Author Topic: Are action figures dying?  (Read 2043 times)

Offline Morgbug

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Are action figures dying?
« on: August 18, 2005, 10:02 PM »
We've heard it and said it before with respect to Star Wars or just in general.  Retailers sometimes suggest it, the section size dwindles, kids buy video games. 

What precipitates the question is a store I was at today.  Local collectibles shop that splits its sales between 12" military figures and action figures.  His military sales are fairly stable and it's a pretty mature market from what I can tell, most customers are older than me.  On the other side I was amazed by what I could find and his prices have started falling.  This is an entirely huge range of figures, many lines I would collect is space, $$ and marriage weren't an issue. 

But so much was just sitting there.  I don't go in often, just when I need to find something and don't mind paying above normal retail.  By way of example it's where I found my Unleashed Stormtrooper for $5 extra.  Still has IG-88 and Aurra btw.  Basically I make it in there about once a month or so. 

Lots of red clearance stickers were to be found - star wars, Simpson's and many others.  All of Alex Ross' Justice League series I was sitting there.  The latest Buffy and Faith figures were there, not really moving well.  Family Guy series II was marked down (he never got in series I).  LOTR was sitting there, the latest wave, hadn't sold in a month, not even the Eye of Sauron.  The examples go on and on, never mind all the examples of sportspicks that were sitting there. 

What's your take on it?
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Offline Gregorbian

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Re: Are action figures dying?
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2005, 10:21 PM »
I'm sure that action figures are taking a hit from video games.  I know I stopped buying action figures when I was 12 or 13 because I was playing more video games.  I think we're going to see less "mass-market" figures (Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Batman, maybe even Star Wars) and more "collector-oriented" action figures (McFarlane, NECA, etc).  Personally, I will force my kids to play with toys if I have to  ;), but I think in the future, we're going to have to go to specialty type shops to get our toy fix  :-\
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Offline Jesse James

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Re: Are action figures dying?
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2005, 11:02 PM »
The best thing to do when wanting to look in the Toy Industry Crystal Ball is to check out Asia...  Their toys are almost squarely aimed at a more adult market while kids are geared to electronics anymore (as are adults, who have disposeable income to spare I guess).

For instance the Hot Toyz snap-kit figures are a prime example of the trends...  These things are sold in the f'n checkout lane of stores and they're basically a super articulated, highly detailed, incredibly sculpted, mind-bogglingly painted, and nicely accessorized figure from Aliens Vs. Predator...  All ina  little blind packed box.  They're complex, a "kit" so there's some fun in constructing it, a collectible, an amazing action figure, and they're sold like next to the Kit Kats... 

You can't even get that here in a Toy Aisle much less the checkout lane.  It's incredible.

I think Action Figures aren't going to die, but I think we'll see the trend of them being aimed at adults increase as time wears on, especially the Star Wars brand which will lose kids in general by year's end I believe.  At least this resurgence they've had with ROTS's popularity.

Still though, whole lines are popular the world over...  GIJ, Star Wars, and Transformers to name 3.  I think they have their place, they'll just be changing over time, at least in who their respective company feels their market is.

I know like 1:18 military figures have this almost 100% adult market that is voracious for product but the companies supporting it are slow about it.  They're action figures though, through and through, and popular to no end.  It's all adults though.  I can't see a kid wanting a German in a trenchcoat, or a Japanese Officer, or an Iwo Jima Camo Marine...  Thems daddy's toys!
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Offline Bob Crane

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Re: Are action figures dying?
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2005, 01:37 PM »
Video games and computers are killing the mass-“kiddie”-figure-market.
Decrepit-crap like this is going to kill the adult collector’s market much the same way Geriatric Gangrene Jujitsu Gerbils  helped kill independent comics. Once the dust finally settles only the mighty shall remain.
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Offline Ben

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Re: Are action figures dying?
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2005, 03:22 PM »
I'm beginning to think that between rising retail prices on collector-oriented figures and rampant scalping on line liks ML and Star Wars, that this thing will just suddenly break, and leave lots of speculators with goods they can't sell.

This hobby has been artifically inflated for so long that I can't believe it's still going.
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Offline Chris M

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Re: Are action figures dying?
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2005, 12:08 AM »
Funny that something like this is mentioned.  I was talking to one of my classes the other day and we were talking about the things we played with growing up.  They've grown up in the now generation (13-14 yo) and we had to work for some of our stuff.

Also, they have grown up not really having to use their minds for much as when I was growing up in the 80's, I didn't have any game systems (didn't get one until I was a Jr. in college), most of my friends didn't either.  Instead, we played outside and used our imagination on things.  Maybe that is why the late 70's, 80's generation is so creative.

Now, that's not to say kids today arent' creative, I know,  I deal with them everyday, but they just don't seem to have the same things ticking as we did.  Of course, I'm sure that's how every generation feels about the one after it.
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Offline Nicklab

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Re: Are action figures dying?
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2005, 04:02 AM »
There certainly seems to be an oversaturation of the market.  It seems that many intellectual properties have gone and licensed out the rights to make action figure lines for movies that just can't sustain a toy line.

