A short question about a hat gets an even shorter response in Hasbro's answers to SSG questions for November 16th, 2009. Thanks again to Hasbro for the answers, to all the folks who sent in questions and especially those who voted on them.
Hasbro Q&A for the week of November 16th
SSG: We've been hearing how the TLC line has been having sales troubles going back to its inception in July '08. There have been numerous Hasbro comments about lowered volume due to a shrinking of the hardcore collector base and a virtual drying up of the casual consumer base. Now through Q&A we're hearing about entire waves of basic figures, the bread & butter of the line, possibly getting pushed back or dropped into exclusive territory as brand management tries to ensure that those molds get into collectors' hands at all. Yet through all this, we continue to hear that Saga Legends is a strong seller with the casual consumers and thus with Hasbro's retail partners. While we fans appreciate and admire the drive over the past 6 years to deliver 40 to 50 new figures per year, without entertainment support it appears that pace has become an albatross around the mainline's neck as multiple outside forces such as manufacturing and the economy beat up the line (along with the rest of the toy industry). When fans look at something like the AT-AT Driver figure, which had a chiefly satisfactory figure released only 3 years ago yet now has an entirely new tooling coming up, it seems like the priority to meet x-many new figures per wave is no longer a viable concept, as budgeting for figures that either won't see widespread release at retail or will get pushed back means the next products down the line suffer worse fates is spent across a wave rather than the mainline as a whole. Though not ideal, have you considered merging the mainline figures and Saga Legends back together, scaling back the overall scope of new figures to fit in releases alongside the Legends figures, and cutting down on new resculpted figures when existing ones like the 3-year-old AT-AT Driver would satisfy interest with little or no change? Would focusing all of the non-Clone Wars figures back into a single SKU help keep mainline figures afloat, even if the number of new figures is scaled back significantly?
Hasbro: Thanks for the thoughtful summary of the challenges that we are facing with the "new collector economy." We are determined to keep delivering significant newness in the basic figure line. The basic figure line that will take over after Legacy / Droid Factory will look a little different, along the lines of all the things you mentioned. It will consists of all new tooled figures (about the same proportion as are in the line now), significant repaints/retooled figures, Saga Legends-type figures, and figures released on basic figure cards for the first time. Because of the sheer popularity that Saga Legends has had with its audience, we will keep it going as a separate line but change up the figures some. We believe that it's critical to keep Saga Legends doing, as kids are getting the core heroes and villains (with occasional troops), while fans are adding troops to shore up their forces. However, exactly to your point, we will be refocusing Legends a bit and sending some key figures over into the line that will replace Legacy so there is some core hero traction to that line as well.
SSG: Why did K'Kruhk not come with his mythical hat as an accessory? Many of his fans had high hopes for its inclusion, as it's an important part of his persona. Did you consider this when you decided to make him, and if so, why didn't it make the cut?
Hasbro: He was already a very expensive figure, and we couldn't add his hat.
SSG: The end of the Titanium era has brought much dismay to collectors, not simply because of the grim unlikelihood for the future behind the "hiatus" status, but also because it leaves many great ships nearly impossible to find. Many Titaniums that saw limited releases or worse and were expected to get re-released in the future are now going to be mythical at best, such as the Gungan Bongo Sub (now doomed to be postponed into eternity), Trade Federation Landing Craft, Mon Calamari Star Cruiser, Rogue Shadow, Luke Skywalker's X-wing (Sculpt 2), AOTC Naboo Royal Cruiser, P-38 Magnaguard Starfighter, and more. What with the line's demise skunking the fans out of some great molds, would it be possible to get any sort of limited rereleases of these incredibly difficult to acquire treasures - and the ones that almost made it such as the Bongo - as HasbroToyShop exclusives? If not, why not? Isn't seeing ANY financial return on molds that haven't made their money back better than no return at all?
Hasbro: The demand for Titanium was low to begin with, relative to the 3-3/4" figure line, but has really been hit over the past year. Contrary to what some people think, convention (or online) releases find much smaller audiences than toys that get national release. Re-releasing these for Comic Con would not be a possibility due to the mismatch between demand and the much higher minimum quantities required by our factories. However, all is not doom and gloom for fans of Titanium, and we are looking for ways that we could bring it back out to retail. It may take a while, but we have a lot of heart for this series still.
And our questions at CollectionStation.com:
- With your recent answer about the Holiday Special aliens, you've put another nail in the coffin by pointing out that it is "forgettable" (though we'd argue clearly not as 3 generations of SW fans now talk about it and ask for figures from it despite having only grainy bootleg videos as their source) and figures from it won't be produced. In the past, you've done both animated-sequence figures (Boba Fett) and live-action-sequence ones (Zutton), so there is precedence to ask our question: what about Chewbacca's family? All 3 of them have appeared in other EU sources beyond the Holiday Special, but due to their origination, do you consider them figures that have little to no chance of production, or is there hope for any/all of them at some point down the line? (They wouldn't even have to come with their Life Day robes, if you absolutely couldn't find it in your heart to include them. But wouldn't that be like making a Tiny Tim figure and not including his crutch? That would be cruel... but we digress. ;-) )
- The Clone Wars episode "Trespass" from season 1 has resonated with a lot of fans, and the episode also sports a significant amount of noteworthy new characters and outfit variants just begging to be made into figures. Already we have the Freeco Bike confirmed, as well as snow gear Anakin and Obi-Wan, and Thi-Sen; but there's still Rex and the clones in snow gear waiting to be confirmed, the other Talz warriors, the arrogant Chi Cho, Senator Chuchi, and the Pantoran guard - there's more than enough interesting and exciting characters in this episode to fill an entire wave. While Hasbro is likely to do a number of these characters eventually, the episode will fade in buyers' memories fairly quickly, so can you reveal if any will be coming in 2010?
- Will you be reissuing the Scramble on Yavin Battle Pack in the new packaging design? Although a sleeper at first, it seems to be very popular and now many collectors themselves are scrambling trying to find it. We know you said that future Battle Packs would go back to the kid-focused styles, but as this is existing tooling and it's popular and it had a relatively short run due to the packaging change-over, it should get a re-release in the '09 packaging, don't you think? If not, what about reusing the vehicle in the Clone Wars deluxe figure & vehicle assortment? You've got other "just out of frame" vehicles there, heck, even the Desert Sport Skiff. Is it hard to believe that Clone pilots might use a transport like this?