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Disney Has its First Force Friday Hit

By Rick Munarriz - Sep 7, 2015 at 1:00PM

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Sphero's BB-8 is the star of the new "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" toys.

Source: Sphero.    

Well, that didn't take long. Disney (DIS -1.11%) staged Force Friday over the weekend, introducing new toys tied to the upcoming big screen debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and it already has a big winner.

BB-8 by Sphero hit the market at $149.99 on Friday through select retailers, and it wasn't long before they were all sold out. Desperate Star Wars buffs are seeing the remote-controlled droids being sold in online marketplaces at juicy premiums, and placing an order through Sphero itself points to a lack of availability until October. 

Affluent fans and early holiday shoppers are hopping on the toy despite the stiff price tag. It's slick and high-tech, allowing owners to use smartphones and tablets to not only control the device but also record and view holographic renderings. It also accepts voice commands, and has an adaptive personality that evolves based on interactions. 

Investors will be bummed to learn that they can't invest in Sphero, the small company behind the toy. For now investors are turning to Hasbro (HAS -4.38%), the toy giant that stands to make a killing on the $80 Furbacca -- the Chewbacca-tweaked Furby -- as well as the $50 Jedi Master lightsaber kit. Hasbro is also giving its popular Risk board game an update with a Star Wars twist. 

Hasbro is going to fare well, but right now the attention is rightfully earned by Sphero's BB-8. The lucky first wave of buyers that aren't flipping them for a quick profit is coming up with creative ways to show off the rolling plaything. An early viral hit features BB-8 rolling around Disney World's Magic Kingdom. 

Disney is clearly going to make a killing here, but it better not get too greedy. It got caught marking up the BB-8 on Friday at its own resorts, charging $200 when it was retailing everywhere else for $149.99. Disney responded quickly to mark it back down to its suggested retail price, offering refunds to the folks that lined up on Thursday night to get the first crack at midnight launch events.

It doesn't have to swing for the fences here. Disney is going to make a ton of dough as it breathes new life into the iconic Star Wars franchise. This is just one toy, and while it will put Sphero on the map the way that talking Buzz Lightyear dolls put Thinkway Toys on the map in 1995, there will be a lot more hot sellers. Hasbro will also rake in a lot money this holiday shopping season, but Disney is ultimately the final resting place for the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The movie title pretty much tells it all.  

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