Last weekend was the debut of the official Hasbro toy show, called Hascon 2017. It was billed as a family friendly event where multiple Hasbro properties – including the Transformers – would be represented with attendees able to meet special guests, purchase exclusives and get hands-on experience with flagship Hasbro products. To quote from their own website, “Three unforgettable days of meet-and-greets, sneak peeks, and fan-centric surprises await as you experience your favorite characters and stories, and an insider’s look at how the magic happens”. This week we ask a few of the attendees – specifically Transformers fans – what they felt the greatest strengths of the show were, and its key areas for improvement. As a fan and former BotCon attendee, as well as a big supporter and attendee of TFNation, I was extremely curious to know where the event sat on the spectrum when it came to Transformers content.
I think we all knew that Hascon 2017 would feel different to BotCon and other previous Transformers conventions for a number of obvious reasons. First and foremost, it isn’t an exclusively Transformers-related event. Furthermore, it isn’t being aimed at adult collectors, but rather families. Being an officially-run enterprise, it also may not have the distinct social aspect that fan-run conventions like TFNation or TFCon would have. What it did have, though, were exclusive Transformers (that would also later be available through the Hasbro Toy Shop online); Titans Return deluxe Arcee and Leinad featuring Titan Master Ultra Magnus, as well as an Optimus Prime power bank were offered as early access items for attendees. It had special guests such as Mark Wahlberg, Isabela Moner, Frank Welker and Peter Cullen. There was also a display of Transformers prototypes and a fair amount of the new Power Of The Primes toys for attendees to see. There opportunities for attendees to buy toys and merchandise, meet artists and participate in a variety of family-friendly activities.
So how much of that appealed to Transformers convention goers? Let’s hear from some of the attendees.
First off, here’s Zak Finkenstein with his account of his experience: “I went to Hascon with the attitude that the previously rather excessive price had been cut in half by the Groupon deal and it was only an hour and a half drive, so even if it was as much of a disaster as some folks online predicted, it was worth going just to be able to say: ‘I was AT that disaster!’ afterwards. I was pleasantly surprised to come away from my day there having had a great time and wishing dearly that I’d brought my wife, 9yr old son and pair of 3yr old little girls with me. There was some disorganization early on, especially with regards to the schedules of panels and the exclusives line, small things like that, not surprising for a first time Con, but they were really very minor things in the light of all the show got right. Every employee I talked to in every booth for every property seemed not just happy to be there, but honestly having fun with it all. They seemed happy to stamp the little passport they gave you to get you to visit every booth.
“There was plenty of great stuff for me, a 41 year old geek, (The Transformers, Marvel and Star Wars areas were full of cool stuff, old stuff, new stuff, reveals that made me make grabby hands and the most awesome displays and dioramas). But the real strength of the Con was in all the stuff beyond that, the stuff for kids and families. The My Little Pony, Littlest Pet Shop, Sesame Street, Nerf, Bey Blade, Play Doh and the rest of the booths that filled more than half of the main hall had at least as much love given to them, and were each full of toys to play with, games, giveaways, free stuff and a bunch of really fun looking activities for kids. Just walking through and doing little bits here and there to get my passport stamped, the sense of fun and love for these brands and the kids enjoying them was pretty infectious and seemed very sincere. Between panels and DnD and Magic and staring at Transformers Power Of The Primes figures, I could have found enough to do there for two more days if I’d had tickets for that. But my kids? I feel like they would have been very happy to spend a week. That’s what it felt like at least. If Hasbro does this again, I definitely plan to bring them and see. It was more a Con for family, adult Geeks and their toy-loving kids, than I’ve been to before and that’s a neat thing.”
Supporting the view that the show was not geared towards the superfan the way BotCon would have been, and that the initial cost was a deterrent, here are Diecast’s thoughts on Hascon: “I think for Hasbro, Hascon was a success. They nailed the family side which is what they were aiming for. I would like them next year to add more panels, which would aim more towards the superfan. The panels we saw were great but there just wasn’t enough of them.
I drove, so it was ok for me, but I would like to see them reduce the cost a little and maybe then they wouldn’t need to do a Groupon . The convention centre was a great space. Overall I think they did a great job”. Getting the facilities right and meeting their publicly shared objectives is certainly a good sign for Hasbro, even if a number of hardcore enthusiasts will feel apprehensive about spending so much on a show that may not appeal to every facet of their desired Transformers convention experience.
Next up is The Pathologist who has attended multiple BotCons and TFCons. “I only attended Saturday from noon to 3 pm, a one day pass obtained from Groupon. My interest was mostly in the Power of the Primes toy line, with no interest in the movie line Transformers section of Hascon. The pros were that I was able to obtain the Titans Return Arcee exclusive with only 10 mins of waiting in line (Saturday at noon) and that I got a chance to see the Power of the Primes upcoming figures up close in person (But how big of a difference is that from seeing photos on news sites?). It was nice seeing the prototypes of some of the recent Transformers toys in the cabinet. The cons of TF/Hascon were that I was hoping for more exclusive product up for grabs, or even early releases of Power of the Primes (I know that’s a big leap of faith). 30-60 mins was all the time you needed in the Transformer area in general. Also, Titans Return products at the boutique booth consisted only of wave 1. They had TF movie line toys but I’m not very familiar with that general line. The lack of the general Transformers community feel/participation like at Botcon and other TF conventions was another drawback for me.
