caiman0637

Where is LEGO Going?

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Posted (edited)

LEGO's not going anywhere.

The most recent data I could find says they had the 2nd highest toy sales in the year 2019, with a revenue of 5.785 billion USD.  #1 was Bandai/Namco with 6.605 billion USD.  LEGO was over a billion higher in sales than both Hasbro ($4.72 billion) and Mattel ($4.5 billion).  But think about that for a second.  Bandai/Namco is more of a video game company (and another thing I found said LEGO was #1 with $6.6 billion the next year), and with Hasbro/Mattel, they both have several major brands under their umbrella.  Mattel has Hot Wheels, Barbie, Pixar Cars toys, Fisher-Price, Thomas the Tank Engine, and a few others.  Hasbro has Transformers, Power Rangers, GI Joe, My Little Pony, Nerf, and several major board games. 

LEGO literally just has plastic bricks.  Those other brands have dozens of products/lines under their umbrellas that would appeal to all kinds of consumers, and yet LEGO is outperforming them all.  Of course, LEGO has several themes and things to where it does appeal to different consumers, but at the end of the day, it's all plastic bricks.  The difference between a Friends set and a Technic set is much, much less than the difference between a Hot Wheels car and a Barbie doll.  There's no way they're going to stop producing plastic bricks because they came out with a thing to try to compete with Tiktok and they partnered with Nintendo for a Mario game.

Edited by Kit Figsto

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I feel you’re overreacting a tad too much. The vast majority of their products are still completely brick based. Hidden Side was an amazing theme with great sets, builds, & minifigs. I own plenty & haven’t even thought about downloading the app. Super Mario is still very much brick built. A shame about the instructions, I hated that with Dimensions as well. 

LEGO has always been evolving. They added figures instead of using bricks. Then they went to minifigures. Then they made many, many different types of bricks & accessories. Then they  added licensed themes. Then they added minidolls. Nothing wrong with that so long as their core product is still there. By & large it still is. I hate the app features,

I don’t care what theme it is. People & kids are on their stupid phones enough as is. LEGO is a great get away from tech. But, it’s also the way the world is going, so you can’t fault them for experimenting. 

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Why all those critics about TLG? Use it or leave it. LEGO is meant to be a child’s toy and therefore they make toys. And children love it; otherwise, they didn’t sell their stuff.

Adults have discovered that LEGO can be more than a toy and can even be used for great artworks.  But LEGO has only just found that adults also like the LEGO-bricks. I think that in the near future, TLG more parts will develop especially for adults.

I’m not interested in sets what so ever. But it would be nice if there came more sorts of basic bricks or types of (inverted) slopes and arches. Uneven ones for instance, 2x5, 2x7 and so on. Well, my list can be endless…

On the other hand, limitation leads to creativity…   

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11 hours ago, Kit Figsto said:

 

LEGO literally just has plastic bricks.  

No, they have much more going for them that just plastic bricks, seriously, they are huge in educational stuff and much much more, that is their bread and butter though, for sure.

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On 3/18/2021 at 11:35 PM, caiman0637 said:

Two decades later, the Hidden Side theme was revealed. And so the beginning of the end began. And then came Super Mario, a fully electronic theme. Not-so-fun fact: LEGO Super Mario set instructions can only be viewed using the Super Mario app. And don't get me started on LEGO's latest brain killer- Vidiyo. A TikTok app for kids, what fun. 

I believe the focus is still mainly about building, the app is most likely an attempt to add the fun value.

On 3/18/2021 at 11:35 PM, caiman0637 said:

If you asked somebody what LEGO is, you'll always get the same answer- a building toy. But LEGO's executives don't understand that- they think that their brand needs to keep up with the times, in doing so failing to see the timelessness of the LEGO brick. 

I think LEGO just wanted to have a variety of product types available so it will also appeal to people who are not necessarily interested in LEGO. I also think that most people would expect something new after 50 years.

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I don't think lego is going anywhere for awhile.  All companies change with the times.  Lego is just more diversified within itself.  Like having several different themes to cater to several different types of people and over the last several years an increase in Afol aimed sets.  They will probably always try to stay up with the times by trying to us apps for different things.  I have no problem with the movies or tv shows.  It's actually nice to see lego in action on the screen.  Being a kid from the 80's and a teen in the 90's Lego has always intrigued me even though the video game revolution was starting I always could come back to my lego and build something fun.  There was just a peaceful thing about building with lego that always made me smile.  And now even today my face lights up just seeing new sets that I really like and when I get them I can't wait to build them just like when I was a kid.  I use lego now as a relaxation for my crazy life sometimes I just take some time and build.  I think a lot of people like the fact that lego can take you away to wherever you want to go and get away from everyday life and stressors.  But I don't see lego trying new things as a sign of the Apocalypse.  I actually like how lego has progressed especially with new parts and printing.  Of course lego isn't perfect no one or company is but they are trying to keep a lot of different groups of people engaged in the physical and digital brick which I like.   

