AmperZand

Interest in Mars - a new Space theme?

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Looking at the initial images from Perseverance, I wondered if renewed interest in space exploration generally and extra-terrestrial environments in particular might stimulate LEGO to release a new Space theme (not SW, not City).

The moon landings of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s as well as the wider space race was why LEGO developed CS. Could current fascination with Mars be the impetus for CS 2.0?

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While it would be nice to get a new Space theme, is this current landing particularly big in the public consciousness? It seems like every few years there's an event like this - a rover landing or something - which gets big press on the day it happens but is quickly forgotten about in the grand scheme of things. I doubt this will capture the public imagination until there are habitation domes on Olympus Mons or something.

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1 hour ago, AmperZand said:

Looking at the initial images from Perseverance, I wondered if renewed interest in space exploration generally and extra-terrestrial environments in particular might stimulate LEGO to release a new Space theme (not SW, not City).

The moon landings of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s as well as the wider space race was why LEGO developed CS. Could current fascination with Mars be the impetus for CS 2.0?

I think no. More interest in realistic space through City, yes. SciFi space, no.

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Sounds really cool, but it's not too likely considering the amount of space-related sets we are getting...

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On 2/19/2021 at 10:59 PM, JintaiZ said:

Sounds really cool, but it's not too likely considering the amount of space-related sets we are getting...

The thing is, are the markets for the current crop of space-related sets and a hypothetical Space theme 100% the same? I know I'd buy a well-designed sci-fi theme in a heartbeat, but I have never and likely will never have an interest in real-world space. When you add people like me to the people who are clamouring for any sci-fi stuff they can possibly get, there's quite a sizable potential market for a sci-fi theme. Whether a Mars landing will kickstart it is another question, but the market is definitely there.

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20 minutes ago, Alexandrina said:

I know I'd buy a well-designed sci-fi theme in a heartbeat, but I have never and likely will never have an interest in real-world space.

Yes! This is me too.

Lego understands this. It's why their 2019 shuttle and rover sets have CITY in big-assed letters on the box.

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18 hours ago, Alexandrina said:

I know I'd buy a well-designed sci-fi theme in a heartbeat, but I have never and likely will never have an interest in real-world space.

I agree, but it's starting to feel like real-world space sets have a wider appeal...

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60226 included a helicopter and a car-sized rover, probably based on the Perseverance mission.

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On 2/22/2021 at 5:01 PM, Alexandrina said:

The thing is, are the markets for the current crop of space-related sets and a hypothetical Space theme 100% the same? I know I'd buy a well-designed sci-fi theme in a heartbeat, but I have never and likely will never have an interest in real-world space. When you add people like me to the people who are clamouring for any sci-fi stuff they can possibly get, there's quite a sizable potential market for a sci-fi theme. Whether a Mars landing will kickstart it is another question, but the market is definitely there.

Keep in mind that real world space fans are usually some of the biggest sci-fi fans too.  The cultural zeitgeist has moved on.  The pseudo-real space program aesthetic of modern sci-fi is the classic space of the current generation of kids.  Think about the 2 - 3 year lead time Lego has for theme development.  The 2019 space theme was clearly inspired by movies like The Martian and Intersellar as much as the projected future plans of NASA.

 

On 2/22/2021 at 5:25 PM, danth said:

Yes! This is me too.

Lego understands this. It's why their 2019 shuttle and rover sets have CITY in big-assed letters on the box.

Which is really funny because is seems like most of the town fans can't understand why a futuristic Mars exploration theme is branded under CITY either.  (Earth based buildings and vehicles obviously)

 

3 hours ago, EamonnMR said:

60226 included a helicopter and a car-sized rover, probably based on the Perseverance mission.

Well 60226 is literally named "Mars Research Shuttle".   Despite its design aesthetic it is just as sci-fi as the Galaxy Explorer was over 40 years ago.

 

I mean I get that people in this thread may not like the pesudo-real world aesthetic of modern near future sci-fi.  Personally I found the 2019 space theme to be highly useful for Mars Mission (the Lego theme) builds.  I also happen to think the Apollo rocket set is by far and away the best classic space Alpha-1 Rocket Base style rocket money can buy.  Would I love to see a much more futuristic sci-fi theme?  Absolutely.  Do I think that interest in Mars is likely to bring about that?  Not so much.  We already got the "interest in Mars" theme in 2019.

