More than a dozen sets of figures or vehicles are set for release later this year, with a few character sculpts long-desired by collectors filling holes.
I am a fan of what Hasbro is doing with these limited releases and purchased almost every 50th anniversary product, but last year and this year, I have been left wondering a two things: 1. What is the production run? And 2. How much discussion is there in Providence about promoting and marketing the line?
The two questions are related. First, I wonder if the production run so limited that it is only geared to serve the core audience of 30- to 40-somethings who attend JoeCon and their extended network of friends and fellow collectors. Like last year, this year's releases are rich with nostalgia, bringing modern styling and articulation to vintage characters. As a collector of A Real American Hero-era toys, art and ephemera as well as all of their modern versions, I feel like I am directly in the target audience.
The second question, regarding promotion and marketing, relates to the first: It would seem that all for-profit ventures seek to grow their brands, especially those brands that are wholly owned and operated like G.I. Joe is by Hasbro. And Hasbro is showing in some fashion that it is committed to extending G.I. Joe's audience and customer base through new mobile gaming ventures like G.I. Joe Strike (announced Saturday) and Block Worlds.
Hasbro, understandably, is not investing in new tooling for its G.I. Joe line of toys. But greater marketing and promotional investment could pay off in the form of a new generation of customers.
Embedding the products over a two-foot-wide expanse of a shelf in the middle of Toys R Us isn't going to create brand awareness. Unlike many of us who include Toys R Us visits in our weekly errands, many children only visit their nearest store once or twice a year. I can count on one hand the number of TRU visits I made in my life prior to my college graduation.
Still a kid at heart, I love hearing about and acquiring the latest G.I. Joe toys. I want kids of today to have that feeling too.
Impressions of the 2015 Hasbro G.I. Joe releases:
SDCC sets: The recolored and Cobra-branded Skystriker in the Crimson Strike set looks fantastic, but for some reason I can't get over the Joe team driving a HISS Tank. The figures look great, though.
I've lost count of recolored AWE Strikers, but I do love the choices made and new details on the F.O.E. Striker in the Desert Duel set (pictured at top). I can't wait to see final bivouac'ed version. As for the Cobra tracked vehicle, the SnowCat is one of my all-time favorites, so I'm quickly tiring of recolored imitations. As for figures, I've always liked Night Fox (though this version could use a little paint app diversity), am kind of meh about the Air Trooper resurrected from the 30th Cobra Black Dragon VTOL, and for some reason Chuckles looks like FSS Cesspool's brother to me.
Everything about this Toys R Us exclusive Silent Strike set looks sharp, and the Gary Head tribute figure is a heck of a classy and sensitive choice by Hasbro.
Also, I and I'm sure plenty of other collectors wouldn't mind seeing this one 3-pack bumped up to a $30 or even $40 price point if a complete M.A.S.S. device were to be included. Just seems like a glaring omission.
Sneak Attack has three great figure sculpts, but they are a pass for me. I can see how the new color schemes would be useful for dio builders, though. Just sure how to reconcile Dusty in blue.
Zartan looks like a great update of the 25th version that came carded with the Chameleon, though I will never consider this concept case version an "Ultimate" version unless it gains color-changing properties. With all of the tech advances since 1984, it can't be that hard to add.
Al's pack mates are two Pursuit of Cobra army builders that I found frequently on pegs at Fred Meyer stores a few years ago, but judging by others' experiences, may not have appeared at brick and mortar retail anywhere else. The Cobra Shock Trooper and Rock Viper (aside from his overused shin guards) remain fantastic, both in terms of figure and accessory complement.
Now we just have to hope that the paint app issues that dogged the 50th releases don't carry over -- especially when it comes to Gung-Ho's chest tattoo. If the apps are tight, I'll be buying two of these and might have trouble resisting more. (Though I hope they steer clear of teal bullets for Mr. Lafitte in the packs that actually land on pegs in August.)
Though the stock photos of this pair look great, they're a pass for me, especially considering the rest of my want list from this suite of releases.
But my main hope is that when I see this newest set of releases on the pegs and shelves, I'm the only parent in the aisle buying these toys for himself and not his children.