Thoughts on why LEGO won’t put money into Constraction,
and might never again.
If you had to pick a way to describe LEGO before 2004, how would you? For me, as a long-time fan of the company, I
would pick one word: “Careless”. Not to
diss on TLG, of course, but here’s the honest deal: LEGO almost went bankrupt that year because
they over-reached, did too much, put too much money into what would eventually
turn out to fail, and had been doing it for years. When a fan looks back at that period in time,
it’s almost funny to think about. I
mean, really, LEGO had so dang many products going on around that
time. Even incredibly short-lived themes
such as Rock Raiders, comparable in nature to more current themes like Galaxy
Squad, Monster Fighters, and Ultra Agents, got books, a story*, puzzle-books,
and an interactive video-game style CD thing.
Point being, at the time, LEGO had a history in putting stock into
themes that failed.
- To draw it back, think about the level and depth of Galaxy
Squad, Monster Fighters, and Ultra Agents as themes. They barely got a story, let alone a
book or CD. I mean, who even
knows what their story was?
If you had to pick a way to describe LEGO after 2004, how would you? I think of many things when I think about
LEGO pre-2004. LEGO Technic figures,
early BIONICLE, Slizers, Johnny Thunder, and Ninjas are just some of the things
that come to mind. But when I think of
post '04, I think of one thing: the CEO of TLG.
I’ll be honest, I don’t remember his name, can’t pronounce it, and am
not going to look it up, because that’s not the point of this. But the CEO of LEGO is a symbol of all the
words I would use to describe LEGO as it went from the Pit to Paradise. And how do I describe him? Two words: Economic Genius.
To some, a lot of LEGO’s decisions might seem strange, or stupid if you don’t think LEGO
has a plan. It used to seem that way to
me to, until one day, I thought about the end of LEGO Universe, a favourite
game of my youth.
“Self,” I said, “I wonder why LEGO charged so much for people to play LEGO Universe. Surely they knew that making it cost so much
period, and forcing the user to pay periodically was bound to fail. Are they idiots?”
“That doesn’t seem right. But it seems the
only logical thing to take from this.”
“Here’s a thought,” I said to myself, “what if LEGO U was a test?”
Take a pause at that. I did too, for quite a
while. I don’t know how much you know
about LEGO U, but I know a fair amount, as I was into the game when it came
out. As far as feasibility, it was
simply too costly to sustain. I can’t
tell you that I know of one person who played that game and thought that TLG
charged a reasonable amount for it. “Now
Baxor”, you may say, “they may simply be arrogant and think that their products
will become extremely popular. The LEGO
Company, as you suggested, may simply be idiots.”
Good, I like your point. I’ve an idea. Go online, and find out the price for a
pay-by-month MMORPG similar in quality to L-U which is currently popular or is
able to sustain itself. Now, find out
how much it costed per month to play L-U, and compare it (I believe L-U charged
$10 USD per month, but I might be wrong).
Write that information down, and go get a friend, a little brother, or
better yet, a parent or adult. Tell them
how much L-U costed per month, and see if they think it reasonable (I ask you
to get the other info on the pay-by-month MMO in case they need comparison). I know that I and my family (as well as many
others), didn’t think it was reasonable in the least.
Now, back to LEGO being idiots. It’s certainly
possible, of course, but how likely is it?
Not likely at all when you realize that LEGO, while it’s a company, is
also a company made up of people. People
like you and I who though that 10 USD per month is not reasonable for an MMO,
especially one of not-as-high quality like L-U (or, to put it a different way,
the appealing aspects of L-U were not worth what they charge). Chances are, the 5-10 minutes of research I
asked you to do paled in comparison to LEGO’s research on the subject.
I was left wondering about this for a long while.
Why would they do something that, only in the most unlikely of
circumstance, would fail. I didn’t know the
answer until I saw the LEGO Minifigures game, which is, in my opinion, quite
like L-U, except it was slightly lower in quality, and not a pay-per-month.
