By Tracey John
At New York Toy Fair, one of the busiest booths is always NECA Toys, and it’s easy to see why. The New Jersey-based company makes collectibles for everything from Harry Potter and Twilight to Predator and even The Exorcist, and they’re especially known for their video game-based toys. We talked to Director of Product Development Randy Falk about NECA’s biggest game licenses this year.
One of the highest profile properties NECA recently acquired was BioShock Infinite. Although NECA had made toys for both BioShock and BioShock 2, Infinite wasn’t a shoe-in until the company had met with Irrational Games’ creative director Ken Levine. Falk said that Levine, a big toy geek himself, is heavily involved in the process.
“He knows what’s going on, what’s on the shelves and what’s out there for other titles,” Falk said. “He has very specific ideas in mind for things he wants to see, and he’s genuinely excited about it, which is really awesome.”
Sculpting and prototyping for the toys will begin next month, but Falk said as far as specifics, like what characters will be made, it’s too early to say. But he did reveal that we’ll see a few similar items that were done with BioShock and BioShock 2, like the Eve Hypo syringe and the Big Daddy plush.
“Ken seems to like a wide range of merchandise and price points, so I think there definitely will be some high-end stuff in addition to the affordable figures,” he speculated. “Maybe we’ll do things that you may have seen from Infinite already, like the Sky-Hooks, or other things that make sense as props. We’re going to do that stuff as well, and not just the figures -- maybe some dioramas. There’s a lot of stuff we’re talking about, and I’m really excited about it.”
Another franchise that’s returning to NECA is Gears of War. While the characters’ appearances didn’t change much from Gears of War to Gears of War 2, Epic has clearly redesigned their looks for Gears of War 3.
“It was great because it gave us an excuse to start over from the ground floor and re-engineer everything for this year,” Falk said. “We did all brand-new sculpts to be accurate to what they’re wearing, and then put in a ton more articulation. We’ve really pushed the limits of what you can do and how well you can conceal it.”
The seven-inch figures will have 30-32 points of articulation, and there are new versions of Marcus, Dom, Baird, Cole and, yes, even Carmine. Plus, for the first time ever, there will be a figure of a female COG with the character of Anya now playable in the new game. “Everyone knows her from the first two games, so it was great to finally make a female character [as a toy],” Falk said.
With the game delayed from April to Fall of this year, NECA had more time to tweak the already-finished figures. The few extra months have been helpful, especially when Falk noticed that Marcus’s tattoo on his left bicep was moved to his right in screenshots he saw online. At first he thought the images were flipped, but after confirming with Epic, the tattoo had been moved to the other arm -- so NECA went back and sculpted new biceps.
“It’s an important detail because we want the toys to be accurate,” Falk said. “And because we had the time, and we care enough to make it right, the one you see here now has the correct biceps. It’s a small thing but when people play the game, we want our product to reflect exactly what they see in what they spend so many hours playing.”
In addition to the figures, Gears fans can expect a statue of Cole in his thrashball uniform. Falk said that the statue was modeled after a monument of Cole seen in a destroyed thrashball stadium in the new game. The piece shown at Toy Fair was in full color, but it’s possible that they’ll make a bronze version as well. “When we saw [the monument], it instantly reminded me of a Heisman Trophy,” Falk said. “We really wanted to immortalize Cole in his thrashball glory.”
There will be a San Diego Comic-Con-exclusive Gears toy in July, and the seven-inch figures and Cole statue will be shipped near the game’s release this Fall.
“Like everyone else, I didn’t believe [the game] was happening, and maybe I still won’t believe it until I actually have it in my hand!” said Falk, who as a longtime gamer, was excited to work with Gearbox Software on a Duke Nukem Forever action figure. At eight inches tall, the toy will come with Duke's trusty pistol, a cigar and a lot of articulation. Only Duke is currently being made for the game’s release in May, but Falk hopes to do other characters from the title in the future.
NECA is also making a four-inch Claptrap figure from Gearbox’s Borderlands, which includes a base that speaks phrases from the game. So far, only the yellow version is slated for release in May, but variants are a possibility depending on the demand. And while Falk would like to do figures of the main characters Brick, Lilith, Mordecai and Roland, it’s been so long since the game’s release in 2009, that the company will wait to for a sequel and see what to do then.
Surprise E3 Swag
With so many titles and toys on the way, it’ll be a busy year for NECA. To give back to the fans, Falk revealed that they’re planning something special for those who are attending E3 in June.
“We might have some merch from say Gears, BioShock and maybe a couple of other games that are going to be in a swag bag that you can only get at E3,” Falk said. The only hint he gave was that for Gears of War 3, it will “definitely more of a high-end, really cool and deadly type of beast.”
He added, “The items will be extremely limited and sought-after. It was fun to do, and they’ll definitely be the must-have items of E3... When you’re playing these great games and you’re immersed in them, I think people are walking away wanting to have a piece of that universe, and we’re happy to give it to them."