Galactic Hunter.com's Star Wars Q&A with Adam Pawlus
May 25, 2009
1. Obviously, distribution has been somewhat of a hassle lately, with long wait times between waves of Legacy to Legacy or even waits between Legacy to Clone Wars. (What with this wait time that we're having now.) Obviously, us normal collectors don't have as much of a clue as to the inner workings of Hasbro or the toy biz as we think, but maybe you have more of a handle on these things. Hence the question.
Personally, I think it would be better to have a wave of Legacy, say January, Clone Wars in Feb, Legacy in March, every other month. What do you think? What would you do to ease distribution woes?
I think this begs the question: is there a problem? Movie years (1999, 2002, 2005, 2008) have typically had really horrible Q1 with somewhere between 8 and 16 genuinely new figures seeing release on store shelves.
In 2009, we got two waves of The Clone Wars and two waves of Legacy before April ended-- sure, the first was meant to be out in 2008 (which was a pretty light year) and the second came out like the last week of April, but I guess if you look at it that way we got a fair amount of figures-- 14 movie (+2 droids) and 8 cartoon basic figures. So, while not great, it's about on par for a movie year-- it's just Q4 2008 was light, and Q1 2009 wasn't much better. Taken together, they don't hold a candle to the insanity that was September 2007-March 2008, where we saw something like seven waves of figures released in that very brief window.
Despite Hasbro's attempts at release dates, these things don't really work. Basically, the stuff hits the shelves when it does, despite the company's best efforts simply because the toy market in China isn't quite an exact science.
It'd be nice if we had a more robust Q1, or first half, but this isn't too out of sorts with how 2007 and 2008 went. I'm not saying I love it, but it's not exactly horrible.
2. With the cancellation (hiatus) of Titanium and the cutting back (which you predicted) of Mighty Muggs, along with some comments that Hasbro has made in some recent Q&As, it seems as if the era when collectors played a larger role in product choice and development is coming to a close (accompanied by the expected collector outcry). With this likely being the case, at least in the short term, what kind of changes would you forecast in the type of products we can expect from Hasbro as regards the 3 3/4" line, at least in the next 18 months or so? Fewer vehicles? Fewer oddball or rare characters? An emphasis on re-releasing the more popular figures that kids gravitate to?
Right now, we're seeing the line sort of go back to what's normal for the toy world. People forget that Star Wars is a real rule breaker. Few lines can support so many distinct product segments for a year, the fact that Hasbro has succeeded in pushing Galactic Heroes, basic figures, Titanium, Mighty Muggs, Transformers, and more for so long proves that this is a brand like no other. They change up Batman all the time, but people will still buy Jedi stuff.
I think collectors still play a significant role, simply because Hasbro wants our money. The sweetest plum is the kid-driven cartoon stuff, but there's still a ton of money to be had from us because adult fans buy for their kids as well as themselves. It's important to make sure dad (and to a lesser extent, mom) find the product as something they think their kids would enjoy-- even if it's just projecting.
I wouldn't worry too much about Hasbro ignoring collector needs. If anything, I think the 3 3/4-inch collector segment will probably be OK, as long as we can survive the long periods of draught between waves and the boring, boring exclusives they seem to be giving Toys "R" Us as of late. (Seriously, TRU got like 6 exclusives in 2009 and they're all repacks or boring.)
3. I've generally enjoyed the Clone Wars series of figures, but I'm a bit confused as to why some figures have super-articulation and others do not. I suppose I can understand why minor characters do not have bendable knees and elbows (i.e. Plo Koon), but it seems a bit nutty that both Obi-Wan and Anakin share the same stiff construction. On the other hand, you have the IG Assassin Droids, who are by far the most articulate figures to date. Can you give us any insight into Hasbro's logic here? Or is it just that they know we'll buy the super-articulated versions of those figures, too, thereby doubling the sales of that particular character over the long term?
Hasbro's reasoning changes from time to time, but it generally boils down to costs. Personally, I think that's just part of it-- there's more money to be made in double-dipping. Hasbro has already gone back to make a super-articulated animated Anakin Skywalker in one of its Battle Packs.
As a rule, I assume that Hasbro plans on going back and redoing a number of figures for vehicles or new releases down the road-- after all, this animated line should have at least four or five years in it. We're already getting a resculpted, more articulated Yoda in a couple of waves too-- the evidence seems to show Hasbro knows we'll buy the first releases, and then pick up the improved ones later.
4. Have you seen or heard of anyone gutting the back of the BMF to open it up for more space instead of electronics and open the hallway from the cockpit to the main hold? I'd like to gut mine, but since it's not on store shelves anymore (EE doesn't have it listed anymore either) I hesitate in case I end up breaking it.
That's a good question-- have any of you opened it up to see the back and taken pictures? Please share so I can post pictures.
5. Do you think a relaunch of (individually packaged - 3 3/4 carded) is possible
for internet multipacks exclusives? e.g. Republic Commando Delta Squad, Republic Elite, Clown pack...etc
What about action figures with a voice chip inside (commtech chips) do you see that as possible?
How about a freeze frame shot in or as part of the stand for the figure ?
How about smart chips inside vehicles to interact with specific figures w/ movie scene sounds?
Many questions! Let me do my best.
Right now, the last Hasbro said officially, is that figures from exclusive packs will only show up in individual packaging after the boxed sets have sold through with the exclusive partner(s). They've stayed true to this for the most part, we've seen Target's exclusive Clones show up in Saga Legends and the 2005 Entertainment Earth Exclusive Clone Troopers, too. I wouldn't expect Joker Squad (Clown Pack???) until that sells through, and even then, it might be a while. The rest are pretty much all up to Hasbro, Delta Squad seems about ripe for a new edition or a reissue given the demand and interest in those characters.
Freeze Frames and CommTech Chips will never, ever happen again. I'd like to say Hasbro will stick to figure-friendly "extras" like droid parts, but you never know-- some fans loved the coins, for example. Those little holographic figures got stolen a lot, so obviously someone liked them. I do believe display stands will be cycled in and out as the line continues, but I have to say I think we've seen an end to figures making sounds. Those chips add an extra cost to the figure and with few exceptions-- notably R2-D2-- it seems this sort of thing just doesn't really work too well. Smart chips too-- the past few years have revealed that toys with lights and sounds are going to be increasingly uncommon at the sub-$80 price point. Personally, I don't think lights and sounds are a great addition to collectible toys due to the possibility of battery corrosion and damage over the long term. Sure, it'll be fine for a few years, but if you're anything like me you hang on to stuff for a very, very long time. Be glad Hasbro isn't too keen on them.
I'm going on a bender of a toy run this holiday weekend, and I gotta say, the Target people are a real pain in the neck this Memorial Day weekend. "Can I help you?" "Yes, I'd like to buy a rancor." "Well, that's a collector's item."
Of course it is. That's why most collectors are going to wait for that 50% off markdown in, if history is any indication, a month or two. Ah well. I haven't had much luck, but apparently the Rancor and the remote control Astromechs are hitting Target stores right now. I've seen an abundance of waves 5 and 6 of Legacy, and a smattering of other stuff. Oh, and Tuesday Morning seems to be getting Wal-Mart's unwanted Indiana Jones overstock.
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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