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  1. #1

    The state of Lego today: Good or bad?

    Personally i feel like 2007 is a bonanza year. Looking at the pics of upcoming product has me salivating and wanting to ditch the star wars hasbro stuff in favour of committing to lego.

    I was never a fan of the Bionicle stuff but now they've introduced sets more akin to the EXO-force stuff with smaller figures I'm getting a feel for it. Though i'm loving the Bionicle squid as projectile ammunition thing. that's fun

    the themes have seemed a little weak recently but this year the quality has been ramped up a few notches. is it better design or just more parts per set? I don't know or care but the sets sure do seem to be benefitting from whatever it is.

    There's a welcome return of town stuff crowned by the cafe corner exclusive set. new space sets, more creator sets getting back to basics once more. it feels like the 1980's all over again.

    the movie themes are still going strong proving that toys don't all have to be action feature laden and designed to the point where there's little imagination required because the toy does it all leaving the kid out. Lego have made toys fun again. build the thing yourself then take it apart and change it. let your imagination run riot. Precisely what's been lacking in recent years in the toy industry.

    sure there's a few ho-hum idea with Lego themes. the spongebob stuff is fairly lacklustre and to me it seems a little late to the party where spongebob is concerned. but the sets are ok and the parts are fairly useful.

    Avatar the last airbender. did that die a death or was it always just going to be the three sets?

    Last years castle sets were a little lacklustre and unimpressive but this year the theme seems to have hit back with the same energy and style of the theme at it's prime all those years ago. skeleton horses and riders, an evil wizard and a cool castle. Damsel in distress. SKELETON HORSES!

    Personally, Lego seems to be on the up. I can't remember the last time I felt this excited about collecting and building. So how 'boutchooo?

  2. #2
    We're only in March, but it already feels like LEGO's completely stalled out, I haven't felt a reason to go down the LEGO aisle in months, Technic's in a slump, Bionicle's new subtheme seems really limited and goofy, Exo-force's sophomore entries seem unbelievably lackluster (I haven't been tempted to buy a single one), the Designer line didn't get enough new entries, City's all red which drives me away, and Aqua Raiders for me completely flopped on launch.
    Darth Vader is becoming the Mickey Mouse of Star Wars.

    "In Brooklyn, a castle, is where dwell I"
    The use of a lightsaber does not make one a Jedi, it is the ability to not use it.

  3. #3
    i like the look of the Ferrari racer sets but kinda wish they'd gone with a team who were less - red. The idea and designs seem sound but it's hard to get past the overall redness. very similar sets for different teams in different colours would be cool. Unlikely but cool.

    Aqua Raiders feels too much like Aquazone to me. And I don't understand why the sea creatures are so big. that said, the largest set has some decent pieces. But I'm not hugely in favour of masses of yellow lego. I'd probably only buy the city construction site sets in yellow.

    Technic lego only interests me as useful bits for augmenting minifig scale stuff. working pneumatic large door hinges and connector pins etc. I've never ben into the bare bones side of constructing even all those years ago when Meccano ruled that roost.

    Speaking of City being all red, at least the police station and vehicles are still black and white but it does strike me as slightly offputting that the hospital sets have so much red in them. The red seems like something no medical team would ever think to use as it reminds patients of blood. Perhaps using some of the more pastel shades would suit the medical sets better. earth orange would strike me as a better choice for the building of the firestation too. there's enough red in the vehicles already. and if you have the choice of so many colours why limit the colour range so much?

    The new creator 3 in 1 set of a town house is ok. The only red there is on the doors. The roof is black and the walls are tan. and it includes a dark blue car.

    Like the technic stuff I can't get into the bionicle and exo-force stuff aside from finding certain parts useful. It may be the amount of insectoid shapes coming into both themes. or just that looking at the sets they seem to be constructed out of a haphazard mix of pieces and seem ugly to me. the size of the pieces seems to be getting bigger too. with fewer actual parts.

