Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Printed Bricks Resurgence (Or Not)

The issue of printed bricks is one that ignites the passions of hardcore LEGO fans. Years ago, it was common for bricks with designs to be printed – such as clocks or Police logos – now it is more usual for stickers to be provided in sets than printed bricks. Recently, printed bricks in LEGO Games have led fans to ask why some themes get printed bricks and other themes do not.

This is a topic that I have avoided becoming too frustrated about until recently. Nearly every LEGO collector out there would rather have a long-lasting, printed design rather than sticker that will one day peel, so there isn’t much contention to the issue. LEGO had made it clear that stickers were the way forward, blaming the high costs of printing LEGO bricks for why they could no longer be included. 

This all changed when LEGO Games started to include many printed bricks. In each game, the die has different bricks to clip on to it – and frequently these feature a printed design. What makes this theme special above other themes? 
Apparently the theory inside LEGO is that LEGO Games should be playable straight out of the box, so they require printed bricks. This argument is ludicrous, as surely any model should be buildable straight out of the box – what is special about LEGO Games? 

For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that LEGO Games legitimately require printed pieces, whereas other LEGO themes do not require printed pieces. Which brings us to LEGO Friends, which features printed pieces. Why does LEGO Friends include very unique printed pieces, that don’t look likely to show up in other sets, yet other themes almost never see printed pieces anymore?
Look, new printed bricks?!
Image courtesy of KielDaMan's excellent set review-
Supposedly the cost of printed bricks is so great that to include them would mean less mini-figures or other cool features in LEGO sets. Which means that to include them in LEGO Friends sets either means something is missing from Friends, or the theme has the largest budget of all themes being produced by LEGO currently (the smart money’s on the second reason). 

Would this have lasted as well as a
stickered brick?
Image courtesy of Peeron.com
In recent years LEGO have been frequently boasting of being unable to meet huge demand, of selling more sets than the company imagines and taking new markets by storm. All of this success means the company must be making much more money – after all, selling twice, three or four times as many of the same set means no more development cost but much more profit. The price of sets has been steadily increasing, so where has all of this extra money been going? 

In all likelihood, money is going into LEGO developing new products and more marketing. But wouldn’t it be nice for LEGO to give something back to dedicated collectors who buy LEGO products whether they are in vogue or not? Rather than give printed bricks to the new girl-targeted theme (despite girls typically enjoying affixing stickers more than boys), why not reinstate printed bricks to the evergreen themes? Since we are paying more for the sets, when LEGO are selling more than ever before, don’t we deserve a little something back? Isn’t a percent or two of profit worth spending to keep long time fans happy?

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