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Something that nobody mentioned, but now really bothers me: Technic Control+ sets don't come with remote controls. You have to drive them from a phone. Imagine you just bought 42124 for your son, who doesn't have a phone. How fun. C'mon, LEGO, bring back REAL remote controls!

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, caiman0637 said:

Something that nobody mentioned, but now really bothers me: Technic Control+ sets don't come with remote controls. You have to drive them from a phone. Imagine you just bought 42124 for your son, who doesn't have a phone. How fun. C'mon, LEGO, bring back REAL remote controls!

Unless you live in a third world country or something, I am pretty sure anyone buying those sets also owns a smartphone (if not the child, than I am sure at least the parent owns one). People not owning phones isn't the problem, if anything, I'd say the real problem is that LEGO will eventually discontinue the app used for Control +, and after that the electric pieces will be completely useless. 

Edited by Lego David

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1 hour ago, Lego David said:

Unless you live in a third world country or something, I am pretty sure anyone buying those sets also owns a smartphone (if not the child, than I am sure at least the parent owns one). People not owning phones isn't the problem, if anything, I'd say the real problem is that LEGO will eventually discontinue the app used for Control +, and after that the electric pieces will be completely useless. 

Good point. I've seen five-year-olds with phones, so maybe that's not such a problem.

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1 hour ago, caiman0637 said:

Something that nobody mentioned, but now really bothers me: Technic Control+ sets don't come with remote controls. You have to drive them from a phone. Imagine you just bought 42124 for your son, who doesn't have a phone. How fun. C'mon, LEGO, bring back REAL remote controls!

You could make your own physical remote using an ESP32 microcontroller module or similar for a father/son hardware/software project.  What the LEGO doesn't giveth, you have to maketh.   :pir_laugh2:

 

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2 hours ago, Lego David said:

Unless you live in a third world country or something, I am pretty sure anyone buying those sets also owns a smartphone (if not the child, than I am sure at least the parent owns one). People not owning phones isn't the problem, if anything, I'd say the real problem is that LEGO will eventually discontinue the app used for Control +, and after that the electric pieces will be completely useless. 

The problem is often that you need a relatively new phone or tablet though. 

I bought the recent Mindstorms 51515 kit, and needed to buy a new tablet to use it even though I had a perfectly good one that was about two years old. I checked before buying and knew this so it wasn't a surprise, but it is annoying when their apps only run on very new devices.

 

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Just now, MAB said:

The problem is often that you need a relatively new phone or tablet though. 

I bought the recent Mindstorms 51515 kit, and needed to buy a new tablet to use it even though I had a perfectly good one that was about two years old. I checked before buying and knew this so it wasn't a surprise, but it is annoying when their apps only run on very new devices.

 

And this is why I hate the lack of remote controls these days. I suppose that Mindstorms never had remote controls anyway, but it's never too late to start.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, caiman0637 said:

I suppose that Mindstorms never had remote controls anyway

Oh, they had - the real Mindstorms line that is:pir_laugh2:

The RCX/Scout/MicroScout (the latter needing a Scout to be operated with the remote) had quite the remote: https://www.bricklink.com/v2/catalog/catalogitem.page?P=x124#T=S&C=11&O={"color":11,"iconly":0}

Spybotics, also part of the Mindstorns line, had their own remote: https://www.bricklink.com/v2/catalog/catalogitem.page?P=4232rc#T=S&O={"iconly":0}

And the EV3 beacon is in fact also a remote: https://www.lego.com/de-de/product/ev3-infrared-beacon-45508

So yes, I guess real Mindstorms sets had always a remote ... :pir-huzzah2:

Best
Thorsten

Edited by Toastie

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This thread really convolves two separate themes: Where is TLG going? and, Where do we wish it were going (or wouldn't mind if it went)?

