Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lego Ideas Review Speculation

Any day now, we are expecting to hear from LEGO on which projects are rejected, which projects are pushed, and which projects are to be produced from the last review of 2013.

What follows is a write up of the seven projects and some possible factors that may impact their selection for Production.

Macross VF-1 Valkyrie +Fast pack / Armored parts

Well, this is one of my favorite MOCs of all time,
but I doubt it will get picked up by LEGO.

I stand to the fact that I don’t think the licensing issues that have plagued the Macross Franchise are insurmountable, but they are no doubt a serious handicap.

One issue is the seriously complexity of this build, which is of course, what makes it so awesome.  For LEGO to consider something so complex though, they must have a very strong business case, and that is where things really start heading south.

Although I don't have polls or number to back it up, I think it is fair to say that Macross's global market penetration is pretty low.  This was partially demonstrated by how long it took to get to 10,000.

Additionally, from my experience following this project, the response from the Macross/Robotech community has been lackluster at best, and oft times actually negative.  When I pushed for a reason the common response was that the “serious” Macross fans already have very detailed models of Valkyries in this scale and the LEGO models do not provide the level of detail they have come to expect.

So most people have never heard of Macross, or only vaguely recall it (their loss) and the biggest fans don't seem to care.  That is not a great foundation for a business case.

Legitimately, I think another major factor is just poor timing.  The next set to be produced is the Exo-suit, which, like the Valkyrie, is a mecha.  I can picture LEGO producing multiple mecha certainly, just like I can easily picture them doing more 80’s movie projects, but I don’t picture them doing two similar projects back to back without some serious consideration.

There is always talk of a Warner Brothers Macross/Robotech moving coming out "some day" and of course, that would be awesome and make this project much more viable, though I assume that when such a day comes, the construction toy license will very likely be utilized either by LEGO or another company.

Japanese old style architecture

I feel like I have the least “lock” on this project.  Could really go any direction depending on how LEGO wants to present itself.

LEGO likely appreciates that this project has no licensing while having a large built-in audience.  One imagines it would be quite popular in Japan and with those who celebrate Japanese culture.

LEGO certainly likes to dabble with these aesthetic as seen most recently in Ninjago and to some extent in the Palace Cinema.

My gut tells me that something to this effect is likely to spin out of the LEGO Architecture line someday, but the counter to that is, this could be the set that sets off that trend.

The factor that really throws a small wrench in the works of prediction is, does LEGO wish to embrace its Japanese origins with Cuusoo or look for a fresh direction with Ideas.  This project is number 53!  It was published in the double digits.  Turning this into an actual set would be a great way to send off to Cuusoo, but sentimentality like that will only take you so far.

Legend of Zelda: Iron Knuckle Encounter

This is the third Zelda project to reach 10k.

So lets look at the facts we have access to.

If LEGO did not think there was a brand fit with Zelda, it would just say so and stop allowing people to post projects.  They do this, usually quietly, all the time.

Nintendo is obviously not against the idea of construction sets as they have joined with several companies in the past to produce them.

So what is the hold up?

Some say it is the custom headpiece that a Link figure would "require"  I don't beleive that.  People would buy a LEGO link even if he just had blond hair.  Additionally, LEGO can produce a part if they want to.  It is their system, their rules. I think Ideas currently has an ideal system of not allowing people to suggest new parts, but certainly, if there is a lucrative enough business case, they will make a part.

So this leaves one of two possibilities (in my opinion) holding up Zelda.

License Fee negotiation.

People’s love of Zelda is not going anywhere.  Nintendo curates the property to ensure it always impacts each generation.  While Lego is dominating markets though, Nintendo is having some profitable but rough years.

The result: Nintendo wants every penny it can get, but it not so desperate that it is not willing to wait for a better offer.  Lego on the other hand is flush with opportunities and is willing to wait for Nintendo to ease up on its demands.  Eventually they will hit the sweet spot where everyone is satisfied.


If Nintendo is going to release a Link LEGO set, it is going to do so when a Zelda game is on the market, like the upcoming Wii U release.  This will be the ideal intersection of at the peak of Link and LEGO’s popularity.   Of course if timing is the big factor, then there is no reason for LEGO to use the Ideas platform.  There is already a pretty good precedent for LEGO doing effectively random partnerships, the Simpsons.  LEGO is no longer waiting for big movies to come out to partner with new IP so perhaps, LEGO and Nintendo are already working together and just waiting.

BTTF - UCS DeLorean Time Machine

While the remote control nature of this project saves this set from being cataloged as “inevitable discovery,” I feel that same factor eliminates it from being a viable offering for production.

