Wednesday, April 11, 2012

BotCon Box Sets, Popularity, and Personal Taste

I don't think it's any secret that 2012 has not been kind to Fun Publications so far. I'm not going to get into whose fault each aspect was—there have been enough arguments on that to last most of us a lifetime! But between their recent security issues and overloaded servers, all happening right at the same time as BotCon 2012 pre-registration was underway and the 2012 club exclusives were being made available for sale, the folks who run the official Transformers Collectors Club have been keeping very busy.

One result of all this is that BotCon 2012 pre-registration has been entirely offline for the past month or so, only having started up again this past Friday (and even that, only for existing members. Non-members had to wait until Monday night). Thus, the momentum of pre-registration sales has been entirely blunted, and with only a few days left before pre-registration must close (on Friday) in order to get everything ready for the convention itself at the end of the month, this has given fuel to the naysayers who see the lack of a boxed set sell-out so far as an indication that this set is less desirable than previous sets. This despite the fact that we've been assured by Pete Sinclair (Fun Publications' PR person) that "overall sales are on par with last year," and that the lack of present sell-out status can be attributed to the fact that they made more sets this year and that, even so, they expect to sell everything. One can suggest that some of this is PR spin if they like. No doubt that some of it is. But given that we were told as early as January 18th (the day pre-registration was first made available for non-attendee purchases, in addition to attendees) that they were already "85% sold through on Primus packages," I really don't think that the cries that this set is unpopular are based on the actual evidence of sales.

It's certainly true that some sets, historically, have been less popular than others. [Please note: I am only referring in this post to the toys available to order before a given BotCon. At-convention souvenir toys are not included in any of the figures that follow. All information may be verified via the datasheet.] The 2005 set (the first after Fun Publications started running BotCon) was undeniably over-produced in comparison to its popularity, whereas they corrected that assumption in 2006 and clearly got expectations and actual sales almost precisely matched (I consider only 38 sets left at convention's end to be very close). In 2007, everything changed. Although the production run was increased by more than 50%, compared to 2006, that set sold out even before the convention started—a first since BotCon started in 1994! Since then, no matter how many toys Fun Publications has produced for a BotCon, there has been an expectation of pre-convention sell-out, and any set that has failed to do so (2009 is the most recent example) is deemed a "failure," or "unpopular."

But tastes definitely differ. For me, I actually found last year's set (the BotCon 2011 Animated Stunticons) less worth holding on to than other sets. In fact, the only other BotCon set since 2005 from which I haven't held on to at least one toy was the 2006 "pre-Beast Wars" set, and even there, I kept those toys long enough to make a photocomic with them before I finally decided that I didn't need them in my collection. I don't think I kept any of the Animated Stunticons more than a few weeks! Indeed, I still have all of the BotCon 2009 toys,* which can't be said for any other convention set in my collection. Make of that what you will.

*Well, I only have one Sweep, not three, but those were identical toys, and not part of the box set at any rate....

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