Ugh. A lot of Lego fans hoped that Lego would take to heart what many think is the main lesson from its recent economic problems — juniorizing its product line is the wrong approach. Instead, Lego seems intent on accelerating the juniorization pace.
What’s juniorization? Roughly it means reducing the complexity of Lego toys to the point where you begin to wonder what’s the point of calling it a construction toy in the first place. In the last couple years new Lego sets have seen a lot of custom pieces. Rather than build a tree out of Lego bricks, for example, Lego will simply mold a tree into three separate pieces. The tree parts aren’t useable for anything but making the tree, however.
Anyway, Lego takes this to the extreme with their new Bionicle Robot toys which are supposed to premier in August 2001. Toy industry insider Chris Byrne parrots the Lego company line saying, “These robots are all about the children being the builders or creators.” Yeah right — the big feature of the Bionicle Robot line is that the masks and the weapons the characters use are interchangeable. The robots themselves snap together with about 5 or 6 pieces, so switching masks and weapons is pretty much the beginning and end of the creation process.
Lego is apparently convinced that today’s children simply don’t want to put together relatively complex models. I don’t think that’s true, but on the other hand don’t think Lego does a very good job of transitioning kids from less complex to more complex models.
Lego seems to be betting the farm on two things: these new sorts of juniorized toy lines and its Harry Potter line of sets that will be out in September or October. Meanwhile apparently Lego has decided not to do anymore Star Wars sets in 2001, leading many people to fear the worst — that unlike the Star Wars sets, the Harry Potter sets will be heavily juniorized as well.