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I'm a fan of Mars 2019 even though it's not the exact aesthetic I like. My only problem with 60226 is that canopy-print white is very different from brick white and as of this writing it only comes in that one print. I'd probably get the big rocket sets but they'd take up a lot more display space than I have.

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15 hours ago, Lord Insanity said:

Which is really funny because is seems like most of the town fans can't understand why a futuristic Mars exploration theme is branded under CITY either.  (Earth based buildings and vehicles obviously)

I don't see the recent City space sets as a futuristic Mars exploration theme at all.

There isn't anything sci-fi about it, really. The rover set is based on earth (the box shows it in test drive scenario). The space stations are just what we have now. The only unrealistic designs are the small one-man shuttles towing the space station but I think that's more about making the toys fun, not something particularly futuristic.

Compare it to Life on Mars or Mars Mission. Those at least take place on Mars, and have aliens, etc.

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20 hours ago, Lord Insanity said:

Keep in mind that real world space fans are usually some of the biggest sci-fi fans too.

I could be wrong, but I'd argue that this is actually a point in favour of having an in-house sci-fi theme. A great big chunk of the customer base for the realistic stuff will also buy (or at least consider buying) a well-designed sci-fi theme, but such a theme would also suck in people who aren't interested in the real-world stuff. The potential market is actually larger, imo - and there's nothing stopping Lego from continuing to make real-world sets as well, to play both sides.

20 hours ago, Lord Insanity said:

The cultural zeitgeist has moved on.  The pseudo-real space program aesthetic of modern sci-fi is the classic space of the current generation of kids.  Think about the 2 - 3 year lead time Lego has for theme development.  The 2019 space theme was clearly inspired by movies like The Martian and Intersellar as much as the projected future plans of NASA.

I definitely see what you mean about Interstellar (I know nothing about The Martian, so won't comment on it) but while Interstellar was absolutely huge in the sort of circles that AFOL space fans are likely to move in, I'm not sure it's the space behemoth of the day for kids. Things like Star Wars and Star Trek have more sci-fi/space-fantasy elements and less real-world-aesthetic vessels and had huge films released around the same time as Interstellar, but are more marketed at kids - I doubt too many children are enamoured by the dust-bowl scenes from Interstellar, for example. That said, if Lego were to produce something like an O'Neill cylinder inspired by Interstellar aesthetics, I'd personally be satisfied with that.

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8 hours ago, danth said:

I don't see the recent City space sets as a futuristic Mars exploration theme at all.

There isn't anything sci-fi about it, really. The rover set is based on earth (the box shows it in test drive scenario). The space stations are just what we have now. The only unrealistic designs are the small one-man shuttles towing the space station but I think that's more about making the toys fun, not something particularly futuristic.

Compare it to Life on Mars or Mars Mission. Those at least take place on Mars, and have aliens, etc.

You are being fooled by the style of design and the fact that the sets are branded under "CITY".   Lunar space stations and Mars shuttles are just as futuristic today as rocket bases on the Moon were 40 years ago.  Half the 2019 space sets being contemporary Earth based and half the theme being rather fantastical is part of why the majority of town fans didn't really care for the theme.

 

4 hours ago, Alexandrina said:

I could be wrong, but I'd argue that this is actually a point in favour of having an in-house sci-fi theme. A great big chunk of the customer base for the realistic stuff will also buy (or at least consider buying) a well-designed sci-fi theme, but such a theme would also suck in people who aren't interested in the real-world stuff. The potential market is actually larger, imo - and there's nothing stopping Lego from continuing to make real-world sets as well, to play both sides.

I definitely see what you mean about Interstellar (I know nothing about The Martian, so won't comment on it) but while Interstellar was absolutely huge in the sort of circles that AFOL space fans are likely to move in, I'm not sure it's the space behemoth of the day for kids. Things like Star Wars and Star Trek have more sci-fi/space-fantasy elements and less real-world-aesthetic vessels and had huge films released around the same time as Interstellar, but are more marketed at kids - I doubt too many children are enamoured by the dust-bowl scenes from Interstellar, for example. That said, if Lego were to produce something like an O'Neill cylinder inspired by Interstellar aesthetics, I'd personally be satisfied with that.

