Monday, 5 March 2012

Ten more years of LEGO Star Wars

It was announced last month in a press release from LEGO that they have a renewed licence from Lucasfilm, meaning that collectors can look forward to up to ten more years of LEGO Star Wars products. Is it time for a celebration, forest moon of Endor style? Or have you seen enough LEGO Snowspeeders to last a lifetime?

The original press release is provided at the bottom of this article. The gist is that LEGO Star Wars is awesome and will be around for another decade, however scroll down to read the full text.

It certainly makes sense that LEGO would want to stick with this lucrative partnership. Star Wars is now consistently the second best-selling theme for LEGO, bucking the trend of every other licensed theme by lasting for thirteen years. Amazingly, the theme has grown ever more successful since the release of the final movie. 

Even more impressively, LEGO actually produce the best selling Star Wars toys in the UK – traditionally a spot that belongs to either action figures or role play lightsabers. The LEGO Star Wars Battle Packs consistently come in the top five best selling toys (Source: Toy News), only second to Collectible Minifigures within the LEGO range.

What has been noticeable over the last few years is that LEGO Star Wars has become a brand in its own right, rather than merely another licensed product. The video games – so successful that every LEGO licensee wants one – and now TV specials have turned Star Wars into it’s own world. Now, a LEGO Star Wars t-shirt is not just a novelty, there’s a whole selection of them. The line of LEGO electronic items even includes LEGO Star Wars alarm clocks and torches.

This is all contributing to improving the longevity of the line. There is now the distinct possibility that new content created in the LEGO Star Wars world could spawn new sets. The non-LEGO manufactured LEGO Star Wars products released so far are just the tip of the iceberg – there are many potential products left to explore. DK, for example, will likely continue to expand their offering of LEGO Star Wars books, keeping the momentum going from the LEGO Star Wars Visual Dictionary

The only question for long term collectors to consider is where the line of sets will go for the next ten years. There are a couple of sets from The Old Republic due out this year, but LEGO rarely release sets from the Expanded Universe and when they do they usually get a lukewarm reception. The films have been thoroughly trawled for vehicles, from Skyhoppers to Imperial Dropships. Do collectors want more re-makes, more from The Clone Wars or more locations?

The only concern for LEGO enthusiasts with the direction of the Star Wars line is the increase in the prominence of the mini-figure. The marketing folk at LEGO are convinced that the only thing that keeps Star Wars fans buying sets are the new mini-figures. I fundamentally disagree – the mini-figures are important, but we buy LEGO because we like building stuff, not just for the mini-figures. If all we wanted was a blocky representation of a Star Wars character we’d collect Kubricks.

But with more mini-figures included in sets at every price point, it could directly affect the number of bricks, therefore the size and quality of the build. Would it have been worth jettisoning a few of the mini-figures from the upcoming Jabba’s Palace (9516) to have a larger and more detailed version?*

Despite these concerns, it is great to know that a line that brought so many of us back into LEGO from our dark ages will get another ten years of potential life. Based on the last few years, there is little prospect of the success – and onslaught of merchandise – for LEGO Star Wars slowing down. 

*Although admittedly this looks a lot better than I first feared having now seen images from New York Toy Fair.

The Press Release from LEGO:

BILLUND, Denmark (February 13, 2012) – The LEGO Group and Lucasfilm Ltd. today announced renewal of the Star Wars™ licensing deal that, 12 years ago, transformed a construction toy theme into a global entertainment property with strong cross-generational, multi-platform appeal. Fans can look forward to LEGO® Star Wars product and content development for the next 10 years, according to the terms of the deal. 

The LEGO Group first acquired the rights to manufacture LEGO toys based on the Star Wars universe in 1999, marking the first time in its global history that the world’s leading construction toy manufacturer would represent someone else’s story and characters in the LEGO world. What was once considered a licensed novelty is now considered a core LEGO franchise, similar to LEGO CITY, and ranks among the company’s global top themes.  

A best-seller since its introduction, LEGO Star Wars has experienced tremendous growth over the last six years in particular, due to the continued strength of core construction toy development and expansion to video games, publishing, television and video content and other relevant categories for fans of all ages.  

“It is very rare to find an evergreen property that delivers growth year on year in toys, even in years without events driving box office buzz, yet Star Wars defies all odds, continually reinventing itself, and our LEGO business continues to grow exponentially,” said Jill Wilfert, Vice President of Licensing and Entertainment for The LEGO Group. “Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon that shares many characteristics with the LEGO brand–cross generational appeal, versatile story and character content, creativity and imagination—and we believe that we can continue to grow LEGO Star Wars for many years to come.”

“We are delighted to have extended our long and very successful relationship with LEGO Group,” said Derek Stothard, Senior Director for Global Toys and Hardlines at Lucas Licensing. “Bringing together these two iconic global brands has created something special that is enjoyed by kids, families and fans everywhere.”  

Star Wars is as relevant—perhaps more relevant—today than it was in 1977 when it was introduced, and in 1999 when the first of the next three episodes began to be told. For 2011, Star Wars is the #1 property and #1 license for Boys ages 6 and older according to NPD Group, and has been a top 3 boy’s license for the last 11 years. The LEGO share of the property continues to grow, as new generations of children discover, engage with and explore the Star Wars stories through constructive play.

A global toy phenomenon
LEGO Star Wars continues to rank among the best-selling global toy lines, with in excess of 200 million boxes sold worldwide since its 1999 launch.  More than 340 LEGO Star Wars models have been developed, replicating iconic scenes and starships, as well as more than 425 minifigures from the Star Wars universe.  Sets depict everything from the feature film Saga to the animated television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Four cross-platform LEGOStar Wars video game titles have changed the face of casual gaming, selling in excess of 30 million units, and are reciprocally driving desire for building toys and video games while also bringing families together to share both forms of play. The line has inspired short- and long-form entertainment in the form of mini movies and the first-ever 30-minute television special, LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace, aired on top children’s networks around the world, including Cartoon Network in the U.S., Super RTL In Germany and on France TV, and is now available on Blu-ray/DVD. LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary from Dorling-Kindersley has been on the New York Times Bestsellers list for 81 weeks, topping the list at number-one for 18 weeks. Additionally, the franchise is the basis of the first-ever LEGOLAND® Park Miniland display area based on a fictional environment, which debuted last year in Carlsbad, California, Billund, Denmark and Gunzburg, Germany and opens this year in Windsor, England.

1 comment:

  1. Personally I was disappointed in that there were not as many minifigures as I hoped there would be in the new Jabba's place, although this was lessened when I saw the new Skiff. I was extremely disappointed that LEGO has yet to make any version of the Rancor. I would really like LEGO to go back and remake many of the Clone Wars figures to make them look decent (of everyone I have asked, I have not found a single person who would prefer a Clone Wars head over a "normal" head. Another thing is certain species that are critical to certain parts of the series have not been made, or last appeared more than 6 years ago (Jawas, Tuskin Raiders, Besalisks [Dexter from Ep.II and Pong Krell from the clone wars], Aqualish, Quarren, Ugnaughts, and Kaminoans). There is also a good deal of room to make background species (Bith, Ithorians, Grans, and Ortolans.) Finally, the other thing which LEGO really has not done too much is creatures. Although the Hoth creatures look good, LEGO has yet to make Banthas, Mynocks, any of the creatures in the stadium from Ep.II, and is overdue for a remake of a Dewback.