Seriously, think about it. Sculpts are better now, there's more articulation, and we're getting more lines, but are figures as a whole better? I don't think they are.
Think of the big five action figure lines of the 80s: Star Wars, Masters of the Universe, GIJoe, the Transformers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Also think of the Marvel and DC figures who were made in a few different lines (mostly Super Powers and Secret Wars). All of these lines are represented in new forms today, and all are still going strong.
GIJoe and Transformers were both brainchildren of Hasbro. Both lines originated as toys with on-packaging character bios that are more extensive than the character development in most Hollywood blockbusters. (In the case of GIJoe, these were provided by comic scribe Larry Hama.) Cartoon series and comics, both with generally solid stories, followed. The comics for each were so successful that they continued for a couple of years after the toy lines eventually stagnated and died out in the 90s. And both cartoons inspired movies. The GIJoe movie is decent but nothing spectacular. The Transformers: The Movie, however, is easily one of the best animated films of the decade.
And today, both the relaunches suffer from incurable "Power Rangers Syndrome": toylines scrapped after a year or two, to be replaced by another that bears little resemblance. While at one time, there seemed to be no real difficulty in finding any character, and characters were in production for at least two years (more in a few cases, like Bumblebee, Starscream, and the generic Cobra Trooper), now choice characters are tougher to find due to being shortpacked and produced for only a couple of months. Also, popular characters like Snake Eyes, Gung Ho, Bumblebee/GoldBug, and Optimus Prime were resculpted after earlier versions were unavailable because the characters were popular. And how many different Optimus Primes are on the shelf at any given time now? 47? 48? Both lines are pretty much excuses to reuse the same molds and names (though not always in conjunction) over and over again.
And the new cartoons suck. Period. And, yes, IMHO, that goes for Beast Wars as well. Like Power Rangers and Pokemon and all that garbage, they're all nothing but blatant toy ads.
He-Man figures were, IIRC, in constant production until the end of the line. If you didn't want the latest Super-Mega-Dragon-Punch He-Man, you had all the other versions still available. There weren't a whole lot of resculpts, considering the massive number of figures produced. But the new line has made it near impossible to find any character other than He-Man or Skeletor, who were in the first year resculpted more times than in the vintage line. I've given up any hope whatsoever of finding the Snake Men or Roboto, because I don't think anyone carries the line anymore. It's effectively dead, and (especially given the excitement we all had about the new sculpts) in record time.
(Oddly enough, the cartoons based on He-Man have gone the opposite direction of the trend: from an old cartoon that is, in retrospect, absolutely horrible to a solid series that obviously takes some effort to produce.)
These original characters were so strong that we're eagerly anticipated movies based on at least two of them now, not when they were produced. Who's dying for a new Power Rangers or even Pokemon movie? Anyone?
Mattel is also hard at work killing off their Batman line. Not learning from the mistakes many toy companies have made in the past decade, they insist on reproducing Batman in every possible shade of the rainbow. (This morning, for the first time, I saw neon green and orange Batmen from the new line.) Villains and supporting characters (one or maybe two per wave) are so shortpacked and in such high demand that they are absolutely impossible to find. Spider-Man is in a similar state, though not as extreme. At least his resculpts make some sense, and the villains are shipped in decent proportions.
But in the old Super Powers and Secret Wars lines, we had just about every character imaginable. We even had figures of freakin' Kang and Mantis! Who are Kang and Mantis? I've read comics for decades and I have no clue!! (Okay, so I know of Kang, but really have no idea about Mantis.) And there was onlyone--count him, one--Batman!! The Marvel Legends and Classics lines from Toybiz seem to have the right idea on this, and overall are probably the best managed properties today. And they'd be even better in my book if they'd hurry up and make the Marvel Legends Jubilee that's way overdue!
The original Ninja Turtles line was plagued with resculpts from the beginning, but we still got tons of other characters. In the new line, in the time it took the original line to churn out probably around 50 or so figures, we have three (four?) each of the Turtles, one Splinter, two Shredders, one Hun, and four (five?) variations of Foot Soldiers. There may not be as many characters in the new cartoon, true, but would it kill them to make Baxter Stockman or the Garbageman?
And now to Star Wars. I wouldn't argue that production-wise, even the gimmick-laden AOTC figures kick the tar out of most of the vintage line. And I'd have killed for something like the Power FX X-Wing or Naboo Royal Starship as a kid. But availability and selection are very serious problems for SW. Every figure in the old line (okay, not every figure, since I doubt any of us had Yak Face back in the day) was readily available, and produced for long periods of time. There were exclusives, but these often ended up on the open market shortly. Many desirable characters and vehicles are now exclusive or shortpacks, and some are produced but never released in many countries. And fans have to petition and beg constantly to get background characters over unneeded resculpts of Luke and Obi-Wan. You would at least think that, given the number of figures produced in both lines, all the characters deemed important or cool enough to be made 25 years ago would be updated, or at least all the characters who have speaking lines!
As for other lines, there's a lot more available now, true. Who would've expected in the 80s that we'd have figures based on Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th? But if there had been an Elm Street toyline back then, it wouldn't have been just Freddy. I mean, I don't think McFarlane even bothered to make Newt, Dutch, or Ripley in the all-Aliens/Predator wave of Movie Maniacs.
But why do some hot properties that obviously lend themselves to action figures, like Pirates of the Caribbean, never have any tie-ins, and others, like Hulk and X2, are so poorly done as to die lightning-fast deaths.
It's not that I hate toys now, or would stop collecting. But I wish certain things were handled more like they were then.