Even though The Last Jedi was 2017’s biggest movie event, Star Wars toy sales were down when compared to last year. Ever since 1977, merchandising has been a key aspect of the franchise – evolving from Kenner’s empty box campaign to the Force Friday events that take place today. With the property’s colorful collection of characters and otherworldly setting, there is no shortage of ideas for toys. Action figures, collectibles, and other products are frequently top sellers, especially when fans are eagerly counting down the days until the next film comes out.
Lucasfilm’s licensing partners are always striving to push the envelope. This past year saw the debut of Hasbro’s Force Link technology, in which figures and vehicles make movie-accurate sounds, including lines of dialogue from The Last Jedi. But despite these innovations, consumers weren’t as interested in Star Wars toys in 2017.
The news comes courtesy of Bloomberg, who say the toy sales were down this year. Interestingly enough, Star Wars was the top toy line for the nine weeks of the holiday season, but not for the entire year. BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson found that adult collectors were responsible for a majority of the purchases when the toys were initially released, but the demand wasn’t there for younger fans. He chalked it up to a combination of declining theater attendance and the fact Lucasfilm has released three new Star Wars films in a short period of time.
On that latter point, Johnson pointed to The Last Jedi‘s failure to introduce strong new characters as a main reason for decreased sales. Though the film included a handful of fresh faces such as Rose Tico, Admiral Holdo, and DJ, none of them resonated with the zeitgeist as much as Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, and Kylo Ren had back when The Force Awakens premiered. As a result, people were perhaps less inclined to buy merchandise from the Last Jedi line, especially since many of the main players appeared in both installments of the sequel trilogy. This could explain why Rogue One topped Episode VIII in this regard. Save for a few original trilogy favorites, 2016’s spinoff consisted of entirely new characters audiences were interested in learning more about.
With this in mind, it’ll be interesting to see what the figures are like for the Solo products when they come out. That could ultimately depend on how well the film is received. Moviegoers will get a chance to meet newcomers such as Woody Harrelson’s Tobias Beckett and Emilia Clarke’s Qi’Ra (among others), as well as younger versions of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. If Ron Howard was able to deliver an entertaining summer blockbuster, then the tie-in toys could come flying off the shelves as people add to their collections. The Millennium Falcon even has a different look for the anthology, meaning completists could be compelled to buy another hunk of junk.
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