First and foremost, props to Wayne Losey who linked to this great article on Twitter, which takes a very close look at how action figure sales have been trending over the past several years (hint… it ain’t good) and the potential impact of movie licensed brands on those sales.
Mr. Losey is an industry professional (being one of the brain children behind Go Go Dynamo, which is currently producing the awesome Modibot, and who also did some work with Hasbro on Xevoz, G.I. Joe, and Sigma 6) and this article really takes a long hard look at the intertwining of repeated blockbuster movies and product sales associated with them. Frankly, it’s eye opening.
The article outlines the last several years in the action figure category and how resulted sales relate to the box office of the associated films and it almost seems obvious when you look at it. The data shows that initial sales are generally strong, when the first film hits. But as more sequels emerge, or more back-to-back blockbusters in a single year, the action figure category dwindles.
Wayne hypothesizes (and I agree) that a big reason for this is because many of these movies are marketed for an older group (PG-13) that is straying away from the toy aisle, not to mention that repeated films with the same “realistic” aesthetic aren’t necessarily conducive to attractive toys. Then we have an issue like how many toy-related blockbuster films are hitting in a particular year, which also further potentially dilutes toy sales as action figure manufacturers are occasionally competing against themselves. It’s a really fascinating article, and a brutally honest look at what the action figure industry has become, and frankly, it’s not pretty. I think most of us have realized more and more the toy world is simply morphing into a vehicle for further movie licensed product and less and less true innovation is being seen in toy aisles. The article mentions recent innovators such as Skylanders and Disney Infinity (still licensed products, natch) and sews the seeds of fear that the emergence of toy themes like this could spell doom and gloom for action figures.
The writer is quick to say that he doesn’t fear the end of the “action figure” as a whole, but we all have to be honest with ourselves and wonder if the “action figure” of the future is one we even want as an adult collector? As these toys become less profitable, companies will be investing less money in producing them, and we’ll likely be seeing less innovation in straight action figure brands. It’s a shame, but something I think a lot of us have seen coming.
We may be more devoutly relying on third party manufacturers or smaller companies (like, say Boss Fight Studios?) to make the toys that we really want to see, own, and showcase.