    The dragon in the revamped castle theme on the one hand seems to be aping the Megabloks style of dragon but on the other seems to be addressing complaints about the bionicle style dragons from the Vikings sets. Looking at the T-rex from the Dino island adventurers theme and then looking at the Dino 2010 dinosaurs and then looking at the castle dragon and the Hungarian horntail from the Harry potter theme, it seems like the designers have drifted too far away from the blockishness of Lego creatures. while it seems fair enough to offer less blocky creatures in movie ti in themes it seems a bit weird going the same route with their own in-house themes. If you put a minifig scale horse next to one of these new creatures it just looks as wrong as putting a Megabloks dragon in there.

    However I don't want to sound like I'm whining. It's more like observations than gripes. Lego as a company have at least tried to keep moving forward. And as they only make Lego products it's an impressive feat to still be going strong in this age of electronic and 'does it all for you' toys.

  4. #4
    LEGO runs hot and cold with me. Right now, everything's just kinda blah.

    Bionicle's recent baddies are probably the best designs to come out of the line in a while, and yet I just don't feel like they're really all that exciting. I think I'm just getting burnt out on Bionicle after so many years. Of course I'm really looking forward to the summer sets. Talk to me then, and I'll probably have changed my tune.

    The recent SW sets and the sets slated for the summer are great. Never any complaints with LEGO SW...for the most part. Can't wait for the JSF and new Naboo fighter.

    Maybe I'm in the minority, but I'm absolutely stoked over the Castle stuff that's coming this summer. I'm going to be army building those little deadite soldiers and horses like crazy.

    I'm probably alone in liking the Mars Mission stuff too. There's so much to get, and it's a step in the right direction with getting back to a Classic space theme.

    Oh, and of course the Batman sets. I can't wait for the Bat-tank and Bat-copter. But LEGO, if you're reading, I still want my Tumbler.

    I think the City stuff can be really good at times too, although some of it is awful. I recently picked up the Rescue Helicopter (7903), and I love it.

    As for LEGO State of the Union commentary: I think LEGO has some identity confusion. It's been a good 7 or 8 years now where every time they put out a new batch of product, I scratch my head and wonder what the heck they're trying to do. It's almost like they're still stuck in that "extreme" mentality of the mid 90's, trying to compete with the action figure market. I'm sorry, but mini-figs look stupid with crazy animated expressions on their faces. I think kids that gravitate torwards LEGO sets tend to be "smart," and dopey looking mini-figs, overly specialized pieces, and Extreme themes tend to "dumb" down the toys. LEGO has a great action figure contender in Bionicle, so do all the action figure stuff with that line and keep the System stuff close to its roots.

    Seriously, when's the last time you've seen a LEGO man with the Classic little smile and eyes? I think the pilot with the new Y-Wing is the first in a long time. One thing that miffs me about the Castle sets coming this summer are the goofy faces they gave to the little soldiers. Why do they have to be sneering and yelling? I dunno, it just has this out-dated, "Extreme" feel to it, and seems totally unneccessary. Do the little animated faces really test that much better than the Classic face with kids? Do the extreme expressions really push the sets over the edge to make a sale? Maybe they do, I dunno. It's just a minor quibble, but a symptom of a greater problem that LEGO struggles with. You're LEGO. Do LEGO well, don't try to be something else.

  5. #5
    Ferrari sets here never work, I think LEGO would be wise to make them exclusives to TRU or something rather than trying to cram them down everybody's throats, the race team is non existent in the US and the non-forumla cars really don't look all that accurate, and they're pricey and red out the wazoo.

    Well, it seems like every time I stroll down the Mega Bloks aisle there's another set that blows my socks off, it's prefab and it's limited and it's not anywhere near as good as LEGO from the technical standpoint, but it's affordable and it looks amazing and it appears to have good playability - I think LEGO is seeing their marketshare erode to that and it's a department they really don't understand enough to make it work, so they flail about trying a little bit of everything hoping something will stick.

    I think LEGO really needs to get off their duffs and get back to cool buckets, nifty idea books, and sets that aren't all specialized pieces or facades. And it wouldn't hurt to get back to fun features and bigger interiors rather than launching missiles and cockpits so small the canopy can't even seal them in.
    Darth Vader is becoming the Mickey Mouse of Star Wars.

