With the announcement earlier today of Hasbro’s upcoming 40th Anniversary releases there have been a lot of comments on social media and various collecting websites about how terrible these new releases are. Complaints that this isn’t what “collectors” have been asking for and not what they want to collect.
I have a different take on these announcements. In the past, and I think again now, Hasbro has released items that are meant to capture the attention of people that don’t collect toys on a regular basis. Such as the 3-packs that were released in 2006 when the DVDs dropped, or the 2007 30th Anniversary Commemorative Tin Collection, for example. I think the Titanium wave of 3.75” die-cast “statues” fall into that category, they’re a premium display piece for those buyers that may not want an action figure but want something to put on a shelf or on their desk to celebrate the anniversary of their favorite movie franchise.
The 6” Black Series figures that are still rumored for the 40th Anniversary, the original 12 characters plus an Early Bird set, are targeted at collectors and action figure fans. I’m not sure if we’ve seen a rumor yet for more Black Series 3.75” figures at Walmart, but believe there was a hint that we could see something in the Vintage Collection packaging. Whether that’s a limited release, store or online exclusive remains to be seen, if it’s coming at all.
We all need to recognize that there’s a bigger market that Hasbro and Disney want to tap into and just because something doesn’t fit the mold of action figure doesn’t immediately mean it will be a failure or that it’s unwanted. Disney seems to be doing just fine with their Elite Series die-cast figures and the static PVC figure sets were well received from posts that I’ve read on forums.
Not only that, but the io9 article from earlier today only highlights four products from Hasbro. Toy Fair kicks off next week in New York City and it stands to reason that we’re going to see more toys from Hasbro for the 40th Anniversary and the upcoming releases from The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and possibly a tease for The Last Jedi.
While the collector community that frequent forums and comment sections on collecting websites are vocal about what they want, they’re still only a small portion of the whole market for Star Wars collectibles. I’d also argue that it’s a fractured group where only a few action figure releases would obtain a consensus. Visit different sites and you’ll find people asking for upgrades or “definitive” versions of characters Hasbro has already produced dozens of versions of, finish remaking all of the vintage Kenner figures with modern super articulation (SA), or mine the 40 years of expanded universe (including books, comics, video games and animation) material for characters the mainstream market has never heard of.
Over the last 20+ years, Hasbro has dug further into the corners of the Star Wars universe to produce action figures of more characters than any other franchise I can name. I read comments on forums how some astromech droid that skittered across the back of a three second scene in The Revenge of the Sith is now someone’s favorite droid of all time. It probably has a figure from Hasbro. It was also never even noticed by 95% of the audience. That’s what Hasbro has done over the last two decades.
But now we’re in a new era with a movie coming every year for the foreseeable future. Hasbro and other license holders have less than 12 months to launch a line, sell it to the public and move on to the next movie. That’s going to leave less time for background characters from the new films so to think that they’re going to release figures of your favorite shadow that flitted through the cantina in A New Hope is asking a lot. It’s 2017 and we still don’t have Luke Skywalker or Leia in her general outfit from The Force Awakens . That’s how it works now. I don’t disagree that Hasbro isn’t always making what I want to collect, but I take the items I do like and pass on the rest. And if a new character misses the cutoff or an older figure isn’t upgraded, that doesn’t diminish what Hasbro has been able to accomplish since 1995. Collectors need to recognize that times have changed, the market has changed, and the goals of companies and who their target audience is has changed.