The aesthetic of the 2019 sets borrows design cues from The Martian much more than Intersellar.  (Ironically I think The Martian was a much better movie too.)  Now I don't think kids are watching those movies but rather they represent the popular sci-fi "realistic" aesthetic that kids do see used in modern kids shows.  Star Trek hasn't been mainstream for years and I would argue the Lego sets have done more to keep Star Wars relevant that the actual movies have.

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6 hours ago, Lord Insanity said:

Star Trek hasn't been mainstream for years

There was a highly popular film series ongoing at the same time as Interstellar was coming out, the third film released in 2016. Now maybe the box office wasn't as high as Star Wars, Marvel etc. pull in but it's nothing to be sniffed at, and put Star Trek very much back in the mainstream. (For reference, Star Trek Into Darkness grossed similar to the first Thor film, so while Star Trek's film franchise didn't go on to greater things it wasn't some niche indie release).

As for the relevance of Star Wars, I think you underestimate how much kids love the sequels, cartoons, etc. I don't want to make assumptions about you personally, but a lot of adults dislike the sequels - and assume everybody does - for reasons which don't matter to a kid. A youngster doesn't care if Rey got her powers too suddenly, or if Holdo's Star Destroyer manoeuvre stretches plausibility. To them its just cool.

And if kids are getting into Star Wars to begin with through Lego, does it make a difference? I personally first watched Star Wars because a friend recommended I play Lego Star Wars II and I loved the game. When I watched the films, I loved them too. Lego came first, but the Star Wars films influenced my own preconceptions of sci-fi aesthetics (to the point that in early drafts of my abortive sci-fi novel I essentially copied a Star Wars universe that just didn't have the Force). 

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13 hours ago, Lord Insanity said:

You are being fooled by the style of design and the fact that the sets are branded under "CITY".   Lunar space stations and Mars shuttles are just as futuristic today as rocket bases on the Moon were 40 years ago.  Half the 2019 space sets being contemporary Earth based and half the theme being rather fantastical is part of why the majority of town fans didn't really care for the theme.

I guess you got me on those two. I didn't know the space station was "Lunar". The box art, now that I'm scrutinizing it, shows it near the moon with Earth in the distance. But if you just glance at the picture, it looks like a generic space station (ISS, Skylab, whatever).

The Mars shuttle one -- yeah, any manned flights to mars are definitely "futuristic." What's funny is the box art doesn't show anything that I can make sense of -- a shuttle "flying" 8 feet in the air above Mars with no runway to land on, and an astronaut floating few feet above that, and what looks like two Earths in the background (probably supposed to be Mars moons but they look nothing like Phobos or Deimos). The box art short circuited my brain so I could never process the "futuristic" stuff that was going on.

Wait...I get it I think. The rover is shown on the surface, and the drones are flying upwards...I guess the scenario is that the shuttle flies into Mars orbit, and the drones fly the Mars rocks up to the shuttle? And the astronaut floats out to grab the rocks?

So the astronauts never walk on the Martian surface...the Lunar set is an orbital space station...the Rover is only a "test drive"...okay, I figured this out guys. The non-competition clause in Lego's contract to make Star Wars sets clearly states that no non-licensed mini-figure can be depicted walking on the surface of another planet!

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While a reboot to classic space would be phenomenal and welcomed by many, the reality is it would be seen as a conflict of interest with the Star Wars franchise. LEGO seems hesitant to do anything that might cause friction with the license holder as it is a major product line for them. With the success of the Mandalorian series, they definitely want to follow the money in this case. I do hope something classic anything comes from the recent fan vote, but space would be my preference. That might be as close as we get since the LEGO Movie gave us Spaceship! Spaceship! Spaceship!

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17 hours ago, Alexandrina said:

There was a highly popular film series ongoing at the same time as Interstellar was coming out, the third film released in 2016. Now maybe the box office wasn't as high as Star Wars, Marvel etc. pull in but it's nothing to be sniffed at, and put Star Trek very much back in the mainstream. (For reference, Star Trek Into Darkness grossed similar to the first Thor film, so while Star Trek's film franchise didn't go on to greater things it wasn't some niche indie release).

