Q&A For October 24, 2005
1. Are we ever gonna see the AT RT's on the shelves again?
They've been MIA from my area basically since May.
The answer-- this week-- is "who knows." I know none are expected at this time, but the thing is, these sort of things tend to show up a lot and if previous movies were any indication, more are probably somewhere in the system. "The system" may include Kohl's, various online shops, the Fan Club, or places you don't ordinarily go at prices you don't ordinarily pay. But such is the nature of not hunting frequently or having the scratch to buy something when you first see it. Just keep looking, and try drug stores and other oddities-- you might get lucky. (I bought a VOTC Stormtrooper two weeks ago at a Tuesday Morning. It's a weird business.)
2. I was wondering since Hasbro has put out other Clone organizations, such as the
501st, AT-TE Tank Gunner, Pilot and Shock Trooper, if there will be a Utapau Clone Trooper, or the Clone" Snow" Trooper that was with Commander Bacara. With the Clone Commanders Bly, Gree, Commander #33 and Bacara, Will there ever be a Commander Cody or Fox Hasbro Figure.
This year alone, Hasbro released 72 basic ROTS figures, 4 sneak preview figures, close to a dozen deluxe figures, and lots of variants within as well as box sets, exclusives, and more. Of those, we got a Deluxe Jetpack Clone, Deluxe 3-pack Clones in six styles, two kinds of quick-draw clone, Commader Gree, Commander Bly, a Clone Commander in red or green, black and white Pilots, two styles of 501st Trooper, the Target Clone, the super-poseable clone, Commander Bacara, the Coruscant Troopers, the Coruscant Trooper Commander, the Utapaun Shadow Trooper, the Covert Ops Trooper... I could go on. And that was about 23 unique Revenge style Clones so far, not counting the duplicates which may have been foist upon fans via multi-packery.
Long story short: IT'S JUST THE FIRST YEAR. Hasbro is already planning Commander Cody-- which, if it isn't my imagination, I think I write here every week leading me to believe this is the most widely read column that nobody reads-- so Hasbro has many, many opportunities for 2006. The last I heard we could probably expect up to 56-60 basic figures, plus any surprise line extensions, exclusives (and boy howdy, there are going to be exclusives), and I can guarantee you there's a little room for Clones in there. Which Clones? No idea. How many? Can't say. But Hasbro has their sights firmly planted on the most repaintable troop builder ever and will surely take advantage of our good natures when producing more.
3. do you know any character of the "battle of ....." waves? when will they come out?
The first wave of The Saga Collection has been announced and features Han Solo in Carbonite, Princess Leia in Boushh Disguise, Barada, Chewbacca, Bib Fortuna, and finally, Boba Fett. That's the Battle of Carkoon, which should ship to stores in/around January. The Hoth wave is tentatively scheduled for around the same time. Beyond that? Things are still unconfirmed. But I'm the kind of guy that likes to think the best of some of the rumors I hear.
4. This may be a question without an answer, but why is Lando so unpopular? I fear it will keep Hasbro from making a better "ultimate Lando". (the minute they gave him a normal body, they gave him a weird face). I know in the years to come, EU figures are a possibilty, and Lando would make for some great ones. In the old Marvel comic, he dressed like a real dandy.
Is Lando unpopular? In 1996, his figure had a ridiculous roller coaster on the secondary market, going from a $5 figure of questionable popularity to the $36 must-have figure of the line. The Skiff Guard figure of 1997 did fairly well, as did the General of 1998. The redux Bespin Lando in POTJ did well (as did that whole wave), and I didn't see the Saga/OTC Skiff Guard Lando as a poor seller, and the General from Saga/OTC did well as well. (Heck, ALL THREE Lando figures got a resculpt in 2004.) I think the figures so far have been good, or at least, good enough.
When I lived in Phoenix, I'd say that you might see more Landos, but here in LA, we're still swimming in VOTC Lando figures. Which is shocking, it's not a bad figure. (I'd gladly buy one or two more... if they marked it down a bit from $9.99.) The VOTC one is likely to be the last of the Bespin Lando figures unless Hasbro decided to do an even-more-ultimate set of figures for the 30th anniversary which, while possible, is going to get old fast. (Well, maybe not. As far as I'm concerned they still owe us a non-crappy super-poseable Tatooine Luke.)
Expanded Universe Landos? Well, if there's one kind of repaint I want to see out of Hasbro, it's Marvel's uniquely colored hero figures. But nothing I've heard would have me believe that's possible in 2006.
5. My latest beef with Habro is with the Galactic Hero line. Not only does Hasbro repack the 3.75" line now they are doing it with the little guys. And to make matters worse of course they are sold in two packs and in some instances in order to get a new character you have to purchase a duplicate of one you may already have. As with the upcoming release from the ROTS line, in order to get the new clone troopers or the holo emperor you have to also buy four other previously released "little guys". I understand that Hasbro can easily double their profits by doing bussiness this way but none the less I think it sucks. Why not either take the four new characters and double them up or heaven forbid come up with some new characters like say a Slave Leia or Snow Trooper for example.
