Monday, January 7, 2013

An Uncertain Future for Star Wars Action Figures

It’s a strange time for collectors of the Hasbro Star Wars 4” action figure collection. The Droid Factory line has been cancelled, the Vintage Collection has been extended with re-packaged figures and a rumoured new line is mysteriously entitled “Back to Black”. With Wave 1 Movie Heroes figures filling the pegs at stores everywhere, how can Hasbro re-invigorate the line rather than letting it continue to dwindle?

There are undoubtedly a hardcore group of collectors who will continue to want, and will buy, Star Wars action figures. But as time has gone on, that group of long-term collectors has gotten smaller and smaller. It is now too expensive for many to buy one of everything. Obviously children make up a huge chunk of the target market too, however even they seem to have stopped buying Star Wars figures of late. In the UK, Star Wars LEGO now outsells Star Wars Hasbro – with the position Hasbro inherited, when 4” figures were intrinsically entwined with Star Wars, it is a shameful record to reach such a point.

The reason for this decline can be explored more fully elsewhere. The contributing factors include a lack of availability due to poor distribution, poor figure choices, too few new figures (see The Clone Wars line), too many lines and too much weight given to The Phantom Menace 3D release. These issues have combined to lead to a point where Hasbro has had to cancel the key collector-orientated line that had already been announced this week. So what should replace it?

A controversial, but strong answer, is nothing. No new 4” action figures should replace the Vintage Collection or Droid Factory. Maybe release some more from The Clone Wars, but preferably not. There are very few Star Wars collectors who would support this, but bear with the argument here.

Hasbro should announce that Star Wars is on hold as a 4” action figure line for the foreseeable future, and there will be no figures, vehicles or multi-packs. This would create a huge stir, get some press in the toy industry if it was actually announced as an “event”. Then, Hasbro should ensure that their warehouses are empty of all current stock. Get rid of all of those Movie Heroes figures still sat in the warehouse, and those frustrating Legacy Collection Wave 3 cases (yes, the ones from 2008). That way, the slate is wiped clean for a fresh start.

Over the next two or three years, with the line over, collectors and parents would have the opportunity to miss Star Wars figures. Collectors, rather than frustrated at the onslaught on product to collect, would miss the days of regularly going on toy runs to find the latest toys. Parents, unaware of what was going on, would wonder why Star Wars figures were no longer available in toy aisles.

Then, the year that Episode VII is due for release, Hasbro should announce at the Comic Con prior that Star Wars is returning to 4” action figures. Make a huge announcement of it, and preview the January product. The January product should be a range of 11 action figures based on the existing movies, primarily core heroes from the classic trilogy. The 12th figure should be a Sneak Preview figure for the new film. A handful of re-packaged iconic vehicles – the X-Wing, TIE Fighter, AT-ST and Landspeeder should be made available. The pent up frustration of collectors and children having spent three years
without Star Wars figures would turn this into a genuine event. It wouldn’t matter that the new figures were all existing characters again, because everyone would be so eager for new figures that any would do.  Then, in April, the full onslaught can return for the new film. This event would mark the full return of Star Wars action figures. One line exclusively for the new film, and a second line would continue the January assortment, sticking to core characters that would allow the new blood to collect classic characters as well as new ones.

This would never be adopted by Hasbro, as they have paid Lucasfilm for the licensing rights and will milk every year for any drop they can squeeze out of it. But if they are in it for the long game, this may be the way to make consumers excited about Star Wars again. Collectors have lost much of their enthusiasm, casual fans have forgotten the action figures, children seem less interested - something big needs to done to re-energise the Star Wars action figure line.

No comments:

Post a Comment