While Hasbro nailed New York Toy Fair 2017 with Marvel Legends, the Star Wars releases lacked anything truly surprising or exciting. The headline act was the complete reveal of the 40th Anniversary Collection, a subset of mostly re-released 6″ figures on distorted vintage style card backs that were already leaked before the event. The online collector reception has pretty much consisted of one big shrug, and it’ll be interesting to watch how the line sells over the coming months.
With an 18-24 month production time for new figures it’s easy to see how the ever-shifting release schedule of the new films is hurting what Hasbro can show and when. That said, I think a lot of people expected more than just repacks for the franchise’s 40th anniversary – but then there’s still plenty of time left this year. With Celebration and SDCC still to come (not to mention The Last Jedi in December), there will be more than enough new releases to get through.
Massive props to Hasbro for being organised behind the scenes though – these were revealed and put up for order at the weekend, and US collectors began receiving them yesterday. Can’t ask for any more than that.
I’m also happy to see the continuation of the 3.75″ Black Series line. It’s another repack wave, but they’re all figures that deserve to hit retail again. I’ll definitely pick up Ponda Baba and a few Sandtroopers, while Prototype Boba Fett looks good in either scale. I’m not sure yet if I’ll double-dip on the Tusken Raider, but it’s a great figure anyway.
And yes, I will take swivel elbows over 5POA any day of the week!
I get the impression that Hasbro is between a rock and a hard place with collectors. It’s in their interests to move over to a 6″ collectors line because of the higher profit margins, but I’d speculate that the reason this hasn’t happened completely is that there’s still a significant hold-out of collecting culture dedicated to the 3.75″ line. That’s why they went with vintage style card backs for the 6″ 40th anniversary collection – and there were several collectors online saying that these would be their first 6″ purchases, so there’s a chance it might just work.
The other problem is that 6″ collector culture is building up, but this is just promoting the fact that Hasbro isn’t the only game in town. The S.H. Figuarts line is where the real momentum is with 1/12 Star Wars figures right now, and Mafex releases are getting better as well. I think that this is why the 3.75″ line is being kept on life support. If the 6″ Black Series doesn’t prove as long standing as expected, Hasbro will need a dedicated fan base to return to.
This hasn’t stopped them trying to blur the lines though. The deliberate confusion created by labelling both scales ‘The Black Series’ makes it harder for the limited 3.75″ releases to be found online. Meanwhile, for Rogue One they gave the exact same characters exclusive releases across both scales. It’s a way of controlling the conversation; when collectors talk about the Walmart exclusive Scarif Stormtrooper, it quickly becomes a question of scale rather than the product in hand. One collector even reported returning a damaged SA 3.75″ figure to Hasbro and being issued with two 6″ replacements. By making the 3.75″ line invisible to all but the most hardcore of fans, they’re attempting to legitimise its replacement.
It’s not cool, but it’s business.