In order to get produced this project would have to do all the following at the same time:
  • Look like the BTTF Time Machine
  • Meet LEGO’s demanding brand standard for construction and longevity while operating as a brick build RC car
  • Operate with the range and speed that one would find acceptable for an RC sports car
  • Sell at an acceptable price point
That is a really tall order.  Making a Lego RC car of any ilk is a design challenge in and of itself with no limitations on the actual form, but providing the whole package in a predetermined and highly recognizable form factor is just asking for trouble.  Getting BTTF fans to pay for the whole thing without any minifigs pretty much puts the nail in the coffin of this project.

The Adventure Time Project

I love the model for this project and the scale is perfect for most budgets and interest levels.

Adventure Time is the biggest brand fit question of the review though.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, I think it is best described by Zack Handlen:
"a terrific show, and it fits beautifully in that gray area between kid and adult entertainment in a way that manages to satisfy both a desire for sophisticated (i.e., weird) writing and plain old silliness."

The show is "basically what would happen if you asked a bunch of 12-year-olds to make a cartoon, only it’s the best possible version of that, like if all the 12-year-olds were super geniuses and some of them were Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and the Marx Brothers."

What I have to say on it is that the show is fun with sometime irreverent sometimes deeply compelling stories.  The visual are usually rather benign, often childlike, but they can be immediately swapped with disturbingly nightmarish imagery, some seriously physiological stuff.

The Land of Ooo (the setting) is post apocalyptic which is actually an amazing setting for LEGO as it plays well with all the actual themes.

But, back on point.  The show is wildly popular, and most critically, wildly popular within key demographics.  The issue though is that its wild popularity is large part to healthy doses of edgy elements that would push brand fit.

It is hard to tell how many more years a show like Adventure Time has in it.  If this project hit 10k two years ago, LEGO would be very hard pressed not to make the set.  Indicators are that the show is still going strong though.

As the Simpsons have proved, a good animated series can go on for any number of years, it is really a question of the ability of the show runners to, well, keep running.

LEGO has a tough decision with this one.  If they think Adventure Time has some solid years ahead of it, it is a great way to continue making LEGO relevant to kids as they start to head towards their "dark ages," but it is certainly going into some unexplored territories.

Female Minifigure Set

This projects is, in my opinion, one of the most likely to get produced.

First off, it got a push.  That alone means LEGO is really thinking about it (or being political).

Also, Ideas is about using crowd sourcing to find viable markets for LEGO that are being underserved by the current options.  Well, the potential market for this set is huge: Anyone interested in portrayals of great professional role-models for women, anyone just interested in more female minifigs, and anyone who is a fan of well built tiny vignettes (hopefully including a brick built dino skeleton!).

As far as the potential for ongoing series of sets go, this one has the most promise as well. This tests a new product model, to some degree, for a line of vignettes based around specific occupations. Something like the Collectible Minifigure line meets the Friends "hobbies" sets. 

Fundamentally, though,  the politics of this one plays out well for LEGO making the set and poorly for them not doing so.

If LEGO does not produce the set, they will be accused of not listening to public demand and this set concept will just be submitted again and again and again making this the next “Zelda.”

On the other hand, sets that LEGO produces via the Ideas model are a win/win whether they sell well or flop ( not that I would expect this to flop).  If they sell well, LEGO is a brilliant company with a brilliant and innovative crowd sourcing model.  If the set flops, it was a flop taking a risk in support of the fans, which is still pretty cool.

The great thing about LEGO producing this set under the Ideas framework is that they can create a set that responds directly to the requests of many interests groups (you know who you are) that have demanded it, while in no way presenting it as an apology or concession.  LEGO is "simply" creating a set suggested by a fan and voted for by the community.


Sherlock is one of those shows that really emphasizes just how excellent the BBC model of production can get.

The MOC is absolutely stunning and delightfully show accurate.  It would no doubt find its way immediately into the hands of the fans.

The pull of this set is that it would certainly allow LEGO to approach many newer markets that it currently has difficulty accessing.

Ultimately though I question the brand fit of any show in which murder is a common occurrence and the plot is to seek out and investigate the minds and motives of those that would perpetrate such heinous acts, regardless of the quality of the show, appeal of the characters, or attractiveness of the MOC.  This series in particular has a singular scene (those that watch the show know what I am talking about) that really stretches the fit to the limit, and I fear, the breaking point.

I will be quite surprised if LEGO moves forward with Sherlock at this time.  If it does, it opens up a whole new range of what LEGO deems acceptable.

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