Phil Reed of Battlegrip.com has a post up, “Five Reasons Why Hasbro’s ‘Star Wars Black’ Will Fail,” detailing why he believes the just-announced Star Wars Black 6″ Series (SWB6) will end by 2016 at the latest. First off, a three-year run by any toy line is pretty impressive in this day and age, but that’s beside the point. I’m not necessarily unconvinced by his arguments, but I do think Phil’s making some wrong assumptions in his post.
Let me preface this by saying I consider Phil a friend and respect him, and I see this as a good-natured argument (whether he’ll see it the same way I don’t know). Anyway, let’s look at his argument point by point.
1. Against Tradition
I’m not entirely sure what Phil’s argument here is except “People are used to collecting 3¾” Star Wars figures and aren’t going to switch to the 6″ scale.” I have a few responses to this.
First off, in my experience, many, many Star Wars collectors will buy anything. A. Ny. Thing.
Second, and more importantly, I don’t think this line is really all that targeted toward current SW collectors. It’s targeted to people like me, to fans of Marvel Legends and DC Universe Classics and Masters of the Universe Classics who don’t already collect the 3¾” figures. So this question of “tradition” is, I think, somewhat moot (and is by far the most lawn-defender-y of all of Phil’s arguments here).
Phil seems to be saying that the Black line won’t have the longevity of the 3¾” line. I think that’s probably true, although the recent return of Marvel Legends suggests that’s not the foregone conclusion he seems to think it is. But more importantly, at least for me, is: why would you even want SWB6 to have that sort of longevity? The 3¾” line subsists at least partly on rehashing the same characters in the same outfits over and over. Once I get my 6″ Boba Fett, I don’t really need another one five years down the line.
Phil finishes this section with “I don’t see Hasbro easily transitioning collectors to their new 6-inch scale line.” I don’t think anyone thinks that their plan. This is clearly an experimental side-line. And is this really that different than their Marvel plan, where the Marvel Universe figures exist comfortably alongside their Marvel Legends line?
2. Limited Play Potential
Here Phil argues that the inevitable lack of vehicles will somehow hurt the line, despite the fact that Marvel Legends has been going (off and on) since 2001 and DC Universe Classics has been going on (in various forms) since 2003, never mind the endless DC Direct stuff. Again, unless Phil is positing some scenario where the idea is that SWB6 will replace the 3¾” line – and who is making that argument? – I don’t see this as something that will hurt the line.
If anything, I think Phil is selling the characters of Star Wars a bit short. I happen to like Luke Skywalker and RD2D enough on their own. I don’t need to own an X-Wing in order to make me feel like having the figures is justified. The vehicles were an amazing innovation for the original SW line, but they’re not its only selling point – certainly not after all these years of getting to know these characters.
3. Twenty Bucks!?!?! (his punctuation)
Marvel Legends is already more or less at this price point, and I’ve seen maybe two or three Constrictors in my visits to TRU – everything else is gone. And I suspect any Star Wars figure is going to be more popular than any Marvel or any DC superhero (except maybe Spider-man or the Hulk). Phil writes, “I think parents won’t be able to get past that $20 price point and actually buy the toys.” I think that’s both true and beside the point, which, again, gets to a fundamental difference between how he and I are looking at this line: it’s not for kids, and Hasbro doesn’t need kids (or at least, not a lot of kids) for it to survive. The occasional kid may want them, but like Marvel Legends, this line is geared toward adult collectors and adult collectors’ wallets.
4. Difficult to Find
This one seems to be more of a statement than part of the argument, since Phil says it leads directly to #5, and therefore isn’t really its own point. However, I think this is a valid concern, but for a different reason. I suspect SWB6 will be hard to find, primarily due to limited production runs as a result of the expense of producing them and the smaller adult collectors’ market. If collectors can’t find the figures, they’ll give up in frustration and quit the line entirely. If the line does end prematurely, I think the “frustration factor” is a more likely scenario than…
5. Oversaturation of the Market
Here Phil speculates that the fast sell-outs of the early waves will lead Hasbro to produce huge runs of 6″ figures based on the new movies which then pegwarm. His argument for why they won’t move is because they’ll be targeted at [t]hose very same ‘adult’ collectors who have been skipping the prequel action figures because, well, because we’re old and cranky.” So then all that 6″ product pegwarms and the line dies.
I have a few quibbles with this argument:
- Like Marvel Legends and DCUC, I do not believe SWB6 will ever be delivered in “huge runs.” The figures are too expensive and, from what I’ve heard recently, barely break even cost-wise. Production costs might doom the line, but I highly doubt overproduction will.
- Hasbro has already stated the SWB6 will “primarily draw characters from the original Star Wars trilogy of films while also bringing in key players from the prequels.” Phil assumes Hasbro is going to do something that the company has already stated they’re not going to do.
- Phil assumes we “old and cranky” fans (and I admit I am one) won’t like the new movies and therefore won’t like the figures. Again, this assumption seems unwarranted. The problem with the prequels wasn’t that we grown-up fans were nostalgic and nothing could ever live up to our expectations. The problem was they are terrible movies – terrible in nearly every stage of execution all the way down to the very concept, which was to try and make an epic trilogy about the rise of a child-murdering fascist. There is absolutely no reason to think J.J. Abrams will produce anything nearly so bad, and in fact, quite the opposite could be true.
Do I think SWB6 will “fail”? Well, everyone has different definitions of what that would mean. Personally, there’s a handful of figures I need from the Original Trilogy and after that, anything else would be gravy.
I do worry about the production runs and the frustration factor. That’s part of what drove me away from DC Universe Classics, though my lack of familiarity with the deeper DCU and the heavy parts re-use probably contributed more. On the other hand, I think the return of Marvel Legends and the advent of SWB6 suggests Hasbro is attempting to deploy the same level of adult collector attention to Star Wars and Marvel that they have to their own licenses like Transformers and G.I. Joe. That might hint that they’re more committed to this than, say, someone like Mattel, who are much quicker to kill a line than Hasbro.
Anyway, that’s my 2¢.