Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hasbro Reveals the Black Series

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Hasbro are being bold in their plan for the Star Wars action figure line. After a few months of uncertainty, New York Toy Fair saw the unveiling of what the plan for 2013 is. Some will be excited, some disappointed but all are likely to be surprised. Read on for reaction to the new 6” line, the new 4” line and whether any of this will be the re-boot Hasbro are hoping for.

The new line targeted at adult collectors is called ‘The Black Series’, a bizarre title that seems only to be based on the colour of packaging. Clearly that wasn’t the best brain-storming session that Hasbro have ever undertaken. The Black Series will be the home of high quality, super articulated action figures – now in two scales. The 4” line will continue, however a 6” line at twice the price point will also be introduced. 

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The 6” line is designed to recruit new collectors, and to attract adult fans they are presented in attractive boxed packaging. The line is designed for main characters from the classic trilogy and a few iconic prequel characters too. Each wave will contain four figures, with a regular gap between waves. Many collectors are extremely excited at the prospect of something new, feeling that the line needs something drastic such as this. Others, especially those who have been collecting for years, will not be ready to purchase these characters all over again in a new scale. 

The 4” Black Series is simply the same as
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the Droid Factory line was going to be – but with different packaging and no droid piece. Pablo Jill and Mara Jade should be popular in Wave 2 as they haven’t been on the shelves for some time, and Mara Jade deserves a premium action figure release. It’s a shame that Wave 1 is such a lacklustre selection (figures such as Ceremony Luke Skywalker, Arena Padme), as it may kill the line before it has started. As the Movie Heroes line of 2012 showed yet again, a dud first wave means the second wave never makes it out. 

The most controversial unveiling is the new 4” Saga Legends line, which replaces both Movie Heroes and The Clone Wars. Any characters from The Clone Wars will now be produced in realistic style, in a move that many feel Hasbro has
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put off for too long (and if Hasbro can get away with it, can LEGO please just make the mini-figure faces all the same now?). Although all of the figures will be in movie style, none of them will feature premium articulation. Saga Legends figures will now have a mere five points of articulation to reduce costs and make them affordable to children. These figures supposedly look great still, but Mace Windu is an example of these looking cheap (presumably because they are cheap). It seems a fair move, but the character choice isn’t great now the 3D re-releases have been scrapped. It seems surprising that it is cheaper for Hasbro to design these new sculpts rather than re-use some of those from the last decade of Star Wars figures.

It is a relief to know that decent vehicles will still be available as exclusives, and that vintage style packaging will pop up from time to time. What is a relief is that the quantity of product will be reduced, with a more focused collection. This is certainly a good move, as more fans will take the ‘Collect them all’ approach if there are actually a realistic number of figures released each year.

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Whether Hasbro’s big shake up will pay off will be interesting g to see, but it’s unlikely that the 4” and 6” Black Series will both survive. It all depends whether fans vote with their wallets for a new scale of the same characters, or want to stick with the scale that has always accompanied Star Wars. One deciding factor may be price, because as nice as the 6” figures look, $20 for an action figure isn’t super cheap. 

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