Then, the thought came again, this time backed with a little more info: Perhaps L-U was
Now, back to my point, I believe LEGO does things as real-life tests, investing a lot of
money to get them off the ground, and measure their popularity. I believe that they as much as us thought
that the high-cost pay-per-play was unreasonable. So, they tested the market. They didn’t know what the response would be,
and when they found out, they recalled it, and worked on something
different. The result was lower quality,
of course, but also lower cost. This
‘test-market’ idea can even be seen on a smaller level, with those LEGO
designers in Denmark who use children as a test market, giving them the toys to
test. If the children don’t find the
things they’ve built appealing, they take the toys back, and amend them, until
their central market is pleased.
As soon as I made this realization, a lot of things about LEGO fell into place, a lot of
mysteries made sense. I started to see
LEGO through that lens. In 2011, when
LEGO made 2 (or 4, depending on if you’re going by DVD or TV release), episodes
of Ninjago, they did so few because they had to test the waters. They spent the money to see if a TV show
would work well, because they’d never really done anything truly
comparable before, and when it did, they put more cash into it.
Now, think again about pre-2004 LEGO, in particular the first year of BIONICLE. LEGO had tested the waters here too, but in a
different way and for a different reason.
They tested the water on these things because they weren’t sure if
people would buy it, so foreign a concept it was to fans of LEGO. But, when they decided fans would buy it,
they were all in, and dangerously so.
Meso has made a point before which I believe proves relevant here. LEGO seems to strike gold with their weird
IPs, like Ninjago and Nexo Knights, and they also seem to want to support these
as well. Think about this: in 2001,
BIONICLE was one of those weird IPs. It
was not a system IP, but it was as weird as LEGO could get while still looking
like LEGO. Like Ninjago, LEGO funneled
money into it, pulling the classic over-reaching stunt for things like a
theatrical film, video game, online game, and (one that you might not think
of), collectible masks. This LEGO was
focused on the fans, hoping that they would say years later, “Oh that was such
a cool BIONICLE movie!” or “I love
playing that MNOG” (which you do hear), and even “I’ve got a full
collection of masks!” You wouldn’t think
about what an extravagant decision it was to make collectible masks, but really
it was. I believe that they ended in
2004 with a good reason that went beyond story.
Though I won’t say it with absolute certainty, I postulate that this
LEGO, faced with the masses of fans, might have brought back BIONICLE in 2011
when we asked.
A lot of fans I’ve been around don’t think about the extravagance of LEGO in some of the
things they did for BIONICLE, and really how much like Ninjago it was. When LEGO’s current CEO came around, a lot of
things changed, but he also continued to funnel money into BIONICLE. Why?
Because like Ninjago, it was a money-making machine. And when it stopped being that, LEGO shut it
down. Have you ever thought about the
trading cards, card and board games, backpacks, random books, and just everything
that Ninjago and BIONICLE share marketing wise?
It’s truly interesting.
Now, I’m going to try and get somewhere with this.
So, we’ve established several things (or at least assumed them to be
true): Pre-2004 LEGO invested a lot of money without thought, and did a lot of
things for fans. Post-2004 LEGO, I
believe because of the CEO, was more of a test-market environment. Post-2004 LEGO also puts money where they’re
making a lot of it, and that’s when they put a lot of time, money, and
merchandise out. Till 2010, that was
BIONICLE. From 2011, that is Ninjago.
So why does this mean they won’t put money into constraction? Because, for one, as Meso has said before,
they want to invest in Brick-Based IPs that will get them money. For another thing, when they have an IP that
gets them money, not only will they funnel a lot of energy into it, but they
also won’t funnel a lot of energy into whatever it is not. Excepting of course, their test markets,
which at this point means their ‘weird themes’.
BIONICLE, HF, constraction, it’s no longer a test-market.
