give me ugly looks and my storage spaces at home aren't exactly welcoming new additions with open arms. If this line goes to 2018, I sincerely hope it's mostly going to be things I don't want. Because otherwise, there's going to be severely fewer new additions to the stash.

2. Just got through seeing pick of the SW Transformers and while I do see appeal something irks me. There a good number of folks who lament the demise of Action Fleet and new ship molds, especially for ROTS. Hasbro has said the new molds cost to much hence the lack of newer ships. My question is if this is the case than why "waste" precious resources on untested (new) product ideas instead of making items that a) have fan recognition and b) have been vocalized in one form or the other as being desired (i.e. Venator, Grevious Starship, V-wing, AT-TE, Palpatine Shuttle, Padme ships)? I would think Hasbro would get more return out of a highly desired above listed ship (or others) than an X-wing that turns in a robot Luke.

Does Hasbro feel a Venator or other new ships a waste of money? Given that ROTS had some many cool looking ships I find that highly doubtful. I even believe that Action Fleet would be a desired scale that most of us would be happy with. Can Hasbro resurrect this line and give us our desired ships. I feel Titanium while ok just doesn't do justice to the awesome ships in the SW universe.

SW Transformers are strictly EU (of cause) but I thought EU didn't sell?? I have to ask again why go with this and not "canon" EU? I mean if I saw say Quin Lon Vos or a Republic Commando and a SW Transformer and I could only choose one (or four, need openers!!) I can say in a heartbeat that the SW transformer would sit there and rot.
--Washington

Hasbro has a couple of things to do to keep Star Wars: The Toy Line alive. One is to keep collectors occupied with new stuff they want. The other is to attract new kids and collectors, and really, this is the important one. Right now, there are fewer than 20,000 Star Wars collectors who will buy one of absolutely everything. The number is probably closer to or lower than 10,000*... but all I have are some rough numbers which are in no way scientific or any of that. But I digress. The point is there are 250 million Americans and a teeny portion of them are buying one of every action figure toy Hasbro makes from our favorite film series. That's a potentially bad thing.

Toys like Star Wars Transformers, Titanium, and Force Battlers exist to capture the dollars of new collectors, people who feel the barrier of collecting figures is far too imposing to "collect them all," which, at over 500 figures at the lowest possibly tally, it is. Hasbro knows it has a certain number of figure collector dollars, what they want are new ventures to bring in a different market. Hasbro isn't wasting resources-- they're grasping for new customers. They really need them to keep the line going, and obviously, not all of these will work. Force Battlers, Jedi Force, Galactic Heroes, basic figures, 12-inch, and everything else simply are not meant to be bought and collected by everyone, but they are meant to make sure Hasbro has a Star Wars product at pretty much every price for pretty much any possible age group.

Vehicles seem to be doing well right now and as such, yes, I agree that it is unfortunate and downright confusing that Hasbro would pass up a chance to do more of them. On one hand. On the other, the sheer insane quantities of new ships in the latest movies mean less of them stand out, and less of them get much screen time. Everybody remembers the Jedi Starfighters-- that's why we're getting the new one in four flavors. The ARC fighter is a cool ship and had a decent role in the flick. Grievous' fighter wasn't around long. The Padme ships just don't seem interesting to Hasbro. The potential market for a new Luke toy that turns into an X-wing, while vile and revolting to some, is huge-- people want to buy characters they know and love in addition to ones they could barely recognize in a line-up. It's all the new market thing.

Star Wars Transformers are not expanded universe, neither are the Force Battlers with jet packs or the bright blue Anakins from Jedi Force. There's no attempt being made to include these as part of the mythos-- they're just toys. Same as Deluxe Luke Skywalker with his Sport Skiff a few years ago-- this isn't meant to be anything but a toy Hasbro can sell to kids and collectors. And I still stick with my opinion that if you put the wrong Expanded Universe figure out-- and Quin qualifies-- next to a product that's recognizable to the vast majority of the audience, the EU figure could be a liability. Then again, Republic Commando Clones are a neat figure that falls into the army builder/Clone mold, and Kir Kanos might as well. So while the expanded universe has potential, considering these new items as part of it is just not the right way to look at them.

(But would I put out a Quin figure someday were I given the chance? Yes.)

*- While there are most certainly more than 10,000 Star Wars figure collectors, they aren't all buying one of absolutely everything. Many products are selling to collectors in much greater numbers, but some products, well, aren't.

3. I saw the Comander Gree preview images on your site and the figure and the paint looks good. My complaint is this why did Hasbro cheap out with the accesories, I mean why not pack the binoculars(which were previously released in the clone wars clone trooper 3 packs) or maybe a Sidious hologram. One other thing is the lines on the chest are painted on, i thought they went over the armor like some kind of straps . I don't know I guess I had high expectations for this figure.
--Martin

While I do not yet have one, many fans are complaining that Hasbro jumped the shark with Commander Gree. His colorings don't quite match the film, but rather, they almost match pre-release renderings released of the character. He was made as a stop-gap figure at the end of a line that Hasbro didn't see as being as hot as it was, so with that in mind, it's a pretty good figure. Unfortunately, it wasn't a good choice of a figure to take a shortcut with. So, as always, keep complaining to Hasbro and on message boards-- they'll get the message and revisit him later, maybe.

4. I'm in love with the Attacktix line, and I thought the Series 2 boosters were suposed to be available last week. I haven't seen anything except for a few Gunships on eBay. Do you have any clear idea of when these are to be released?
--Ilya

While Target stores are receiving (and selling out of) Gunships alongside the likes of Entertainment Earth, it seems Wave 2 has been delayed slightly. My sources put a ship date as "late September," but given how little other information seems to be available, I'd pad that out to say maybe-- MAYBE-- before year's end.

