Editorial: Hasbro Needs A Win At PulseCon


September 26, 2022

It’s safe to say the last week or two have not been the greatest time for Hasbro.  A recent string of misses have some collectors very upset and vocal about their beloved toys. What exactly happened?  After a successful return to San Diego Comic Con this summer, the collecting community was mostly excited with the new reveals.  G.I. Joe collectors were flooded (in the best way) with new reveals to the Classified line including Serpentor and his Chariot.  Fans of Marvel Legends expanded their collections with new exclusives while getting a sneak peek at some future releases.  Even the new Selfie series seemed to have an overall positive reception with collectors planning out their own future action figures.

Then there’s the HasLab HISS Tank.  If you haven’t seen or at least heard a mention of this GI Joe vehicle in the last month or so you definitely haven’t been paying attention.  For those unfamiliar with HasLab projects, Hasbro has a division similar to kickstarter.  They create a prototype of something they don’t believe would be feasible for retail outlets: usually a large, in-scale vehicle or oversized character (Sentinel, Galactus, Unicron, etc).  Then they begin a HasLab campaign, where collectors have a period of time to “preorder” theirs.  Like kickstarter, there are stretch goals that usually make the high price a little easier to accept.  Not all campaigns get funded, in fact two Star Wars projects have recently failed.  But in general, most of their projects to date have made it to production (and usually include all unlocked extras).  G.I. Joe Classified collectors had been very vocal about their desire to own vehicles in scale with their action figures.  And Hasbro listened, took a chance, and hit a grand slam.  The HISS broke HasLab records on funding reaching all of its goals very early into the campaign.  Collectors were beyond satisfied with this iconic G.I. Joe vehicle, even with the 300.00 price tag.

As the HISS campaign came to a close, they begin to tease a new one relating to Marvel Legends and Ghost Rider.  Fans had a lot of fun speculating on what this sure to be awesome release would be.  Then they revealed the campaign: Robbie Reyes and his Engine of Vengeance.  It would be the first release of the character and his ride, all in premium form.  What could possibly go wrong?  Two main things stick out to me:  the price and the failed early bird attempt.  We all know about inflation by now, everything has gone up or is going up.  But the 350.00 price for this campaign is rough.  For 50.00 less, G.I. Joe collectors were able to obtain a much larger vehicle, with electronics, and some bonuses.  With Ghost Rider, Hasbro tried something different.  Instead of all the extras being stretch goals, the first goal was to hit 9000 backers by September 23 and receive a bonus Robbie Reyes in human form action figure.  Fast forward a little, it was only in the six thousand range when the clock struck midnight on the 23rd and human Robbie was gone.  Not only was the figure gone, so was a chunk of backers as the campaign sits at 5538 at the time I am writing this editorial.  Having this figure as an early bird goal and not a regular stretch goal was a mistake.  Most collectors look at the additional figures as a 25-30$ value each.  My point is:  with human form Robbie now off the table, the project now seems even more overpriced than it did when it began.

Unfortunately for Hasbro, the hits didn’t stop there.  Next up was the highly promoted return of Starting Lineup.  Hasbro teased their return many times throughout the Spring and Summer and fans were curious how these would be.  Then the announcement day came and that curiosity turned into laughter for many.  So what went wrong this time?  This one is very, very simple…price.  The figures are no longer mini statues with little to no articulation, now they are 1:12 scale action figures with alot of articulation allowing for some realistic poses.  The likenesses are very hit and miss, but I don’t believe that had much if any effect on consumers.  Each figure included some swap out hands along with a stand to create those mid-air poses.  This all sounds pretty great for fans of the NBA who also collect action figures.  Then the price:  50.00 per figure.  Yes, you read that correct, 50.00 each.  Collectors and NBA fans have been very vocal on social media about the price and at this point it’s very hard to see this line having any success at all.

Why are these figures more expensive than say a Marvel Legends release?  Beyond the addition of the flight stands to the Starting Lineup, these two are very comparable (you could even argue the build a figure piece that’s usually included takes the place of the flight stand value wise).  Marvel Legends can easily be obtained in the 20-25.00 range.  I believe it’s due the property itself:  the NBA.  Although I don’t doubt Hasbro is looking for a little higher markup on these than a Marvel Legends figure, the inclusion of branded shoes and the likeness of the players likely played a role in the exaggerated price.  Professional sports love their money and it’s hard to imagine the NBA, NBPA, Nike, Adidas, etc aren’t getting their cut as well.  The combination of inflation and greed equaled to a product that may end up in Big Lots.  Maybe they’ll see what went wrong and try to make this an affordable collection that will appeal to both action figure collectors and sports fans alike.

Unfortunately for Hasbro, there’s even more.  It was their turn at Target’s Geek Out, where each Friday a different company offers up exclusives and first to market toys.  Originally, when the Target Geek Out schedule was posted, instead of Hasbro it listed the day as GI Joe.  This had collectors excited for what new Classified figures would hit their website that Friday.  Then, the graphic changed to just Hasbro in general, meaning on their turn they would have offerings from their different brands.  Friday came and to say collectors were underwhelmed/disappointed would be an understatement.  Before I go further I will say that Hasbro never promised anything for this event, so any expectations are really on all of us as collectors.  With that said, the GI Joe line saw the re-re-re-release of the most common Cobra Island figure, Roadblock, and a re-re-release of Barbeque.  Both of these were previously Target exclusives and highly sought after…a year or more ago.  Since then they’ve been readily available through many other online outlets including Pulse.  So a big strike out with the GI Joe crowd.  Transformers collectors were offered a re-release of the Soundwave most fans don’t want (give us a boombox already, it doesn’t have to make sense) along with some repainted movie releases.  The only thing that fans were somewhat excited for was the new Dungeons and Dragons animated series line.

Last, but definitely not least, more and more collectors are receiving Hasbro product in their new plastic free packaging.  While the idea of eliminating plastic that goes straight into the trash is appealing, it also has many downsides for collectors.  For collectors who do not open their figures, they are essentially collecting a box now.  As an opener, this doesn’t bother me, but I do see where that part of the community is coming from.  Even as an opener though, there are still downsides.  The days of being able to see the paint job on multiple figures and choose the one you thought was best are gone, for Hasbro toys anyways.  And then there’s the issue of scumbags who buy new figures, open and swap them with junk, and return them.  Window packaging at least gave collectors a heads up that a figure had been tampered with.  Now, you really don’t know what’s in that box until you open it.  Who knows, one day you may even find LeBron’s head.

Friday, PulseCon begins and Hasbro has collectors complete attention going into it.  Fans of different brands all have high hopes to see their most wanted characters and vehicles revealed.  There’s sure to be many exclusives that will also have fans excited (like the GI Joe Classified Serpentor that will sell a jillion pieces).  And I expect the Indiana Jones panel and announcements to go over very well.  They have a chance to make some of their unsatisfied fans a little happier and I hope they pull it off.  I did not write this editorial as a negative towards Hasbro.  Actually, I’m a fan of Hasbro and collect a pretty decent amount of their stuff.  While I don’t like or agree with everything they do, at the end of the day I’m a collector too and I enjoy knowing my favorites are being taken care of.  So I’ll be right there with you this Friday, eager for some good, exciting news for the hobby.


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