A Call to Action (Figures): Spotted Online Response
The first thing I need to tell Philip Reed, who wrote this response to my column this week, is the same thing I tell all my critics: thank you for taking the time to read my work, and especially thank you for taking the time to craft a thoughtful response.
He accuses me of approaching the article from the perspective of an adult collector rather than approaching Hasbro as a business, and that’s how I approach all of my writing for Action Figure Fury. I’m not a business, but a collector talking about the business from the outside and don’t see the problem with that. Sports writers aren’t expected to play for the teams they write about or try to write about it from the players’ perspectives. If they did, that would be a conflict of interest. The goal of this kind of writing as I see it is to further the understanding between collectors and companies, and the collector’s viewpoint is as valid as the businesses in that conversation.
He says that I’m not looking at it from a “what makes playable toys for children” and he’s got me there. It’s easy to get caught up in what I, as an adult collector, want and forget that the figure lines I love and can afford are primarily for kids. I shouldn’t say things like, “I fear these markets are primarily interested in selling to kids” because I do come off as entitled, and frankly a bit insane. What I was trying to express, and I admit I got lazy and it’s not there in the article, is that I think these brands should be reaching a bare minimum of quality so they can be enjoyed by adults and children. I know that Hasbro won’t and shouldn’t be making these lines just for adults. What I would like, and I think it’s something they would profit from because kids would like the toys more too, is for them to put in a little more effort.
He makes another good point about Hasbro not having a monopoly. I shoehorned that word in their for the sake of a bad joke, but I feel like that saying my post “is about Hasbro having a monopoly on action figures” is inaccurate. First, not having a monopoly doesn’t mean that Hasbro doesn’t have most of the mass market action figure licenses. They have G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Marvel, Transformers, and Jurassic World, which is pretty dominant set, and Hot Wheels, a non-action figure brand, has no real bearing on that. Second, while my article does start by misusing the word monopoly, that isn’t what the article is about. Moving forward it shifts to talking about Hasbro not putting out high enough quality output for the licenses that they have.
Finally Reed says that, “We cannot demand perfection in mass-produced toys because the cost and QC we demand simply don’t make sense in $10 and $20 toys” and that’s the crux of our disagreement as I see it. I don’t think we can demand “perfection” in these toys, but I believe there is a bare minimum of quality that needs to be met. I don’t think I expressed this clearly enough in my column, but I don’t believe Hasbro should be perfect at this price point. I believe its fair and reasonable to ask for $10 and $20 toys that don’t fall apart coming out of the package and have the paint generally lined up close to correctly. I think it is fair to ask that Hasbro expand in size to meet the market demand for their products with a minimum level of quality for adult and child collectors. There are higher-end adult toys, but that doesn’t excuse lower-end toys with egregiously bad paint jobs and poor designs.
At the end of the day, Reed is calling for better action figure journalism, and by pointing out my shortcomings he’s pushing me to be better, and for that I appreciate him and his efforts. It’s the same thing I was trying to do with Hasbro, to point out there shortcomings and call for them to be better.
A Call to Action (Figures) is a weekly column published on Wednesdays, chronicling my rants and raves about all things action figure. Next week I’ll be back on my regular scheduled Wednesday talking about who won San Diego Comic Con.
I wouldn’t say you were that far off by calling Hasbro a monopoly. Sure, they aren’t a true monopoly, but if you just look at what licenses Hasbro has, they are pretty darn close.
They have the license to make both Star Wars and Marvel 6-inch action figures, which is one of the most popular scales that adult collectors pick up. No other company can touch these licenses (in America at least) in the very popular 1/12 scale.
And about the QC, this can and should be resolved. Crazy eyes shouldn’t be present on a 6-inch action figure at a $20 SRP. The figures are mass produced and there is a lot of reuse, so the costs of pumping out more figures are minimal for Hasbro. Other companies can make similar sized figures with less reuse and better QC.
Yeah. It’s not a true monopoly, but it’s pretty damn close. At least kissing cousins to a monopoly in 6-inch figures with Star Wars and Marvel. It’s insane to think about just how much of that market they have.
I’m not sure what’s going on with the QC. You’d think because they’ve got the market mostly locked up, their emphasis from here would be putting out the best figure possible to keep all of the licenses they have.
Though you also have to consider who the toys are designed for – Kids. Just for that simple fact, I think Hasbro can get away with dodgy QC. If they were specifically for collector’s, then that’s a different story.
I have to disagree with you about the spotty QC. I would argue that the company is still responsible to put out a decent product whether it’s intended to be for kids or adults. I’m not asking for perfection, but at the bare minimum getting most of the paint in the lines on most of the figures. I think that’d be important to kids too. I’ve not really talked to a kid that age since I was one, but when I was that young the McFarlane Spawn toys were always my favorite because of the level of detail and quality that went into them.
