Opinion: Has Hasbro Set A Precedent That Will Doom All Future Haslab Campaigns With The Rancor?

Jay Cochran - December 01, 2021
Ever since Hasbro began doing crowd-sourcing projects via their Haslab website, it has left many collectors scratching their heads wondering why a multinational conglomerate needs to resort such tactics to have products made?

The original idea theoretically around crowd-sourcing was to have the individual consumer put the money into a project up front for something they wanted to see made. This in turn created less risk for the small independent manufacturer to get said project to market. If a manufacturer couldn't get enough people to back their project then it wouldn't go forward and nobody would be charged. In turn the loss of money on the part of the manufacturer for the failed project would be significantly less than if they had fronted all their own money up front to have said item made, and then have it fail. Of course like with many things, once this practice was proven successful, everyone and their uncles started launching these kinds of campaigns, both big and small manufactures alike.

Hasbro launched their first Haslab crowd-sourcing project back in 2018 with a Star Wars Vintage Collection Sail Barge. Hasbro's reasoning for going the crowd-source route was that it was for more obscure items that tended to be large and expensive. Things that they couldn't get big box retailers like Walmart or Target to carry and so this would be the only way they could get such items released. Now to be fair, there is likely truth to this. A big box retailer is probably less likely to want to carry something that would take up large amounts of shelf space, would be expensive, less appealing to parents and only sell to what is often perceived as a smaller demographic which is the adult action figure collector.

Still, one has to wonder why Hasbro doesn't just make the product and sell it directly to the consumer and/or work more with the small online etailers that cater specifically to the adult action figure collector demographic. Why put the burden of risk on the backs of the consumer by doing a crowd-sourcing campaign instead of a straight up pre-order? See the biggest difference between doing crowd-sourcing and pre-order generally comes down to when you can be charged for said item. Going the crowd-sourcing route allows a company like Hasbro to charge you up front for said item. When they go the pre-order or made-to-pre-order route then they generally won't charge you for the item until it actually ships, which usually means a year or so later from when the item is initially listed.

Now we do see smaller companies like Super7 somewhat circumvent this. Super7 does what is known as made-to-pre-order for most of their product, and they do charge you up front for said items, which they state as such on their website. Made-To-Pre-order basically means they don't start making the stuff until they get a good idea of how many people are going to buy it. This helps a company better judge how many items should be produced so they don't over-produce something. When something is over-produced, that generally means they loose money on said product. It also means that there is a significant delay from when the consumer pre-orders it and when it actually ships. Super7 also allows outside etailers to carry these items and sell them at the same cost and time as Super7 does. Super7 always puts a limited time window on their direct pre-orders, but the outside etailers who choose to carry their products can keep pre-orders open as long as they want. The outside etailers that sell Super7 products also generally don't charge you until the items are ready to ship. I'm not a retail expert, so I don't know exactly how Super7 is able to charge up front for pre-orders or if this is a practice Hasbro could adopt. I also don't know why Hasbro doesn't allow any outside retailers who want to offer these Haslab items to carry them. From what I understand, with the more recent Haslab campaigns, other than a few select international etailers who can sell the Haslab stuff were Hasbro cannot, Hasbro won't let outside etailers carry these items.

So I am getting a little off-topic here, but I wanted to give some background for those unfamiliar on the whole crowd-sourcing thing, and why some people don't like it when Hasbro does it. Items also are generally more expensive since they are produced in smaller amounts than something that is released at general retail.

Now that we are caught up on Hasbro and crowd-sourcing, lets look at their most recent campaign and why it's seemingly setting a precedent that might come back to haunt them with future campaigns.

The campaign in question is their Star Wars: Black Series Rancor one, which has been filled with nothing but problems since day one when the brand-manager "accidentally" told people what it was going to be for, before it was officially announced.

The campaign was officially launched during their Pulse-Con event in October. On November 19th the campaign had 5,134 of the minimum 9k backers needed to be funded. Then they revealed all the stretch goals for the project which included figures of Solacious B. Crumb, Gamorrean Guard, Jedi Luke as well as a cardboard backdrop and some bone accessories. After that, the campaign began to loose backers. The campaign went from over 5k backers to being under 4,755 backers with less than a week to go before the campaign closed. People who were so unhappy with the stretch goals started canceling their orders to the point Hasbro felt they need to do something to try and turn things around. So yesterday they announced that they would be throwing in a whole new 6" Black Series figure with the Rancor Keeper, something many felt should have been included on day one. They didn't make the Rancor Keeper as an additional stretch goal, but said it would be included if the campaign reached it's minimum 9k backers goal.

Since the Rancor Keeper announcement was made yesterday, the campaign has started to at least move in the right direction gaining backers as opposed to losing them. It still hasn't gotten back to that 5,134 number, but is currently up to 4,923 as I type this with just over 5 days to go.

So while it remains to be seen if the addition of the Rancor Keeper figure will be enough to push the Rancor over it's backer goal, a bigger question I feel needs to be asked now. If Hasbro can and or is willing to throw in additional new figures to these campaigns if they think it's in jeopardy of not being funded, why shouldn't consumers hold out for more?

If you have any understanding of how action figures are made, then you can pretty easily see how Hasbro has already dumped a fair amount of money and resources in having the prototype models designed and made before they even launch one of these campaigns. If you are on social media you can also see that they seem to dump quit a bit of money to advertise these campaigns on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Anytime you see a "Sponsored" Haslab post come up on those platforms, which I see daily, it means they are paying those platforms money to promote it. One has to assume Hasbro is pretty confident the project will be funded before it even begins if they are willing to put that kind of money and resources into having those things done.

So while Hasbro will constantly tell us if these Haslab campaigns don't meet their minimum backer goals they won't get made, it's pretty easy to see that they aren't going to be as willing to walk away from these things as they seemingly try and make us think they are. I am sure there is some cutoff point where they would have no choice but to walk away and take the loss if the campaign totally failed, but what that point is remains an open question. With the Rancor, the fact they are willing to add an additional never-before-made figure, which will raise the cost of the project and mean they make less money on it gives us an idea of how much wiggle room they are giving themselves. Again my guess is they will still make money and not loose money with the addition of the Rancor Keeper, just not as much as before.

So now that we've seen Hasbro blink on this particular campaign, should fans start holding out for more? Many have also asked Hasbro to include an Oola the Slave Girl figure with this campaign along with the Rancor Keeper. There was even a hashtag started that said #NoOolaNoMoola. Now when it comes to Oola, besides costs, there has also been some debate on whether Disney would actually allow Hasbro to include such a figure, so I am not necessarily advocating people hold out for that one, but I am sure it's something now crossing the minds of many potential consumers of this project.

Going back to Hasbro's previous Haslab Marvel Legends Galactus figure campaign they did earlier this year, one has to wonder what would have happened had fans held out on backing that one. Eventually that campaign ended up being successfully backed, but during that campaign many fans were asking for additional Herald figures like Firelord and Terrax to be included. What we got instead was a pretty lame Doctor Doom variant head for Galactus. You have to wonder if fans had held out on backing Galactus, would Hasbro have caved and given us at least one of those figures in order to ensure it reached it's goal? I have no way of telling you one way or the other that they would have, but again you have to wonder if they would? Obviously it's to late for Galactus, but will fans decide to hold out on the next campaign and see how much exactly they can squeeze out of Hasbro? I don't know but I guess time will tell.

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