Another answer to an action figure message board post on a board I’m no longer a member of:
The suggestion for pre-ordering before production begins is accurate in some industries — Comic books, for instance. Stores order copies three months before an issue is shipped, and that’s it. The end. If the store didn’t order enough copies, they generally can’t get more.
Stuff on optical discs (CDs, DVDs, BluRays, video games, etc.) also can be pre-ordered in that manner, due to the ease and speed with which those items can be manufactured; if pre-orders exceed expectations, it’s relatively easy to print extra books, case inserts, and booklets.
Basically, it comes down to production time. While it may only take an hour or so to manufacture all the pieces of a single figure, assemble it figure, add paint apps, put it in the package along with all the accessories and Build-A-Figure parts, when you multiply that by 50,000 copies (or however many they make of each figure, I have no idea what those numbers actually are), and you’re looking at a much longer process. Multiply that by the usually 6 or 7 figures per wave. Now consider that most of the manufacturing plants are doing business for SEVERAL companies (or in Hasbro’s case, several different toy lines) at once, and every company has to wait “in line” for their turn at production.
And if there’s a problem with the process of any figure along the way, it jams up production for the entire line. So if you suddenly have to double a number of figures pre-ordered, that not only delays the manufacturing process for that figure, but for every figure AFTER that, as well.
Now, the argument could be made that they should make pre-orders available BEFORE the manufacturing process begins (Super7 is doing that for their TMNT Ultimates line, and NECA is currently taking pre-orders prior to manufacturing for some things), and that’s not unreasonable, except that it would then delay the amount of time it takes between production and distribution. In a world where we are getting more and more used to instant gratification, pre-ordering something a year in advance can be a risky business move.
Production is weird.