Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
May 11, 2009
1. What is your take on reissuing figures [like in Saga Legends]? I'm tired of hearing collectors complaining about this. I started collecting around 1980. I was able to get figures and vehicles from A New Hope because they were reissued in Empire packaging, so I understand the need for reissues. I assume it still works this way for today's kids.
I'm all in favor of Hasbro reissuing figures in a manner that doesn't require that I buy more of Figure A to buy Figure B. So Saga Legends, I think is fantastic because it keeps figures in circulation that-- for the most part-- sell, plus it makes Hasbro some mad phat bank which they spend on the figures I do want-- like more Ewoks. I feel the pain of the collectors who collect every package variation, but at this stage in the game it's less a hobby than it is a disease. With thousands of unique figures and multiple versions of many, you simply cannot do this unless you're fairly well-off or a genius when it comes to storage.
Collectors as a group complain about anything they don't like, and rarely talk up what they do like. This is fairly normal-- it's not like I can go on long tirades about how Hasbro's new U-3PO build-a-figure is this totally awesome new release and one of the best figures out of them in recent memory. No, we whine that the new Battle Packs have 2 figures we don't want and 2 that we do, resulting in us buying figures we'd just as soon not own. If it weren't for the precedent set by the original line-- where everybody save for the Max Rebo band and Sears Snaggletooth were available individually-- I don't think it'd have been as much of an issue.
Really, the issue collectors are having isn't so much that figures are getting reissued, but that they can't get the figures they really want to buy. If we could all waltz into Target and buy armloads of Wioslea and Ugnaughts, we'd instead shift our complaints that Hasbro made too many of those and not whatever it is in the next wave. It's pretty normal collector behavior.
2. In the 4/27 Q&A you said something that brought to mind a thought I've been having a lot lately:
"There really should be a new exclusive or something to engage us every month..."
Now, I'm assuming by exclusives you meant traditional retail channels (TRU, Target, WM) but I have been thinking about online distribution a ton lately. Mattel seems to have had some success with their collector oriented web presence, in that they can tailor their production numbers fairly specifically to the demand, as they can probably produce tracking matrices that are fairly robust based on sales (that's pretty easy data analysis when the data is populated so explicitly from buyers in a controlled environment like that.)
[Hasbro] have so many key brands that they could successfully exploit even further (Star Wars, Transformers, Marvel, GI Joe) with this type of effort, so I'm a little baffled as to why they wouldn't want some extra revenue from us obsessive type collectors. To take one example, the 5th GI Joe MASS Device battlepack: why not make the parts of that pack available ala carte, since it failed to reach retail in any significant numbers? Or take Yarna -- might that not have made a better online exclusive? What are your thoughts on it?
Down the road, this might be possible if Mattel proves it viable, but Hasbro's current mentality is to avoid this. With the original HasbroCollectors.com shop site from the 1990s, word got out that Lucas wasn't keen on them selling directly, nor were retailers particularly thrilled that they were competing with them (Toys "R" Us, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.) Fast-forward to today and HasbroToyShop.com and, well, who knows.
The power of retail is the positioning of the impulse buy. Fans will walk into a store and buy a figure simply because they're in a spendy mood and there's something to get-- with online purchases, this is sometimes less likely. A lot of product gets moved with additional products, like the guy goes to Target to buy a Pepsi but also scores batteries and a Crimson Guard figure because he likes Joes and it happened to be there. You lose a lot of that when going online, the retail distribution network is a much better way to move volume, but it seems that it might be more profitable to take lines directly to the consumer as long as you have the marketing muscle to back it up.
He-Man is working well today because numbers are limited and fans are very aware, but will it last a year? Or three? Hard to say. I think it's preposterous and obscene that Mattel isn't putting Ghostbusters product in the stores, but is just selling it at conventions and online. It might be better for their bottom line, but it seems one could push more units at brick-and-mortar which doubles as marketing for the items-- people need to have the chance to know something exists without having to track it down specifically. Ultimately, it's up to Hasbro's business philosophy, which currently dictates that they need to sell huge numbers of a limited number of products. Ultimately, Hasbro is going to point to HasbroToyShop.com, and obsessive collector types aren't of a single mind. I'm fairly hardcore and I'm sure what I want and what the collective you want do not match up-- so by catering to the niche, Hasbro may be doing more harm than good. Right now it's good to cast a wide net, because while Yarna didn't do great at retail, I bet she'd fare worse at a premium price as an online exclusive.
Although as one figure in an exclusive gift set which was fairly priced, I'm sure she'd have done well enough. Well, maybe not seeing how poorly the new animated Jabba is faring.
I personally think online exclusives are extremely non-engaging and aren't fun to buy simply because, well, you've got a time and a place to be online and that may be your only shot. You might actually have better luck at the stores, depending on where you live and your hunting routes.
