If you’ve been perusing the online G.I. Joe community this week, you’ve no doubt seen mention of the possibility that there are some whispers of 6” scale G.I. Joe figures drifting in the winds. Heck, the 2015 San Diego ComicCon was even mentioned as a kick off point for these figures.
Is it true? Nobody knows at this point… but whether or not it is true, it does bring up some valuable discussion points.
I’ve received a lot of personal messages asking what I think about the whole thing (as if my opinion matters more than anyone elses). And, as usual, I can see both sides.
My first instinct is that G.I. Joe should try and focus on being the best toy it can be at one scale before it starts spiraling off into other scales. Over the past 50 years we’ve seen many different styles, formats, and figure scales, but things always seem to fall back to the old standby 12” and 4”, with 4” obviously being the dominant force in recent years. Well… dominant in relative terms at least.
So with 50 years of market data telling Hasbro that G.I. Joe is most successful at those two scales, why muddy the waters and introduce yet another scale and format to even further divide the fandom?
One might argue that G.I. Joe is having trouble finding a retail foothold at the $8 price point with 4” figures, even backed by a $400million film. Will $20 6” figures do anything to further the lifespan of the brand? Emphatically I say no.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a entirely bad idea all together.
Perhaps G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero could use a little spark, right? Perhaps, instead of wondering why Hasbro is trying to spread thin a brand that already is watered down, we need to consider the fact that since G.I. Joe isn’t a behemoth, maybe this is the time to start something new?
My only concern is that Hasbro at this point seems to be treating G.I. Joe as a short term prospect. Most toylines are short term prospects these days, but each assortment of these 4” figures is so specifically geared for a short term theme that you wonder if there are any long term plans. In recent years, G.I. Joe has obviously become a film-based toyline, with some cost-savings filler figures to fit in those gaps when movies aren’t in the theaters. I don’t see a 6” line changing that. I think we all know that the 6” line will simply revisit the vintage look at a larger (and more detailed) scale. In some instances I think that could be fun, and I think (again) short term that will provide some spark. But it’s a finite spark with a clear beginning and end. Unlike Star Wars there aren’t thousands of diehards who’ve been waiting 30 years for a 6” Ponda Baba. As soon as G.I. Joe starts dipping into 3rd tier characters (which will happen far sooner than many folks admit, I think) the 6” line will be on thin ice, and we’ll once again be faced with the whole “what’s next” approach?
G.I. Joe needs some serious revitalization. It needs some kind of Beast Wars, Sigma 6, or dare I say it, G.I. Joe: Renegades level support and effort (only maybe without friggen killing the landmark animated series before it even aired this time). A toyline can only survive on the regurgitated designs from 30 years ago for so long, and we’re reaching a breaking point.
Transformers has survived and excelled because it has successfully reinvigorated itself on a consistent basis throughout the past 30 years. Beast Wars led to Robots in Disguise, led to Armada, led to Classics, led to Generations, which has been further supplemented by fantastic comic books that Hasbro is actually using as inspiration for more toys, not to mention video games (yes I’m forgetting the films on purpose).
G.I. Joe has had one clear behemoth success, and it was three decades ago. Eventually we need to stop looking back and start looking forward, or the brand will always be taking things one year at a time, with no clear direction. While 6” figures might be a fun distraction and a quick spark, if Hasbro is serious about making G.I. Joe a player again, they must realize that’s not the solution to their problem.
G.I. Joe needs synergy. The same synergy that has worked so well for Transformers over the past few years, films notwithstanding. Get an animated series rolling, develop a video game with CARE, PRECISION and continuity. Embrace the comics! For the love of God, don’t be afraid to take some chances and put some resources behind it and maybe, just maybe give the thing half a chance to succeed or fail before you pull the plug. You might just be surprised as the results.
Image courtesy D & D Customs and HissTank