As for the relevance of Star Wars, I think you underestimate how much kids love the sequels, cartoons, etc. I don't want to make assumptions about you personally, but a lot of adults dislike the sequels - and assume everybody does - for reasons which don't matter to a kid. A youngster doesn't care if Rey got her powers too suddenly, or if Holdo's Star Destroyer manoeuvre stretches plausibility. To them its just cool.

And if kids are getting into Star Wars to begin with through Lego, does it make a difference? I personally first watched Star Wars because a friend recommended I play Lego Star Wars II and I loved the game. When I watched the films, I loved them too. Lego came first, but the Star Wars films influenced my own preconceptions of sci-fi aesthetics (to the point that in early drafts of my abortive sci-fi novel I essentially copied a Star Wars universe that just didn't have the Force). 

Sorry I was not more clear.  I am not saying the movies themselves are what kids are interested in, I am saying the style in those movies is reflected in the toys available for kids today (or a few years ago).  When it comes to toys (aimed at kids, not collectibles for adults) Star Trek might as well not even exist.  Star Wars is in serious decline.  The toys based on the newer cartoons and movies have grossly under performed.  I see the claim that kids don't care about those "geek complaints" often and I can't figure out why.  My kids (12 and 9) and their circle of friends are far more likely to nitpick that stuff than the adults.  Consistency and details matter more to kids than adults in my experience.

Watching NASA videos of shuttle and rocket launches is very popular with the kids right now.  My 12 year old flat out told me all her friends think, and I quote:  "The real thing is so much cooler than stupid Star Wars".  It doesn't surprise me at all that the Lego 2019 Mars Research Shuttle is still available in stores.  That kind of longevity in a retail Lego set is very rare anymore.

 

11 hours ago, danth said:

I guess you got me on those two. I didn't know the space station was "Lunar". The box art, now that I'm scrutinizing it, shows it near the moon with Earth in the distance. But if you just glance at the picture, it looks like a generic space station (ISS, Skylab, whatever).

The Mars shuttle one -- yeah, any manned flights to mars are definitely "futuristic." What's funny is the box art doesn't show anything that I can make sense of -- a shuttle "flying" 8 feet in the air above Mars with no runway to land on, and an astronaut floating few feet above that, and what looks like two Earths in the background (probably supposed to be Mars moons but they look nothing like Phobos or Deimos). The box art short circuited my brain so I could never process the "futuristic" stuff that was going on.

Wait...I get it I think. The rover is shown on the surface, and the drones are flying upwards...I guess the scenario is that the shuttle flies into Mars orbit, and the drones fly the Mars rocks up to the shuttle? And the astronaut floats out to grab the rocks?

So the astronauts never walk on the Martian surface...the Lunar set is an orbital space station...the Rover is only a "test drive"...okay, I figured this out guys. The non-competition clause in Lego's contract to make Star Wars sets clearly states that no non-licensed mini-figure can be depicted walking on the surface of another planet!

Well that assessment of the box art is genius.  I won't be able to not see that now.  :snicker:

I know you don't really care for the "real world" style of the set, but the Mars shuttle is a really good "rocket ship" set in its own right.  My local Walmarts have had the set at a regular selling price of $32 for its whole shelf life so far.  Lego's suggested price of $40 is a little high considering the terrible print job on the main canopy.  Fortunately that canopy is available on bricklink in classic trans-blue and trans-orange.  I know it's not the same as a dedicated space theme but it is hard to ignore a good set when it is available and can so easily be converted to a more "classic" space themed set.

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6 hours ago, Lord Insanity said:

I see the claim that kids don't care about those "geek complaints" often and I can't figure out why.  My kids (12 and 9) and their circle of friends are far more likely to nitpick that stuff than the adults.  Consistency and details matter more to kids than adults in my experience.

I would be wary of assuming that your experience is universal to kids. I can just as easily bring up the kids I know, who love Star Wars and the ilk and don't care a jot for space shuttles and whatnot. Unfortunately without the evidence borne by an actual sci-fi theme, it's just hypotheticals. 

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15 hours ago, Lord Insanity said:

I know you don't really care for the "real world" style of the set, but the Mars shuttle is a really good "rocket ship" set in its own right.  My local Walmarts have had the set at a regular selling price of $32 for its whole shelf life so far.  Lego's suggested price of $40 is a little high considering the terrible print job on the main canopy.  Fortunately that canopy is available on bricklink in classic trans-blue and trans-orange.  I know it's not the same as a dedicated space theme but it is hard to ignore a good set when it is available and can so easily be converted to a more "classic" space themed set.

