I had made a post (that I never actually posted) in response to this thread on Wednesday where I did my typical ranting and raving, but the more I read it, the more I realized that it was doing exactly what Hasbro has been doing with a lot of the stuff this year: retreading things that didn't need to be retreaded. There was a much more thoughtful way of presenting what I wanted to say, so I thought I'd hold off for a few days. Two conversations in the aisle yesterday, however, pointed out to me all that needs be said about the state of things right now.
First, I made a trip to Wal-Mart Numero Uno, and a mother and her two kids (one girl, one boy) were standing in front of the SW action figures. The girl had gotten her toy for the day (some kind of Barbie doll), and the boy was being allowed to pick out one action figure amongst the full pegs at WM.
"How about this one?," said the mother, referring to the 4 lightsaber H&V General Grievous.
"I already have him." said the boy.
"This guy looks interesting," said the mother, referring to one of the multitudes of Poggle the Lessers on the pegs.
"He sucks," the boy eloquently stated.
Three more figures were considered (Padme, Pilot Obi-Wan, and GB Threepio) but the former two were dismissed with "I have them already" and the latter was dismissed by pointing to the Endor Threepio on the pegs and saying, "I have that one and he's better than this one because he comes with the Ewok chair."
The boy walked on down the aisle to the POTC figures instead.
Then, at TRU, a mother and her son were looking at the Clone Wars Gunship and both the mother and son were searching endlessly for the "figures on the box" (the ARC Battle Pack). I decided to butt in and told them that TRU hadn't had those for quite a while and only got one shipment at that particular store. The mother then eloquently stated, "Why would they sell a ship without the characters to put in it? That's no fun."
She replaced the Gunship on the shelf and she and her son walked to the end of the aisle were the Transformers were and bought something there instead.
I'd also like to make the point that Hasbro is diversifying the line (as they so often state) far too much this year. The Choppers line was released and failed miserably, the Force Battlers line which, granted, hasn't shipped in a while still has a space at retail, and the Unleashed Battle Packs line (which I actually like a lot now that I've gotten into it) has the most horrid distribution (thousands of Wookiees and zero Clones in most places) you could imagine. The 7" Unleashed line is probably going the way of the dodo thanks to the rerelease of three not-so-hard-to-find figures at a higher price point (although Fett was the one wise choice they made), the Titanium Forged Figures are backed up to the point of maybe three people in North America having seen the third wave, the Titanium Ultra vehicles bombed horribly, and the Titanium 3" vehicle line is just one repaint after another these days.
Hasbro's two most successful spin-offs this year were, without a doubt, the Galactic Heroes and the Titanium Series vehicles. The thing that blows my mind is that Hasbro is continuing to say that the success of these two lines have "caught them off guard" (even though they've been saying that about GH since 2004) and it's just one repaint or repackaging after another. Thankfully they seem to be moving away from that recently (at least in GH), but the multitudes of unsold GH from earlier this year at WM and TRU doesn't bode well, I fear, for that line if things continue along that path.
Which brings us back to the basic line and what I reported hearing above. The figures that the boy turned down were figures he already had or that there were better versions available that he, also, already had. The vehicle the mother wanted wasn't "complete" in her or her son's eyes so she passed. Both groups moved on to another toy section (POTC and TF), which I think is a metaphor for people's general attitudes toward the SW line, us excluded.
If we look at the TSC this year, we have 24 actual new figures, countless slight retoolings and repaints (holographic figures and Utapau Clones and figures with only parts redone fall under this category, like the ERSes and the Sandtrooper), and at least 32 straight rereleases, often of figures that didn't need to be rereleased. And if you look at the pegs, the vast majority of the figures that are hanging there are these repacks. Out of the 24 actual new figures, the only ones that seem to hang around for a long period of time are the minor characters (Bib Fortuna, Major Derlin, Sun Fac, Lushros Dofine, Hem Dazon, Garindan, Jerjerrod, and the Naboo Soldier). When only 24 figures out of your grand total of 94 basic figures are new, that might be a problem.
The other mother's complaint was one that I've had for a while and that some people have told me I'm overreacting to: Products of one style being available at retail without the corresponding products to go with it (namely ships without pilots). In the year of ROTS, there were two Anakin JSFs and despite the #2 ROTS Anakin being packed in with one, there was no readily available pilot figure to put in it. They finally put one out in the Evolutions set, but those were never out in abundance and even the overpriced Commemorative Tin sets are the only option to get one now. We have a Mace Windu JSF with no real Mace pilot to fit in the cockpit until this coming January, a Kit Fisto JSF with no Kit Fisto that will fit in it, a forthcoming AAT with no Battle Droids at retail, a Saesee Tiin JSF coming with no Saesee Tiin on the shelves, a ridiculous white TIE Fighter with (presumably) no TIE Fighter Pilot on the shelves, and a TRU Exclusive Gunship with two Clone Pilots who aren't even available anywhere, and five other Clones who came and went in the space of about ten minutes, even though IMO they should be right on the shelves alongside the ships today.
And one doesn't even need to mention the high level of quality and character selection being done by other companies such as Gentle Giant, Master Replicas, Sideshow, Medicom, and even Lego these days. Hasbro is being defeated by the other companies in every way, shape, and form (and IMO, they're being publically shown up by Sideshow with their 12" doll line after Hasbro basically said nobody would be interested in 12" dolls anymore a few years ago), and instead of trying to do things to actually compete for the collector dollar, they churn out a bunch of EU comic book repaints, overpriced lunchboxes with lackluster figure selection, and think that packing in aluminum coins is going to appeal to people who, for the most part, will toss them in a box and forget about them completely.
So yeah, I think the state of the hobby is a great one if you don't look at Hasbro's absolutely illogical handling of the action figure license. I seriously worry that the coin pack-ins are a harbinger of the end of this line.