    "In Brooklyn, a castle, is where dwell I"
    The use of a lightsaber does not make one a Jedi, it is the ability to not use it.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by JediTricks View Post
    Well, it seems like every time I stroll down the Mega Bloks aisle there's another set that blows my socks off, it's prefab and it's limited and it's not anywhere near as good as LEGO from the technical standpoint, but it's affordable and it looks amazing and it appears to have good playability - I think LEGO is seeing their marketshare erode to that and it's a department they really don't understand enough to make it work, so they flail about trying a little bit of everything hoping something will stick.
    I'm sure there's a chicken-or-the-egg debate to be had about this. Is LEGO really losing customers to Mega Bloks because their product is so good, or is Mega Bloks offering themes and sets in the absence of any from LEGO? If given the choice between a LEGO pirate set, and a Mega Bloks pirate set, are most parents and kids are going to go with the Mega Bloks offering? Why, because it looks so great, or because it's 50% cheaper? I'm guessing it's kinda hard for a parent to make that choice, given LEGO doesnt' have any Pirate theme out right now! Why on earth is that?! Unless there's some legal issue that threatens MB's POTC liscence, I don't see any reason why LEGO isn't reissuing at least a few of the Classic pirate sets. I seem to remember the Red Beard Runner reissue from a few years back selling out almost instantly at TRU, and that had to be one of the weakest pirate ships LEGO ever put out. I'm guessing if a parent or kid is looking at a $40 Mega Bloks pirate ship, and an $80 LEGO pirate ship, the LEGO set tends to win out most of the time. I'm also thinking that if LEGO were making POTC stuff, they'd be selling it like crazy. Nice job losing out on that liscence. Good thing we still have Avatar.

    I dunno, seems like Mega Bloks has been around forever, even when I was a kid, and they still look like LEGO knock-offs to me. Has their reputation changed? Have they really given LEGO any more competion than they used to? Seems to me like LEGO is primarily competing with video games and electronics, just like every other toy company. If MB has gained any steam over the years, my guess is that they're satisfying demand for basic themes that LEGO has long abandoned. In other words, their Pirate stuff sells well because there's no LEGO competition on the shelves. MB's dragon stuff sold well for the longest time because LEGO didn't really have anything on the shelves to counter it. But wouldn't you know, LEGO releases the Viking stuff at TRU (which they thought wouldn't do well in the States for some stupid reason), and they can't keep anything on the shelves come X-mas time. Go figure.

    I think LEGO really needs to get off their duffs and get back to cool buckets, nifty idea books, and sets that aren't all specialized pieces or facades. And it wouldn't hurt to get back to fun features and bigger interiors rather than launching missiles and cockpits so small the canopy can't even seal them in.
    Exactly, if LEGO gets back to being LEGO, I think they beat Mega Bloks 9 out of 10 times in the toy aisle purchase war. But LEGO hasn't been LEGO for a while now, and their direct peer competition has done a good job of making them pay for it.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by seanmcfripp View Post
    Is LEGO really losing customers to Mega Bloks because their product is so good, or is Mega Bloks offering themes and sets in the absence of any from LEGO?
    Well, I'd say it's the latter, Mega Bloks is making product that LEGO simply doesn't want to do, or making product in a manner LEGO doesn't want to (more play features and aesthetics, less focus on product quality and build).

    If given the choice between a LEGO pirate set, and a Mega Bloks pirate set, are most parents and kids are going to go with the Mega Bloks offering? Why, because it looks so great, or because it's 50% cheaper? I'm guessing it's kinda hard for a parent to make that choice, given LEGO doesnt' have any Pirate theme out right now!
    I'll be honest, I think even if LEGO had a pirate theme on the market at this point, parents would go with the MB because they look better AND are big sets for not that much money. A big pirate ship from LEGO will cost over $50 for sure, and it won't have the aesthetic quality the MB version at $30 for the same size will, nor the play features.


