Monday, 8 June 2015

LEGO Angry Birds Launches in 2016: No, not a joke

In 2016 the Angry Birds movie will be coming to cinemas, and it has been announced that LEGO will be providing the accompanying construction toy line. LEGO is for children, so why get frustrated and ranty over the announcement that LEGO Angry Birds is to become a reality? Surely as long as it’s for children it fits with LEGO? Read on to find out why it has the potential to be a theme that does more harm than good…

The problem with Angry Birds is not specifically that it’s a game rather than a film or TV programme. The problem is more that it is a cheap, mobile phone, arcade style game. To further cheapen the Angry Birds product, it has been licensed to death since it became a hit with various cheap, poor quality products including a previous construction toy.

To take Star Wars, as the ultimate successful LEGO tie in, it could be argued that it too has been licensed to death. The difference is, until recent years, Lucasfilm kept incredibly tight quality control on Star Wars products. There was the occasional misfire, but as a general rule companies had a hard time getting their products through the stringent approval process. In recent years Lucasfilm has become more lax as the Star Wars brand reaches into ‘value’ product lines and toy manufacturers look to cut costs, however when LEGO acquired the licence the Star Wars brand was aiming to be synonymous with quality.

The other thing that Star Wars had going for it is longevity. This was not a flash in the pan or passing fad, this was a twenty year old franchise when LEGO acquired the licence. Harry Potter turned out to be heading for ‘beloved’ status too. Batman, Spider-man and their friends in DC and Marvel have a long history with a penchant for remaining relevant over the decades. None of this is true of Angry Birds. It was on everyone’s lips for one year as smartphone gaming took off, before quietening down to continue to be successful, but being forgotten by the majority who followed the craze.

Because of its short term success, Angry Birds toy lines were not successful. They might have had spikes in sales, done well one particular Christmas, but they can be found everywhere in clearance bins. The Star Wars Angry Birds annual was sold in pound shops for Christmas. It was intentionally released as the shit Star Wars annual, priced lower than the movie and Rebels annuals. Angry Birds is not beloved enough to sustain a toy line.

Badly designed tat
Now there’s an argument to be made that even withstanding the previous failure of Angry Birds licensed product, LEGO will succeed with it. If you slap the LEGO logo on any licence at the moment, it will sell. That is likely to be true. But LEGO Angry Birds is only going to shift a certain volume of sets, likely the same amount – or less – than if LEGO used the slot for a home grown theme. It’s a perverse thing that at a time when the LEGO brand is so strong, the company is snapping up low tier licenses such as Angry Birds and Scooby Doo.

Which leads to the point; Angry Birds cheapens the LEGO brand. LEGO is a trusted brand. Parents, fans and children have faith in it to maintain a certain quality, to be a cut above most other toys lines. Big, epic licences such as Star Wars, Batman, Harry Potter, Disney Princess reflect this. Angry Birds, Scooby Doo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Speed Racer do not. The quality of the licences must match the quality of in house LEGO themes. LEGO is riding very high at the moment, and no one product offering will lead to a disaster. But if this announcement reflects a current trend of thinking at LEGO, then maybe they have forgotten the lessons that brought the company back from the brink ten years ago.

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