Ever since Hasbro’s stupendously tone-deaf livestream on Friday the current Star Wars HasLab has lost almost 350 backers. Maybe a small number, at the time I write this 4,811 people still want a Rancor, no matter what- but still, the damage is done. And the number is still decreasing (actually, 4,808 now).
It should by now be obvious to Hasbro that things are not proceeding as planned. That what maybe they hoped would just be a few disgruntled fans that may cancel their order in the first few hours after the livestream has become something of a real downward trend. It is now Monday morning in the US and anyone at Hasbro who had hoped things will go back to normal will have to realize that no, things are probably not going back to normal. Maybe Hasbro still hopes that the usual boost in the last few days will save the HasLab campaign and make the Rancor a success. Which is certainly a possibility. However, it’s maybe even more likely now that the Rancor HasLab has taken on a new dynamic, a vicious cycle where potential backers see the counter decreasing hour by hour and thus discouraging them from pulling the trigger, because, after all, who wants to back a losing horse at the races?
So what can Hasbro do? What should Hasbro do? Click through to find out.
The Black Series orginally launched with the promise to give collectors the ultimate version of a character in action figure form. However, in recent times gimmick lines such as carbonized figures, holiday troopers, credit collection and more and more screen in-accurate kitbashes find their way into the line. And until now most of these things sell. Even if a figure such as Jaxxon is just Luke Skywalker with a bunny mask or Ponda Baba once more Luke Skywalker, this time wearing a Halloween mask. And all the repaints seem to be popular too for some reason.
And yes, collectors understand that Hasbro is a for profit company and that tooling all new figures is very expensive, especially when you can hardly ever re-use the tooling again in the future. So repaints, repacks and kitbashes are a great way to maximize margins.
But this is not where it stops… Hasbro then introduced a fake deluxe line of figures. I say “fake”, because these figures any anything, but NOT deluxe. Boba Fett had terrible QC issues and on top of that lacked many, many paint apps. And his accessories more or less require a flight stand, which is not included of course. Jar Jar comes with accessories that make no sense at all for the character who is a clumsy clown and fool. Not only did Hasbro give him the most boring facial expression, they also didn’t touch most of the figure with paint either. Sure, his skin has some paint, but everything else is just the basic colored plastic, no wash, no weathering, nothing. Certainly not deluxe.
And then Hasbro revealed Cobb Vanth, a figure that a few short years ago would have been a mainline release. Hasbro claims the paint apps make it so expensive to make… and then you see that not only does Cobb Vanth reuse tooling from the Boba Fett figure, no, the figure itself has almost zero paint, other than on the armor, and the hair has the wrong color (it’s not plain grey). And the jetpack is also missing paint apps. There are no special accessories to speak of.
So this is the Black Series in 2021: the new figures in the mainline are mostly excellent, great even, but the line as a whole has become a line where repaints, repacks and kitbashes are the majority now, sure, most of them in sublines, but they all are sold under the Black Series label.
And it may very well be that the current mindset: profit margins trump anything (which makes sense when all you think about Star Wars is in business terms), maximizing re-usability of new tooling, rereleasing figures with a new coat of paint twice or more even to amortize tooling costs and increase margins, offering fans fake deluxe figures that offer nothing deluxe at all, that all of that had a huge impact on the current Star Wars HasLab campaign.
Hasbro’s Star Wars team most certainly knows what collectors would want from a HasLab Rancor.
a few bones/skulls for Luke to use
a plastic cave wall with functioning portcullis
The Gamorrean could always be an archive release or be repacked in the mainline and does not need to be included here.
Hasbro being a for-profit company and also beholden to Disney’s and Lucasfilm’s mandates however faces various issues here. For all we know in 2021 Oola is not allowed to be made, because of Disney’s / Lucasfilm’s mandates. She’s a half naked slave. Both the Rancor Keeper and his assistant are, on their own, two extremely boring figures. Hasbro could not repack or repaint them, Hasbro could probably not even sell them on their own in the mainline since few people would want or need the figures without a Rancor. Only Luke is a viable option since he can repacked, repainted and retooled countless times in the next few years.
