def, on 20 December 2012 - 04:20 AM, said:
There is a question of why it is that all the (mostly male) AFOLs go crazy for furnished sets, like the modulars, and yes, Friends sets. Is that them out-growing their boyishness? At what age do boys learn to appreciate such things in their toys?
Good question. I think part of it might be a matter of AFOLs appreciating more diverse detail in general than kids of either gender, though. Kids will look at a set for something that grabs their interest and decide immediately that it's a good set. AFOLs, on the other hand, have more discerning tastes, and want their sets to be well-rounded. AFOLs don't tend to be too happy about the somewhat bare-bones sets of LEGO City, but likewise I've seen AFOLs express criticism of many of the smaller LEGO Friends sets, which have enough furniture to fill a space but no walls or floor to define that space. And AFOLs go even further a lot of the time by preferring that spaces be fully enclosed, so that they look complete both inside and out from all angles.
There was a large overlap between Friends and Belleville conceptually, so I think it's fair to give a lot of credit to the designers for not dumbing down sets. Maybe market research was not collected on that point, or they found girls enjoying the assembly.
While obviously Belville did hold true to some of the findings of the market research, I think that's merely a measure of how conventional wisdom regarding girls' toys had gotten some things right simply through decades of trial and error. Belville, like the Homemaker sets of decades past, was a "dollhouse" theme, because it didn't take any kind of research to tell that dollhouses were popular among young girls. As such, some things like the emphasis on creating harmonious, well-furnished spaces and on creating figures girls could identify with on a personal level came naturally.
I think what the market research for LEGO Friends sought to find was what it was about these taken-for-granted tenets that really made girls like this type of play, and how this could be applied to LEGO without diluting the building experience or brand image. In other words it was trying to find a way to create a toy that kids and gift-givers would recognize as "for girls" while still being unrepentantly a building toy in line with the LEGO brand image.
LEGO's research that began four years in advance didn't consist of "market research experiments" like Vexorian suggested above. It was anthropological (i.e. non-experimental) research, observing how girls played when left to their own devices. And what it showed was that whether by nature or nurture, girls began to express distinctive play patterns in early childhood. As such, LEGO Friends was based on these play patterns. This isn't to say focus group testing and other traditional market research techniques weren't used, but those came later, and it's probably those that inspired some of the more "stereotypical" aspects of the Friends theme (such as the color palette, which reassured girls and parents of girls that the toy was "for them").