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The Importance Of Hardcore Collectors

Today I want to revisit a topic I talked about here on JTA several months ago: the pillars of the Star Wars franchise and the importance of collectors, and especially hardcore collectors, for the overall financial success of Star Wars. As you may remember, the article from 2018 showed that more than 45% of the alltime Star Wars revenue was made with toys. Today I want to better quantify the importance of hardcore collectors and why neither Hasbro nor Disney can afford to ignore them. So click through for an explanation as to why exactly hardcore collectors are so important.

Star Wars Collection

Hardcore Star Wars action figure collection

Some of the readers were somewhat unhappy about the recent Captain Marvel article, which explained why the fringe fan groups on both sides of the spectrum have little to no influence on box office results. The general audience out there simply doesn’t watch YouTube videos explaining to you how terrible a movie or character is or reads websites and Twitter posts that gushingly praise the movie or character for ideological reasons.

That article merely looked at box office results. And here things are quite clear. Review scores on websites like Rotten Tomatoes don’t have any measurable impact on box office success. If you are interested in some background I encourage you to read an article on Medium.com by Yves Bergquist, who examines in great detail, using statistics and mathematics, the relationship between box office success and review scores. And he found there is none.
So that is that.

But when we talk about a modern movie franchise we also have to consider other things: merchandise and all the other things the fans who are more invested in a franchise will buy or do. There are not only toys, but also theme parks or – in the case of Disney – upcoming streaming services.

And here we have a very interesting thing: the Pareto Principle.

The Pareto Principle is based on the observations of Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who found out something very intriguing in his native Italy: 80% of all the land is just owned by 20% of the people. In other words: there is a lot of inequality when it comes to the distribution of real estate ownership. Pareto subsequently examined how things in other countries are and he found that things were very similar everywhere he looked. So it appears to be more universal and not just an anomaly.

Actually, since Pareto first examined land ownership it has been found that the Pareto Principle can be applied to quite a few things, even to the distribution of wealth, about 80% of all wealth is owned by merely 20% of the people.

But it doesn’t stop here, it was soon established that the Pareto Principle, now also known as the 80/20 rule in economics, also applies to customers of a business. You may already guess it now: only 20% of the customer base is responsible for about 80% of all revenue of any given business.

My former article on the pillars of Star Wars didn’t quantify the effect of hardcore collectors, it merely explained in words how one hardcore collector doesn’t just buy movie tickets, often multiple times even for a single movie, but also spends a three or four digit sum each year on merchandise.

Using the Pareto Principle we can now much better quantify this: there is every reason to believe that about 20% of all Hasbro Star Wars collectors, i.e. the hardcore fans, i.e. YOU, account for a whopping 80% of all revenue. Which means a few ten thousand people at most represent a very, very important revenue source for Hasbro.

That, in return, leads to the question why Disney is so hellbent on winning new fans and new customers, and, as some feel, at the expense of existing hardcore fans who are left by the wayside.
One reason is certainly demographics. The Star Wars hardcore fanbase is very male, quite old and rather white. It’s obvious why any longterm success for years and years and even decades of new movies, comics, books and theme parks cannot be solely built on that. The aging hardcore collectors will eventually retire. Not today, not tomorow, but maybe in 10, 20 or 30 years from now. But considering the Pareto Principle Disney would still be ill-advised to ignore the existing hardcore fanbase, or else they might suffer a lot, because the hardcore fans of today will remain a very important factor for at least another decade or two.

Now let’s look at Hasbro: you all rejoice about current Original Trilogy themed playsets and figures. I believe it’s also a sign that if Hasbro has the time (there’s an 18 month gap between movies for a change) and the leeway (Disney certainly mandates that current entertainment will always be the focus), they will always try to cater to their hardcore fanbase, the 20% who are responsible for 80% of the revenue. Hasbro most certainly knows who buys their products.

Therefore, while the fans gathering on JTA and any other fan website out there may not represent the majority of Star Wars fans or people who buy Star Wars merchandise, all of you are still more important than the average fan who maybe spends a few bucks each year on Star Wars or the MCU, you are the ones who account for 80% of all revenue, you are the ones who buy the action figures, go to theme parks, subscribe to streaming services. So Disney is well advised not to forget that. And another rule in business is that’s it’s always much more difficult to gain new customers than to keep existing customers happy.
Furthermore, in today’s modern entertainment franchises a movie is still just an entryway, the studio needs and wants you to buy the merchandise, to buy the books, the blu-ray, to play the games, to go to the theme parks and to subscribe to streaming services. The overall success of a franchise can’t be measured by movie box office alone, since it doesn’t represent 100% of the business a studio makes with a franchise or character. Whether or not a character or movie is a true success depends more heavily on the 20% hardcore customers than mere box office results let on.

Maybe the studios are releasing so many movies in recent times, one Star Wars movie each year, several MCU movies each year, to become somewhat more independent of the hardcore fans, since the movies attract a lot more casual customers than the merchandise. And of course there’s always a chance that the casual customer of today will be the hardcore customer of tomorrow. But for now the existing hardcore fans/collectors are a subgroup of the fanbase that cannot and must not be ignored, or else your business will be in danger.






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