iHobby 2012 Impressions, Day One

As Roger and I walked into the IX Center, our jaws dropped. Not because of the sea of people before us, but because there wasn’t one. But the second, larger shock was yet to come.

Upon walking onto the floor of the convention center, the first thing we saw was Horizon Hobby’s impressive booth. They had a dirt track with the new ECX Revenge Type-E buggy running, and a vertical netted-in area for helicopter flying. It looked clean and efficient – and, with the exception of the dirt track, exactly the same as it had been two years ago (the last time we attended the iHobby Expo). More on Horizon later, though.

Other than Horizon’s booth, I couldn’t immediately see any of the other booths I had come to see. “Traxxas must be in the back,” I thought. “It’s got to be a really cool set up if they want to make you walk through the rest of the show to see it.”

I opened up the floor plan they had given us at the door. I didn’t see Traxxas listed on it. I started to worry. I flipped to the back where they have an alphabetical list of vendors.

No Traxxas.

Disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how I felt (and still feel). Traxxas was a big part of why I wanted to come to iHobby. The exhibitor list on iHobby’s website still shows them as attending, in fact, even today. After talking to some of the other vendors, it’s apparent that it was well-known that Traxxas would not be coming – I just wasn’t looking in the right places.

We probably would have come to iHobby anyway, even if we had known that Traxxas would be a no-show. But that doesn’t help me feel any less betrayed by a company that I thought cared about its dealers. We had a great time at Traxxas’ booth two years ago; this year there was no fun to be had.

I also discovered that Great Planes and Testors were not in attendance – both of these companies apparently decided that it wasn’t worth the money to court dealers like us. There’s probably some truth to that; I would bargain that most of the retailers in attendance already carry both Great Planes’ and Testors’ products. They too are listed on the iHobby exhibitor list as coming, but obviously that list is incorrect.

Adding to my dismay, there couldn’t have been more than a thousand (and even that may be generous) people walking around the show (not counting the exhibitors). So very few hobby shops made the journey down, up, or over to see the show and the vendors. Maybe Great Planes, Testors, and Traxxas were financially in the right to skip the event – but I’m still angry about it.

If there is any silver lining in the storm clouds, it’s that, with the lack of people in attendance, we were able to chat, for a long time, with the vendors that did show up. We had some great conversations with Model Expo, Grex, Moebius Models, and Horizon. In fact, I was able to speak at length with Mark Reed from Horizon. You may remember him from our last encounter at iHobby 2010, and I quoted him in my review of the ECX Circuit. Mark and I have emailed back and forth a bit in the last couple of years, and he’s always a hoot to talk to.

We talked about a lot of things. We talked about the new ECX buggy, the Revenge. We talked about the waterproofing and the electronics upgrade the other ECX vehicles are getting. We talked about chargers and batteries, tools and tires. Mark is transitioning into being in charge of the Dynamite brand of products, and had some very interesting ideas on how to push the brand forward. Nothing is set in stone – he only started three months ago. But he’s smart and has a lot of ideas, and I can’t say I disagreed with any of them. He listened to me and addressed my concerns thoughtfully. I can’t ask any more of that in a product guy. He’s also a great storyteller that has plenty of fun anecdotes on the inner workings of product development, right down to how products get named.

I’m sure there’s a lot he didn’t tell me – he knows I like to share, perhaps a bit too much, with everyone that reads our website. And Horizon has a new policy that unless something is ready to ship (or near ready), they don’t talk about it at all. So I didn’t get much out of him. I do know that Dynamite will be getting rid of EC2 connectors, and switching all of their mini vehicles (from ProBoat, anyway) to the larger EC3 connectors already used on larger scale vehicles. But that’s not really a secret, since the products were already on display anyway.

We’ll be heading back tomorrow to play with the Revenge buggy and visit the other booths we weren’t able to get to today. Check out our Facebook page for some photos taken during the day, and follow us for more to come tomorrow.