Hmm that's not a bad idea. I originally wanted this set, but the canopy print job turned me off. But swapping it out like you suggest fixes that and makes it more sci-fi. Maybe if I see one still on the shelf, I'll snag it.

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All this talk of whether near-future stuff counts as sci-fi/futuristic gets me thinking about how much the LEGO Space theme shifted in that respect over the course of its lifespan. In the early days of LEGO Space, even though stuff was certainly futuristic, there was a lot which didn't feel far removed from what people saw as the future of "real" space exploration technology — lots of unmanned rockets/probes, utilitarian-looking lunar rovers and research stations, forklifts, refueling carts, radio antennae, satellite dishes, etc.

Even a lot of the play scenarios seemed to focus on very routine sorts of tasks like collecting soil samples, launching probes into space with rockets, monitoring communication channels, etc. And the initial white and red spacesuits vaguely resembled the colors of real-world American and Soviet spacesuits. Set 6970 even included a flag, something that tends to be more of a motif of the "space race" and other early ventures in space colonization than of more fanciful sci-fi stories in which interstellar societies are already flourishing.

And although real world spacecraft are not typically blue and yellow, it's worth keeping in mind that only a few years prior, the overtly NASA-inspired Moon Landing set used fairly similar colors! I'd go so far as to say that these early Classic Space sets arguably felt LESS far removed from "real world" space exploration technology than Creator sets like the Space Rover Explorer and Space Mining Mech… which, in the very least, add the prospect of alien encounters to these hypothetical near-future space exploration scenarios!

That said, as the Space theme continued, more futuristic "science fiction" elements steadily began to show up. Less real-life-inspired spacesuit colors began to show up, spaceships and rovers started to add "laser cannons" (or at least, their sensors and dishes started to more closely resemble that concept), and robots/mechs began to show up in addition to the existing wheeled ground vehicles. The Futuron and Blacktron factions began to introduce even more heavily armed ships in diametrically opposed color schemes, allowing kids to recreate the sort of good vs. evil space battles which characterize the "Space Opera" genre.

LEGO Space society soon developed enough to require its own dedicated law enforcement agency (Space Police) equipped with laser jails and ships with flashing lights/sirens, and its own search-and-rescue/breakdown recovery service (M:Tron) equipped with space cranes, all-terrain tow trucks, and helicopters. The explorers of Ice Planet 2002 pushed the theme beyond the previous rocky, lunar environments, and factions like Spyrius and Roboforce specialized in sci-fi technologies like giant mechs and flying saucers, with considerably less emphasis on shuttles or rockets. Shortly thereafter, Exploriens took the big step of proving the existence of alien life, and in the U.F.O. and Insectoids subthemes those alien species took a starring role.

Anyway, my point is that even starting from a "near future" design philosophy, the Space theme's original run developed more and more "soft" sci-fi and fantasy elements developed to a point more on par with, say, Star Trek. So even if at first real-world strides in space exploration only pave the way for "real world" space exploration, that could in turn end up paving the way for further interest in that more far-flung sci-fi stuff a lot of people here are craving. I certainly wouldn't see any interest in space exploration scenarios as a bad sign for the Space theme's future prospects.

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16 hours ago, Alexandrina said:

I would be wary of assuming that your experience is universal to kids. I can just as easily bring up the kids I know, who love Star Wars and the ilk and don't care a jot for space shuttles and whatnot. Unfortunately without the evidence borne by an actual sci-fi theme, it's just hypotheticals. 

The two sentences right before the part you quoted was...

22 hours ago, Lord Insanity said:

Star Wars is in serious decline.  The toys based on the newer cartoons and movies have grossly under performed.

 

I realize Lego being a privately owned company doesn't release sales numbers.  However most other large toy companies are publicly traded and do release regular stockholder reports.  My experience matches the toy sales numbers.  Many cartoon series in general have been cancelled not because the viewership ratings weren't good but because the toys didn't sell as well as expected.  When it comes to things expected to sell merchandise to or for kids, it doesn't matter how "popular" a cartoon or movie is, if it doesn't actually sell toys it is considered a failure.

