Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The End of Action Figures???

OK – maybe not the end, but….a significant market correction…and a lack of variety to boot. Will we ever see the richness we saw in the 1990s, 2000s? While I love Marvel characters, I don’t think I can choke down seeing another Iron Man, Captain America, or Spider Man. Love McFarlane Sports Picks as well, but how many Tony Romo’s, Ben Roethlisbergers, and Brett Favre’s do we really need. I am surprised there hasn’t been a fantasy line put out there, putting Brett Favre into every NFL uniform since he retired.

As a collector and diorama builder, I am very frustrated by the lack of action figures in today’s market and the oversaturation of some character lines. I am also a business manager and operations leader, well versed in Profit and Loss (P&L) so I get it…I get it why we see the same crap stuff in the big box stores and see so many prototypes hyped at San Diego Comic Con and Toy Fair never make it to the market.

Over the years I have seen so many fans/collectors lament the lack of figures and prognosticate that if Company A would just make Figure B, it would sell out in a heartbeat. Sadly, I was like that once, and now I pass by stuff warming the pegs I would have killed for two decades ago, and my disposable income is better these days as well.

Let’s talk about profit and loss. As much as collectors state on forums that there is a big market for little known characters, it’s mom that buys the most action figures. Moms know Batman and Spiderman. They don’t know Prometheus. Collectors want variety; the market of moms won’t support it. It’s why we see so many Tony Romo and Iron Man figures. They sell. Packer and Cowboys fans are everywhere and they are rabid and maniacal…sorry Jacksonville Jaguars fans…you’re not getting a Blaine Gabbert because you can’t even fill your stadium, much less purchase enough figures to warrant their manufacturing. Companies actually do test marketing and keep metrics on what sells. They are going to make and sell what has proven to make them a profit before.

Licensing. NECA has a fantastic line of Predators. As a kid, I would have “killed” to get those. Today, I gag when I see another Predator. So many great characters in the original movie Predator from 1986 and the movie “Predators” from 2011, I would have loved to see. But why pay the big bucks to those actors and studios for the rights, when you can use the same mold over and over again with a different paint job.

If a license does go through, usually not enough for the enemy. Clash of the Titans? Yay – got my Perseus.

Aliens – Hudson and Hicks. We’ll never see it. They were originally slated for early 2012. Now expected 2013.

Success is still tied to media. The release of a toy line right before or during a movie is what generates the most interest from…kids….and their moms. The collectors will be there, but not enough to turn inventory. NECA showcased the Prometheus prototypes at the San Diego Comic Con at the same time the movie came out. The figures aren’t expected to arrive until late 2012/early 2013. [I had prognosticated that the Prometheus Engineer and Flight Suit figure would never make it to market – they did]. Let’s see if David, Holloway, and Fifeld make it. Saw the prototypes. An why no Shaw or Vickers?

Enemy Combatants – Too politically incorrect. Back in the 50s, when Marx first released its playsets, it was green on tan. They eventually got to having actual German and Japanese combatants in their playsets. Today, the 1:18 scale military figures and the McFarlane Military figures have no one to fight. While the McFarlane Military figures are great for display, a diorama lacks for enemy combatants. Can you imagine the outcry of “enemy” Iraqi, Somali, Taliban fighters in a toy set? Hardly. 21st Century toys released some “Eastern Warriors” in the mid-2000s to fight modern day 1:18 scale soldiers. I never saw them in retail.

Price – Prices keep going up. Makes me think twice about dropping $18 for a figure I used to be able to buy for $8 less than 7 years ago. Hello Marvel Legends.

Scale – Part 1 – I can’t keep up with the different scales. There are benefits to all of them, I get that. Try mixing some sets to build a diorama and it gets trickier. Was hoping to put some soldiers (McFarlane Military) in with some Walking Dead figures (McFarlane) and it doesn’t work. Put the Walking Dead figures in with 1:18 military – doesn’t work either.

Scale – Part 2 – Marvel Legends were are great. They have some bulk behind them. Compare them with their 3 ¾ inch brethren which cost the same as the original Marvel Legends lines, and you see these stick like, gangly figures. Same with Star Wars. The Vintage Star Wars line had mass. They could stand on their own two feet…except maybe EV9D9 and 8D8. These days, I can’t stand a Star Wars figure or Marvel Universe figure on their own two feet.

Series – Manufacturers don’t release all the most popular figures in the first series, or two, or three. They generally add in some obscure figures so that the line can keep going infinitely…potentially. As long as there are more popular figures still to be made, the market for them will last. Unfortunately, many lines die out before more popular figures ever get made, yet we are left with 10 versions of Iron Man and Wolverine.

Also, kids don’t play with figures anymore. They are on their X-Boxes and Nintendo DS. That’s why you don’t have to make the whole lot. They only get displayed by collectors.

Business Model Change – Make the decision to blast a Single or Two Series set line. The original Predator movie had 8 characters, 10 if you count Arnold’s uniform changes. The original Aliens had 20 characters.  Release them and be done with them. If they sell well, there is always a way to make more, but then collectors won’t be bummed that Mac from Predators and Newt from Aliens were never made.

What’s it Take to make an action figure?

Design, Sculpting, Articulation, Molding, Painting, Market Research, Big Box Buy In, Packaging, Shipping, Retail

Maybe we need a business model change. Maybe NECA, Hasbro, Mattel, and McFarlane should try a KickStarter type business model: Toystarter. Looks fans, you want obscure figure X made. We need 10,000 buyers to pledge their resources behind it…with credit cards, thank you much. 25% immediately, 25% later, and 50% as manufacturing kicks in. Or 100% all the way. Back it up with your wallets. I used to think I would do that, maybe not with the prices I see today.

My 2 Cents!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

World War Z - Battle of Yonkers

For those of you who are fans of the Zombie genre and haven't read Max Brooks' World War Z, you are missing out. A fantastic book dealing with the zombie apocolypse on a global level. One key part is the Battle of Yonkers, the first organized military defense in the US.

It of course, ends disastrously. In this diorama, I stacked up the military vehicles side by side, as told in the book. Then had the beginning of the 10 million zombie trail coming up against the troops. Take a close look at some of the zombies, and you'll see some familiar figures. So hard to get a consistent scale these days for a large diorama.