On the former question I think the answer is obvious, it will follow the market, wherever it leads or it will cease to be.  Now, what "following the market" means will have to be put in the context of how they want to manage their brand, how much they can innovate/sub-contract/partner to open new markets, and, their ability to learn from mistakes and successes in their past.  I honestly don't know where market trends will take them.  Sometimes hopping on a bandwagon  is the best way to survive (you don't want to be the guy selling carbon paper when everyone else has traded their typewriters for laptops and printers); sometimes being different is the secret to standing out from the crowd ( in my area, every other restaurant is either a pizza joint or Tex-Mex and they open, fail and get replaced by another pizza or Tex-Mex joint every six months or so - too much competition, not enough differentiation.   Finally one of these storefronts opened up as a high end Indian restaurant instead and lasted for years (until Covid took it out)).  So long as one can avoid saturating the market, ruling a niche is not a bad recipe for success.

On the latter point, what _I_ like and dislike about TLG various ventures, I freely admit a very strong physical brick bias.  Those of you who've suffered through my various theses on the matter know where I stand on keeping my Lego time screen-free for both myself and my daughter.  I easily spend upwards of 80 hours a week in front of screens for various professional and personal obligations so the last thing I want is anything that corrupts the screen-free nature of my precious Lego time.  

I will not use digital instructions or buy kits that require them (my wife loves her Kindle, I tried it, couldn't suffer it through an entire novel and resolved to keep buying/borrowing physical books for as long as publishers keep printing them.)  I have an archive of instruction books going back 50 years.  For those worried about the environmental impact of physical instructions, I advise looking at the big picture.  Mass producing a book (particularly in color) has a smaller carbon impact than printing a PDF on home office equipment due to economy of scale, typical paper stock, wasted/recycled printing supplies, etc.  For the paperless crowd, working from a PDF on screen is not carbon free - both the server farm that sources the documents and the reader device require power and climate control (which may ultimately be coming from fossil fuels); recharging the reader device ages the battery; replacing the battery and/or device produces a toxic waste product that, from a carbon footprint standpoint, may not be cost effective to actually recycle (it's labor, energy and chemically intensive process).  So instead of a one-time expense of producing paper instructions that can last for decades, be produced in an efficient and environmentally neutral (if not friendly) way, and easily recycled, "going paperless" (and maintaining a server farm, potentially for decades, on the off chance that an old kits finds it way out of a warehouse and the new owner needs instructions) might actually be contributing to both solid waste and pollution depending on how extensively PDFs downloaded, how long the archive is maintained and actively they are being viewed.

As for LEGO apps, I appreciate the idea from a business standpoint but have zero interest in them myself, will not let my daughter play with them, and, in general, I am hesitant to buy a set with an app tie-in.  I have picked up a couple Hidden Side kits, because they were good kits all on their own and the price was right so I didn't feel like I was paying for an App I'd never download, but I've completely shunned the Powered-up Technic because the tag line "Smart device required, not included" on the box was a complete turn off.  To me, Lego needs to be a complete experience in a box or have a damned good reason for being incomplete.  Mindstorms has a reason; Spike barely has a reason (as we saw years ago with the barcode-based programmable brick, there are viable alternatives at the low end); a simple Technic 4x4, that could have been built ten years ago using a Power-functions train controller, does not.

While I thought the Hidden Side kits were clever, the whole experiment with Augmented Reality (AR) was actually a bit of a turn off for me in much the same way that just having media tie-ins and backstories for minifigures/minidolls struct me as slippery slope.  Traditionally, Lego has always fostered imaginative play and even in the early days of Lego Star Wars and Bionicle, things were open ended enough to allow for the seven year olds' answer to fan-fiction.  Yes the character and the world was defined by the media tie-ins but there was wiggle room to imagine something new and a child's imagination was never "wrong."  These days the AR apps and the tv show and video games risk constraining that imaginative play rather than encouraging it.  I've heard kids correct each other and even start fights over characters and backstories ("no her name is...", "that's not how it goes...", "you're ruing the story, it supposed to be..." etc.)   These tie-ins may be good marketing gimmicks, but give me good old fashioned open ended story-telling from a kids imagination any day.  I don't want my daughter pointing a cell phone at a haunted house build and have a ghost appear on the screen, I want her to build the damned ghost, wave it around and say "oooh" all on her own if that's the story she wants to embrace.  If she'd prefer a giraffe wearing a top-hat, so be it - but the app doesn't allow for that narrative. 

