Anyone who follows us on social media or has heard Jake Stevens on any of his podcast appearances of late knows we have great concern about the future of the 3 ¾” line. With no confirmation of a The Rise of Skywalker line from Hasbro, early leaks of a new 5” Galaxy of Adventures line based on Episode IV, poor sales of non-Vintage Collection toys and the continued popularity of the 6” Black Series line, we are confident our pessimism is not unfounded.
So where exactly does this leave us and those like lifelong 3 ¾” collector Jake? If you ask Mr. Stevens, he will tell you he feels like he has been dumped after 41 years. Like an unwanted break-up that has long been seen coming but still hard to wrap your head around, this is what Triple Force Friday will most likely feel like. We reminisced this past May about our experience working and setting up for the very first Midnight Madness for The Phantom Menace in 1999 when 3 ¾” product reigned supreme. We often think back to the fun of The Legacy Collection and The Clone Wars line being released simultaneously in the lead up to The Clone Wars film debut in 2008. Even the first Force Friday in 2015, saw hundreds of people lining up at midnight to buy speeders, figures, deluxe sets, starships and the like. Fast-forward to 2019, and for the first time ever, there will be no dedicated 3 ¾” action figure line to accompany the release of a Star Wars motion picture. Now Kenner and Hasbro’s records have not been 100% in the past as the original Star Wars line did not drop until the Spring of 1978 but better late than never and in 2002 Hasbro apparently was concerned about over-advertising another over-advertised prequel so they chose to call their Attack of the Clones line just Star Wars but it has come to be known as “Saga”. Nevertheless, there has been a large and dedicated action figure line on the shelves for the past 11 movies…until now.
The Rise of Skywalker is set to follow two films somewhat mired in fandom controversy by one not landing well with some very vocal fans and the other underperforming due to issues with Disney’s promotion of the film. We can very well understand a cautious approach to new Star Wars is something a company like Hasbro must consider but shelving an entire line of toys that has been a staple, pioneer, and evergreen for 3 out of the past 4 decades seems a bit extreme.
Now we have asked Hasbro earlier this year about the future of the line and they have reassured us 3 ¾” figures are not going anywhere and we believe that company line because like many reading this far have most likely already have said out loud, “Dude, The Vintage Collection is still going!” Yes, The Vintage Collection is here in all of its glory and is looking to deliver a whopping five (5) action figures from The Rise of Skywalker and an X-Wing Luke from Star Wars for good measure. We are sorry but that meager offering fails to replace the great film lines that have come before. And while we do love The Vintage Collection, we must be honest in saying that in 2019 it is a mere shadow of what it was the first time around.
The Vintage Collection is a line that caters to collectors and makes more than a third of its product exclusives which have become a bane for many collectors to successfully purchase. Since 2017, it has only released 52 carded figures by the time the upcoming Episode IX wave has hit. In comparison, Revenge of the Sith had 60 figures in its first year alone but we know this isn’t 2005. When we break down the amount of support The Vintage Collection (emphasis on the word vintage) has for the Disney-era films and The Prequels for that matter, it becomes clear the line desires to live in the way past.
Let’s be frank, while The Vintage Collection is great for nostalgia and includes super-articulated figures it is still an overpriced line, has massive distribution issues, is plagued with exclusives and does not include the diversity of film-based lines of the past. Supporters of collector lines like to say kids today are not playing with action figures or toys anymore and while the digital age has eaten some of the market, Hasbro has been having billion-dollar record profits the last few years and they do not make video games. Also, find us a child who doesn’t have a 5POA Star Wars action figure in their toy box today. Having a line outside of the collector lines is imperative to keeping (from a corporation perspective) a lifelong consumer. Jake is a middle school history teacher who constantly reminds students to learn from the past. When Playmates changed the scale of their highly successful Star Trek line, even when they reverted to their original scale it was too little too late and the line ended shortly after. Children will become collectors if you provide them the opportunities to be one. Making 3 ¾” figure lines that are both accessible (not mostly online but in toy aisles) and affordable (no kid wants to blow their allowance on one 6” action figure) is key. In addition, companies like Hasbro need to embrace the collector culture not by just living up to it by offering just that but by making children collectors. Create checklists for them, provide carrying cases, file cards to cut out, offers to mail away for, and a vast selection of figures, ships, playsets and accessories to help them bring the magic of the Star Wars movies home. This spirit of the line has been missing over the past 5-6 years and so like a slow break-up it’s sad to see how things are turning out.
With a heavy heart that is extremely passionate about collecting Star Wars action figures, we have to say that the current outlook on the future of 3 ¾” figures is a gloomy one which will support new Star Wars content in meager ways and be one that lives no longer in toy aisles but in your internet browser. We have only to look to Hasbro’s Marvel Universe line to know where Star Wars is headed. The once-successful 3 3/4″ superhero figure line was slowly phased out and replaced with the 6” value figure line which only produces between 4-8 figures per new Marvel movie.
The word on the street is that in 2020, Hasbro needs to renegotiate its licensing agreement with Disney/LFL. If you are to look at many of the properties Disney owns, they are very fond of letting more than one company license their IPs to make the same type of product. For example, both Hasbro and Mattel made Star Wars diecast vehicles until Hasbro threw in the towel. Currently, the comic book company IDW publishes original Marvel superhero comics starring Spider-Man and other Marvel characters and mind you Disney owns Marvel Comics. Will this renegotiation see Hasbro losing their exclusivity in the US market for 3 ¾” and perhaps even 6” figures and what will that mean for other companies who might want to make 3 ¾’ figures like Super7, McFarlane, and even Mattel? Time will tell on all of these things but one thing is for sure, this Triple Force Friday (which as of this writing will not see any 3 ¾” support for The Mandalorian or Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order) will be a turning point in Star Wars action figure history and for those purists out there, we assume they’ll be spending their time in anticipation of The Rise of Skywalker not on toy runs but by customizing their own figures and not on collecting new scales but by spending their money on third-party figure bootleggers in order to get they’re 3 3/4” fixes.
With all that being said, we so desperately want to be wrong about all of this and when opening, playing and photographing our new ships, figures, playsets, and creatures that Hasbro releases, we invite you all to remind us how wrong we were. Let’s hope in the long run we become Solo: “You said you wanted to be around when I made a mistake, well, this could be it, sweetheart.”