The Research Institute received a lot of traction thanks to its positive depiction of female scientists. In the past ten years LEGO has hugely improved the quantity of female mini-figures in City sets, but with the company’s increasing success its impact on various social issues is receiving more scrutiny. The AFOL Community has always sought more equal gender representation, so it perhaps wasn’t surprising that they got on board to support this project. What then followed was increased publicity on more general geek blogs thanks to the initial support from LEGO fan sites.
This led to heavy awareness online of the Research Institute set, even outside of the LEGO Community. All of this demand meant that almost immediately after going on sale on the LEGO online store, it sold out – much like its fellow Ideas set the Exo Suit. The Exo Suit itself built up a well deserved following thanks to being a well designed set that appeals to Space fans, and with the clever inclusion of nice mini-figures it became a must buy for many. It was also well publicised online, with teaser images and videos giving an almost viral marketing campaign.
Some are arguing that selling out in a day points to the success of the product. Of course it does, for the allocation to sell out in a day is impressive. But it points to a failure in the forecasting at LEGO, too. It is one thing to have errors whereby a product sells out over months, is unavailable for a month and then comes back. It is quite another for a product to sell out in a day. For it to happen twice makes it particularly laughable.
The fear and frustration that has been demonstrated is a bit much though. After all, the person who posted a video on YouTube distraught over not being able to buy the Delorean on its release date now looks rather silly, as that set has been available many times since. As for the Minecraft set, that has gone from being a hard-to-get Christmas must have to being a constantly available set that any fan of the game must own by now. Nothing indicates that Ideas sets are going to be limited or exclusive anymore. In the UK, the Delorean was made available just about everywhere.
It seems that LEGO decided non-IP related Ideas sets were still risky, so reduced the launch quantity of these sets. This was a mistake, but it is likely one that will be rectified. If there are people out there with money who want them, it makes sense for the company to make more. With the design work that goes into these sets – even Ideas sets, already with a basic design ready – they need to sell as many as possible, and one day’s worth of online sales isn’t enough. There is also the additional wrinkle that Ideas is supposed to be a way of LEGO really connecting with fans and getting them stuck into the process of development – it would be rather embarrassing if it alienated more fans than pleased.
There is also the likelihood that these could show up elsewhere. As mentioned, the Delorean, Minecraft and Ghostbusters sets have been available beyond LEGO branded stores, so it stands to reason that other retailers may stock and sell these sets.
Assuming that LEGO make the smart move and produce more of these to meet demand, it has been a huge victory for fans of LEGO, old and young. It has proven that there is a market for Ideas sets beyond movies from the eighties and online games with big fan communities to mobilise. Great ideas, that are well executed, can also make it through the process and sell units. The importance of that should not be underestimated, as Ideas really looked at getting derailed from what many saw as its ideal purpose. The best of Ideas may well be yet to come.