Lastly, I think the one issue people have overlooked up to this point in debating the evolution of the brand is timelessness.  Give or take a bit of fading and mold variations, physical Lego bricks have over have over half a century of backwards compatibility and remain the backbone of why Lego has survived (and often prospered) for so long; their other ventures, not so much, particularly when it comes to hardware and (especially) software.  I have train motors that are useless without metal track and a transformer/controller.   I have Technic motors, battery boxes, cables, RCX controllers, bar code readers, EV3 controllers, sensors, IR remotes, bluetooth remotes; generation after generation of Lego Electronics that has each been rendered obsolete by its successor.  The closest thing TLG has ever fielded to a future proofed electronic toy is the 2x3 self contained light brick and that's only because you can replace the battery with a standard hearing aid one.  

On the software side their historic offerings have proven to be even more short-lived.  I have the Spielberg movie maker set.  It came with a USB camera with a driver (that hasn't been maintained since Mac OS X came out)  and software that even twenty year old VMs won't run.  Remember Lego Universe, the MMOG  that lasted all of a year and half?  How about LDD, which had rough rollout in 2004 and by 2011 TLG announced plans to end-of-life it?  Or Lego Click, a social media foray that makes MySpace look like Facebook by comparison? 

I'm not (really) mocking TLG for these failures.  Software is just a very different business model for them.  In manufacturing, most of your expense arise while trying to get a product onto a shelf (design, production, packaging, shipping, etc).  Once it's on store shelves, it's all about revenues, not expenses.  In software, 85 cents out of every dollar a publisher spends on code goes to maintaining a fielded product, and the more product lines you maintain, the more maintenance costs dilute your profit margins.  It's a totally different calculus than what TLG usually works with and time and time again, failure to follow through on the maintenance is what has torpedoed TLG software offerings. 

That said, I'm not opposed to TLG having apps, so long as they are orthogonal to "brick-play," not on the critical path (unlike Powered-UP control+ software where the death of the app cripples the product).  I used to be a Mac App developer and I can tell you, you've got to stay on top of the updates (on Apple's schedule, not your own) or Apple will delist you.  Apps fall by the wayside with every IOS update and a lot of them end up as abandonware.  TLG's track record when it comes to maintaining software does not inspire confidence in this environment.  When I buy a Lego kit for myself, I know that I can pass it on to my daughter and she might even pass it on to here kids some day.  If I buy software, well, sometimes it feels like its got a shorter shelf life than a jug of milk left out on the counter.

The "Timelessness" of the Lego brand is not something TLG should risk compromising.

Alright, I've wasted enough of everyone's time (including my own) thanks for reading if you've actually made it this far.

 

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1 hour ago, ShaydDeGrai said:

Lastly, I think the one issue people have overlooked up to this point in debating the evolution of the brand is timelessness.

 

I'm not sure that timelessness is that important when it comes to Vidiyo. The app will die, the parts will live on. Does it matter that the app will die, considering it is likely to be a fad and not wanted in a couple of years? It will likely be replaced with another app that the kids then will want to play with until that becomes unpopular. 

 

I'm not at all bothered by such themes even though I think they are a bit naff. It is LEGO marketing to people that probably wouldn't buy much in terms of normal building sets. LEGO either markets something to them and gets some sales from that part of the population, or doesn't market anything to them and gets next to no sales from that part of the population. It is not like Vidiyo is stopping other themes like some people (not you) make out.

 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, ShaydDeGrai said:

Alright, I've wasted enough of everyone's time (including my own) thanks for reading if you've actually made it this far.

There is no space for "wasting" and "time" reading your piece, it is really a pleasure, from the beginning to the very end - but the last line.

The last line should be changed. Maybe your feeling of having wasted your time in writing this piece so nicely [(tone, grammar, length - totally appropriate, as you have to tell something - I am simply enjoying this - it goes to almost physical well-feeling), thoughtfully and with deep insight - both from a historical perspective and from a philosophical (I mean that)] is less severe when you know that I read your text from the beginning to the end three times - and many individual sections more often. Well, maybe not.

I almost 100% agree with you, 100% on the brick side of things. In principle also 100% on the software side, particularly when it comes to control apps and other rather discouraging things you described. There is one ... challenge though that I took on. I do not like TLGs apps. None of them. I also do not like to waste my time on the screen of a smartphone. It is a nightmare, for me. But hey, you simply need one in these times - but all the essential apps do run on my laptop as well (Whatsapp, messages, chats) and when that's not possible: too bad.