    Why on earth is that?! Unless there's some legal issue that threatens MB's POTC liscence, I don't see any reason why LEGO isn't reissuing at least a few of the Classic pirate sets.
    I am sure it has zip to do with MB's anything, MB had out the Pyrates line before their POTC line started and LEGO could have come back with reissues or new versions of their own Pirates stuff since it came first. There should be no excuse for this really, LEGO not only has the pirates designs from the past ready to go AND they own the patent on the building brick, but they also have the Ninja line that could be mixed in with Pirates to rip off POTC:AWE if they wanted.

    Honestly, I don't think LEGO knows what to offer anymore if it's not Exo-Force or Bionicle, every theme's been kind of a whimper lately because the theme's bland and the set designs can't decide what they're trying to do.
    I'm guessing if a parent or kid is looking at a $40 Mega Bloks pirate ship, and an $80 LEGO pirate ship, the LEGO set tends to win out most of the time.
    I dunno about that anymore, the $40 MB ship will be twice as big as the $80 LEGO one. I don't want anybody to think I'm pro-MB, I'm not, but they're taking steps to win this battle at the same time LEGO seems to be taking steps to lose it.

    I'm also thinking that if LEGO were making POTC stuff, they'd be selling it like crazy. Nice job losing out on that liscence. Good thing we still have Avatar.
    Avatar was the worst license they could have gotten, every set looks boring and ugly, and the boat there is so blah. Look at what they did with the Harry Potter boat though, it could have been cool and instead they juniorized it to death.

    I dunno, seems like Mega Bloks has been around forever, even when I was a kid, and they still look like LEGO knock-offs to me.
    Actually, they haven't been doing this all that long, before 14 years ago they used to be only Duplo-scale (hence the "mega bloks" name) and then they came out with Mega Bloks "Micro" that was standard LEGO-scale (everything in those first few years was painfully blocky or needlessly shell-driven), and their smaller bricks had no quality at all, they were essentially bind-less.

    Has their reputation changed? Have they really given LEGO any more competion than they used to?
    DEFINITELY. In the first few years of MB's Micro line, the minifigs were horrible, the bricks were worthless, the sets were blocky and uninspired. However, in 2000-2001, they started using a new minifig that got consistently better and better (now they're actually using sculpted instead of printed details, which is superior to LEGO in that respect), the bricks changed quality, and they came up with a handful of really nifty in-house lines which were direct about aesthetics and play rather than building, the cornerstone being the Dragons line which was an immediate eye-catcher. Since the first Dragons line, the company has come up with more unique and exciting ideas than ever before, and really started giving LEGO a run for their money in the toy aisle since LEGO seems to be dragging their feet with play quality and aesthetics.

    If MB has gained any steam over the years, my guess is that they're satisfying demand for basic themes that LEGO has long abandoned. In other words, their Pirate stuff sells well because there's no LEGO competition on the shelves. MB's dragon stuff sold well for the longest time because LEGO didn't really have anything on the shelves to counter it.
    For a while, LEGO and MB had competing Dragon themes and LEGO was soundly getting thrashed in terms of general appeal - though I think their higher quality kept sales alive. I just don't think LEGO is willing to deliver what MB is willing to - MB is willing to make toy-like tooling for their building brick line, they're willing to go with larger specialized pieces to create a unique and exciting aesthetic, MB is doing larger and more full play environments and features at a time when LEGO is scaling back their designs to blander and barer sets, and they're willing to put in extra effort in the paint department that LEGO can't be bothered with anymore (stupid StAMPs). Plus, MB has finally built a name for themselves in the aisle yet is half the price of LEGO.

    But wouldn't you know, LEGO releases the Viking stuff at TRU (which they thought wouldn't do well in the States for some stupid reason), and they can't keep anything on the shelves come X-mas time. Go figure.
    Well, to be fair, the Viking theme didn't do well once it arrived here, all the serious LEGO fan interest on the web didn't translate to sales.

    Exactly, if LEGO gets back to being LEGO, I think they beat Mega Bloks 9 out of 10 times in the toy aisle purchase war. But LEGO hasn't been LEGO for a while now, and their direct peer competition has done a good job of making them pay for it.
    I dunno anymore, MB has crafted themselves their own niche in the aisle and I don't think anything that LEGO does now will change that, MB is doing a good job crossing the gulf between building bricks and traditional toys that LEGO has never been willing to cross - and they shouldn't if they're determined to remain about the building experience, but since LEGO's patents for the brick have long since run out, that means MB can remain the line between the 2 philosophies.
    Darth Vader is becoming the Mickey Mouse of Star Wars.