The scene at retail has become pretty hairy.  The big name companies are fighting like mad for retail shelf space.  Between Hasbro, Mattel, Toy Biz and McFarlane there is a lot of competition to get product on the shelves.  And so much product is out there that it seems that there are too many options of consumers.  And this is before you start factoring in the boutique toy companies like Mezco, NECA, SOTA, DC Direct, Marvel Select, Sideshow and so many others.  Those companies can barely even get their foot in the mass retail door, opting to go for chains like Suncoast and Diamond distributed comic shops.

It seems to me that even though there are so many options, there is the definite possibility that the industry is burning itself out.  There are just too many films and TV shows that are selling their licenses and the toy companies are gambling that they're going to strike it rich with some odd movie license.  For instance, The Brothers Grimm looks like an interesting movie to me.  Terry Gilliam directed it, and the overall look is pretty cool.  Would it make a successful toy line?  Probably not.  Just look at some of the fairly signifigant toy lines that some major companies have launched in support of reasonably successful films.  For instance, Van Helsing.  Decent movie, but certainly not an Oscar winner.  But you know what?  Stinker of a toy line.  How about The Grinch?  I can't cite box office figures, but usually a Jim Carrey movie does well, and Director Ron Howard has been pretty successful.  How about the toy line?  Complete and utter dreck.  What about the revised Masters Of The Universe line?  There was a built in fanbase of people who liked the old show, assorted toy collectors and new fans who were brought on board by the new cartoon series.  How did that perform?  Terribly.  The line was ended after being handled very poorly by Mattel.  The road of action figure history is littered with these kinds of failures, yet toy companies big and small continue to chase the golden egg that they think might lie with some odd movie or television license.

I'll give it a couple of years until there starts to be some serious industry consolidation.  Some of the boutique companies are going to get bigger and buy out some of their competition, and some of the bigger companies may very well buy up some of the boutique companies as well.  Some boutique toy manufacturers may wind up folding altogether, and in the case of Mattel, I think they're in serious trouble unless they get some better guidance on how to handle their various licenses.

I don't think there's the collector customer base to continue as things are now, and the bubble may be ready to burst.  My most recent con experience makes me think this could very well be the case.  I've gone to Wizard World in Chicago three years running.  And each successive year it seems that attendance has actually dropped.  Major licensees have also cut back on their presence at these events, too.

In short, my answer is yes.  I think action figures are on the decline.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2005, 04:11 AM by Nicklab »
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Offline JesseVader08

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Re: Are action figures dying?
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2005, 12:34 PM »
I actually see this quite different.  Although I do agree that action figures are losing ground with kids, they are growing further into the adult/collector field.  A good example is when you surf through an online retailer like EE or look through their catalog -- I bet half of the stuff wouldn't have been available 5 years ago.  The reason is simple: the internet.  It provides world-wide exposure that toy stores simply can't provide. 

So I don't believe that they're dying, but rather they are changing focus, both in the market and in the way they are sold.  Why pay big fees to show off your wares at Comic-Con when they can just as easily spend less money for a well-made website?  Of course, they'll need to spend money on advertising on the 'net, but once companies know who the big online retailers and fan-sites are, it becomes fairly straightforward (assuming it's a quality product).  There's no doubt that a number of smaller toy companies will come and go, but I think that happens in any area of retail.  But overall, I think action figures are here to stay.

Offline drewlam

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Re: Are action figures dying?
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2005, 03:00 PM »
I think action figures are going down the same road that comics did.  They ARE here to stay, but at the same time they will become more and more of a niche market.
As noted above, a big part of it may be videogames.  Kids just don't seem to play with action figures any more.  They may have another resurgence in the future, but for now they don't really have a wide audience - mainly the adult collector.

Offline Xander

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Re: Are action figures dying?
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2005, 09:31 AM »
This is an interesting topic, Morgbug.  Good replies too, everyone.

I don't know if they are dying, so much as diversifying.  The ones we were introduced to, the 3¾" size, are pretty much going the way of 12-backs.  It sounds like GI Joe is moving away from this size, and Star Wars is pretty much the last holdout (though I'm sure there are others I'm not thinking of).  The lines we like are more adult oriented of course, so we see them moving into the collectible realm.  I think there will always be a place for them in the kids section though.

At the big retailers, we notice the shrinking Star Wars and dissappearing LOTR lines, but what seems to take up all the rest of the space? Wrestling and Power Ranger figures here, followed by tons of TMNT. I know nothing about the wrestling figures, except they take up way more space than practically anything else in the stores.

I think action figures will change sizes and features according to different trends, but its a staple of the toy business and there will always be a demand with kids.  Sure, seems to be more and more diversions for kids, and plenty of competition, but I don't seem them dying out.

Offline Victor_Von_Doom

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Re: Are action figures dying?
« Reply #10 on: October 12, 2005, 04:32 PM »
I wouldn't say dying per se, but I think they probably are losing a bit of interest in younger generations. However, like JesseVader08 said, it is gaining popularity with adults. Culture is starting to not see collectors as "nerds" or "weirdos", but as "investors" and "collectors". Toys collectors are starting to become the same in the eyes of the public as someone who collects NFL memoribilia or vintage records. New collectors emerge every day. There are even whole companys that serve adult collectors, like stores such as Brian's Toys ( ::) )  and EE, and companies such as Mezco and McFarlane, among others. Action figures have (more or less "action") been around for thousands of years, and I guarantee they will not vanish within our lifetimes.
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