Thou Shall Look Like Thy Property
It's the year 2007 and yet we still get toys that don't look like the freaking characters they're meant to be? Hire the best sculptors, real scan it, whatever, just make sure you can recognise the character and it looks good. It's no point in having a dead-on sculpt of a character making a face you'd never see them pull.
Good Example: Mezco's South Park figures, which look phenomenal AND look exactly like they do on the dodgy-looking 2D cartoon, with very characteristic expressions.
Bad Example: Super-articulated Faith. Way to screw with the hotness, guys.
Thou Shall Articulate.
Action figures. Say it again: AC-TION figures. No, Todd, we're not looking to buy statues, we actually want toys that move. No, Kevin Smith, we don't just blutak them to our desks and look at them, we actually pose them, move them, some even play with them. Whether you use it or not, it's important to know the articulation is there; it's part of what makes toys fun.
Good Example: ToyBiz Marvel Legends, taking articulation to a whole new level with great detail and the ability to move, pose, and play as you wish.
Worst Example: Kevin Smith's Inaction Figures. Small, expensive, non-moving, non-fun.
Thou Shall Accessorise
Nowadays, we're paying top dollar for our toys and we expect them to come with some accessories, some fun extra bits to make the purchase extra worthwhile. Sure, some characters really don't have anything they could come with, in which it makes sense not to give them useless accessories - but when figures don't come with something iconic, something required, that's just lame.
Good Example: the SOTA Street Fighter figures include both usable and fun attachable parts which allow for more posability and more playability, as well as extra iconic and fun accessories with each figure.
Bad Example: Any Batman that doesn't come with a batarang.
Thou Shall Know Thy Property.
The best action figure series don't just take note of the most popular characters and throw them together with a few accessories; a long time is spent observing the property and surveying the fans to create the best toy possible.
Good Example: Invader Zim figures, which are typically small characters and thus small figures, have perfectly suited accessories and each comes with their perfectly formed, customisable, wacky playset. RIP Palisades.
Bad Examples: Buffy/Angel figures, with not a single vampire character featuring interchangeable vamp/non-vamp heads. What are they thinking?
Thou Shall Listen To The Fans.
Like them or not, they're the ones buying your toys; if you show some promotional shots or information and people make complaints, listen to them. Take an interest and fix the complaints - you're guarenteed to sell more and have fans keep coming back.
Good Example: Palisades The Good Days, for listening to the fans on the message boards, taking suggestions, making some awesome, awesome toys.
Bad Example: Palisades The Bad Days, for ignoring their fans and blind boxing, raising prices, and general burying what was the best action figure company ever into a ditch it couldn't dig itself out of.
Thou Shall Meet Supply and Demand.
Shortpacking has become very popular; many collectors love the chase and thrill of finding a hard-to-get grail. On the other hand, having an extremely popular figure impossible to find because it's only one per case is a complete pain in the ass and isn't going to satisfy those who are keeping you fed and clothed. Why not shortpack the less popular characters to keep the thrill going, but also keep people happy with the toys they want? Also combats those pesky, greedy scalpers.
Good Example: All of Family Guy S1 just being rereleased for people who missed the first phase - likewise, the early Simpsons World of Springfield being rereleased.
Bad Example: Anyone for a Phasing Ghostrider? Fancy a Goliath? Phasing Vision, anyone? Welcome to eBay, where us happy gang of scalpers can supply you with that impossible-to-find figures for the low, low price of your soul, or a kidney.
Thou shall Not Piss Us Off With 1.3 Billion Variants and Exclusives
How many Street Fighter figures are there now? Feel like getting all of the variant faces in the Family Guy series? Can't get a DC figure because it's only available to every third employee? All of these are painful for collectors and rarely make the collecting game fun, only irritating. (SOTA's Street Fighter isn't too bad with this, but the fact that there's a hundred odd different figures in only three series of toys illustrates the point.) Create variants that make sense - different costumes are great, but different faces and headsculpts? Why not package alternative heads (ala South Park's Kenny)? Likewise, exclusives can be fun, but make them available to people, and don't let the stores they're exclusive to overcharge.
Good Example: Tower Records exclusives, easily available in stores or online, and very fairly priced.
Bad Example: Invader Zim Hot Topic exclusives - Overpriced, less accessories than the normal figures, tricky to find, and you have to go into freaking Hot Topic to get them. Perfect! Not.
Thou Shall Have a Scale
Make 6"-7" the standard, thinking of inches as feet. Or, alternatively, with small characters, up the size but keep some kind of perspective, so the toys can still interact with their other kin. Don't go freaking huge just for the sake of going freaking huge, and don't make cheap little toys just to save a buck (yes, I'm looking at you, Batman Begins/Superman Returns).
Good Example: Mezco's South Park figures and Palisades Invader Zim figures, which either have or create the illusion of a perfect scale between the smaller child/alien/robot characters, the taller adult/alien characters.
Bad Example: NECA's Cult Classics Gremlin figures. How big is this thing supposed to be? 5'? Likewise, the Cult Classics are basically out of scale with everything else, with that extra inch or two making them tower over everything - not happy. Also, DC Direct figures are all over the place, and the aforementioned godawful Mattel Batman Begins/Superman Returns figures? What the hell?
Thou Shall Not Overcharge
We're getting into the thick of it now - toy prices are higher than ever and getting higher, with the big issue of plastic prices, and supply and demand, and the dwindling interest in toys. Still, this does not forgive insane overpricing on what ultimately amounts to a hobbyist collectible plaything. No one is going to give up a huge chunk of cash that could be spent on other entertainment or livelihood if the price is insane, so let's keep it reasonable!
Good Example: Up until now, ToyBiz's Marvel Legends. Inexpensive, if you can ignore that little bloodstain from the sweatshop kid's fingers, but excellent value with great sculpts and articulation. You couldn't beat them in their heyday.
Bad Example: Mattel's DC figures started out expensive and have been inflating. If this keeps up, the damn things are going to cost $20 by the time their license ends.