Like a good action movie, the element most responsible for driving the action figure category is the battle of good versus evil. The tension builds as the battle ensues, leading to the triumph of good, is a timeless storyline.
“First and foremost, kids love a good hero and a hero is only as good as his villain,” says Michael Wilde, director of marketing at Jakks Pacific.
So, what exactly does the presence of a villain add to the storyline and the roleplay? It supports the classic narrative structure of set-up, conflict, and resolution. This narrative has been at the center of the vast majority of successful stories, novels, and films that have been released—since the beginning of time.
“We’ve seen that villains play a role in completing the play pattern and that kids are as interested in purchasing villain action figures as the hero action figures,” says Mark Schaffner, executive vice-president of toys for Bandai America. “It helps them create a play narrative of the triumph of good over evil.”
The classic narrative structure serves to slowly gain emotional involvement from the reader, viewer, or roleplayer. Its purpose is to immerse people in the storyline, which makes it a good fit for roleplaying with action figures.
“Action figures is still one of the most immersive, hands-on ways for kids to interact with their favorite brands and characters,” says Jeff Jackson, vice-president of marketing at Hasbro. “When a child is having his Optimus Prime and Megatron figure battles, they’re invoking their emotions and telling stories through play.”
Imagination is what this category is all about. It seems an easy enough task to create and maintain an action figure line, but, as is often the case the simplest of things, is actually a whole lot harder than it looks.
“The properties that have done so well over the years all rely on the basic elements of fun and excitement,” says Bandai’s Schaffner. “It may sound simple, but, as we all know, sustaining this fun and excitement year over year can be difficult.”
It is difficult, but not impossible. The action figure category is brimming with classic, evergreen properties that prove the point. The key is to regularly refresh each brand from top to bottom, offering new heroes, new villains, or new conflicts. It’s the same strategy for the action movie franchises that play a big role in driving this category.
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