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Is The Star Wars Toy Line Inadvertently Being Sabotaged?

Posted by Paul | February 09, 2016 at 11:29 AM ET

Is the collector-focused Star Wars line sabotaged? Is Hasbro's toy line in general always going to be like an upstream battle? Are we being told what we should like? Yeah, that sounds about right in this day and age. (more....)

"Well everybody loves to dance around the heat and fire
Oh lightning strike twice
Hey everybody bask in the afterglow...."

– the B-52s “Bushfire” (1989)

I am wondering. And before you try to answer it, please know that my question is rhetorical. Are things terribly different with Star Wars collecting now then how it was a few short years ago during the golden era (2006-2012)? Obviously the answer is yes. But there is more to my pondering. It appears that not even the largest and most successful Star Wars film of all time (The Force Awakens for those slow on the uptake) can get us back on track to the good old times. Either the collector base has reduced to inconsolable numbers, or the market for 1960s/1970s small plastic men and women just isn’t that big of a deal for the new generation of collectors or at the very best it isn't supported like it used to be. In 2013 when the 5POA line of action figures were introduced (actually 2012’s Movie Heroes started this downward spiral), Hasbro left fan sites with the notion that “we need to do this now so that bigger things can be done in the future like when the new Star Wars film gets released.” Please note this isn’t a direct quote and it is probably paraphrased as loosely as could be, but the idea was that they had to change their approach now to provide a budget line to keep the line afloat and then things could return to the ways we liked once a new Star Wars film was out. Expensive action figures was one of Hasbro’s greatest customer feedback criticisms during this time. Sadly, now these budget figures cost as much as the super-articulated figures during the same time.

It’s crystal clear that we reached a completely different new era of Star Wars collecting. Where the products released are only meant to support the media for a short window of time, it’s on to newer and "better" things once that window of opportunity passes us by. Are we never going back to an extrapolative type of Star Wars line where even if the line look changes it still continues to bring new characters and sculpts from the most recent media event or film as well as provide a concentration of older characters into the line here and there? Choices for the collector’s line is dependent on if a form of those characters appear in the new property at hand, not the needs of the collecting community. (The Walmart exclusive 3.75” Luke Skywalker and Han Solo come immediately to mind. It also reminds us of the painful reality that we only have five super-articulated action figures from the new film.) Re-releasing the TVC Emperor’s Royal Guard and Ponda Baba are cost-prohibitive because there is no link to them in The Force Awakens, despite what aftermarket eBay prices say the need is. On paper, if there is no direct correlation between a collectors’ figure and the new film and/or media event then we’re just all out of luck. Everything is dependent upon something else. Does viability still exist for a truly collector-focused line anymore? Have we become so jaded that nothing interest us anymore and Hasbro has felt these vibes loudly and clearly?

I have noticed this new trend of the collector focus dying since Rebels. But none of you are idiots out there either, so you’ve obviously been experiencing the same feelings. If you think about it, the Rebels line shares a great deal in common with The Force Awakens line. Initial allotments either didn’t show up or were so hard to find that people gave up looking for them. (The Force Awakens line has made a couple of my own friends permanently depart from Star Wars collecting. It was no longer fun to collect for them. I digress.) If the product does hit, it rarely ever returns. And the lack of communication of what is even coming in the line is the worst it has ever been. (For the record, Hasbro STILL hasn’t acknowledged the final Saga Legends wave with Commander Bly, Leia Poncho and Han Trench Coat that JTA broke news about back in early 2015). Let’s also not forget the sudden “cancellation/never arriving to shelves again/discontinued/sold out” state that the Rebels line experienced when many of us never having seen wave 1 at all (many of us still haven’t seen them today). And now with Hasbro stating that there will just be a few new products announced at Toy Fair this year leads us to believe that the current line looks are on their way out to prepare for the new Rogue One Star wars film media event. Of course it makes sense to not see Rogue One toys yet, but there is a disconnect between Hasbro and its passionate audience and we wonder if communication will ever be restored. Let’s get back to the glory days when we all lived in peace and harmony together.

I really don’t believe that a whole new generations of Star Wars fans are asking mommy and daddy to go to the stores to buy the latest action figures. Kids are into different things today. Sure, there will always be kids interested in Star Wars toys. But I really have to wonder how many kids are really wanting a Gos Toowers and PZ-4CO. Something isn’t ringing true in my own mind about this. And it’s hard to bury your head in the sand when you see evidence of this decline in interest in collecting Star Wars toys. I received my quarterly Entertainment Earth catalog in the mail yesterday. As I thumbed through to find the Star Wars section as soon as possible, I was quite surprised (actually shocked) to see not much advertised in the way of Hasbro products. Sure, Entertainment Earth is still making space for The Force Awakens and The Black Series [Phase III] exclusives. And they have all of the case assortments available online to order, but why is the catalog so stark? There are no blurbs or information on ANYTHING else part of the Hasbro line. Maybe this is the new standard. During The Legacy Collection and Legacy Collection and The Vintage Collection era, there were pages and pages of Star Wars items listed from Hasbro. And there were awesome charts on how to assure that you would grab all of the droid parts with the Build A Droid figures. Clearly, it has al changed for the worse.

Oh, and it seems Hasbro has been moderately successful in getting longtime 3.75" collectors to accept that The Black Series 6" is the new norm. But with their horrid paint operations, woefully awful distribution and staggered releases, that doesn't even seem like its enough to sustain a brand.

But I have to ask. How can we be less than 90 days out from the largest Star Wars film of all time and see so little “pimping” for the toy line? Is only a small group of Star Wars collectors basking in the afterglow? Is everyone “good” for now until the next “instant gratification” Star Wars media event? Is our attention span getting smaller and smaller in between the media events? Have we accepted this new standard of collecting as the norm now? There is no pure enjoyment of Star Wars now. No one basks in the afterglow. I don’t even hear fans talking about The Force Awakens anymore (generally speaking). Friends and acquaintances are always referring to the OT and PT in conversations. It’s like The Fore Awakens came, saw and conquered, but didn’t leave a lasting impact. Am I alone in my sense of this cooling off I am seeing? Does modern Star Wars media no longer possess the staying power of the OT and even the PT? I won’t bother going into my own crazy conspiracy theories about this, but I do have to wonder. Is Hasbro alienating the last facet of adult collectors (those who have been in with Kenner since 1978) or are they sabotaging their own toy line? Lightning will likely strike twice with the next Star Wars film. But are we truly loving dancing around this excitement and warming fire when it comes to collecting?

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