On paper things should look very bright for Star Wars. We have new movies. Quite a few of them too, with even more in the pipeline. And in the very near future we will get Star Wars shows on Disney’s streaming channel with one all new series, “The Mandalorian”, and the return of the fan favorite “The Clone Wars”. On the toy front we have a lot to choose from, there are 5 POA toys, there is The Vintage Collection, we have the Black Series, and on top of that there are Asian companies that also make 6 inch figures or model kits, not to mention larger scale figures such as Hot Toys / Sideshow, Jakks Pacific “Big Figs” or Hasbro’s very own 5 POA 12 inch figures. In terms of sheer choice things have hardly been any better. But nevertheless some collectors are unhappy, disillusioned and sometimes even angry at Disney, Lucasfilm and Hasbro. In this editorial I would like to talk about that feeling of frustration. Click through for some thoughts about the topic.
Warning: this text is quite lengthy. Feel free to ignore this article. But I hope that whoever reads this will engage in a good and constructive discussion about the Star Wars toy collecting community!
I can’t help but notice a certain frustration, disillusionment and even anger aimed at Hasbro among some collectors. Namely, fans of The Vintage Collection who feel neglected and left by the wayside by Hasbro after years and many times even decades of collecting figures.
TVC 2.0 has been met with a very lukewarm reaction by them. The many repacks are annoying longtime fans, the focus on Disney era characters is seen by many as a grave mistake, especially since most of the figures are 3.75 inch Black Series repacks. Hasbro is accused of mocking fans and collectors, others believe Hasbro is sabotaging TVC on purpose because the Black Series has higher profit margins and that Hasbro secretly hates TVC. Some collectors even think Hasbro is manipulating stores or supply chains so the good stuff can never be found.
Many collectors here on JTA want 5 POA figures gone and openly ask for the cancellation of the line. Not too long ago the Black Series was the primary target of disdain and some fans wanted it gone. Most of these collectors seem to begrudgingly accept that Black Series and 6 inch figures are here to stay, but now the focus is on 5 POA figures which should be abandoned in favor or super articulated figures.
I think all of this frustration is understandable. We collect things because we love them. And when the things we collect are no longer made or not made in similar quantities or quality as before then we get emotional. It’s only natural. However, that being said, I also strongly believe that a certain negative attitude towards Hasbro, Disney, 5 POA toys, Black Series, or whatever it is that irks collectors, is not helping.
Hasbro is openly mocked by some collectors for repeatedly stating that The Black Series is now their main line and their “bread and butter” as one Hasbro rep repeatedly said during a NYCC event. Even though it is just stating a fact: as of 2018 the Black Series is Hasbro’s main Star Wars toyline in terms of new sculpts, new figures and innovation.
While giving feedback to Hasbro (or any other manufacturer such as Jakks or Bandai) is vital and while not everything is perfect or even ok (it never is) there is constructive criticism and there is rhetoric that only divides the fandom or alienates other collectors and will most certainly be ignored by Hasbro.
Let’s talk about facts for a short while.
Hasbro introduced the 6 inch line in 2013 because there was demand. Most other action figure lines are 6/7 inch these days and Star Wars only had 3.75 inch figures (or 12 inch figures). The Black Series was hated by some TVC collectors and they swore to never buy a single 6 inch figure, yet the 6 inch figures became a success and 5 years later the line is still with us and is promising to give collectors some more great figures in 2019. And all of that despite the fact that SA 3.75 inch figures were never cancelled. TVC was rebranded.
Hasbro makes 5 POA figures because they sell. They are the entry level line aimed at people who don’t want to pay too much money for a figure or who simply prefer the old school 5 POA approach. And yes, there are collectors who believe 5 POA figures have much better aesthetics than their super articulated cousins. Would 5 POA figures not sell then Hasbro would stop making them. It’s as simple as that. Hasbro is not shy to cancel unsuccessful toylines: Star Wars Command, Angry Birds Star Wars and most recently the Centerline were all axed because they simply didn’t sell as expected.
Hasbro brought back The Vintage Collection. However, as any other toy manufacturer Hasbro operates in the real world with actual economic rules and constraints that determine what can and can’t be done. There are production costs. There are wholesale prices. Royalties to pay. Operating profits. Some collectors have been with Star Wars ever since 1978. Their needs and requirements are very, very different from someone who only started collecting in 2015 when The Force Awakens was released. So how do you balance all this? It’s not easy.
Some TVC collectors and fans should, in my opinion, stop fighting windmills.
Why are there repacks? Because if Hasbro only made all new figures then the budget for TVC would go through the roof and MSRP would have to be MUCH higher. And collectors in the USA already complain about the $13 price point. Let’s not even mention prices outside the USA. If prices for TVC were even higher than now they would very soon get into Black Series territory and look like a very bad deal, because most fans, actually, the vast majority, would not buy a smaller figure for almost the same price as a 6 inch figure. So price has to be lower, which also means margins are lower which in the end leads to less profit. Therefore Hasbro has to cut costs, whether you like it or not. And repacks and kit bashes are the only way to for action figure manufacturers to save tooling costs.
But repacks also serve another purpose: not everyone who buys the figures is a long time collector who already has 12 R2-D2 figures at home, repacks give new collectors a chance to start their own collection. Sure, you might say they should buy on the secondary market, ebay etc. But the truth is most people can’t be bothered to buy these things on ebay, they go to Walmart, Target or Amazon.
