Are AFOLs Really Welcome Anymore?

It’s only been a couple of years since the launch of the Adult Collector range and with the Star Wars theme being at the forefront of the push to draw in grown-ups who are discovering (or have returned to) the brick, long-term fans of the LEGO Star Wars theme are already starting to feel a bit overwhelmed.

In their first foray into the adult collector market – one that is distinctly different from the support LEGO gets from the AFOL community – in 2020, LEGO revealed three buildable model helmets: 75274 TIE Fighter Pilot, 75276 Stormtrooper, and 75277 Boba Fett. These were an entirely new concept and they instantly reached out to both LEGO and Star Wars fans in a way that hadn’t been seen since the Gentle Giant maquettes of 2007.

Following up their success, LEGO announced their Art Decor theme and came out with their Brick Sketches desk decorations before releasing the crown jewels of this new line – a range of sets that included 31200 The Sith, a mosaic that featured not one, not two but three Sith characters.

It’s fair to say that these weren’t met with the excitement that LEGO expected, and a period of détente settled in while the LEGO Star Wars community waited patiently to see what their favorite toy company would do next.

For once the COVID-19 pandemic worked out well for fans, and the cancellation of both Star Wars Celebration Anaheim and San Diego Comic-Con in 2020 meant the scheduled event exclusives – 6346098 Yoda’s Lightsaber and 75294 Bespin Duel – became retailer exclusives, giving anyone in the United States a chance of adding them to their collection.

The following year saw two more buildable helmets – 75304 Darth Vader and 75305 Scout Trooper – as well as the detailed 75306 Imperial Probe Droid added to the line-up, and the Summer addition of 75313 AT-AT to the Ultimate Collector Series subtheme gave collectors a chance to own 40483 Luke Skywalker’s Lightsaber when it was included as a day-one gift with purchase.

This trend of releasing Adult Collector sets immediately before the May The 4th Be With You fun was marred when LEGO made the 2022 buildable model helmets (75327 Luke Skywalker (Red Five) Helmet. 75328 The Mandalorian Helmet and 75343 Dark Trooper Helmet) available to purchase nearly two months ahead of the anticipated schedule in order to make room on the calendar for the three new Diorama Series: 75329 Death Star Trench Run, 75330 Dagobah Jedi Training and 75339 Death Star Trash Compactor.

The number of latent Star Wars fans who have had their interest rekindled by the Sequel Trilogy and the high-quality live-action TV series, and are being converted into active fans is growing. That they are largely at the older end of the demographic is clearly evidenced by the profusion of Original Trilogy models that are key elements in the increasing amount of adult-aimed models, a subgroup of sets that has grown from three (not including the Summer and gift-with-purchase exclusives) in 2020, to four a year later and have now reached six with the reveal of the Diorama Series sets.

Marketing these sets has a certain style and aesthetic; the monotone box with glossy product photography is keyed to reach out to adults, and the lifestyle imagery shows the kind of decor that doesn’t look out of place in an Ikea catalog.

If the Spartan interiors of the lifestyle images that LEGO uses to promote their latest products are anything to go by, adult fans are having to pawn their furniture to afford the new Adult Collector releases.

Clearly these are staged sets designed to highlight the product and not the lifestyle, but they do highlight a growing concern within the AFOL community.

As pointed out on Jay’s Brick Blog, the growing number of sets in the Adult Collector subtheme – particularly the new Diorama Series – offer less and less value because, for the most part, LEGO is trying to draw in new customers and doesn’t appear to be overly worried that the fan-collector who is burdened with the expense of keeping their LEGO Star Wars collections as complete as possible is starting to feel the pinch.

Where LEGO is trying to make their sets cheaper is at the children’s end of the market, as evidenced by the Winter 2021 selection that saw the cut-down (in price and piece count) 75301 Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter and 75302 TIE Fighter sets reach shelves, and the just-announced 75342 Republic Assault Tank, which comes with a staggering six minifigures (half of which are new-for-2022) for $39.99.

For many, this is a double-edged sword, with the adults in the household wanting the high-end display sets and their kids hoping to get construction toys they can play with. Are these consumer groups going to be able to meet in the middle or will it be a head-on collision of cash versus craving?

Then there’s the brand-loyal AFOL who goes to sleep every night dreaming of all the new sets they hope to buy, knowing that when they wake up they’ll be faced with the kind of decisions that most adults don’t have to make.

By broadening its customer base, LEGO is making it more difficult for the devoted fan-collector to keep up, and so, if you’re a regular reader of The Holo-Brick Archives, you probably aren’t the droid adult that LEGO is looking for.

This begs the question: are AFOLs really welcome anymore?

Is this a concern to you? Could this be one of the reasons why more fans are considering clone brands over genuine products? Share your thoughts with us – we’d love to hear from you.

Entertainment Earth

2 Comments

Thoughts, comments or opinions? Share them!