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Naturally, we can surmise that Bionicle G2 ended for the same reasons all LEGO themes do—the theme was underperforming sales-wise. We can ballyhoo around exactly how badly G2 sold to warrant an early expulsion, but in my opinion the degree to which it failed to sell isn’t the important part. What everybody wants to know is why it failed to sell, or what factors the theme had that may have contributed to why it didn’t meet financial expectations. Most discussions surrounding why G2 failed are centred around G2’s story—don’t get me wrong, this is important. Yet, while we’re talking about the profit potential of a product (a product that isn’t a story, mind you), we should keep our thoughts reticent of the fact that most consumers who buy the sets don’t care about the story. Therefore, we should expect that the reasons why the sets failed to sell are unrelated to the story. I posit a few major reasons why the G2 sets underperformed; naturally, I have no evidence beyond the sets themselves and marketing materials already made public. However, even from those, we can gleam some picture of what didn’t work. For the most part, I’ll be staying away from directly comparing G2 to G1. When I do, it will only be to G1’s first two years (2001-2002); the only two years G2 got. Even then, I’ll only try to bring G1 up when discussing something about G1 that is demonstrably true (e.g. that the sets came in canisters, for example). The first factor is simply a lack of (effective) marketing. I’m not the first to mention this. G2’s primary marketing outlet was the Netflix show Journey to One. Ninjago was LEGO’s first (successful) foray into this medium, which demonstrated that TV shows were the way to hook kids on a long-running story. Heck, Transformers proved that in the ‘80s. There’s one caveat here though—on Netflix, the viewer must actively seek out the program. As a result, no kid is going to search for Journey to One without already having heard of Bionicle beforehand. As a result, Journey to One isn’t bringing new kids to the line—it’s trying to convince already-interested kids to stick with it. At that point, you’re relying almost entirely on word-of-mouth to generate interest. Contrast this to 2001-2002, which used traditional print ads (posters, cardboard standees), an online presence as a part of the fledgling internet (Bionicle.com, Bioniclestory.com, and the MNOG), a promotional campaign with McDonalds (the Tohunga), and a short comic book series. It all served to generate hype, and it worked. Even so, this says nothing about the quality of the marketing that’s being implemented. Journey to One does not actually seem to be poorly received (its IMDb score sits at 6.4/10 as of this writing, a smidge higher than the 6.1/10 held by the most eminently watchable Bionicle movie, Bionicle 2: Legends of Metru Nui) (1). However, many reviews were simply lukewarm (2). Even among the positive ones, not many of those reviews were enthusiastic—they recommended watching the show to support the theme (3). At that point, the show isn’t pulling its own weight—the brand is promoting it, it is not promoting the brand. Bionicle G2 also took on a concerted light-hearted tone. While not necessarily a limiting factor, a more mature tone had already become what was expected of the brand. Besides, that tone was part of what made the early years so much of a success. 2001-2002 marketed itself as a big kid’s toy (but a toy nevertheless). It was cool to like it, not hokey. The marketing (and sets) were designed with “Bionicle Boy” in mind; a kid who was going to show off how cool these toys were to other kids (4). With a campier tone, LEGO limited their ability to replicate that success. Additionally, what marketing G2 implemented was inconsistent. Its bright colours, campier tone, and less-lore heavy bent signaled out the theme as aimed at a younger audience—kids the same age as the ones who bought the original sets in 2001-2002. However, the theme also attempted to court older fans as well; using the name “Bionicle,” using the original six Toa’s names, having the masks of said Toa resemble their G1 counterparts, as well as hosting contests on BZPower, stronghold of the original G1 fanbase. While this double-barreled strategy could have worked (subsequently pulling both new and old fans together), what resulted was mixed messages. AFOLs were pulled in by the recognizable names and faces, but many felt they weren’t catered to by the rest of the marketing. Kids, on the other hand, may have felt left out, considering that Bionicle was not made into their brand—an older brother’s brand, perhaps, but not there’s. The second factor is that the new sets were sold at a poor price point, which isn’t discussed enough as a contributing factor to both G2 and G1’s demise. The 2001-2004 canister sets were cheap, about $8, depending on the wave (5). LEGO sets are an expensive toy as a rule, but one could enjoy most of what a wave had to offer with just one impulse purchase (as all of the old sets were clones), but if one wanted more there was more available (different masks, weapons, and colours for customizing). The 2015-16 Toa were all too expensive for an impulse buy at $20, so the first purchase was a big commitment; you either had to be aware of the theme or like it already, or you were taking a big risk wasting a lot of (your parent’s) money on a set you didn’t like. It wasn’t as easy to test the waters with the newer, bigger, (better?) Toa. Now, at this point, I’m sure someone out there is screaming at me about the Protectors. Yes, the Protectors were priced at an impulse buy price point. Why, you might be asking, does it matter so much for the Toa to be cheap when other cheap sets are available alongside them? Well, the problem has to do with disappointment. When you’re a kid in the toy store, and you’re looking up at that awesome big red Tahu with the swords and the lava board, you get disappointed when all you can afford to buy is the weeny red Protector next to him, who doesn’t have a unique mask and doesn’t even have a name. Your purchase doesn’t feel important, because you feel you’re missing out on the main draw (the Toa). The 2001 Toa didn’t have this problem because they were the main draw, and they’re the sets you’re expected to buy and be interested in. The final point is not so much a nebulous point as it is a very specific one. That being, G2 suffered from poor set-wave configuration. 