Saturday, 14 July 2012

A big push for LEGO at International Comic Con

It’s a busy International Comic Con event for LEGO in San Diego. With announcements each day, an exclusive LEGO set for sale and exclusive prizes there is a lot to see. A few years ago, LEGO had a much more muted Comic Con presence with a special focus on Bionicle. Are LEGO doing a great job of utilising this huge pop culture event?

The big push at Comic Con makes perfect sense for the Super Heroes line, as they are based on the DC and Marvel comics that are so celebrated at Comic Con. Recognising this, LEGO had another two Super Heroes exclusive mini-figures to give away. A special black-suited Spider-man and Pheonix from the Marvel comics, and Bizarro and Shazam to represent DC. In years past give away mini-figures tend to later pop up in sets, but more recently mini-figures such as the Green Lantern have been genuinely exclusive to the events they were given away at.

There was also a huge mini-figure line up shown from the 2013 Super Heroes range, logically focusing on Batman and Spider-man since both characters are everywhere at the moment thanks to their new cinematic outings. What is notable about the Batman mini-figures is that they seem to draw inspiration, and character choices are informed by, The Dark Knight Rises and Arkham City. These are likely to make them especially popular with the more mature* fan.

Star Wars always has a strong presence at Comic Con, and on this occasion the new TV special set to follow up The Padawan Menace was screened, and the new Rancor Pit set was revealed. The exclusive for Star Wars is a mini Sith Infiltrator with a shirtless Darth Maul mini-figure, limited to 1,000 and sold for $40.

The Lord of the Rings was the other licensed property getting a big push, and if the nay-sayers are correct about this line then the geek haven of Comic Con is exactly where the promoting needs to be done. A free exclusive Frodo – well, a Frodo mini-figure with an exclusive map and bag – was available in limited quantities. The reveal for this theme was the An Unexpected Journey set, due for release in December, based on The Hobbit.

Getting in on the game of previewing upcoming toys at Comic Con makes sense for LEGO as a way to generate buzz around their product lines. When it comes to the LEGO Super Heroes, Comic Con is too good an opportunity to pass up. As new set information tends to start leaking at this time of year anyway, previewing a select few sets seems a logical way to go. Hasbro and Mattel tend to show huge amounts of upcoming product at these events, making LEGO still seem conservative in what they display – but compared to their own standard a few years ago, LEGO are showing a lot.

What is likely to work against the good will generated by the announcements is the exclusives. Many fans don’t mind the odd store exclusive set. Many wouldn’t mind an exclusive set being sold at an event. But not only was the exclusive Darth Maul tin a $10 (at most) set being sold for $40, it wasn’t even available to everyone who went to Comic Con. Those of us who were not at the event would probably expect not to be able to get it, but if you have made the effort to go to San Diego and attend Comic Con, you should surely have a reasonable chance of getting the exclusive.

As for the pricing issue, Hasbro – another Star Wars licensee – sold a large set of seven action figures in presentation packaging. In stores, this would have cost $70 for the individual figures. They sold it for $80. Why LEGO cannot offer something in greater quantity to bring the price down, sell more and satisfy demand along these lines boggles the mind. By making just 1,000 sets and selling them for four times the regular price makes 1,000 people begrudgingly satisfied. Any other fans who turned up at the LEGO booth after each day’s allocation of 200 sold out are going to be completely dissatisfied.

Unfortunately the exclusive Super Hero mini-figures were not handled any better. There was a random draw to see who would get them, and there were only 1,000 of each for the event. It seems that some collectors argue that no-one should complain about exclusives, and just suck up the after-market price. I disagree, collectors should complain. We spend a lot of money each year on LEGO, and when the company produces a desirable mini-figure we should encourage LEGO to make it as widely available as possible. After all, it would be nice to be offered a unique mini-figure rather than another Mini TIE Fighter, wouldn’t it?

Let’s hope that LEGO continue to have an impressive display of new sets to salivate over at Comic Con in the years ahead, which even get those of us just looking at photos on the computer screen excited. But along with that let’s see them reduce the cost of those exclusives a bit, and increase the availability so we don’t let our excitement get dampened by the frustration of missing out.

*”mature” is used in the broadest sense of the word possible.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the frustration about the exclusive figures. Honestly, I would rather them not make exclusive figures at all than have LEGO make them so hard to get and in such limited numbers. The only time I am really okay with something like this if it is a variant of a figure that is/ will be (relatively) common. The exclusive Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man figs are the best examples of this. I am also fine if they do like the Hobbit, where a they release a figure that will be exactly the same as in a set, but far before the release date.