Why are there so many Disney era or sequel trilogy repacks? Because this is what the current focus is, this is 2018 and we have had four new movies since 2015. And not everyone could buy them at Walmart, some states in the USA don’t have Walmarts and USA collectors also forget that around the world most of these figures were never available in the first place. Hasbro is not USA only, it sells toys all around the world.
The Vintage Collection, as any of the other toylines, will never be only about the original trilogy or prequel trilogy anymore. It will always feature a percentage of figures from the new movies.
Asking for the cancellation of toylines in the hope that all that budget, manpower and figure slots go to your toyline of choice is futile. TVC and 5 POA figures are very different lines and if Hasbro canceled 5 POA figures the profit margins for TVC would not change a single cent and instead of more TVC figures you would get simply even less Star Wars figures, all the 5 POA figures that never will get made.
Also, asking for the cancelation of toylines you, personally, hate or dislike is alienating all those collectors who DO like these lines. Also, it is not constructive criticism. Constructive criticism should be rooted in reality, which means considering real economics.
Any fan, no matter what you collect, should also never forget that what WE want, especially here on JTA or any other collecting site, is NOT representative of collectors as a whole, since we are not a homogenous group. There are Star Wars collectors everywhere. USA, Mexico, France, Germany, Japan, Australia even a few in China possibly, all over the world. And Hasbro could never ever cater to one small subset of fans only, it would simply be a bad business move. Hasbro has the global license for Star Wars, not just the license for the USA, even if the USA is the single most important market.
Sure, Hasbro could make a mainline Sim Aloo figure with all the bells and whistles. Then the few thousand hardcore collectors would be happy, buy the figure, but the many others who don’t even know who Sim Aloo is and feel nothing for an old man in a robe couldn’t care less. In other words: Sim Aloo would probably be a guaranteed pegwarmer.
So in the end, if you are unhappy with Hasbro, let them know. They certainly are thankful for feedback. But I believe it is counterproductive to demand things that are more or less economically impossible, bad business moves and also alienate other collectors. How do you think 5 POA fans (which shouldn’t exist according to some collectors) feel when they read about cancelation demands day after day after day?
I can only say this: respectfully and politely tell Hasbro what figures you want, without asking for the death of other toylines or scales. Always keep in mind that Hasbro is a business, they are in it for the money. Certain things are simply not feasable, other things would only cater to a much too small subset of fans. Haslab might be the way to produce certain toys that would never make it to retail otherwise, so maybe it’s a good choice to coordinate efforts to tell Hasbro what the next TVC Haslab project should be. Put your focus on that, be constructive. Make a list of must have figures that would appeal to Haslab supporters and never make it to retail otherwise. Talk to Hasbro, lobby for that. Be constructive. Telling Hasbro that they hate you, mock you, want to bury TVC on the other hand achieves absolutely nothing.
It is my hope, my wish, that we all, as a collecting community, remind ourselves of the very simple fact that we are all here because a) we love Star Wars and b) we love the toys. Some of us love 5 POA toys, others adore TVC and yet another group fancies 6 inch figures. Which is all perfectly fine and ok. The various toylines and fans do NOT compete. They are all distinct, each line offers something very different, each line has its strengths, each line is wonderful in its own right. The demise of one line would not mean the surviving line would prosper, it simply doesn’t work like that.
And last, but not least, I hope we can get our feet back on the ground and maybe submit some of the things we post to a reality check before we hit that “send” button. Hasbro does not hate us. Hasbro does not hate TVC. Hasbro does not mock us. Hasbro does not spite us. Hasbro does everything based on ecomomic principles. Is everything perfect? No. But always remember, whatever it is that you dislike or feel is absolutely not needed at all may be something that someone else loves and needs.
Your local Walmart or Target is a bad gauge for the success of any particular figure or line, since Star Wars toys are sold all over the world and online. You can be absolutely sure that Hasbro will stop doing things that are not profitable. And if Hasbro keeps doing things you, personally, think are stupid, silly, insane or simply bad (5 POA toys, Black Series, Mighty Muggs) then only because someone, somewhere buys these things and because Hasbro makes a profit. And if Mighty Muggs are not selling… then expect them to be canceled. As simple as that.
And finally: no, Hasbro is not doing everything right. Of course not. This is why we need constructive criticism. After years and years of feedback (and sales figures, most likely) Hasbro will finally do away with Black Series repacks of figures from previous waves. Hasbro will give new fans a chance to catch up with the Archive line. Hasbro will give TVC photo real paint apps which will certainly make the figures look better and yes, complaints about current TVC paint apps are justified. Hasbro knows that too, which is why they developed photo real for 3.75 inch figures in the first place. But whatever it is we criticize, just be constructive. This is not a conspiracy where Hasbro makes TVC bad on purpose just to have a good laugh.
Longtime TVC fans have every right to be unhappy, but as hard as it is, as difficult as it is, they must realize that they are not all there is. TVC 2.0 is not just for them. It is for everyone. You may argue that there are no new fans buying TVC 2.0, that only longtime collectors do care and buy the the figures. I say this: in the end only one thing determines the future of Star Wars toys. Sales figures. And if Disney era TVC (repack) figures actually don’t sell then expect much less of them in the future. If there will still be Disney era (repack) figures going forward then not to spite you, then because someone, somewhere is very happy with them and loves them. But there will be something else for you as well to make YOU happy.
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