How SDCC exclusives killed my love for LEGO
It’s that time of the year again that LEGO run their San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) exclusives for the year. Seeing the announcements posted on line has me thinking about this time last year. That was when the SDCC exclusives lead to me falling out of love with my long standing collection of DC Super Heroes LEGO sets.
As it’s out in the news at the moment it makes sense to take a moment to put forward a case. The hope being that, in the future, other LEGO fans won’t have to go through this ordeal year in year out.
My LEGO collecting days started around the LEGO Batman 2 video game. I had played the previous game but it was only after getting this game that I started buying LEGO sets associated with the DC Universe. It wasn’t long before finding myself hooked and delving into collecting every DC Heroes set. For years I would buy each set as it was released and build to my collection. For me this is much better than leaving them boxed up and gathering dust. I would joyfully build each set and display them, use them to make interesting photos, occasionally even have a proper play with them.
A year or so after starting my collection I came to discover the website Brickset. I used it to start cataloging my collection. It was through brickset that I discovered that there were DC Super Heroes minifigures that I hadn’t yet been able to get. That’s where the SDCC exclusive figures come in.
If you’re not aware, since 2012 the LEGO group have been releasing DC Universe exclusive minifigures of some of DC’s most popular characters. These figures are limited to a set number and given away at the convention. This continues each year as new exclusive figures are given away;
I’ve bought the majority of my collection at full price from retail stores, bar a few that were out of production before I started collecting. Even so I decided the only way I would be able to complete the collection would be to go through eBay looking for the missing figures. It’s shocking to find that they were (and still are) fetching hundreds of dollars online. This would have meant that importing them to the UK would have had a crippling cost.
All I could really do was give up on these figures and wait to see what the next years exclusive was. I would try and get it just after the convention assuming that the cost would be a lot less. Roll around 2014 and the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh minifigure. The day after the giveaway I looked them up on eBay and found that my assumption that there cost would be fairer nearer the event was wrong. Again there is no realistic way to get the figure. I would give up on the hopes of owning any of the exclusive figures as they would be released.
Over the next few years I would continue to look at the cost of these figures. The amount I would be willing to spend shot from £25 to what I felt was (while a bit ridiculous) a somewhat fair £75. Even at this ideal cost however I could never find a single figure that I would be able to buy. It would be a lie to say that during this time I didn’t consider getting counterfeit versions of these figures. Maybe to ease the pain of not having them, but even after I would occasionally add them to a basket in some odd Chinese online store I would always decided against it at the last moment.
During all of this time I was telling myself that my collection was still complete, even without these figures as they were special cases. That was until the release of the LEGO DC Character Encyclopedia. To me at the time it served as an official check list of my collection. It was upsetting to discover the range of minifigures that I would never be able to own in the pages of this book. This really soured my taste to collecting these LEGO sets (as an obvious completionist) as there would never be a way for me to have all of the collection. This was the point at which I just couldn’t find joy in the collection any more. I’ve seen a number of LEGO documentaries in which they discuss how appreciative of their fan base they are, all of this however seems to turn this notion entirely on its head.
Over the next few months my interest in the new sets advertised faded. After release of the LEGO Batman Movie my collection morphed. No exclusives exist to be sold for hundreds of pounds. I’ve decided to only collect the movie sets to prevent the problem I was having with the DC Universe sets, but in doing so I’ve lost a lot of the enthusiasm I had for LEGO.
All of this is a long way of coming to my point about the exclusive figures. Which is that I don’t understand why the LEGO group decides to do this to its main fanbase. Especially since the majority of these exclusive figures just find their way into a resale market. People are getting hold of them purely to profit. You could be lead to believe by all of this that LEGO are actively encouraging this third-party market in their product. I can’t wrap my head around why they would want to give others the chance to make massive profits of their products. They could just as easily make this profit for themselves, and make fans happy in the process.
A solution this this problem already exists, its strange though because LEGO already moved away from it.
A few years back they released a 60s Batmobile as an exclusive set. While there were the same problems of people selling these on for a huge mark up. Fans who really want the set for its play value are able to get hold of all the parts you need and build it yourself. The same thing happened next year with the release of the Action Comics no. 1 set. This set does include a piece that you can only get in this set. However it is still possible to build one for yourself as long as you don’t mind a slight colour change.
If LEGO had continued with this and decided to stop the production of exclusive minifigures I’d probably have continued with my collection. Instead as each year they continue to add to the exclusive minifigure pile (and are now adding exclusive BrickHeadz) I just can’t understand why more people don’t speak out against this … well.
If you follow LEGO online it’s obvious that there are actually hundreds of people speaking out against this each time LEGO do this. So it’s not even that they are blindly unaware of the disappointment of their fans regarding this. This is especially cruel when you realise that LEGO are deciding to publish these announcements to the entire world. Even though there is only a tiny proportion of fans who will be able to get access to these figures.
I guess all of this serves as somewhat of a whinge. In all honesty however I think that the point of this is completely valid. It’s cruel for LEGO to do this to most of its more passionate fans each and every year. More so it’s hard to imagine that other people haven’t been put off the product as a result of this.
I think that the fair thing to do would be to continue to make the smaller exclusive sets. People who aren’t able to get to the convention can still build the set should they want. I could even understand if they want to continue with the BrickHeadz. Mostly because there is a good chance you can still build them (minus the nice printing). However the practice of releasing highly desired minifigures to only a handful of people really needs to stop.
My voice in this is meaningless, I understand that, for LEGO it will simply be lost in the shuffle. LEGO won’t miss the one purchase of each DC Comics set now that I have stopped collecting. I guess I can hope that more people will start to speak out and eventually LEGO may just take notice.