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Points of Articulation

yo go re
An Open Letter to Palisades

By now, the decision to package the next series of X-Files PALz in blind boxes is probably pretty well locked in stone - I know that production schedules run way in advance of any appearance in stores, and that any minor change can cause severe delays. But really, you must realize how incredibly bad an idea this is.

The excuse we're given is that the figures cost too much - and that's entirely true. It's exactly what all your fans said when the price point for the Buffy PALz was announced. We told you then that $8 was too much to ask for a single block figure, but the response was that all the accessories you'd be including would off-set that. Even if that is the case, the X-Files figures don't even come with half as many extras, yet they cost nearly the same price.

I understand that you need to make the X-Files PALz cheaper - this is a tough toy market, right now. So your answer is to scale back the accessories and blind-pack the figures, two very odd choices.

One of Palisades' biggest strengths has always been its accessories: you guys do more to make your figures stand out than any other company. That held true for the first series of X-Files PALz, as well: part of the appeal was the great accessories that came with them. Lots of companies are making block figures now, but how many would make a block-styled portapotty? Or a condolence wreath or a giant cauldron? No one - no one but Palisades.

And while we love your accessories, they are a sacrifice that fans would be willing to accept, if need be; if your other cost-cutting measure wasn't so inexplicable.

Blind packaging may be a standard practice for Japanese toys, but no major North American line has ever succeeded with it - yes, Gentle Giant's Star Wars Bust-Ups ship this way, but let's face reality: The X-Files is no Star Wars. And even the Bust-Ups have a tiny window in the corner of the box, so if you take your time and look, you tell what you're getting before you buy.

Knowing what you're purchasing is a major plus in any situation. The official company line seems to be that the blind packaging is going to encourage the "fun" of collecting. That answer's bullshit and you know it - you're switching to blind packaging not only because it's cheaper, but also because you want customers to spend more money on your products. If a buyer can't see what they've bought until they get home and opened it, then they're out of luck if it's not what they wanted. Oop, gotta go back and buy another.

You're switching to blind packaging to make someone who would otherwise only buy X number of PALz instead spend the money to buy X+1. Or +2. Or plus three, four or five. Tell all the tales you want about it being cheaper - the real drive behind this choice was getting us to spend more money for less, which is why your pat answer to our complaints is that we should buy a case. "Oh, you're guaranteed to get a full set if you buy a case." Yeah, a full set of the plain figures, and only two of the four chase figures. To actually "guarantee" a complete collection, you have to buy two cases, and hope that the second case has the other two chases you need.

Ah, but then you say that people can go on your boards to trade the figures they have for the ones they want. Again, this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the fan community. Pretend that someone who is actually lucky enough to find the Krycek PALz, for instance, doesn't want it. Considering all the buying they would have had to do prior to finding that figure, what are the odds they would want or need to trade for more of the common offerings? When someone ends up with three Mulders, who are they going to trade with to get the figures they do want?

America's only true previous "blind packaging" products were baseball cards - a field of interest that nearly collpased years ago when fans and collectors realized that if they get five copies of Card A, then everyone else probably did, as well. No one wants to trade for your "commons" because they're busy trying to get rid of their own.

At least in a collectible card game, you can use these extras: you're allowed to have more than one copy in your deck. Who really needs a sixth copy of FBI Jacket Scully? Especially when we already got a Scully in Series 1! Two of her, in fact! But the idea of trading for rare figures doesn't even work when we can see the figures: what makes you think it will work better when we can't?

Your other mistaken claim is that this will draw in casual fans. Not a chance. "Casual" fans don't buy what they can't see. My absolute favorite candy is a Whatchamacallit bar - not something sold in many stores these days. I could probably go online and buy a box of the things, but I don't. I buy them when I see them in stores, and I'm much more than a casual fan. Blind packing is going to do nothing but cut off that segment of your potential fanbase.

But I guess that's okay, since the rest of us who have to buy multiples will more than make up for them, won't we?

There are other bad choices, of course. Marita may make a good chase figure, but Krycek is strictly mainstream. And is one of the inbred Peacock brothers really worth being a main figure in the line? But despite those shortcomings, despite the problems with the accessories, the biggest mistake you're making is the packaging, and it's not even restricted to your PALz - your otherwise-fun Army of Darkness figures are heading down this same wrong-headed path: less accessories, less variety and blind packaging that conceals poor case packs.

I realize there's recently been a bit of a shake-up at the top of your company, and that everyone's been busy. But still, you've been pulling away from your fans - a mistake other growing companies have made before you. And hey, one of those companies had the X-Files and Army of Darkness licenses, too.

Palisades is the company that listens, so listen to us now: come back to the message boards, some back to the conventions, come back down to earth. Listen to your fans when we tell you this is a bad idea, because this is a bad idea. Forget the blind packs; there has to be a better way to save some money.

Putting a sticker on the box with the figure's name or putting in a window so we can see who it is might raise the price slightly above what you're aiming for, but as collectors, we would pay it. It's sad that we would have to pay for the privilege of knowing what you're selling us, but there you go. We would. We'd probably even pay a little more above that hypothetical price point for the variants and chase figures, if we knew what they were.

Or set up a trading system that you control: one like the booths at carnivals, where you can trade five tiny prizes for a larger one. Someone's got three Attack Aliens? They send them to you, you send them a Eugene Tooms. "Give me five Regular Skinners for a Chase Skinner," they'd say. And you would. Palisades would still be the company that cares about its customers.

Fans respond to that kind of attention. Palisades' fans shell out more money than they should because they know someone back at corporate headquarters really cares about them; take that away and, well, maybe you can grab some cash-heavy sports licenses to keep you afloat. But I think most of those are taken. Avoid repeating the mistakes of others, Palisades: alienate your fans, and they'll take their money elsewhere. Reward us, and we'll be by you forever.

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