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7 hours ago, Lord Insanity said:

The two sentences right before the part you quoted was...

On 2/26/2021 at 3:46 AM, Lord Insanity said:

Star Wars is in serious decline.  The toys based on the newer cartoons and movies have grossly under performed

To which I would offer a three point response:

1) I can't find specific reports for companies' sales figures (this is probably me being an idiot rather than the figures not being there) 

2) Is there a comparison to merchandise based on real world space? If Star Wars merchandise is outperforming NASA merchandise by, say, a factor of ten, does it matter that it's in slight decline? 

3) Star Wars merchandise sales apparently rose 70% last year; this to me suggests that the genre was not necessarily the problem so much as the widespread backlash against the Disney films. Star Trek, meanwhile, seems to have always been a merchandise graveyard so I wouldn't take its present sales figures as gospel (though incidentally I couldn't find any with a brief look) 

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On 2/25/2021 at 8:14 AM, danth said:

So the astronauts never walk on the Martian surface...the Lunar set is an orbital space station...the Rover is only a "test drive"...okay, I figured this out guys. The non-competition clause in Lego's contract to make Star Wars sets clearly states that no non-licensed mini-figure can be depicted walking on the surface of another planet! 

Quoting myself to expand on this because I think it's kind of amusing...

The recent Mining Mech doesn't have a minifig.

The recent Cyber Drone does have a minifig, but it -- as a first for Creator -- is clearly a robot. And the box shows it flying above a city, not on an alien planet's surface.

The Rover Explorer has a minifig on the planet's surface so maybe that blows my theory...except we've had men on the moon on rovers, so maybe it gets through some loophole in the contractual rules I'm hypothesizing. It shows a real a world capability of modern space exploration. Hell, we did it in '71! So maybe that gets a pass.

Edited by danth

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Sorry for the delay, I didn't have internet access over the week end.

 

On 2/27/2021 at 5:46 AM, Alexandrina said:

To which I would offer a three point response:

1) I can't find specific reports for companies' sales figures (this is probably me being an idiot rather than the figures not being there) 

2) Is there a comparison to merchandise based on real world space? If Star Wars merchandise is outperforming NASA merchandise by, say, a factor of ten, does it matter that it's in slight decline? 

3) Star Wars merchandise sales apparently rose 70% last year; this to me suggests that the genre was not necessarily the problem so much as the widespread backlash against the Disney films. Star Trek, meanwhile, seems to have always been a merchandise graveyard so I wouldn't take its present sales figures as gospel (though incidentally I couldn't find any with a brief look) 

1) No I think that is more me being an idiot assuming the shareholder reports were commonly available.  A few minutes on google hasn't really brought anything up other than the normal news articles sharing the slightest of highlights.

2) Not that I could find easily available.  But I should note that all the toy stores / sections around me either feature licensed properties (like Star Wars) or NASA inspired (though often still quite futuristic if you really scrutinize it) toys.  There is hardly any original sci-fi toys like there was 30 years ago in the prime of Lego Space.  Maybe you have a different situation where you are?

3)  Merchandise for The Mandalorian is largely responsible for that uptick.  That doesn't contradict that sales of toys for the newer cartoons and movies were well below expectations.  That all comes back to the original point that kids do in fact care about those "geek things kids don't care about".  The Mandalorian is routinely heralded as a return to "real Star Wars".  (I haven't actually watched it yet so I can't comment more specifically.)

 

On 2/27/2021 at 11:17 AM, danth said:

Quoting myself to expand on this because I think it's kind of amusing...

The recent Mining Mech doesn't have a minifig.

The recent Cyber Drone does have a minifig, but it -- as a first for Creator -- is clearly a robot. And the box shows it flying above a city, not on an alien planet's surface.

The Rover Explorer has a minifig on the planet's surface so maybe that blows my theory...except we've had men on the moon on rovers, so maybe it gets through some loophole in the contractual rules I'm hypothesizing. It shows a real a world capability of modern space exploration. Hell, we did it in the '71! So maybe that gets a pass.

I certainly find it amusing.  The Rover Explorer is also done up in the color scheme of a modern day camper.  Maybe space vacations are allowed.

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