Galactic Heroes are a line that, according to Hasbro, continues to surprise them. While I have a hard time believing this (after all, they did well in 2004, why wouldn't they do well in 2005?), the thing to remember is that these are toys made for kids and aren't made for people who "collect them all" in mind-- we're the afterthought. The bulk of these guys sell to kids, and that's why some sets are commanding ridiculous prices on the secondary market these days. The "buy one, get one you don't want" thing is possibly a holdover from G.I. Joe, but it's hard to say for sure. As far as why there isn't a Slave Leia... uh.... do I really need to explain this?
As always, vote with your dollars. If you aren't a fan of this "buy a figure I got to get one I want" business, let them know. Hasbro can make more money like this, but they can make even MORE by selling two-packs of Clones, as then fans would buy two of the same figure and likely wouldn't complain about being "forced" to do that. After all, it worked for the Stormtroopers.
6. I read on Hasbro.com that the Toys R’ Us Exclusive Holographic Emperor is “available in stores now”. Is there an official release date on him & are they going to do a gift with purchase of $20 or so, like they did with the Holographic Yoda figure a few months ago? I went to Amazon.com & looked it up, but it says they’re “currently not available”. Can you give me some kind of info so I don’t miss out on this one?
One thing you can (and should) always do when trying to look for a figure's availability is to check eBay. If you see dozens of them, it might be out-- if not, it's not. While there have been a few leaks of this one, obviously, it's not widely available as most sites never reported it to be so. In this case, I spot-checked eBay and saw four, three from the same seller. Last I heard it's going to be a gift-with-purchase in November, so, again, patience. If Amazon doesn't list it yet, you can be assured it's not out. So, no worries! Yet, anyway.
7. As we all know, there are "modern" versions of all the figures listed on the Early Bird Kit's cardboard stage except the Death Squad/Star Destroyer Commander, and I'm wondering if Hasbro may see fit to someday release one? What do you think the odds are? With so many disappointments from Hasbro, I'm inclined to say no and will probably have to find a vintage one to place there, but does anyone agree that it would be nice to have one to fill out the stage?
Actually, they made him too-- he's the Death Star Trooper from 1998, which was repackaged and sold again in 2002 as part of a gift set. Aside from the ridiculous gun from 1998, it's a pretty good figure and one Hasbro is likely to revisit since they're going to be doing some new sculpts of old troopers... or so I've maybe heard somewhere. The Early Bird Kit was meant to be a fun, nostalgic, one-shot deal that I thought was actually really cool short of Luke's shirt being the wrong color. For $30, I get an old-timey diorama, a Hyperspace membership, 4 figures, and some other stuff that, obviously, is not worth remembering. The "rest of the line" might happen, but like you said-- we have most of them.
I'm the first one to step up and say "hey Hasbro, how about Obi-Wan and Darth Vader with telescoping arm lightsabers??" But obviously, you might not all agree that those are worth producing, nor would you like to see them on your Early Bird stage. Collector opinions are hard to gauge, especially since I might think something is awesome that you might not, or vice versa.
I'm still not sure why everyone keeps saying "oh, Hasbro is so disappointing!" If you didn't like a product, OK, that's a disappointment. In this case, to me at least, it's not something to gripe about. (Although releasing Plo Koon's Starfighter at a time where it's nigh impossible to buy a Plo Koon? I'm sure someone is going to be disappointed there.) Although JediTray went on to let me know that his figures' pegs didn't fit his figures-- this is indeed a disappointment. Pegs should always, always fit figures, as pilots should, without exception, fit in their vehicles. These were things that were mastered in 1978 and I'm not quite sure how these get through the cracks in 2005.
8. If you were king for a day, what would you do to improve the line?
Swappable heads and hands? More articulation? Better paint ops?
Everything I did would have to do with what you guys tend to ask-- starting with distribution. Because that's what you guys complain about the most, not being able to find figures. So lots of new assortments, remix assortments, and that would be the first order of business. (This means if you can get a figure for $8 or less on eBay before shipping, we as fans wouldn't ask for it-- because it isn't sensible to do on obscure characters. Troop builders and core characters are another story as demand for those represents money Hasbro is losing.)
Exclusives are a must-- but they must be sensible. Online distribution is a must (either through their own online store or a third-party vendor 90 days after their retail window has closed), and as there are laws against iron-clad pricing, well, there's that. Single-figure cases would be available for troop building purposes to ALL accounts.
Articulation and paint ops? Hardly. First thing I'd do is make sure every figure that SHOULD be able to sit and pilot a ship CAN. Second, I'd make sure every figure has foot holes that can fit foot pegs. Without exception. If a figure can't be designed with foot pegs, something needs to be done to make it work unless it's like R1-G4 who needs no support. And then it'd be a matter of making sure every joint that can work on a figure does-- which may mean reduced articulation, as some experiments have proven to be less than workable. (AOTC Aayla Secura, AT-TE Gunner's arms.)
