DST cannot hope to operate a subscription service for their ships - it's just not practical - but from my layman's perspective, the path from warehouse-to-customer seems needlessly complex and expensive for them. Is there some regulatory barrier to them setting up a direct sales system via some online front-end on eBay or Amazon (or the like), and selling toys direct to customers China-to-doorstep?
I'm sure I'm talking out of my arse, but it feels like something somewhere needs a re-think.
Destructor, you might not be as far off as you think you are. While I cannot comment on DST specifically, I do know that most toy companies typically have contracts with the retailers that carry their product (at least in the United States) which prohibits them (the toy companies) from selling directly to consumers. Some larger toy companies (e.g. Hasbro and Mattel,) may be able to carve out some specific exceptions, and sales at conventions and similar events are usually omitted from this clause, but typically if a company like DST wants to have their products carried by stores like Wal–Mart, Target, and sometimes even Amazon, they're not allowed to sell most of their items directly to consumers.
As for China–to–doorstep, I know that it sounds like it should be simple, but the cost of doing it would be absolutely astronomical. A "slow boat from China" is just that, a slow boat that has to cross oceans at the speed of a slug, avoid areas of the sea where storms, pirates, and other potential hazards might pose a threat, and clear customs at both a port in China and a port in the United States or other countries where the toys are being sold. Depending on the speed that customs workers are moving at, that could take days even if the ship is just sitting in port collecting barnacles. While DST could airlift some items early on, the cost of doing so would increase the cost of each item by $10–20 dollars to cover the increased fuel costs. Apple airlifts early iDevice orders so that they're available to customers on the release date, but that increased fuel cost is built into the total charged for every iDevice on the market, and Apple has deals in place with FedEx to fly iDevices to various locations ahead of schedule using an already–existing infrastructure that they built over the course of decades. DST and most other companies don't have that luxury. Shipping items directly to customers from China creates a legal nightmare because of the number of packages that would have to pass through customs on an individual basis, and the chance of someone not getting their ship and then suing someone because somebody didn't check a box on a form somewhere increases exponentially. When everything is shipped on a boat, customs officials might open or inspect a case or two, but they don't go through every single thing on a ship, with the amount of detail that they'd put into individual packages.
Now if DST could sell directly to customers, even just through Amazon, that might be an option worth looking into. "Fulfilled by Amazon" is set up in such a way that you basically ship your stuff to Amazon and if it sells, they pay you for your sale. DST might be able to do something like that if contracts with other retailers don't treat it as a "direct sale," but that's not too much different from being an Amazon supplier already.
The biggest issue with a change in operations is how it would affect DST's overall budget. Sure, they might be able to set something up along the lines of what people have asked for, but they might to jettison some items people were looking forward to in order to cover the costs of setting up a direct sales system, and then people would complain about how the thing they wanted was cancelled (even if only temporarily for several years) as a result of such a system being created.
The biggest problem with DST waiting until next year to reveal something, is that they typically don't reveal and release the same year.
Granted for the 50th they COULD have things planned that they don't want to reveal yet, but it's hard to say.
This is honestly what worries me the most; DST has released most of what they've already announced, and as you've pointed out, it's rare for them to reveal and release in the same year. If something is announced in 2015/2016, I don't think we'll necessarily see it until 2016/2017, and the time to announce something in 2015 is rapidly coming to an end. While I would love to be surprised with a bunch of unannounced product being revealed and released for the 50th anniversary, and to hear that CBS Inc. was the one who gagged DST the whole time, I'm admittedly not getting my hopes up. I would love to be wrong, but if CBS Inc. was really planning a huge 50th anniversary celebration, we'd be hearing about a new Prime Universe TV series being scheduled for the 2016 fall TV season, and I haven't heard anything that suggests even a currently unofficial project is at the point where it could be ready for a fall 2016 release. For something like Trek, there are usually a couple of years spent on pre–preproduction alone to nail things like ship design and other details.
As for DST, I seem to remember hearing that one of their lead designers for the ships passed away. If that's the case, it's really not right for us to fault them for being behind schedule; if they have to hire a new designer, it's very likely that they're going to need some time to regroup, especially if the goal is to maintain the level of quality that we've had over the years in terms of detail on DST's ships, which is arguably one of their largest selling points. However, if they know what the next ship is going to be after the Romulan BoP, I don't think that it would hurt just to show a poster of it in sillouhette like a teaser poster for a movie or a concept car, or to do some sort of blueprint/display schematic style design that just reads something like "DST's next ship is," followed by a "technical manual" style image of a ship such as the Enterprise–C or any of the other contenders. This wouldn't require any new sculpting, and people would know what to expect, even if it just said "when it's finished" at the bottom of the poster. No news might be good news, but it can certainly also be quite frustrating.