It's been over fifteen years since the midnight launch of Star Wars - Episode 1 merchandise on May 3, 1999, when Galaxy Far, Far Away fans lined up outside of local retailers to be among the first to purchase prequel toys, t-shirts, posters, and other memorabilia. It was an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan - especially since no one had seen The Phantom Menace yet. Whether divisive response to the first prequel or basic novelty wearing off, fans were slightly less enthusiastic when toy lines for Episode 2 and 3 were rolled out; though, make no mistake, Star Wars products have remained solid sellers in toy aisles.
Now, with the return of Star Wars to the big screen and an entire roster of new episodic and anthology films scheduled over the next six years, fans are getting another chance to revel in pre-release merchandise shopping sprees: Force Friday. At midnight, Star Wars die-hards were, once again, lined up outside participating retailers to get their hands on Episode 7: The Force Awakens toys, t-shirts, posters and other memorabilia - and where Sebulba's podracer as well as the 12" Darth Maul were must-have collectibles back in May 1999, this year that honor goes to Sphero's remote control BB-8 droid.
Undoubtedly, there are a number of fun and unique Force Awakens collectibles, in addition to the usual Black and Elite Edition action figure lines; yet, following the announcement of the smart-phone controlled BB-8, it became clear that Sphero's droid toy was poised to be one of (if not the) most sought-after collectibles in Episode 7's product line.
If you haven't seen the Sphero BB-8 in action yet, check out the video below:
From Sphero's official production description:
Meet BB-8 - the app-enabled Droid that's as authentic as it is advanced. BB-8 has something unlike any other robot - an adaptive personality that changes as you play. Based on your interactions, BB-8 will show a range of expressions and even perk up when you give voice commands. Set it to patrol and watch your Droid explore autonomously, make up your own adventure and guide BB-8 yourself, or create and view holographic recordings.
Details on the BB-8's functionality:
- Bluetooth Smart
- 60 Minute Battery Life
- Inductive Charging
- Gyroscopic Propulsion
- 30m Range
Beyond the toy's movie-realistic appearance and emotive design (example: BB-8 looks around when sitting on his charging stand), sensors help the droid navigate and react to its environment, even remembering the location of stationary objects.
At $149.99 retail (in America), the toy isn't going to be a must-buy for everyone; however, quickly after Sphero's BB-8 hit store shelves (both physical and online storefronts) in the wee hours of Force Friday, the droid was already sold out at many locations - and pulling in premium markups on eBay.
That said, while demand may be extremely high right now, supply isn't likely to be an issue forever. Disney and Sphero worked closely on the design and roll-out of the remote-controlled BB-8 - meaning that while Sphero might be a small up start-up in Boulder, Colorado, they've got access to Disney's expansive list of production partners.
As a result, while many online retailers and respective brick and mortar stores are currently showing as "sold out" of BB-8, including the Sphero website, the toy-maker has put together an exhaustive list of places where fans can expect to find their droid (availability permitting) in the coming days and months.
The full list of retail partners that will carry BB-8 can be found HERE (and includes stores outside of the US). Larger sellers like Amazon and Toys "R" Us are likely to get larger quantities of BB-8 but smaller stores, and storefronts, might actually pose a better chance of retaining stock - since they could go overlooked by a segment of hopeful BB-8 buyers.
That said, the list of retailers that show "BB-8 Available" does not necessarily mean that BB-8 is in stock. As a result, interested parties should call ahead to physical store locations before assuming the droid is actually available for purchase and/or check back regularly with online retail order pages - as BB-8 could become available at any time (and be sold out again just as fast).
It's also worth nothing that in addition to Sphero's app-controlled BB-8, Target is also selling a lower-cost traditional remote controlled BB-8 from Hasbro (shown in the video above) - which lacks many of the features that make the Sphero model so desirable. That's not to say that the Target BB-8 isn't worth the $79.99 the retailer is charging; yet, buyers should be aware of which version they're out to buy, and how much they're willing to spend to get their BB-8 fix, so as not to get the wrong version.
Star Wars: Rebels Season 2 returns October 14, 2015.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.