Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Ninjas who won’t Stop Spinning

LEGO have officially released some new information about Ninjago. It’s kind of surprising but also makes complete sense! Read on to find out what LEGO have announced, and what this might mean (or might not mean) for the theme.

Here’s the quote directly from the LEGO Ninjago message boards, posted by LEGO moderator Keighlian.

:star:Calling all Ninjago fans! :star:

Gather round! Beckon all of your friends to gather round, too! We have important and exciting news! Not just any news. Not news about the weather or cats stuck up trees or the price of milk! No, this is news about Ninjago! :secret:

“But, what news? What news could be so important? Isn’t Ninjago being discontinued in 2013?!”, we hear you exclaim! Ah yes, young ninja, we sense you are eager to learn more and so shall the news be revealed… :light_bulb:

Because our message boards fans are so awesome and because we know you love Ninjago more than anyone else in the entire world, nay universe, we are giving you guys this information first and exclusively! Check the internet; see if anyone else is mentioning this! They won’t be right now because you’re hearing this from us first and you’re the first to know!

Jammers on: Ninjago fans only!

Ninjago will continue into 2014!

Jammers off: Yayyy!!!! :party: :happy:

The understanding was that Ninjago was due to have a last set of releases in 2013. This post states that “Ninjago will continue into 2014!”. Before the fan community gets too excited though, it is worth considering that this has happened once before. Back in 2009 I published a rumour at Jedi News revealing that LEGO Indiana Jones would be no more in 2010 – LEGO then officially stated that “Both the play sets and the video games will continue throughout 2010”. There was no new LEGO Indiana Jones sets in 2010, but technically the theme wasn’t discontinued as retailers were still able to order the sets for part of the year. The fear is that LEGO have not stated there will be new Ninjago sets, only that it “will continue”. So will it continue in the same way that Indiana Jones continued?

Hopefully not for those out there who can’t get enough of the Masters of Spinjitzu. The more likely scenario is that there will be new products, because it would be extremely clumsy of LEGO to make an announcement that doesn’t really mean anything. With how well the marketing department have handled Ninjago, and subsequently Friends, they should know much better than to make statements that will only lead to disappointment.

Assuming that Ninjago will be genuinely continuing into 2014, it seems that sense has prevailed in LEGO Headquarters. In order to keep the brand fresh, new themes are phased in and out extremely quickly (except evergreen themes such as City, Star Wars and Castle). Take Monster Fighters, which has been hugely successful – there is no follow up wave of sets due for release. This seems a missed opportunity, why turn down money from consumers who are eager for new product? 

No case has been clearer than Ninjago for a theme that needed extending, as LEGO extended the number of TV episodes to be made, have had licensees who previously only produced classic City products dip into Ninjago, and even had DK release a Character Encyclopaedia (usually reserved for licensed themes). Fortunately for fans, it seems that LEGO has realised that it was better in this case to milk the Ninjago theme for all it is worth rather than rigidly stick to a plan that didn’t make sense. 

The real shock with this announcement is it means that Ninjago will overlap, for at least two years, with Legends of Chima. Even if people say otherwise, Legends of Chima was to be the new fantasy-action theme replacing Ninjago. Just like Ninjago replaced Atlantis, which replaced Power Miners. LEGO only tend to have one front-and-center multi-year fantasy-action theme at a time, the first year of the new one tends to overlap with the last year of the old one. The huge marketing budget that was dedicated to Ninjago is now all about the Chima. So the question is, can Ninjago succeed without all of the TV advertising, poster campaign and magazine tie-ins that gave children the massive awareness it gave them?

More than that, Ninjago has shown LEGO how far a theme can be pushed. Beyond the Spinners (now Speedorz), LEGO were able to expand Ninjago into books, best-selling graphic novels, torches, alarm clocks and video games. The TV series was never intended to go on as long as it has done. LEGO will not be caught off guard this time, however, as a quick trawl through upcoming LEGO books on Amazon shows. Legends of Chima is likely to be well prepared for this kind of support across the board. But will a continuing Ninjago and a new Legends of Chima be competing for shelf space? Or air time? Children and their parents only have so much money to spend, and LEGO may find the two themes split the target consumer group in two.

But for fans of Ninjago it doesn’t matter what the strategy is, and whether 2014 is another year of huge sales figures or if Ninjago suffers a dip. Because today’s announcement means they are getting at least one more year out of this amazingly successful theme, and if it does keep up the performance it has maintained so far, it may end up lasting even longer.

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