LEGO Buys Bricklink

“Bricklink will join the LEGO Group to empower the creativity of AFOLS and fuel future innovation” is how the largest secondary LEGO marketplace on the planet broke the news to its members earlier today, while LEGO pitches it as a way to get closer to the AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO) community.

This comes as a surprise to said group of people – generally a bunch of very keen supporters of LEGO – who have enjoyed the uniquely integrated relationship they’ve had with Bricklink since 2000, allowing them to buy new/used bricks and hard-to-find sets and maintain independence from LEGO.

In recent months the Danish company has gained the ire of many of its customers with a number of changes to its online sales platform, the way the VIP rewards programme is organised, a patchy re-vamp of its own loose LEGO brick supply chain, cancelled MMORGs and taking a number of themes in head-scratching directions. All this from a company who has admitted that branching out in to the digital domain is the only way to evolve the company.

As put by Jay, from the eponymously named Jay’s Brick Blog, “In business, you learn about something called core competency, which basically means do what you’re good at to make plenty of money.”

Reactions across the board are, for the most part, knee jerk hysteria with collectors, fans and community luminaries crying out in anguish over the un-necessary changes they perceive as imminent.

What does the acquisition mean for the general LEGO community and Star Wars fans who include LEGO sets in their collection?

At this point it would appear that very little is going to change at Bricklink. The company will stay based in Irvine, CA, resellers won’t be asked to leave (though, undoubtely, some are watching developments very closely) and LEGO has said they won’t make any changes to supply chains, pricing structures or transaction systems.

“We would seek to maintain the marketplace in a way that is competitively robust and we will continue to allow sellers to operate as they are doing already. LEGO will not be interfering with that in any way.” said Julia Goldin, Chief Marketing Officer for the LEGO Group in an interview with the seemingly forewarned Brickset.

What will change – and LEGO have been clear about this – is that accessories that don’t meet the company’s core brand policies will be taken off Bricklink. Such items as modern military-style weaponry (such as those sold by Brick Arms and custom made parts, like those enjoyed by LEGO train enthusiasts, will no longer have a place on the site.

“I think that our vision is that we would want to stay, from BrickLink, with the vision that Dan the original founder had, which is, this is really about LEGO and this is about LEGO elements. From that perspective, you would not see BrickArms and guns and things that are potentially particularly connected to things like warfare and violence, which is something that we decided as the LEGO Group we would never support. Those kinds of things we would not want to see on the platform.” said Goldin in a recent article with Brothers Brick, another inner circle site.

So, if you are into modifying your Clone Troopers to give them weapons and armour that are more screen accurate, you might find that this side of your hobby could become restricted.

On the flip side, those who design and build their own custom sets are expected to see an improvement in the digital modelling platforms offered by Bricklink as and the LEGO Digital Designer, provided by LEGO. The former system dovetails in with Bricklink’s cataloguing and ordering system while the latter is clunky and hasn’t been updated in years, despite promises by LEGO that it wouldn’t be added to the pile of scrapped projects.

The question over whether LEGO will allow the resale of exclusives like gift with purchase sets – such as the upcoming 30624 Obi-Wan Kenobi – Collectible Minifigure or this summer’s 77901 Sith Trooper Bust that was an exclusive at San Diego Comic-Con – is in doubt. What it will give LEGO is a chokehold on leaked sets and those that are breaking embargoes.

Those of us who use Bricklink to source retired sets – whether they be used or straight-of-the-shelf ones that investors have laid away for a rainy day – won’t see much difference. Behind the scenes though will be a different picture, because LEGO having already profited on the initial sale will get to double-dip on the secondary sale.

In a quote that reads like it came out of the mouth of a Bond villain, LEGO spokesperson Julia Goldin states that “BrickLink provides an opportunity for us to better understand what needs people have.”

Data. It’s all about the data, a commodity just as valuable as brand protection and profit.

With the success of LEGO Ideas, a community-based suggestion box that has been running for over ten years, two crowd-funded campaigns this past year and an online kids-safe space, AFOLs have seen a huge uptick in the amount of community engagement and this leaves them wondering what’s to come.

Facebrick anyone?

Entertainment Earth

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