5. One quick question, when exactly are the Target exclusive figures scheduled to come out in your opinion. I have seen on other sites that it is november. Also the same for other exclusives. I hope that Target and other stores dont do what they have done in the past. Delay them for the after Thanksgiving Sale. Do you all know what hell it is to fight your way into a store at 6 in the morning? It is like the running of the bulls.
--Joe

There's no confirmed date but all signs are showing to it being good for you to haunt Target stores from October 1 until you find the exclusives, which could be as late as November. I don't believe Hasbro will hold back exclusives for Turkey Day, but Wal-Mart has done it to me with Transformers so who knows, right?

6. Now regarding the post ROTS figures (I'll skip being the 700th person to write asking about Commander Cody or EU figures...lol), I think it was you who mentioned that the Boba Fett will be a combination of figures, and do you know which ones, whether it will be sans rocket-distorting action feature, and which movie?
--Heath

I'm pretty sure I never said anything on Fett for certain, but the rumblings have it being a "revised" version of the Pit of Carkoon one sold in 2003 and 2004. I expect some slight changes on the deco and nothing more, but you never know if Hasbro will add a part or two to it.

7. after such gems as the super-detailed, super articulated VOTC Han Solo, I'm personally looking forward to a Bespin (jacket, brown pants) and Endor (vest, foldover shirt, brown pants) counterpart to that figure. What do you think are the odds of that happening?
--Slick

I wouldn't hold your breath unless Hasbro does Evolutions packs, but really, if you think about it, a box of three Han Solos would look pretty damned similar. I fully expect more super-posable figures to be made as the line continues and that becomes the new standard, but it might be a while before we get another Endor Han given the 2002 one just came out... and sucked. Maybe in 2007?

8. I'm really confused about how to go about getting the correct label sheet for the Obi-Wan fighter. Do I just email them and ask for one? I hope I don't need a reciept or a barcode or anything, cuz I threw that stuff out. Is there anything new going on with this?
--Brian

Some people have written in to say Hasbro has told them it's on the way, others have said Hasbro sent them a letter saying they'll never get one. I haven't gotten jack past the first email when I registered a complaint at Hasbro.com. Does anyone have any updates?

9. Does anyone know if there are any new figures or paint changes, variations, etc. to the Emperor's Throne Room and/or Hoth Battle Battle Packs?
--Tia

I'm told there are differences but they're SO minor you probably won't care. These are things you buy for the boxes, of course, but there are some slight changes with Hoth. Aside from the gun included with General Veers, the Troopers and Probe Droid have added "dirt" on them-- not a lot, probably just a tiny amount. From my comparisons, it seems that it's nothing more than a typical variation between two supposedly identical figures-- these are nothing special and if you're missing them, collectors won't be able to tell. There are far more significant changes between figures in the Vintage 1970s-1980s line that nobody talks about. As far as the Throne Room goes, I have heard of zero significant changes beyond the rubbery plastic and a lack of accessories.

10. I can't find any of the new Titanium vehicles (Landspeeder, Naboo Fighter, ARC Fighter) at my local Wal-Mart - they don't even have any pegs for them! Do you think all stores will get these next year?
--Greg

Hasbro thinks Titanium is an opportunity not unlike Hot Wheels. Expect things like short runs, don't discount the possibility of future "treasure hunts," and all of that as the line grows-- it seems these are being designed to be a bit more limited than some other items, or at least, the aim is to have them appear more collectible. With other properties like Transformers supposedly shipping in future Titanium assortments mixed with Star Wars-- this isn't confirmed yet-- the line could end up being a very large and messy thing. Titanium is developed with a "collector" mentality in mind, and it appears that mentality is not that of a traditional action figure collector. I would not hold my breath about seeing the exact same vehicles time and again but you never know what they'll toss in assortments to flesh them out, or repaint them, etc. Were I a fan of Titanium, I'd be cautious, yet optimistic. Which means I'd watch eBay or trade for them but not pay a premium as they aren't all that rare in the grand scheme of things. (I also stumbled on these just the other week at a Wal-Mart that's kinda crappy yet stocks Titanium on the bike aisle. So keep an eye out.)

FIN

I hear that people are now getting their Early Bird Kits. Which is good, because it reminded me that I still haven't sent mine in yet and I bought a couple of them. So as I revise this on Sunday afternoon, I'm filling one of them out as I supposedly have a month or so to get it in... I kinda am mad I didn't do it earlier. But I forgot to send in for my Storm Shadow too, so yeah, such is life.

Also got a couple of new waves over the past week including a Commander Gree obtained through creative self-help at a Wal-Mart. (Hey, if it's on the floor...) Gree's a weird one because he's awesome and sucks all at once because he's just so close to being perfect. It's great Hasbro saw an opportunity to do a repaint, but well, it just barely misses the mark and as it stands fans will probably want a new, better version later.

The Utapaun Warrior and Mustafar Sentry both suffer because of the added articulation. The ball-jointed ankles? These need to stop, soon. The figures keep tipping over while plugged onto their stands and this is something I consider a major design flaw. The Clone-style ankle joint works, it needs to be stiff so the figure doesn't fall flat on his face in the morning. When the reviews come, yeah, I'll be whining about that a lot.

Otherwise, good stuff. Captain Antilles and Zett look good, I'm very, very happy with Obi-Wan Pilot (best version of the figure from this film, easily), and there's a lot I like about the AT-RT Driver. I can't wait for next year at this rate, but I'm a little sad to see Revenge of the Sith end so soon.

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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