How to totally ruin a HasLab project

by Bill Cable
on 2021-11-23, 07:57:57

Last week Hasbro held "Fan First Friday" where they announced the remaining stretch goals for the Black Series Rancor and in doing so guaranteed this project would never reach the minimum number of backers.  It was a testament to how penny-pinching management can completely misread the market and torpedo a worthy endeavor.

But the problems didn't start with FFF.  The first mistake was choosing to do this project in the first place.  That's because they chose to do a Black Series project rather than a Vintage Collection project.  Hasbro has been pushing BS for years now, and for one simple reason:  BS has a much higher profit margin.  As I hear it, the manufacturing costs on TVC and BS figures are nearly identical.  But they can see a BS figure for $10 more than a TVC figure.  This drives nearly every decision they make.  But BS collectors aren't the same as TVC collectors.  The BS collectors I know do it almost begrudgingly.  They're not eager to drop big money like TVC collectors were for the Khetanna and Razor Crest.  They targeted the wrong segment of Star Wars collectors, a decision I expect was made to promote the BS line.

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I feel bad for the artists and engineers who worked on the Rancor, as it looks like they produced something quite nice.  To see their efforts squandered by corporate bungling has to feel terrible.

The only thing that could have saved the project was a series of compelling stretch goal rewards.  Collectors are rational consumers.  They know stretch goals are a thing for HasLab, so their value is baked into the overall cost of backing the project.  They're not paying $350 for a Rancor.  They're paying $350 for a Rancor plus four stretch goal rewards.  If the stretch goals aren't perceived to have value, there's no reason to back the project.

If the stretch goals revealed at FFF had been awesome, the Rancor would have been fully funded that day.  As I was telling some of my PSWCS friends a few days before FFF, "It would be spectacularly idiotic not to have Oola as a stretch goal, and I don't think they're that dumb.  I could see them making another misstep announcing Luke at 3 and Oola at 4, thinking that'll drive more sales with everyone wanting Oola."

Boy was I wrong about how dumb they are!  Not only didn't they include Oola at all, they chose Salacious Crumb and Luke.  A two-inch tall figure completely unaffiliated with the Rancor with nearly no perceived value (despite the ridiculous money the SDCC exclusive carded Crumb commands), and a repack of a figure we got years ago.  But oh wait - it has a brand new head!!

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Compare this to the extremely successful Galactus HasLab project - where they included two brand new figures, and you can see why FFF disappointed.  Now granted, it's not truly an apples-to-apples comparison, since Marvel Legends routinely reuses bodies and I'm certain all of Nova except the head and hair are repurposed, so they don't have to invest in sculpting and tooling.  And Silver Surfer looks like a reissue except for maybe the head.  But Morg is a completely new figure.  That's huge perceived value!  And now both Nova and Morg are selling for $100 on their own on eBay.

And that's why Rancor is going to fail.  Two repacks, some skulls, and a monkey lizard.  All four are worthless.  People who planned to back the Rancor and sell off the tier rewards to save some money now know those rewards won't add up.  The project has lost nearly 10% of its backers since the FFF announcement, and the numbers continue to drop.  They decided to put financials first instead of fans, chose a project and tier rewards that target the wrong sort of Star Wars collectors, and it blew up in their faces.  Now only the super hardcore folks who don't mind if they don't get any bonuses remain, and there's not nearly enough of those to get this thing backed.

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Hopefully this'll be a lesson to the Star Wars team at Hasbro.  You gotta deliver and deliver big on the "free" tier rewards now that everyone expects them.  And maybe in the future you could focus on the 4" figures that have a deeper and more enthusiastic fanbase.  Here's hoping!





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