    "In Brooklyn, a castle, is where dwell I"
    The use of a lightsaber does not make one a Jedi, it is the ability to not use it.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by JediTricks View Post
    Actually, they haven't been doing this all that long, before 14 years ago they used to be only Duplo-scale (hence the "mega bloks" name) and then they came out with Mega Bloks "Micro" that was standard LEGO-scale (everything in those first few years was painfully blocky or needlessly shell-driven), and their smaller bricks had no quality at all, they were essentially bind-less.
    You're right, Mega Bloks in System scale doesn't date back quite as far as I had said. I should have been clearer: I seem to remember there always being at least some type of LEGO knockoff out there post 1983 (when LEGO lost the patent). I actually still have some old pieces from those sets, which I pulled out, and they're stamped "Tyco" on top. No, not the horny lunatic "Tycho" we all know and love around here, but T-Y-C-O. Ironically, they could have called their bricks "False-LEGOs." They made lots of cool stuff, and even had military and mech themes. They were compatible stud-wise with LEGO bricks, but the heighths of the bricks and plates were just a tad more than LEGO, so they never really quite mixed well.

    I'd say those Tyco sets' quality were the same as MB's, if not higher. The military stuff in particular was very nice, with snazzy little mini-figs. But honestly, something about those sets just seemed cheap to me, even as a 10 year-old kid (which puts us at about 1987 or so). Looking back, I can remember which family members gave me which sets: the more educated and well-to-do family members from my Dad's side always got me LEGO sets (turned me on to them in fact), and the more blue collar, thrifty family members on my Mom's side got me the knock-off stuff. That impression hasn't changed for me, so I was just guessing the same holds true with today's kid. But maybe not, after everything you've said JT. I wish I had a 10 year old around who I could ask about this. "Hey, which is cooler, LEGO, or Mega Bloks?" Of course he'd probably say, pulling the earphones of his iPod out of his ear, "Uh, nobody plays with that stuff. Toys are for babies." Then I'd go, "Uh, yeah. Yeah, toys are stupid." Then I'd go home all embarrassed.

    DEFINITELY. In the first few years of MB's Micro line, the minifigs were horrible, the bricks were worthless, the sets were blocky and uninspired. However, in 2000-2001, they started using a new minifig that got consistently better and better (now they're actually using sculpted instead of printed details, which is superior to LEGO in that respect), the bricks changed quality, and they came up with a handful of really nifty in-house lines which were direct about aesthetics and play rather than building, the cornerstone being the Dragons line which was an immediate eye-catcher. Since the first Dragons line, the company has come up with more unique and exciting ideas than ever before, and really started giving LEGO a run for their money in the toy aisle since LEGO seems to be dragging their feet with play quality and aesthetics.
    Who made that line of LEGO-like mechs a few years back (probably 2001 or so), where you could do the things up in camo patterns with puffy paint? Was that Mega Bloks? I actually bought a few of those, and they were pretty darned cool. I have them stored away at the moment, otherwise I'd look it up. I think they sold ok, but were eventually put on clearance at most places. Too bad, because they were good quality, and even character based, with little profiles on the mechs and stat sheets and such. Anyway, I just remember thinking that LEGO was missing out by not offering a mech and robot based line. Fast forward to the present, and we have Exoforce selling fairly well. I was going to make a point, but now I forget. JT, what was my point?

    I just don't think LEGO is willing to deliver what MB is willing to - MB is willing to make toy-like tooling for their building brick line, they're willing to go with larger specialized pieces to create a unique and exciting aesthetic, MB is doing larger and more full play environments and features at a time when LEGO is scaling back their designs to blander and barer sets, and they're willing to put in extra effort in the paint department that LEGO can't be bothered with anymore (stupid StAMPs). Plus, MB has finally built a name for themselves in the aisle yet is half the price of LEGO.
    Yep, it's pretty basic. The one that gets me: Canopies need hinges so they can open and close properly!!! No excuses on that one.