So Hasbro probably thought that the Rancor on its own will have enough appeal, so that the lackluster tiers they came up with won’t do too much harm.
The problem is that Hasbro miscalculated here. From the get go collectors on fansites said that the Rancor doesn’t have all that much appeal to them. Which means the tiers are of much more importance here than they ever were for the sail barge or the Razor Crest. The thing is, that the Rancor, on its own, just doesn’t have the appeal of the barge or the Razor Crest, both are vehicles that can double as diorama pieces. You would want to own them regardless of what tiers they come with. The Rancor is just a monster, not a diorama or cool spaceship and this monster only ever interacts with five characters in the movie which thus become essential to have, so you can pose them with the Rancor.
Oola, a Gamorrean, Luke, Malakili and Giran. Certainly NOT Salacious B. Crumb.
Hasbro offered a lazy Gamorrean repack, a figure almost everyone who will back a Rancor already has, and a new Luke, which is kind of nice, but it’s still a character that most potential backers will already own, Hasbro released a Walmart exclusive Jabba’s Palace Luke using the old Jedi Luke sculpt not too long ago. And then they insulted fans by adding Salacious B. Crumb and a cardboard diorama.
The current Hasbro mindset: repack, repaint, kitbash as much as possible… to maximize profits at all costs had a huge negative impact on the current HasLab.
Then there’s also the fact that Hasbro is offering THREE HasLabs concurrently. One would assume Hasbro conducts market research, but it’s certainly not unreasonable to assume that there is great overlap between those three franchises and that Star Wars fans will also love GI Joe and Ghosbuters, and vice versa. That means attention and money is split between three different HasLabs.
So what must Hasbro do?
Hasbro has to address fans, has to offer backers a LOT more than they are currently offering. Hasbro must get rid of their fake infomercial attitude in their livestreams and talk to fans like fellow Star Wars fans.
Hasbro has to let go of their “profit first” mantra for once and realize that honesty is now needed.
The basic mistake was to completely miscalculate the appeal of a Rancor. Someone on the Star Wars team at Hasbro should have told management NOT to go forward with the project if they can’t give fans what they deserve, want and need, because it would be too expensive to make.
But they went forward with the project regardless, cut corners wherever possible, and now they got themselves into a fine mess.
The only thing that may be able to save the campaign now is an emergency livestream where the Star Wars team drops all pretense, addresses collectors not as customers whose money they want, but as fellow human beings and fans, and where Hasbro announces that they are very sorry they got things so wrong and that Malakili and Giran will be added to the Rancor figure, not as extra tiers, but come with the figure, no matter what. And it will depend on the nature of their NDA with Disney if they can address the Oola issue, but they should be able to tell us that certain characters are not availble them. And if she IS available after all, there is no excuse not to make her.
Going forward Hasbro should realize that profit margins, while very important, can’t be all. Things have worked out so far, but fake deluxe figures, endless repaints, repacks and kitbashes may convince collectors that the money they have to invest to get these items does not get them appropriate value in return anymore. The HasLab Rancor could very well be the thing that sets off something in motion Hasbro should be very afraid of… that fans question their purchasing habits and come to realize that repacks, repaints and kitbashes are not worth it and that the “bread and butter” Star Wars toyline has become a cynical cashgrab.
Until recently Hasbro had a lot of goodwill from Black Series collectors who were mostly a happy bunch. But the Rancor may have changed that all.
Next time conduct better market research, maybe listen to fansites after all, at least when it comes to items that primarily target hardcore collectors, such as HasLab. You would have learned that people wanted a cantina, maybe a Jabba’s Palace with two different thrones for either Jabba or Boba or something like an AT-ST.
And please stop being so cynical about your products, trying to get away with the least effort humanly possible. It may have worked, but it has lead the toyline down a very dark path, one that culminated in the Rancor HasLab we have now, which is a perfect example of the current Hasbro Star Wars mindset. Once you lose the goodwill of your customers it’s always very difficult to regain it.
P.S. 4,799 backers now, another 9 people have jumped ship in the time I needed to write this article.
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