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Weekend Fun: How Popular Are Star Wars Toys?

One thing that always interests me is how Star Wars compares to the competition. How popular is Star Wars, and here I mean the toys really, in 2024, when we compare it to Marvel, GI Joe or Transformers? All Hasbro brands. Hasbro has not released exact sales figures for Star Wars in years, they used to brag about Star Wars sales back in the prequel era, which was about the last time they openly talked about revenue for Star Wars. Back then they even openly talked about Star Wars royalty expenses. Now it’s all top secret. So what can we do to find out how popular Star Wars toys (and here specifically action figures!) are compared to the major competitors? I thought that Hasbro’s own Pulse YouTube channel may be a good source to gauge how popular the various brands are. In the past three years Hasbro had a number of livestreams for all four brands on their Pulse channel and I believe that the number of views for each stream may be a good proxy for actual toyline popularity. As a bonus I will also look back to how things were in the prequel era. But how are things now? Click through to find out!

Who is more popular?

To find out which toyline is the most popular, at least on Hasbro’s Pulse YouTube channel, I simply looked at the number of views each livestream had and then compiled the data. To get a better idea how things develop over time I left gaps in the data, i.e. when one brand did not have a stream I would leave the field empty, by this I hoped to align all the streams on the temporal x axis which should give us a better idea how popularity changes over time in direct comparison.

And here are the results:

Click to enlarge

If we focus on the red dots, which represents Star Wars, we see a clear trend, livestream views are at best stagnating, but there is a negative trend really. You may notice the one big outlier for Star Wars (data point 11), this was the May 4th livestream in 2022. But compare that to data point 18, which was the May 4th livestream in 2023.  It is 67,546 vs 42,041 views. A reduction of about 1/3 in 12 months.

If we look at the other toylines we see that when Pulse started on YouTube Star Wars had the most viewed stream early on, but then Marvel, Transformers and even GI Joe took over. In the second round of livestreams Marvel already had more views. And that gap only widened as time progressed. The first Pulse livestreams are from late 2020, the latest streams are from early 2024. And in 2024 Star Wars is not only dead last once more, but the gap is ever more widening.

Let’s take a look at average views per stream:

Click to enlarge

Star Wars had 12 livestreams, Marvel had 15, Transformers had 14 and GI Joe 9.

Here you can see that as far as Hasbro Pulse livestreams are concerned Star Wars is in last place, even GI Joe manages to have somewhat more views per fan event. What may be surprising maybe is that Transformers is actually ahead of Marvel, Transformers gained a lot of views in the past 12 months or so and is now usually getting more views per fan livestream than Marvel even.

Now this is of course not an overly scientific method, but I still think Hasbro Pulse fan event livestream views can tell us a little bit about how popular each toyline is, which in turn is certainly correlated to actual sales. And as we can see Marvel is pretty stable, Transformers and GI Joe trend upwards, whereas Star Wars is slowly declining.

Bonus fact, the Indiana Jones livestream in 2023 had more views than the Star Wars livestream which followed shortly after. Not by much,  26k vs 25k. But still 1,000 more views than Star Wars.

Now the big question is how Hasbro can change that again. Star Wars, with Marvel, is certainly the most expensive toyline they have, when we talk about royalties and license fees. And you cannot even blame the Disney+ shows, because Marvel had it so much worse in 2023, all the Star Wars Disney+ shows outperformed Marvel, the Marvel movies were major flops, epic flops even. But that does not seem to impact livestream views at all really. Which implies that interest in Marvel Legends is still pretty stable, at least as far as hardcore fans are concerned.

And this is another caveat: livestream views will of course only gauge interest of hardcore fans, the ones who bother with the streams, this will exclude most casual collectors, if there are even many left in 2024. No one can say.

Anyway, I feel this is really sad for Star Wars. Star Wars used to rule and dominate the action figure market and in times past Marvel could not even remotely compete. But some time after the prequels Star Wars lost its might. You can find it even in old Hasbro earnings reports from the 2000s. They still talked about revenue for certain toylines in this era and in this time Transformers took over as the single most successful toyline for Hasbro, the toys made even more money for Hasbro than Star Wars during the prequel era.

And it seems Transformers are still more popular today.

I believe the Pulse fanstream views are also a good gauge for size of the hardcore fanbase. Star Wars is in the 25-30k range, which also coincides with what successful Haslabs manage to get. With that in mind we have to acknowledge that the Marvel Legends community, especially in 2023 and 2024 is twice as numerous, 50k. And Transformers is in the 70k range.

This can’t mean good things for actual production runs and you have to wonder how Hasbro (and Lucasfilm) can revitalize Star Wars again so the toys become more popular again.

Some bonus facts, if you look at old annual reports from Hasbro you can see how much things have changed. In the 2005 annual report Star Wars was mentioned 51 (!) times! Hasbro even provided the exact revenue for Star Wars toys that year:  $494.1 million. This is on the same level as the Phantom Menace line from 1999. Which was an astounding 16% of Hasbro’s total revenue that year alone! Something only Transformers eventually improved upon a few years later. In the 2005 report they also openly talk about Star Wars royalty payments, they had already paid $126 million in prepaid royalties to Lucasfilm and had to pay a future minimum guarantee of at least $67 million to Lucasfilm. Imagine Hasbro would talk about those numbers today… so much has changed since Disney took over.

Now look at the 2023 annual report… and Star Wars is mentioned exactly “0” times. And of course Hasbro stopped talking about Star Wars numbers shortly after the prequels ended.

Here a direct quote from the 2005 annual report:

Our revenue growth for 2005 was driven
principally by the excellent performance of our
STAR WARS line of products.

Those were the days… and in 2024 Star Wars can barely get 25k views on YouTube when Hasbro has a fan event and reveals new toys. And is not even worth mentioning anymore in the annual report. Disney and Lucasfilm have to think very hard about why that is. Because this is not something Hasbro is in control over really.

What do you think about the results? And what would you do to change it? And again, this is not super scientific, but I believe fanstream views are a good proxy for popularity and size of the hardcore fanbase.

Hasbro’s 1999 annual report (Phantom Menace numbers)
Hasbro’s 2005 annual report (Revenge of the Sith numbers plus royalty fees mentioned)

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