    I have to ask though, would more specialized pieces really help LEGO? Maybe I'm brainwashed by the LEGO hardcore out there, but isn't the specialization of pieces the biggest criticism of LEGO over the last few years? Don't specialized pieces "dumb down" the sets?

    Well, to be fair, the Viking theme didn't do well once it arrived here, all the serious LEGO fan interest on the web didn't translate to sales.
    You know better than me probably, I just know what I saw at my local TRU. The Viking stuff hit, oh, what, the Spring of 2005? Early summer? I wanna say right around the same time the ROTS stuff hit. They couldn't keep that stuff in stock for more than a few weeks, especially the bigger sets, like the fortress and ship. They really got cleaned out at X-mas time.

  9. #9
    That impression hasn't changed for me, so I was just guessing the same holds true with today's kid. But maybe not, after everything you've said JT. I wish I had a 10 year old around who I could ask about this. "Hey, which is cooler, LEGO, or Mega Bloks?" Of course he'd probably say, pulling the earphones of his iPod out of his ear, "Uh, nobody plays with that stuff. Toys are for babies." Then I'd go, "Uh, yeah. Yeah, toys are stupid." Then I'd go home all embarrassed.
    Next time you're in TRU, check out the Mega Bloks display with the Pyrates, POTC, or Dragons sets on it, they're usually pretty big and detailed and show off much of the set. The POTC treasure chest/Isla de las Cruces (or whatever the hell it's named) set looks crazy cool.
    And then kick your imaginary 10 year old's butt for mouthing off.


    Who made that line of LEGO-like mechs a few years back (probably 2001 or so), where you could do the things up in camo patterns with puffy paint? Was that Mega Bloks? I actually bought a few of those, and they were pretty darned cool.
    I don't remember any puffy paint ones, but just about every building toy line has done mechs in the past 6 years, even K'nex!

    I was going to make a point, but now I forget. JT, what was my point?
    Um... I don't know, was it about aesthetics on LEGO's part?


    Yep, it's pretty basic. The one that gets me: Canopies need hinges so they can open and close properly!!! No excuses on that one.
    Ugh, stupid click hinges, LEGO very nearly lost me over that issue, they're much harder to work with than the old finger hinges. However, after I got over my annoyance with the new hinge design (it helped a lot when they added plate hinges, those brick hinges were too limiting), I was able to see that there might be reasons to switch to this besides just getting us to buy more new parts: for one, finger hinges don't hold the plate or canopy upright all that well; another reason, the finger hinges aren't always universal; and finally, the finger hinges themselves are a tad fragile since they're thinner tabs.

    I have to ask though, would more specialized pieces really help LEGO? Maybe I'm brainwashed by the LEGO hardcore out there, but isn't the specialization of pieces the biggest criticism of LEGO over the last few years? Don't specialized pieces "dumb down" the sets?
    Yes, specialized pieces increase LEGO's costs and dumb down sets, LEGO has proven they don't have the aptitude to rock these for crap, that's why I was saying MB is doing stuff that LEGO simply cannot and will not do. But LEGO also needs to recognize that they need to jazz up the brick a little, there's a lot of room for improvement that isn't specialized pieces, there are new avenues of deco, new directions of binding, and new even new shapes that they've yet to touch.

    You know better than me probably, I just know what I saw at my local TRU. The Viking stuff hit, oh, what, the Spring of 2005? Early summer? I wanna say right around the same time the ROTS stuff hit. They couldn't keep that stuff in stock for more than a few weeks, especially the bigger sets, like the fortress and ship. They really got cleaned out at X-mas time.
    Early Fall of '05, I had to look up my post on that. Around here, they never really caught on, the displays made the bigger sets look bland and there seemed to be an anti-Bionicle backlash to the beasts.
    Darth Vader is becoming the Mickey Mouse of Star Wars.

    "In Brooklyn, a castle, is where dwell I"
    The use of a lightsaber does not make one a Jedi, it is the ability to not use it.

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