This challenge is not to have the hardware (which is generally nicely designed) crippled by pulling the plug on the software side. Open source helps. The entire line of motor hardware can in principle be operated by PUp hubs. Yes, the plugs. You have to get them somewhere. But. Also when the damned Apps don't run anymore ... BLE equipped micro-controllers do. Yes, they will also fade away, sure. But maybe even then there is something else. Also, the RCX still talks to EV3s and NXTs - when you want to. It is not like brick building but it is the way to figure it out. I blame TLG just for that: Not even showing us backward compatibility anymore. That is really, really bad. They should only show it. Not actually making the apparently super expensive hardware - which are - well - mostly adapter plugs.

One example: I have two working Sinclair ZX Spectrums (are these together Spectra?), one is my own, one is from eBay, both are from 1984/5. I also had the ZX IF1, which has an RS232 port. Without oscilloscope, you hardly get anywhere, as RS232 lives on its own planetary system in outer space. But found a way to travel between universes. The moment I had the ZX' back up and running, I wanted them to control one of my PF (a 4.5V train set 181 from 1972 - I am old) or RCX equipped trains. As of a week ago, it works. There is a little help from an Arduino (and Jack Daniel's) because of RS232 parity issues, but that's all. The ZX drives an IR emitter and receives IR data in an educated way (i.e. the SINCLAIR BASIC :pir-skel::jollyroger: program), talks to an IR sensor equipped NXT, which knows how to make IR PF signals. EV3 could do that as well. Now with PUp: That again needs the help from an ESP32 or so BLE microcontroller (my PUp equipped Crocodile is operated by such a device, surely not by a smartphone + Croc app), which of course also understands IR signals from an RCX. So in >principle< it all works together: 1972 (4.5V) - 1998 (RCX) - 2018 (PUp) 

However, as far as I know TLG almost never tells us anything about that. And this is what I don't like: TLG NOT playing the compatibility game.

Yes I know: Better to come up with a new plug, phase out the old one and then have so many people throw out the old stuff to get the new. Smart. But ugly.

Best regards and thank you very much again for your valuable time in writing your post!

Best wishes,
Thorsten 

Edited by Toastie

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91sn32Q.jpg

I don't agree with every direction LEGO takes but everything changes and there's no need to fight it.

This is a general rule for almost everything. "The good old days" mentalities are kind of irrelevant. But one day I will be an old man too yelling at stuff that isn't the way I'm used to too. I already have been passed by youngsters when it comes to most of this hashtag and tictoc stuff. Things be weird, yo! Oh well. :)

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Does anyone remember the LEGO Studios sets? 

I LOVED them as a child. I spent hours making grainy movies with silly effects wishing that I had a better digital camera.

Vydio is the modern, updated, smartphone, TikTok version of it. It's a reasonably safe way for younger kids to do with bricks what their elder siblings are doing on TikTok. 

People predicting gloom and doom for LEGO haven't seen the lines outside the LEGO store (in the middle of pandemic!) for new set releases. Recent Creator releases (and other adult sets) are some of the true masterpieces in company history. The only thing I wish LEGO would do is produce more sets in the "pocket money"/allowance range, but those have probably also increased with inflation. 

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20 hours ago, BrickG said:

"The good old days" mentalities are kind of irrelevant.

Damned. I knew it. Irrelevant. Always felt it - sitting here with a hot solder iron (at least that one is only 5 years old - oh well and only because I failed to repair the old one :pir_laugh2:).

And you are right of course! The past will always will be irrelevant to market&profit. But maybe there is a little more than just that in TLG's philosophy. Maybe not. Whatever.

But I can tell you the feeling: "It works! The old stuff works with the new stuff - I knew it, I knew it, I knew it" ... is a good feeling. Irrelevant but really good :pir-love:.

Hey, this was decades ago a comic strip ("The Wizard of ID" by Brant Parker/Johnny Heart): "How old are you old timer?" "One Hundred" "Wow" "I can remember when global warming was called summer"

Best wishes,
Thorsten

 

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12 hours ago, mdtvandy said:

 

People predicting gloom and doom for LEGO haven't seen the lines outside the LEGO store (in the middle of pandemic!) for new set releases. Recent Creator releases (and other adult sets) are some of the true masterpieces in company history. The only thing I wish LEGO would do is produce more sets in the "pocket money"/allowance range, but those have probably also increased with inflation. 

Actually I think those people have seen those lines. What are the lines for - adult sets or Vidiyo? So the viewpoint is stop doing the 'junk' and concentrate only on what 'we' want. Of course, it is a one sided view as adding more adult sets doesn't necessarily increase the pool of buyers whereas adding products that are not traditional themes does introduce new buyers to LEGO products.

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