Thursday, 26 January 2012

BotCon 2012 Boxset fully revealed - and I'm finally registered

I know this is repeating myself, but in case anyone missed my earlier rants... The early years of Fun-Pub's BotCons required promoting the convention to toy dealers & scalpers to be sure that they sold out of one of their main sources of funding - the toys.  Recent popularity of their toys though (due to getting more experienced with Transformers, and more focused on what Fans want) they don't need to do that anymore... but they still do out of habit.
So once again, we have the convention toys being promoted before the convention itself, to inspire those who are only interested in the value of the toys... instead of inspiring fans who value the convention itself to rush to purchase the full attendance packages because the guests and events were already known.
I guess I'm opposed to this "Men in Black" mentality (they did BotCon in 1996, and were jeered by the fandom for prioritising selling toys over the fan-focused elements), because I'm travelling halfway around the world each year FOR the convention... not the toys. As such, I'm a fan of the Convention, not the merchandise, and would be much happier with the convention being promoted, as it is almost insulting to those who make the long distance trip for Fun-Pub to prioritise the mere merchandise/toys.

How many other dedicated fans could they have attending the convention itself, adding to the atmosphere of the events, if the full packages sell out before the events and guests are known to help make up their minds?
Like, what if Frank Welker ended up being a guest this year, but it wasn't revealed until after the full packages were sold out... fans who then sign up without a full package, will feel cheated when seeing others walking off with a box-set without even attending the rest of the convention.
I think that if Fun-Pub feel that the toys are so important, they should be an added extra to the "registration" so that when the guests & events are known after the box-sets sell out, fans won't feel like they are missing out on the "full package" when signing up at that time.

So onto this year's box-set.
There are six toys this year in the box-set. Five Deluxe-size toys and one Voyager-size toy.

Robot modes.
Vehicle modes.

The pics are from the BotCon website.

Red car - Tracks (Shattered Glass - Evil Autobot)
Jet - Metalhawk (JP Generation One - Heroic Autobot)
Truck - Ultra Magnus (Shattered Glass - Evil Autobot)
Blue car - Treadshot (Shattered Glass - Heroic Decepticon)
White van - Soundwave (Shattered Glass - Heroic Decepticon)
Tank - Gigatron (Overlord) (JP Generation One - Evil Decepticon)

The theme this year is a crossing of their "Shattered Glass" Mirror Universe (where Autobots are evil and the Decepticons are heroic), with the regular Generation One Universe. So we have a couple of direct homage toys to Generation One, with some recoloured homages for their Mirror Universe.

I've already commented on the first four.

Number 5 - Ultra Magnus
Just like the Tracks figure, this is not meant to be a new character, just a mirror-verse version of the character.  The difference here though to Tracks, is that the real version of this character was already released with a different mould (the first Classics Optimus mould).
An interesting feature of this BotCon toy is that the head is completely moulded from clear plastic, with a painted helmet... creating a visually unique style of head. It's almost a ghostly type of character, that has no real head, just energy inhabiting the helmet. Well, unlike organic creatures that keep their brains in their heads, and would die without them, Transformers don't (plus, all senses can be housed elsewhere), and a head can end up being redundant to the point of it being more for show anyway... like this one. This mould was not a fan favourite, and these colours look a bit Diaclone Convoy, which is not a well known source for a homage, making this one rate as about as least interesting as Treadshot.

Number 6 - Metalhawk
Following on from the recent Hasbro trend of Pretender inspired toys of Thunderwing and Sky Shadow (Blackshadow), this Metalhawk is a nicely done colouring of the Thunderwing toy into a homage of the JP exclusive Pretender. It also has a new head too. It's just a pity that the Jet mode doesn't quite match the original Metalhawk, but BotCon toys are very limited by what they can replicate. Otherwise, if it were an easy accurate match, Hasbro would likely do it first. This one and Tracks are probably my favourite two, with Gigatron/Overlord coming in next. The other three are pretty lame though... and this year's full set of Convention toys will need the at-show toys to be spectacular to pull up the "average" rating I give this set of six so far.

