Is the cost savings in design, production and the like made up in reduced sales from collectors who will buy one of every figure?
That depends on who the market REALLY is.
If it's made up largely of adult collectors who will only buy one or two of everything, then Hasbro would not reap the benefits of completist collectors like me who are a sucker for every arbitrary resculpt. Basically this is the Vintage line all over again. Some collectors will buy the figure on every card it comes out with, others will be happy with just one and move on to the next costume change.
If your consumer base is made up of an ever-cycling rotation of kids, ala Power Rangers
, who are constantly coming into and getting out of buying the toys like a revolving door demographic, then re-releasing the older figures for new fans makes perfect sense. However, I don't think that's the Star Wars scenario right now.
I believe the future of the line will include a MAJOR overhaul. Sometime around 2007, Hasbro will relaunch the Star Wars line with Power of the Force 3
featuring a line of fully poseable, fully accessorized, definitive 6" scale action figures. Basic figures will retail for $9.99, more obscure figures will be multi-packed with other core characters for $24.99 - $44.99. Emphasis will be on scale, authenticity, color, and articulation. There will be VERY few vehicles in this scale, probably only for the hardcore collectors due to high pricepoints, and playsets will be limited to small diorama type displays packaged as "deluxe" accessories.
I have seen it. It's all true.