Despite, or perhaps in spite of, your own admitted shortcomings in your original article I have to agree with you on almost every point there Ryan. I have been an Action figure since I bought my first 3.75″ Joe back in the early ’80’s and over this past decade my dedication (and dollars dedicated) to my HT, SS and military collection has become, quite frankly, absurd. When Hasbro announced the Anniversary reissues of the classic 3.75 (notably at an increased ‘collector appropriate’ price) I rabidly started buying up whatever I could. However the increased price failed to reflect an increase in quality and quality control and poor joint fittings, dodgy paint application quickly killed my collectors’ fervor. Reed IS right in stating that Hasbro is a business with products and quality aimed primairly at children (as you have acknowledged), however the issue lies in the fact that many of Hasbro’s toy lines (Anniversary G.I Joe a prime example) ARE aimed at a previously-established audience, after all why release a product that was around long before the targeted children’s audience was born? Should not the ethos of any good company to be to produce the best-quality product they can for the price point they establish, not the minimum standard?
Yes! Thank you.
Do you have any pictures of this collection? I would love to see it.
Ryan i would love to share some pics of my collection with you, however at the moment I’m renting so all you would see is a ‘spare’ bedroom and a storage garage full of boxes!
I hear that. Space is at a premium all around these days.
This is what I shared on facebook a little earlier today:
Fink nailed it on the head – We as the adults buy our children toys….
do you know what my eight year old and myself call a 1:18 scale figure
with poor articulation OR the new wave of Hasbro Marvel Universe w/
missing articulation? We call them CHEAP – in fact my son was the first
to say this not me. So from a parent who has a child with a wonderful
imagination and whose son has a collection of over 250+ action figures
1:18 scale – Marvel Universe more so than anything else I simply want to
tell anyone spitting out a business model directed at children solely
that this year we have yet to purchase any of the new figures instead
I’m buying the cheap poorly painted rejects from overseas they sold dirt
cheap due to poor Q/C check and Testors paint to make the figures we
want = Still retains full articulation. Now with that being said how
much money did they make off us this year from playable toys for
children? $0 How much money have they made off us in the past due to
the 250+ highly detailed and articulated figures… lets say each figure
is base $10 x 250 = $2500~ so this years business model sucks,
couldn’t find a nice way to word it so I kept it simple stupid, perhaps
Hasbro should keep things how they were… better articulation may cost
more money to produce however when people are not buying the figures no
money is being made.
It’s nice to here from the perspective of someone with kids. Thanks for sharing!
Okay… Reed’s assessment of my comment as “a misunderstanding with today’s market and how this is no longer the eighties.” is very puzzling to me.
He says: “you’ll start to see why they take the steps they do and why stores buy the toys that they do. A movie launch is a marketing promotion that lifts a property; there’s a simple reason why we see stores like Target and Walmart build displays a month before a new movie reaches theaters: That 30 days before a film’s release is when the studio spends millions of dollars promoting the brand. That promotion helps sell toys . . . and if the movie flops then the toys may only sell in that window before release.”
I completely understand Hasbro’s motivations for what they do. It’s easy money. While I’m sure easy money is a good business move, does it make for the best action figures? I believe not. I believe it makes for very uninteresting predictable toy aisles every year. Aisles filled with whatever is being marketed in that window Reed speaks of, that will all (aside from short-packs) be thrown in Clearance bins by the beginning of the next year as they move on to the “next big thing”.
I believe that easy money also more often than not leads to laziness, and shoddy quality. Should we all just except that action figures are for kids and therefore are allowed to be as crappy as they wanna be? Demanding some sense of quality control, is certainly not “demanding perfection”.
He then goes on to say :”Hasbro was an underdog at the start of the eighties” and that “Smart steps by Hasbro in the eighties and nineties is what has them positioned today as the third largest toymaker in the world”. Doesn’t that mean that the things I admire that Hasbro did in the 80’s were ultimately “good business” in the long run?
While Mr. Reed may make make a few valid points, some things are way off the mark I think. Just because $200 -$300 high end figures exist, it doesn’t mean that $10 or $20 figure s should be throwaways that we can’t collect or even have an opinion on. Just because we don’t think the “good business” philosophy of “turn and burn” economics makes for the best toys, doesn’t mean we don’t understand it. And last but not least, just because Hasbro doesn’t have a monopoly doesn’t mean that they don’t make up a huge portion of the toy industry and should be leaders in not just sales but quality.
Oh… and you’ll have to excuse me if I get confused about what decade we’re in sometimes. With Star Wars, Terminator and Jurassic dinosaurs all at the box office and on toy shelves this year it gets a little hard to tell sometimes. 😉
FINISH HIM!!!… Fatality
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