Covered extensively and very well at Bleeding Cool, Hasbro is looking to finally put an end to what has been killing its G.I. Joe, Transformers, Marvel, and Star Wars lines: scalpers. They come to a store (ex. Target, Wal-Mart, Toys R Us) whenever they're in resupply, raid department of the rarest figures, and then sell them for triple the price. Meanwhile, other figures that were repeated in the wave (fans call this THE HIVE as, in Transformers lines, Bumblebee is the one figure in the waves always repeated) clog toy shelves because stores keep ordering, but everyone else sells save poor Bumblebee who just keeps clogging the shelves until the store cannot restock.
Being a fellow collector, the temptation to scalp is ALWAYS there for me. I've seen Black Widows in the wild (aka at stores) and could have easily done the same. But I didn't. Why? I don't have the drive [editor's note: for all Zechs' evil posing, he's clearly a big softee], and whatever rare figures I do find (Money Bags Destro and Low-Light from G.I. Joe: Pursuit of Cobra wave or G.I. Joe Renegades Storm Shadow), I give to friends. I'm that kind of guy, and I didn't want to be the killer of something I enjoyed collecting (and alas it was due to scalpers that the G.I. Joe line died a horrible horrible death with Arctic Destro being the "hive" bane for Joe fans).
No greater current example exists than the one given by BC: Black Widow from the Captain America: The Winter Soldier Marvel Legends line. Short packed, amongst a ton of Captain America figures (there are three versions of Cap: comic, classic movie costume, and WS costume he wears for the first half of the movie), this was basically the one figure collectors have been craving to add to their Avengers collection. Like always, scalpers got to the wave first. Originally, Black Widow was going for, around the time of the movie, $80. Eventually, (again as noted in BC article) the Black Widow died down due to restocking and Wave 2 will make the figure a bit easier to get. Now, it'll be even easier.
So what exactly is Hasbro doing? Well, they'll be selling indivdual figures to the direct market and through Diamond. To an average collector going through HasbroToyShop this may not be big news. Hasbro has done so in the past, but with Diamond and more frequently? Well, this does give regular folk who want highly sought after figures a better chance of nabbing them or expanding on them (if they're looking to army build).
The only question this reporter is curious about is what does this mean for the store market? Yes, I've noticed Hasbro has gone smarter by reducing multi-packed figures, but they are also still reselling older molds (Marvel Universe Captain America, Marvel Now!/Heroic Age Iron Man, and Steve Rogers instantly pop in my head as they show up in Avengers Assemble waves).
For now, this could mark a huge change in the action figure market. It's unknown though if this new move impacts just Transformers, Star Wars, and Marvel lines, given there is a wave of G.I. Joe two-packs hitting Toys R Us in two months. We'll keep you updated if this also includes them as well as updating you if this practice holds up.