The breakout star of The Mandalorian was a complete surprise to everyone. The second Baby Yoda popped up at the end of the first episode, it changed everyone's expectations of what the show was and what it was going to be about going forward. The biggest surprise of all, however, is not that Disney kept the character's existence a secret, but that the company is completely unprepared for the demand for merchandise. Because if you want a Baby Yoda you're going to have to wait until April, and even then the offerings aren't great.
Star Wars has always been about the merchandise, and it's common knowledge that toy money is where the bulk of George Lucas's wealth came from (at least, before the $4 billion payout for selling Lucasfilm to Disney). It's commonly stated that the success Star Wars had with toy sales is the reason why tie-in merchandise is such a big thing these days, and there's no doubt that Disney would have taken that into account before buying Lucasfilm - even if we still don't know how much money it's raked in since the 2012 takeover.
Then when Baby Yoda appeared, there was nothing. While a brand new character was taking the internet by storm, Disney had absolutely nothing prepared to capitalise on the reveal. Two weeks later we found out about the first wave of merchandise, with amounted to a single piece of concept art printed onto various objects. It's literally the kind of stuff you'd find on a CafePress store or somewhere similar, and it's not the kind of stuff you'd expect people to want to buy to show off their love of this new character. And it is a character that people love.
With each passing episode the internet seems to fall in love with Baby Yoda more and more. Star Wars fans love him because he's a link to the older films from before the Disney-buyout and is the first steps towards exploring a part of the Star Wars universe George Lucas specifically forbade from being explored. Also because he's adorable, and perfect meme fodder, which is exactly why non-fans seem to love him as much as they do. There are even people who didn't care about Star Wars that are interested in The Mandalorian simply because of Baby Yoda.
Now imagine if there were Baby Yoda toys available now. Right before Christmas, the biggest shopping period of the year, featuring the only 'cute' non-droid character Star Wars has successfully produced. You only have to look at sites like eBay or etsy to see that there's demand for Baby Yoda stock, and that's after debuting six weeks before Christmas day. Had Disney been prepared with something, literally anything, there will have been a rush of people trying to get hold of them for themselves or their kids in time for Christmas. You could liken it to past Christmas toy crazes that led to people trampling each other in shops to try and get them.
While these things are usually driven by scarcity of stock (artificial or otherwise), the fact that they're always in such high demand usually makes that demand increase. You know what kids are like, they see something they want, maybe their friend has one, and suddenly they all want one for themselves. Considering the Buzz Lightyear sales fiasco of 1996, which was down to poor supply and lack of foresight by the larger toy companies, and the fiasco around the original Force Friday, you'd have hoped Disney and its partners will have had the foresight to make sure there was enough Baby Yoda stock to keep people happy. Especially after Force Friday 3 seemed to have figured out how to run things as smoothly as physically possible.
But instead there's no supply at all.
But there are possible reasons why Disney deliberately didn't have toys ready. The first is that spoilers regularly leak through the toy industry, especially after manufacturing has begun, and the company wanted to keep The Mancalorian's big surprise an actual surprise - even if there wouldn't be much context surrounding leaked pictures of a random black-eyed Yoda. There could also be the argument that Disney chose to forgo some extra toys sales to prevent the kind of rush that has been seen in the past. As much as you could argue that people fighting over products is publicity money could never buy, it doesn't look great for Disney. More so when you consider they'd be on the receiving end of complaints from angry customers when they couldn't get a Baby Yoda from someone who didn't add a 300% markup on eBay.
Of course toys are coming. The first ones will arrive in April, and so far we've seen a Pop Vinyl and a 'plush' toy. I say plush lightly, because the toy itself has a vinyl head and hands, wo it's not your average cuddly toy. But will people care by then? The Mandalorian's final episode is set to arrive on 27th December, a whole four months before the toys are due to arrive. With no new episodes due until this time next year at the earliest (with Baby Yoda supposedly set to return), interest is bound to wane - because something always comes along to take the place of something popular. By next November/December Baby Yoda will be old news. People will still love him, especially if he continues to be his adorable green self, but we will still be past peak Baby Yoda hype.
It also doesn't help that the toys we've seen so far look really shit and creepy as hell.
It's impossible to say what could have been, but honestly the whole situation still screams of "missed opportunity". Whichever person or people at Disney decided not to have baby Yoda toys ready for this Christmas better have a good explanation for it. Because if it was a simple lack of foresight, or the misguided assumption that Baby Yoda would be the new Jar Jar Binks, then they're just flat out bad at their jobs. At least where it relates to Star Wars.