As for the Registration... that was a real drama (it wouldn't be BotCon for me if there wasn't any drama). I got a nice wake-up call the morning after my last post about BotCon, in which I had predicted that it would be in the next couple days. However, the call was still too late for me to get what I most wanted - the Custom Class. It was only a couple hours, but all the Custom Classes were already sold out.
For someone who is one of the most dedicated and experienced at attending BotCon, I can't believe that I am still yet to experience a Custom Class. It's like I'm cursed to never get in... no matter how much I try to improve my chances to get in.
Anyway... I get out of bed and rush to get my computer started, to log onto the BotCon site to register. I start by logging into the Club site, to make sure I get the membership prices... and go through all the screens to get the Golden Ticket (a VIP concept that drew criticism when Glen Hallit's convention had it), a bagged set of toys, and to sign up for the Thursday pre-Con tour once it was revealed to me that the Classes were all sold out. Kinda like the last Texas BotCon in 2005, neither of the Tours were too interesting to me, but I had to get into a Tour or a Class to be eligible for the early package pickup on the Wednesday (otherwise you have to wait for hours with the hundreds on the Thursday, and then wait more hours in the Club store queue).
So I got everything selected, and entered in my credit card details... to be given an error message, saying that the order could not be processed, and that it would be set aside to be manually processed.
Naturally, Fun-Pub open up registration just after the close of their Friday office hours, so that by the time they would manually process the orders that had errors, people would miss out on items because they are not being held on those incomplete registrations.
I was in such a panic. I couldn't wait 2 1/2 days... not with the risk of missing out on the Golden Ticket option, or even the full registration package altogether (the growing popularity for their toys in the last 2 years had me thinking that they could well sell out in a day... two at the most).
I thought about redoing the order, but was afraid that they'd cancel both if it looked dodgy, or too confusing to work out.
I also had to try to figure out why my order was being rejected.
Either it was rejected because I used a different Credit Card than what I usually use (if they only allow the ones verified in the past), or because it didn't have enough credit on it. Later I realised that it was the Credit Card that automatically froze my account the last time I tried to do a big foreign purchase... but when that happened in 2010 (at BotCon), I had it unlocked, and told them not to let it happen again. It might be a good security measure, but it has been more trouble than help. I wonder if I can make a claim for mental hardship... :p
So I got a different Credit Card ready - one which didn't have enough funds on it - so expected that it would be declined. (since FunPub set up this online registration, the money is charged straight away, instead of days later when they used to do fax-in registrations)
I went back to the registration page to start again, but to my horror, it was not allowing me to get into the first page that lets you select the package you want. I kept retrying, reloading, restarting the computer... everything I could think of, but for some reason, it kept showing an error on that first page.
I didn't know what to do. I was out of ideas, and running out of time (I had to go to work soon).
I sent an email to FunPub to see if it was an error on my part, or theirs, plus tweeted to their twitter account.
While looking for answers on the global fansites, I made a panicked call to my friend Ian (who's been two three BotCons with me now), to perhaps see if he could register for me.
He suggested that I should clear out my cookies on the browser... I hadn't thought of that, and wondered if it would be a reason. (considering I had logged out and even rebooted, there shouldn't have been any lingering ties to the registration page)
But it seemed that he had guessed correctly, as a quick clearing of cookies allowed me to proceed through the registration page like the first time.  The difference this time though, was entering in the other credit card details and hoping that it would not be denied for lack of funds.
A tense wait... as I was running out of options.
Amazingly, it was approved, which over-drew the Credit Card by about $700, and I was worried that it would be overturned by the bank if it raised a red flag for someone to investigate.
Ian suggested ringing up the bank to see if it was really okay, and to ask for it to be a temporary overdraft... which I did, and they increased the limit to cover it.
A hectic 2 hours later, I was signed up for BotCon, with the VIP/Golden Ticket, a bagged set, Tshirt, cap, and Thursday tour.
And now I had to rush off to work, in a wired, adrenalin state... it wasn't easy concentrating that day, I can tell you.

Now to organise the flights, and I'll be all covered for this year.
There have been some cheap flights to Dallas lately, from Brisbane, so hopefully I can still score one of those.
And I'd better get onto it soon, as time is running out.
With nothing of interest in Dallas, and no toy sources within walking distance of the hotel, I'm not planning to stay there longer than the convention this year.

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