Monday, December 24, 2018

Hasbro Cancels Hascon 2019

Seems that when it comes to Hasbro marketing itself, it just cannot get it right. The toy company has announced that it has "postponed". You really can't "postpone" a convention. There are too many moving parts so the only way to take this is as an outright lie from Hasbro to its fans. Their PR department basically went overboard in trying to soften the news, probably more out of habit then evaluating whether they needed to or not.

This doesn't seem like much but keep in mind the history if you are a convention going Transformers fan. From 1994 to 2016 there was the successful Botcon which Hasbro purposely killed for Hascon which was held in 2017. They then skipped 2018 and now have cancelled the 2019 convention. It makes the ending of Botcon seem even more idiotic with time. Toys R Us closing did more damage to the company then they care to admit and this is one of those indicators of that.

Hascon is also just another example of ongoing incompetence. They wanted to control the message and the marketing for their Hasbro toys while simultaneously trying to box out third party makers who attend unofficial conventions. That meant pulling back all the official licenses they had granted to other conventions (I doubt Botcon was the only one impacted). I suspect they looked at the huge popularity of San Diego Comic-con and thought "We need to get in on that action" not realizing that SDCC is a very unique case and not anywhere close to normal for most conventions. The average convention, regardless of focus, is low profit or no profit affairs. Worth enough for those that run them to make a decent living but not exactly profitable enough for owners to enjoy leaping into higher tax brackets. Hasbro took over and probably quickly realized they were either going to lose money or make so little as to not be worth it to a company that size. Something that basic research, like say having a conversation with Botcon and other Hasbro related convention runners, would have told them. The conventions were a source of pure good will directed at the company and now they can't even get that right.

Isolated, this is no big deal except to those with Hascon plans or another kick in the butt for Botcon fans. Add it to the years and its just further evidence that Hasbro's marketing and fulfillment team do not know what they are doing. The company has devolved into a rut of movie line toys, re-releases and filling in the "gap" with a cartoon line. Except you hit that shelving problem as can't easily find the newest toys. Bumblebee movie just came out (great entry for the franchise btw) and you will be hard pressed to go find Bumblebee movie toys on shelves. Did you know there is a current cartoon series called Transformers: Cyberverse? Its currently YouTube only shorts (an entertaining cartoon so check it out) and yep the toys waves are not easy to find. You are really forced to go to online retailers who take advantage of their unofficial exlusive access to new toys and charge a premium while adding shipping costs. When Hasbro do prestige level figures its just years ago re-releases of Takara's Masterpiece line or old G1 figures. They are even effectively closing HsbroToyShop, saying the site "will no longer sell products directly." Exactly what this means remains unknown which considering the changeover is less then a month away is a bit inexcusable. What little I have gathered they are trying to turn the site into a version of Amazon's Marketplace, Wish, or Etsy where other sellers use the site to sell Hasbro items. A key difference is Amazon still warehouses, ships, and attempts to police those sellers where I suspect Hasbro is under the mistaken impression they can just provide a front end and the rest will take care of itself. In addition the company plans to move from their Rhode Island headquarters. In short, there are a lot of little things that add up to a company undergoing internal upheaval.

The toy maker aspect of the company is still fine, I don't have any meaningful complaints about the end product, but it shouldn't be harder to find their new toys then it is for me to get old of a now superior third party manufactured Transformer whose cost is really the only thing holding them back from surpassing Hasbro. The result of all these missteps, many of them going on for years now, is I have very little confidence in Hasbro's management and therefore future. They just keep dropping easy to catch balls. On the bright side, Bumblebee indicates that Paramount managed to right the movie ship. Now I I can't help but wonder if Hasbro helped or hindered that effort.

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