I love Duffy and I would prefer if he was only available in the parks. I believe this gives him a special status. Essentially you must seek out Duffy products, they aren’t (until now) readily available just anywhere. They are a premium item, since they are relying on dedicated fans to purchase them since he has a very small market saturation.
The idea of having a “park only” character seems to stray from Disney’s traditional business model. You can buy a Mickey, Minnie, Wreck it Ralf, Nemo… you name it – at hundreds of stores from Wal-Mart to Toys R Us. Part of Duffy’s novelty is that you COULN’T find him just anywhere. But, Disney USA also isn’t making much money on him. He’s a developed character that could be easily dropped into creative planning, so instead of doing additional research and development, they are looking to take the Duffy character and commercialize him into a TV star. (allegedly a show is in the works?)
This implies a very significant shift from a niche character to a character with mass audience exposure. Obviously if Duffy is featured on TV, he will be more widely-known, and demand for Duffy merchandise will go up. When he is more of a mainstream character, the quality will go down as the masses just want a toy and are not demanding a high quality bear. They won’t intend to carry him around town and buy expensive intricate clothing. They just want another (cheap) stuffed toy. Think of those stuffed Mickeys you see at Walmart, they pale in comparison to “Park Duffy.”
The upside is that most characters maintain a continuum of product merchandise. The park merchandise has traditionally always been superior to the stuff you find just anywhere. Hopefully Disney can cater to all Duffy lovers; the little kids who want a bear like the one they saw on TV, and the enthusiasts like us who want high quality merchandise. Only time will tell.