Here's the problem. The Super Heroes. The Comic Book based figs. This is really where most of the pure hate is coming from. And TBH it is not entirely unjustified. In the past year or two Lego has been releasing their highly successful Superhero lines. And yet the comic con figs rather clearly show that at a minimum their marketing people do not fully grasp what the allure is to this product line. In their previous licensed lines like Star Wars or Indiana Jones or PotC while important, and a major driving force of set sales, the individual characters were not really the core of the sets. Star Wars is ultimately all about the cool ships and scenes. And the actual pool of characters is somewhat limited. The characters are there to populate the sets.
But what the TLG marketing people rather clearly have totally failed to grasp is something that any fan of comics or superheroes could have told them. For Superheroes, this relationship flips. Rather drastically. While in SW and PotC the characters and Minifigs are there to populate the sets, in Superheroes the only purpose of the sets is to give the characters someplace to stand. The draw, the focus, the actual product is the unique and colorful characters. And they all have stories. Every single one of them has as much story as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker. And as such they all each have their fans. And they are what brings the fans out to buy the products. For the super hero lines the characters are never bonus materials. They are the core product, and the customers reasonably expect to be able to purchase them from the company. Even with or in spite of the draw of "collectibility". Restricting a portion of the core product in this manner is legitimately infuriating to this customer base.
If you were a SW fan, how would you feel if TLG put together and packaged up an absolutely perfect UCS AT-AT, and then handed out 100 of them at ComicCon, never to be seen or made again? How would the Harry Potter fans feel if only 1000 Ron figures were ever made and they would never have any chance to even see one? For Hobbit fans, what if the only way to complete your set of Dwarves was to get one of the lucky 1000 13th Dwarves handed out at a single nerd fest? What impact would that have on your desire to hand over money to the merchant to get the other 12?
The problem is not that they are doing convention exclusives. It is that they are using unique and in many cases fairly popular characters for those exclusives, thus eliminating any chance that they will be made in regular production mechanisms that the paying customers have access to. Using a variant or recolor for a con exclusive is fine. It creates a neat novel collectables. Using the only version of a character that will ever be available as a con exclusive is a marketing move on par with peeing on ones customers.
100% this. I couldn't have said it better myself. Once TLG figures this out maybe they'll stop with the unified characters as exclusives.