From there, it'd be character selection. Every wave needs 1 new, never-before-seen character, if not more. Also, every wave needs 1 popular, frequently seen character. Reruns are very, very important. Just for Revenge of the Sith, the chances of you finding a Chewbacca, C-3PO, or other kid-friendly characters is unlikely. Also consider the last non-gift set appearances of Darth Maul, Jango Fett, and the AOTC Clone Trooper was in 2003. That's no good, if you ask me. Also, the only Luke Skywalker basic figures available in 2005 were in the Rebel vs. Empire Gift Set, Early Bird Kit, and post-OTC packaged Dagobah Luke. Many of these characters-- new sculpts or old-- should be available for the buying at least once every couple of months. With the focus on Revenge of the Sith, these characters were put on the back burner, which, while sensible, may have risked "new blood" in the collector and fan gene pool.
Something like the OTC needs to be around all the time to make sure there's a handy distribution channel for classic characters like, well, Darth Maul. (He's over 6 years old now. Classic.) If someone says "I want to go buy a Star Wars figure" today and his choices are just a few Hoth troopers, Bail Organa, Bib Fortuna, or the Neimoidian Warrior, you have to admit he has no reason to start collecting. Ensuring Darth Maul, Vader, Stormtroopers, Chewbacca, and other winners are around will get new blood into the hobby.
...and finally, I'd make sure vehicles were always on the market. Not all vehicles, and not of all sizes-- but there needs to be at least 3 vehicles available at any given time. (Which Hasbro is doing well as of today, I must say.) Even if it's just a repackaged X-wing at Toys "R" Us or an warehouse club exclusive AT-AT, these things are important-- signature vehicles are as important as signature characters in letting fans know that this is a fun toy line and one worth entering.
Now, that's the sensible part of this answer. The less-sensible part would be as follows.
Three Expanded Universe exclusive assortments. One of novel figures for Borders/Barnes & Noble/online. One of comic figures for Diamond/comic shops/online. And finally, one of game figures for GameStop and its ilk, as well as, you guessed it, online. This would be a mix of new sculpts and repaints-- for example, Het Nkik, the Jawa trader, could be done as a repainted 1999 CommTech Jawa with additional accessories. Dark Empire Luke could be redecorated with modern paint know-how and put back in the stores. And the Darktrooper could just flat-out be rereleased. (And whomever employs me would get stuck with a case of new-sculpt Marvel characters because I wants me a Lumiya, fancy-pants Lando, and a Lepus Carnivorous and first crack at it.)
9. When desiging a figure at what point does Hasbro decide how much articulation to give the figure? I'm asking in a general way but also more specifically in how it relates to the ROTS figure #38 the AT-TE Tank Gunner. From the belt down the figure is perfect, this being (to my knowledge) the 2nd Star Wars figure to ever recieve ball jointed hips. But from the waist up the figure seems flawed in many respects. He has no waist articulation and his shoulder and elbow articulation are pathetic. I'm looking at the figure from a design perspective and it seems that Hasbro went the extra mile on the legs then sort of cheaped out on the rest of it. The "play value" of the figure suffers because of this. So they took what could have been a fantastic figure and produced one that was just mediocre. Also why does the gunner have the ball jointed hips. Do you think he was supposed to be part of a grander design, a vehicle perhapse?
It's my understanding a lot of things are considered, but usually what it boils down to is "what makes the figure look best?" Vehicle interaction isn't high on the list at all times, and ball joints and other new kinds of articulation are more or less Hasbro going "hey, let's see if this works." Obviously, sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't-- and they'll remember this for next time.
10. Is there any real difference between the blue ROTS Plo Koon Jedi Starfighter and the blue Jedi Starfighter that was released as part of the Clone Wars line? I’m not a packaging junkie and don’t want to shell out for this fighter just to find out it is the same ship repackaged. If there was a significant difference in terms of paint job or other decos then that might be different. Also, is this the same deal with the ROTS gunship? I have the Clone Wars repaint and they look about the same?
I just found my Plo Koon Starfighter hours before penning this column, and yes, there are many differences. Mainly one is a completely different deco pattern, with a different looking droid, etc. There's no mistaking the two for the same ship, although Plo's ship is a hybrid of the two Clone Wars Starfighters in terms of appearance.
So, Hoth wave? Eh? Eh?? Ah, it's fun to get to announce things. I'm liking most of it, it's just a little unfortunate that Vader's going to be (for now at least) just one per case and there's little word of remixed cases. A lot of these figures could sell really well...
I've seen some buzz asking about the Swami, our fortune-telling man of mystery. There's been a lot of chatter asking why there's no update-- and some have speculated because of me, there's no updates. I am not now nor have I ever been the Swami, nor have I contributed to a single Swami report-- they're as big a surprise to me as they must be to you when they go up, because that's when I see them. If he's still out there, I'm sure he'll chime in some day soon when there's more to say.
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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