3. I just read Q and A today. I didnt catch when Hasbro said that collectors are not as high priority in their marketing as kids are. It only makes sense to me at this point. I think the Clone Wars line has become more exciting as far as new action figures go. The phase one clones look better then they do as movie realistic characters as do the droids. I know that personally I am very tired as a collector and with the high price of figures today it is becoming more difficult to "collect them all." I'm 29 and have been collecting this stuff for the better part of the last decade. It is getting to the point where there isnt much to buy that they havent already made and again with the rise in costs of everything its gotten to the point where I only buy the few original things they put out that I dont already have. I just figure that I can buy the build a droid figures on ebay later on. The ones I have already assembled are flooding the after market.
The new waves of Clone Wars figures they showed in their slide show presentation at Toy Fair look incredible. I think that the line will only improve from here. At the same time the legacy waves dont do much to excite me. We have to wait until June for one original Jedi character from that Episode II wave. May is going to be a pretty boring month. So, enough of my ranting, here are my actual questions. Do you think that the collector fan base is going to tank? I mean I'm ready to give it a rest, so are you hearing more belly aching from other adult collectors? I know this is three questions too many, but while I'm at it, what new characters would you like to see them make for the Clone Wars series that they havent already announced? I'm hoping they make a figure of the tactical droid. Thanks Adam.
Star Wars fans are a stubborn lot-- we're willing to wait in lines, to wait years for figures to be released, and so on. As long as collectors remain unsatisfied, we'll likely keep buying. There are indeed too few new figures and new characters being introduced, but it's all relative. You're bored by prequel Owen and Beru, yet a lot of fans write this very column demanding the two for reasons I don't entirely get beyond the "we don't have this one yet why not?" answer.
I think most of the complaints have to do with availability-- either too much or not enough-- and the slowly dawning realization that we're a very fractured fanbase with lots of unique opinions as to "what all collectors want." I mean, really, what does anybody want these days? Other than "More Imperials," "More Aliens," "More Rebel Pilots," "More KOTOR," and stuff like that, specifics are pretty uncommon. But as that droid goes... that's gonna happen, I can pretty much guarantee it.
I'm slowly moving beyond the "what I want" phase except when working on exclusives-- because Hasbro makes pretty much everything eventually.
4. Is the General Grievous that is included with the new TRU Exclusive Hailfire Droid a repaint or just the same old Grievous we've already seen?
As far as I can tell, it's the same with minimal or no changes-- possibly fewer accessories. Due to the high price I have not yet picked one up.
5. As a collector for 30+ years, I have recently changed my buying habits to only certain figures each year. To that end, let me ask you: are there any figures left to be made from the "purchase of the droids" scene? Any important (or major) figures left to be made from the Cantina and Jabba's Palace scenes? I appreciate your help...
With incremental improvements, there are always more figures to buy from any scene in any movie if you want to go that route. There are plenty of cool-looking aliens form Jabba's Palace and quite a few left from the Cantina, but as to their significance, well, let me put it this way: if you don't notice them missing, they aren't very significant, are they?
Ditto with the Jawas sequence. Sure, there are some funky droids in the backgrounds of the Sandcrawler which you can see right here. And as to the droid sale sequence I'd say that it doesn't look like there's anything significant other than maybe more Jawas and a new Owen.
As the line marches on, and this has been a recurring theme this week, you as collectors might want to stop and consider what you actually want. This is distinct from what you can purchase, because sure, on the whole, a lot of us want a complete set of whatever it is we collect, be it loose figures, package variants, droids, aliens, or what have you. George Lucas created a universe so rich, and with so many unused aliens or cutting-room-floor characters, that this could go on forever. So really, it's up to you to decide what it is you want to shell out the green for, because Hasbro is going to have dozens of figures for you every year between now and the time the line becomes unprofitable.
One question I get asked is "how do I get my question in the column?" Lately, there's a couple of easy ways to do this. One, ask me something I think a lot of people might want to know, or nobody has thought of asking yet. Two, keep it short. If I don't have to edit the question down, I'm more likely to use yours if two people ask the same question. I've got a bit of a backlog, but not a huge one, so the plans of multiple Q&A columns each week are on hold until at least June due to scheduling whatsis. But hey, you never know. There's not as much need for a column like this one with the likes of Google and eBay around, plus the insane collector fervor of 10 years ago isn't quite what it once was.
Also: Blah blah Star Trek blah blah entertaining yadda yadda set phasers on fun. There. Now we can go back to how things usually go here.
Got questions? I bet you do. Email me with "Q&A" somewhere in the subject line and hopefully I'll get to yours in the next column!
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