G.I. Joe State of the Union HasCon 2017 Edition
After a marketing campaign that had mixed emotions among the action figure community, HasCon 2017 has come and gone. Did it live up to the hype? Were all the haters to be proved correct? Was attendance low or high? All valid questions that we hope to explore and discuss on a real level.
I guess we should start with how I attended the show. I purchased a V.I.P. Magic:The Gathering pass (Yes.. I play and collect MTG). As part of the ToyArk network I was both going to report on the show itself and the Hasbro Brand product reveals that would be going on for the weekend and try to get my geek on for a few MTG events.
Hascon as a Toy Collectors event: As a fandom (G.I. Joe and Action Figures of all brands) we have been very lucky to have a vast selection of solid Toy Collector focused events all over the USA. As a result we have a set expectations as to what that looks like in the action figure community. I think HasCon is a perfect example of the expectations vs reality of how it can still be a huge success even tho it does not fit into the mold we are all used to seeing.
The dealer room was super small and mostly full of Magic: The Gathering merch. Did that matter to me? Not at all. HasCon was a show similar to SDCC in the big marketing event atmosphere and brand immersion. Big interactive displays with enough freshness (reveals) to make it worthy of a premiere event. This is what Hasbro was trying to tell us from the start, this is a Family Event, bring your kids, not bring yourself and drag your family along disguised as a vacation.
To that effect Hasbro – Hascon gets an A for a Family Fun event that if Hasbro decides to do again I will be bringing my Son along for the ride. All the children I saw were having the time of their life. Hasbro had set up nicely spaced out sections for all the major Hasbro Brands with heavy focus on interaction and the staff to back it up even under the crowded Saturday conditions. When I think about all the next generation of collectors “talk” that goes on, I can think of no better way to introduce kids to Hasbro Brands then what HasCon provided. They knocked it out of the park on that angle.
Just FYI – As a V.I.P. on Friday HasCon looked to be lightly attended. While I enjoyed short lines, no waiting to try new things and look at display cases, I was a little worried at the numbers on attendance early on. Fast forward to Saturday and it was a mad house, very populated but still room to enjoy your space. Overall attendance looked to me like a big success. Especially on the kids side.
V.I.P. Gift Bags – The gift bags were decent and full of cool goodies, but that was just the start of the free stuff Hasbro was giving away. The V.I.P. lounges were full of free swag from playmats to books and actually an awesome selection of food. Fresh fruit and free soda, juice and bottled water all weekend. I also saw a ton of Hasbro guests and brand managers pop into the lounges and hang out for Q&A and product reveals.
Exclusives – All of the HasCon exclusives for the show were solid and second to only SDCC’s normal dominance. Good thing most of those were there for sale, and so was a nice selection of discounted current product at the Hasbro Toy Shop. On that note I would love to have seen that part of the show grow. Why not have a Star Wars shop? Why Not have a Transformers shop? There was clothing on display that I wish I could have purchased. Same goes for Tonka. They had a big display and I could not buy one for my son (good thing I won one). More of what Hasbro sells and what the licensed merchandise has to offer for on-hand purchase.
The HasCon shirts. One of the MEGA fails at the show. Not because they sucked in any way, it was the exact opposite. However it was like they have never seen us in person at shows before. No 3x or above shirts to be found at HasCon. I was a little red in the face after waiting in line to find that out…
Magic:The Gathering – I think I have a very unique perspective on this side of the event. Since I come from a Action Figure collector background, so you would think my primary reason for going would be G.I.Joe, but for me having attended so many JoeCon’s and endless SDCC attendance (having seen most of what was shown) it was actually for the awesome focus on the mega brand Magic: The Gathering and it’s 25th Anniversary celebration. It was no shock to me that my group of collector friends had no clue how big this brand really is and why so much space and attention it was getting. This is just one of the ways that the collector base who attended Hascon had a little culture shock. That’s right Toy Collectors! Magic:The Gathering is the second most profitable Brand that Hasbro owns.
Anyway I went on a V.I.P Magic: The Gathering pass and I can tell you that part of the show was worthy of the cost of the brand experience. The blind Iconic Masters drafts, MTG 25th Anniversary Party and MTG 25th Anniversary Panel were all highlights of the show. Hats off to the crew at WOTC and a special shout to Mark Rosewater who hung out for several hours in at the V.I.P. Lounge answering questions, and generally bullshitting with fans on a real level! It’s easy to see why this brand continues to out preform.
The G.I. Joe Display and presence at HasCon – I’m not sure how this happened but I think some of the fan base expected a new G.I. Joe line to materialize at HasCon. While I would have loved for that to have occurred, Hasbro has always maintained they will launch the next G.I. Joe line when they have a new Movie to support the brand. On that note as a G.I. Joe “Super Fan” as Hasbro called it, HasCon offered very little to me as a Joe fan that I have not seen several times or met the people and guests that HasCon provided. While I understand the focus on the past to an extent, it’s old hat. The other brands had tons of hands on interaction of new product, so I’m looking forward to the future. We have celebrated the past enough, it’s time for new blood.
Now after having said all of that, it’s only fair to point out… how many of the other people in attendance, other then the usual core JoeCon crew, have seen G.I. Joe and experienced the Brand like we have over the last 20 years? Almost none, so for them it was all new and a fresh and awesome to see that display at HasCon, and to hear and see the teams of people who worked on the G.I. Joe brand for so long, all in one place, that took me 15+ years of cons and shows to experience. See what I’m trying say? Hopefully…..
For me the show was also a highlight of years of personal relationships with people from all over the World. All at one spot hanging out having a good time, both enjoying HasCon and what Hasbro had to offer, and all the after hours fun. Looking forward to next year and a fine tuned show. Thanks for the great time Hasbro!