Botcon 2015 - Hasbro Product Preview Panel: What Do We Expect To See?

It's common wisdom - one might even say conventional - that the event at Botcon on any given year that we look forward to the most is the Hasbro panel where members of the brand team present us often our first look at various upcoming product, while reminding us of things that we can go buy right now as well. And so much like Toy Fair, we approach this event wondering just what they might have to surprise us with. For our own speculation on this, keep reading!

Generations
Thanks to retailer inventory list data that's been leaked out on an on-going basis, we already have a pretty good sense of the lay of the Generations line for the rest of 2015 and in to 2016. Now while there's a lot of things whose existence may not be a surprise, the Hasbro panel could be the first chance for fans to get to take a look at these upcoming items. There's a strong chance that Hasbro is holding back an official announcement of Combiner Wars wave 4's Deluxe and Voyager entires in order to carry out the reveal at Botcon next week. Since art of Optimus Maximus has been published just this week the visual surprise may be reduced some, but so far we are still without direct looks at any of the components individually. Sunstreaker, retooled from Breakdown, Prowl from Streetwise, Ironhide from Offroad, and Mirage from Drag Strip are all things that we understand in a basic sense, but don't truly know what to expect in the details of how they were executed. These figures and the Optimus Prime recolor/retool forming the core of Optimus Maximus also represent the remainder of what we know as the 2014 product line based on the reveal of the number of Deluxe and Voyager figures announced at last year's panel.

So, with that out of the way, what might we be shown? We know a lot of names going in to the 2016 assortments in terms of Deluxes and Legends, knowing at least most of the first two waves of the former, and probably three waves of the latter. Whether we'll be shown the Combaticons, by all indications the lead off to 2016's product, is unclear. Last year what ended up being waves 1 and 2 were held over for unveiling at SDCC a few weeks later, but that was also the launch of a whole new line of Generations. And Combiner Wars Optimus was shown at Botcon, just omitting the specific branding. With format secrecy probably not being an issue this time, the Hasbro team may be more free to reveal those early-next-year items for attendees at Botcon.

In fact, several Combiner Wars-branded items were shown at Botcon even though the general perception is that Combiner Wars was all held for the next major event after Botcon. The first assortment of Legends, as well as the two Leader Class Megatrons debuted at the Hasbro panel. That gives us a good chance of seeing more in to 2016 than many could be anticipating. And unfortunately the same inventory data that points to things we might expect to see may also have spoiled what otherwise would have been a major surprise.

The inventory leaks at the Legends price point show a decent number of cassette characters. Of course with only lists of names we can't be sure that they would have cassette or similar style alternate forms, but it's not a far leap when so many appear all at once. And based on that, I think we could be looking at probably the Leader Class toys for early 2016, a Soundwave and Blaster sharing a common base mold. Why Leader class? Because the names on the inventory lists omit certain key characters. What we're interpreting as wave 1 of Legends for 2016 has Buzzsaw, but with two subsequent waves worth of names revealed since, we're yet to see Laserbeak at all. Given Laserbeak has a pretty major prominence with Soundwave's cassettes, the absence is telling. My theory is that the Leader price point will play host to a Soundwave figure that is not the same height as Megatron, Jetfire, or Ultra Magnus, but instead diverts some of its parts count and materials to an included tape-buddy. And if one of the hypothetical pair does this, the other would too. Perhaps Blaster would feature Eject, as one possibility.

Whatever way that aspect would break down doesn't affect the greater picture. My belief is that we'll be looking at new Soundwave and Blaster figures, which featuring a cassette gimmick or something comparable would probably be meant as the surprise and crowd-pleaser for the Hasbro panel. Though it has been just a few years since Fall of Cybertron gave us something similar, if these go to a more "traditional" realization of the concept, it would probably be seen as distinct and appealing enough to the fans for the semi-repetition to not dull the reaction. The question then just turns in to what kind of alt mode Soundwave and Blaster might have. Tape decks seem unlikely, but I have trouble ruling it out entirely. But I'd more expect to see something along the line of Andrew Griffith's current comic design for Soundwave, carrying on the tendency of portraying the character as some kind of truck. After all, a tape deck is a box, and a truck is also a box, just with wheels added! The necessary interaction with cassette minions can still be supported.

We have something of a wildcard to look at as well. We saw a piece of a package mockup for a G2 Superion boxset recently. This is something else that could be revealed at the panel, likely as a retailer's exclusive product. It may even come with an announcement of a Menasor set in G2 colors, but that's complete conjecture right now. And finally is the elephant in the room: Unite Warriors Groove. Will there be any word about its fate at Botcon? I doubt it. Our belief is that it will exist in the same way Arms Micron Breakdown did where while it superficially fits in with other toys, it doesn't quite meet Hasbro's budget requirements. So if Hasbro handles it at all, it would have to be in a special format such as a box set release, or perhaps a Brake-Neck and Quickslinger like plan which probably won't have even been negotiated with retailers at this point. Basically, don't expect anything out of that soon.