G2 wasn’t BIONICLE reborn to LEGO, it was no different than Galaxy Squad
or Power Miners to them; it simply had an active fanbase. There was nothing special about BIONICLE to
them, it was just them trying to see if contraction, their weird IP, had lived
out its time and was dead. I believe
that it will either be a long time before Constraction comes back, or never,
because LEGO doesn’t care to the extent that they did about pleasing fans. They’re only interested in pleasing their
In conclusion, if what I’m conjecting is true, then LEGO only invests good amounts
of money into ‘healthy’ themes (like Ninjago), weird IPs, and
test-markets. Constraction’s time as a
test-market has passed, and from the get-go it was a weird IP. It was once a healthy theme, but it has
slowly declined to where only the fans really care for it. So, constraction, their weird IP, they’ve now
stopped putting money into, because if it won’t turn out money, LEGO suffers. In LEGO’s mind, this is not really any different
than closing down a normal play-theme, like Chima.
BIONICLE, in many ways, was an anomaly. If you
think about it, it’s amusing how true that statement it. Yes, you can insert the BIONICLE Autopsy
explanations, but there was a lot of other reasons why G1 was different from
G2. Part of that anomaly was the fact
that LEGO invested so much into it, because in a short time, that would all be
gone. I believe, had G1 come out 2005 or
later, it would simply not have been the same, and perhaps it would not have
existed at all.
But that’s just a theory. A BIONICLE theory.
Really though, leave your thoughts. This is
just a bit of a thing I’ve been formulating for a while, and there’re probably
a bunch of reason why I’m wrong, but I’m open to hearing them. I apologize if it happens to be completely
wrong though. Also, as a disclaimer, I
clearly realize that some of this makes the people at LEGO seem like jerks, and
perhaps that I am raging/hating on them.
Don’t be disillusioned; I really love LEGO, will support them and what
they do till the end of time, and am positive about their stuff 99% of the
time. I really want to say that this
isn’t even pointing anything negative out about TLG, but simply pointing out
what might be their business theory.
Also, after a little thought, I have developed a second conclusion about a whole different
question: If BIONICLE “Sold Well”, why was it canceled?
The LEGO Twitter team has said that BIONICLE sold well, and TTV has said that they’re
either lying, or they’re stupid, because evidently it didn’t sell well, or it
wouldn’t have been canceled. I don’t
think this is an either/or situation.
Some of you may or may not know of a fantasy series called the Wheel of Time. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and it
stars a group of characters known as Aes Sedai.
There is a concept in that book that Aes Sedai cannot tell a blatant
lie, like “The universe is yellow”, or, “water is dry.”—in fact, they’re physically
unable to. However, there is a second
concept called Aes Sedai Truth, which says that, in telling the truth, you can
also be deceitful. For instance, if you
asked one of them, “Where are you going?” they could say, “to the market.” Now, you know of one market in the city, and
you assume that’s where they’re going, but they could be going to buy something
from the black market, or even buying something from a market in another
city. This concept relies on the human
tendency to make assumptions. So does, I
believe, LEGO in their ‘BIONICLE sold well’ spiel.
Now, it may be true that BIONICLE sold well. In
fact, it might even have sold better than some other play themes. But, what TTV is assuming (no offense), is
that it could not have sold well, because it was canceled early. Now, based on my first conclusion, here is
what that means: BIONICLE, as I’ve said, could have sold great. But, here are the facts: LEGO only invests
money continually in the three aforementioned groups of markets (and to specify,
for LEGO to have continued BIONICLE, they would have had to continually
invested money in it). Now, BIONICLE is
already out of two of those markets, weird themes (it’s been around for awhile
so that the uniqueness which kids bought it for is gone. Now, it’s just like a barbie doll or a
frisbee or a bike, because they’re used to seeing it), and test-markets (I
mean, constraction is almost 20 years old).
The only thing that could cause LEGO to keep it going (and, in fact, not
cancel it early), would be if it were a healthy theme. As I said, it is possible, if not likely that
BIONICLE sold well, true to what LEGO said.
It simply may not have sold well enough to be classified as a healthy
theme, and was thus not worth continuing.
Because, in the end, to LEGO, this was simply another play theme with a
slightly more in depth story. Post-2004
LEGO does not go out of their way to please fans.
Thoughts and feedback are great. Thanks for taking the time to read this.