Phaser Rifle (1994)
The history of the Trek product line has had its share of missed opportunities and blunders, but one early Playmates item that sticks out is the Phaser Rifle, shown in 1994, around the time that the TNG 7th season figures and the "Generations" line were coming out.
The most interesting aspect of this prototype is that it's not lamely scaled-down to a quarter of the original, but is actually pretty big and relatively well proportioned. The rifle would have included a pivoting "sight" screen, which popped up from the back half of the rifle just like on the actual prop, as well as light and sound effects. The biggest departure from the original was perhaps the slightly bulbous head, but that's about it. The toy would have had a clear midsection and tip that would have lit up when the trigger was pressed.
This seems like an obvious item that could have really helped the line, but after its appearance in 1994 alongside the palm phaser and the walkie-talkie communicators (ugh), the phaser rifle was never seen again.
Were commercial or retailer considerations to blame for its shelving?
The two phasers and the tricorder did pretty well at retail; unlike the ships and playsets there were seldom any items that hung around for a year and a half and got shelf-worn into oblivion. The big phaser, as you recall, was particularly sought after even though it was produced in big numbers, and the tricorder was cleared out pretty fast as well. The subsequent medical tricorder was produced in smaller numbers but also did well at retail. Based on this background it seems like the phaser rifle coming out in 1995 would have done well at retail -- it could have been packaged in a half-open box that would allow buyers to hold it and press all the buttons before buying it -- just like the various Kenner Star Wars blasters that also found buyers fast.
The manufacturer's decision, I suspect, may have had something to do with "large items" like the Transporter, which was not selling well at all, but which took up a lot of space.
The small phasers and tricorders were an easier sell to stores since their boxes were small, but the phaser rifle would have required at least two feet of shelf space, in essence becoming a victim of its own realism. The big ships also did not do well at retail, at least the ones that were produced in any quantity. The phaser rifle would have been longer than the boxes of the Enterprise-D and things like that, and it would have been priced (I would think) around $30.00 or more. Would that have been the deal-killer right there? Playmates had acknowledged at that time that something like 70% of their Trek items are bought by adult collectors anyway, who presumably don't have to beg their parents for $30.00, but I can see how retailers would not have wanted a large item with a high-ish pricetag on shelves.
Still, more than 20 years later it seems this was a very obvious crowd-pleaser that the line passed up to its detriment.