“Here are some things that Hascon did well in general:
-Easily obtained our Groupon tickets with no line waiting
-Good amount of the general public there, consisting of mostly families and lesser numbers of fans with appropriate space to accompany all
-All areas seemed thriving with activity, filled with participants, except the D&D area
-Lack of information about the general convention till the week of the convention
-Lack of a substantial dealer room, it consisted of 3-4 dealers (mostly Magic The Gathering dealers)
-A general corporate promotional feel to the whole experience, like almost a big giant commercial convention.
“To summarise, this convention was similar to SDCC/NYCC, geared towards the general public with a focus on promoting Hasbro brands instead of a deep fan focus like BotCon. Hascon was good and seems very successful in terms of the number of people present on the convention floor on Saturday, with assumed goals to cater towards families and the general public for promoting their brands. I would have been very disappointed in terms of travelling time to time spent at Hascon ratio if it wasn’t for additional plans/agendas I had in the general area. Most likely not worth driving more than 1-2 hours for an early $25 toy release and the general experience, especially when you can order it online. Hascon lacked the general TF community feeling of seeing friends and familiar faces compared to past BotCon or current TFCon events, mainly due to having different goals. Having a larger dealer room would have greatly improved the shopping experience, but I feel that’s not the purpose of Hascon and not worth the hassle of addressing issues such as selling 3rd party toys”.
Berny Man also shared his thoughts from the event with us, echoing much of what has already been said. “Pros: – More than plenty fun activities and experience centres surrounding the various lines of current and newer Hasbro Products, many exclusive toys to choose from Hascon and SDCC and many free goodies and pictures to take. There were several celebrities and artists to see, fan and family friendly environment, and the event was very well-advertised in the entire Rhode Island area, including the airport, hotels, and local streets and buildings.
“Cons: – Confusion on the initial start time of event for normal pass holders, 10am vs 11am. The event guide did not seem to mention that. Many buyers were unhappy that the Hascon exclusive items limit was changed from 4 per item to only 2 per item, just after the first hour of opening. Many areas still did not have their displays finished by 10am on Friday . The Toy Vendors & Artists rooms were hidden from plain view. There were about a dozen vendors and artists tucked away upstairs to the side behind a back corner on the 5th floor. I had to search really hard to find them, I felt lucky to accidentally stumble across them after looking around several times. The issue was partially alleviated for Saturday and Sunday by removing the wall, but it was mainly only exposed to the Magic The Gathering Gaming Room. The Hasbro HQ Tours were cancelled early on Saturday, many people missed out. The lines for autographs were very long, I did not bother with it.
“Overall, I had a blast, especially for this being the debut Hascon event. I understand that is new, but they definitely seemed to have more than enough staff members everywhere. They just need to all be on the same page before the event starts. I do wish there were more vendors, but the sufficient amount of activities and experience centres made up for that. More free quality giveaways would be nice as well. As for the celebrities, I feel they should also invite a well known actor from the Marvel, Disney and Star Wars movie properties. That would have taken it to the next level”.
By now, like me, you’ve probably got a very well-formed picture in your head of what the event was all about and how much it really would have appealed to you as an adult Transformers collector or even a younger fan. I think it’s always important to see the positive side of new developments or new events that are Transformers-related, and an officially backed event could only really have achieved so much and appealed to so many with its goals being what they were, when I compare it to my own desires or expectations. There’s nothing to say that the format or depth of content geared towards adult fans/superfans would not change in future years, or that they wouldn’t start inviting even more guests from the IDW comic scene, but I know for me personally what makes the biggest difference is the social aspect. It’s still what I remember most fondly from the two BotCons that I attended. If I were to have it completely my way, I’d love to have the more adult-centred TFNation and the family friendly Hascon be accessible to me at different parts of the year.
On that note, let’s leave it to Brian Kilby to wrap up this look at Hascon with his thoughts on the event:
“If I were a parent, Hascon would be exactly what I want out of a Hasbro-branded event. As it is, I’m a near 40-year-old man with no kids and a ginormous plastic habit. Hascon is 100% honest with what it is; it’s an event centred around the family. If that’s what you want out of an event, it was fantastic. What it is not is a replacement for BotCon. It’s not really a convention, honestly. ‘Con’ should probably be pulled from the Hascon name. It’s an Expo. It’s an opportunity for Hasbro to show off their wares to their end user. There were some dealers who had space on the very top floor of the event, far away from most of the foot traffic. They were out of place, not only from a logistical perspective but also from a thematic perspective. If I were a dealer, I probably would have felt shortchanged. Fortunately, there weren’t enough of them to upset to be too worried about it.
“Hascon sprang fully formed from the get-go, like Athena sprang from Zeus’s skull. It’s uncanny that they were able to pull together such a formal and fully baked event on their first attempt. Were there problems? Goodness yes, but they were small, and they didn’t detract from the experience. The problems Hasbro had pulling this together were small compared to the problems that Fun Publishing had each year, and they had been running conventions for decades. The biggest problem Hascon had was that it was too big too fast. Hasbro had more offerings and options than they had people to consume. It by no means felt empty on Saturday, but Friday and parts of Sunday were a little thin. However, I’d rather over-prepare than under-prepare any day. I think Hascon was successful in realising what it wants to be. It needs to reject the trappings of a convention and focus on what it is–a family-centred Hasbro-branded expo.”
Many kind and gracious thanks to Brian Kilby (Radio Free Cybertron), Diecast, The Pathologist, Zak Finkenstein and Berny Man (Badboytoyz.com) for sharing their Hascon experiences, and to Anthony Brucale (TFU.info) and Eric Crownover for sharing their pictures.
All the best