Botcon may also make out a little better in the reveals this year thanks to SDCC already having its own presumed special announcement lined up: The fan-built combiner Victorion. While quite a bit of information from the selection process has been made known already, the toy molds involved, individual names and decos are still unrevealed. This isn't something to expect to see at Botcon, but it might mean less gets shifted off to San Diego than otherwise may have.


Robots in Disguise
On the Robots in Disguise series, I think a hope shared by most people is seeing more of the Decepticon characters get realized as mainline toys. With the "monster of the week" format, there's definitely some depth to the field in terms of making toys, but it's harder to predict exactly what might make the cut if they've decided to pursue this more fully. We've heard tell of a Legion-class Windblade upcoming, and taken with the prominently displayed early look at the character's show appearance, I don't think it unlikely to anticipate seeing a Warrior Class figure as soon as at Botcon. I'll admit I'm not as immersed in this product line as some of the others going on to make more educated guesses, but at the same time some things can be interpreted. I think we'll see more on the Mini-Cons and their Deployer figures which were announced at Toy Fair, and probably some futher revisits of characters in the One-Step and Hyper Change lines. But there may be cause for a change in approach a little somewhere soon, since they will start running out of major enough characters to revisit across multiple product types eventually. So we may see a new iteration of RID product for the first time to help close that up. Afterall, we'll probably be looking at some 2016 product, which will be a year since the line started hitting stores. That's about the time for a refresh of some kind.


Premium Format
Next, we have the Platinum Series. Now a home for Hasbro's G1 reissues more than anything else, it's had some very interesting things turn up since that expensive Insecticon box set. The fun thing is that given releases like Trypticon, it's very hard to predict where it might go next. We can't even be entirely sure that Platinum reissues will be addressed at the Hasbro panel. But if they are, it seems like anything that Takara has released in the past and maybe even a little bit that they haven't so far could be on the table. And even though I'm personally not really interested in buying any, it makes the developments of the line super fun to spectate, and I'm excited at the possibility of what we may see if this is represented at Botcon.


Finally, Masterpiece. I think what everyone would love to hear about is additional licensed molds being cleared for sale in the US. While some may be less than excited for Hasbro releases of the Autobot cars because of the comparative markup they come with versus the Takara releases, it would still be interesting to have the chance to buy more than just the Datsun mold family. But that may not be exactly what a lot of people are waiting to hear about. Botcon is a very likely point to hear about a Hasbro release of Ultra Magnus if indeed one will be happening. After Botcon 2012 where many people rushed the dealer room to get MP-10 Convoy only for the Hasbro panel to reveal it would be sold later that year at Toys R Us, I expect shoppers may be more cautious to wait for word on this before grabbing a Takara release off the dealers in attendance. Meanwhile, Star Saber is probably perfectly safe to go ahead and buy, because if that gets mentioned for release by Hasbro I'll be very shocked. In fact, if that happens, it probably will be the biggest surprise of the whole event.


In Summary
-Likely:
Topping the list is wave 4 of Generations with the Optimus Maximus group, and right behind are the RID recolors currently hitting in Asia but not quite caught up in US distribution yet.

After that, the first wave of Generations Legends for 2016. Along with that we should see some end of year/early next year RID merchandise, probably including representations of Windblade.


-Maybe
From here we get to things like the Combaticons, making up most of the first wave of Generations in 2016. If they show these, the orphaned Scattershot that ships alongside Onslaught will probably be shown as well.

If we have new Leader class figures incoming early next year, they could be in there as well.

On the RID side, we could see an expansion on some of the play pattern themes introduced at Toy Fair this year.

In Platinum, we might get a first look at a reissue after Trypticon.

Masterpiece, perhaps Ultra Magnus, and/or more Autobot Cars if licensing has been negotiated.


-Improbable
A lot of things! But we can basically count on not seeing Masterpiece Star Saber, no Victorion reveal, no Generations 2016 wave 2, Deluxe Groove, and things along that line. But to be honest, I don't know exactly what to say is improbable for RID or especially the Platinum Series. Given that I was highly skeptical of Trypticon actually being a part of it when the first rumor of the Platinum Edition release was posted, I feel like that's diverged beyond easy predictability.


Now of course these are just predictions, speculation based on the information that's been presented in the last few months. The reality of the panel might be very different. TFormers will be there at Botcon, just like every year, and we'll be bringing you coverage of the Hasbro Product Preview panel and more, so make sure to stay right here with us for the whole extended Botcon weekend!

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