2015’s winter wave tried very hard to recapture the feeling 2001 had—there were six Toa sets to choose from, along with a variety of little dudes. However, the subsequent summer wave was a huge misfire. Of all the G2 sets, it was the Skulls most reported to be shelf-warmers. And with good reason—skulls and spiders are cliché choices for theming villains, fit for Hallowe’en but not a great deal else. The same could be said of the beasts from 2016’s summer wave; Hero Factory had done a whole wave of Kaiju-inspired beasts only two years prior. By contrast, the Bohrok were arguably the best-selling wave from 2001-2002. This might not seem like a big deal (after all, all the other sets are quite solid), but what made G1 so successful in 2001 and 2002 was the one-two-three punch of the original Toa, the Bohrok, and the Toa Nuva. G1’s sales were declining ever since 2002 (6). Therefore, we can assume with reasonable confidence that these sets (especially the later two) sold very well to the point of overperforming (after all, the 2003-2004 canister sets weren’t bad, or at least they don’t read that way to me). Both 2001-2002 and 2015-2016 staggered their hero and villain waves (starting with a hero wave, and this is extremely important. The original Toa sets sold very well, to the point it would be unreasonable to say they sold out in many places (7). As a result, when new fans who were brought into the theme by the equally-popular winter wave Bohrok needed hero sets to fight them, the summer wave Toa Nuva sets were just what they needed. But without an equivalent to the Bohrok (both as villains and as just plain fantastic sets), G2 didn’t give consumers enough of a break between the original Toa wave and the revamped Toa wave. There wasn’t demand for the 2016 Toa as there was for the Toa Nuva because the original versions were still on shelves. Putting it this way, G1’s first three waves were all best-selling, well-received sets in their time. Yet, between G2’s first four waves, only two of them (the Toa waves) were marketable, and thus they were the only two that could even hope to be successful. Make no mistake, this was a death-by-a-thousand-cuts. Bionicle G2 probably could have afforded to make a one (maybe two) of these mistakes and survive as a less-than-stellar but still pretty successful theme. Rather, I think it’s a combination of all the factors that made it fail—much like how it was a combination of factors that lead the original Bionicle series to succeed. And none of this is to say that Bionicle G2’s sets were bad. I’m also sure that one of these factors probably did more damage than the other two, or that there are factors at play that I didn’t mention that we may not even know about. Whether Bionicle G2’s failure also served as the end of original constraction lines is still to be determined. We haven’t seen another LEGO original IP constraction line since G2 ended. Maybe that will change; maybe it won’t. In any case, there’s still a lot to be said about G1 and G2 that hasn’t been covered yet. Bibliography (in alphabetical order) (1) a. “Bionicle 2: Legends of Metru Nui.” IMDb, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387658/?ref_=tt_sims_tt b. “Lego Bionicle: The Journey to One.” IMDb, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5075942/ (5) a. “Bionicle—Toa Mata.” Brickset. https://brickset.com/sets/theme-bionicle/subtheme-Toa-Mata b. “Bionicle—Bohrok.” Brickset. https://brickset.com/sets/theme-Bionicle/subtheme-Bohrok (7) Breen, Bill, and David Robertson. Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry. Crown Publishing Group, 2013. https://books.google.ca/books?id=OsyEX0nPkygC (6) Farshtey, Greg. “Post 7953744.” Official Greg Discussion Archive, 14 Nov. 2013, (4) Robertson, David. “How Bionicle Transformed LEGO's Company Culture.” Inc, 20 Jun. 2014, https://www.inc.com/david-c-robertson/how-bionicle-transformed-lego-s-company-culture.html (3) RRproAni. “Bionicle: The Journey to One review (spoilers).” Deviantart, 8 Mar. 2016, https://www.deviantart.com/rrproani/journal/Bionicle-The-Journey-to-One-review-Spoilers-595398632 (2) “Quick Thoughts on Bionicle: The Journey to One.” Jangbricks, 4 Mar. 2016, http://www.jangbricks.com/2016/03/quick-thoughts-on-bionicle-journey-to.html
I've been writing Bionicle fanfics for almost eight years now and in that time I've seen a variety of fanfic writers, ranging from the really good to the really bad. And not just on BZP, either, but on other sites that host fanfiction. I've read so much fanfiction, maybe even more than original fiction, which is something because I read a lot of novels and short stories. As a result, I've noticed that fanfic writers, generally speaking, can be divided into six different categories. This doesn't apply to every fanfic writer ever; still, in my experience, most fanfic writers do fall into one or more of these categories. These are: 1) Aspiring Professionals These fanfic writers have dreams of becoming professional fiction writers one day. While they enjoy writing and posting fanfics, they do it as a way to practice their writing skills and to get feedback on their work so they can one day reach professional level. They generally appreciate lengthy, detailed reviews, even if the reviews are harsh and blunt, mostly because they want more than anything else to improve. Aspiring Professionals are not necessarily the best writers around, but they are always striving to improve and are always trying new things. They tend to be fairly prolific and often gain a reputation in their fanfic circles for their work ethic and the quality of said work. Surprisingly, Aspiring Professionals are few and far between in fanfic communities. This is less surprising when you consider that most fanfic writers write purely for the fun of it and have no dreams of publishing original fiction or having a writing career of any sort. Unfortunately, this sometimes causes conflicts between Aspiring Professionals and the other kinds of fanfic writers because Aspiring Professionals sometimes hold others' work to their own lofty standards and can be quite harsh in their reviews when someone else's story is not quite as good as it could be. Sooner or later, Aspiring Professionals stop writing fanfics in order to focus on their original fiction (though whether they become actual professionals is another question entirely). Depending on how good they are and how much they are liked, this can leave a big hole in the fanfic communities in which they wrote, even if the Aspiring Professionals continue to comment on someone else's story every now and then. Then again, sometimes they leave and no one gives a darn, so like I said it depends on the quality of their work and their popularity. I myself am an Aspiring Professional, although I have no idea if I have a reputation for producing quality work or not. Nor have I completely left the world of fanfiction, either, as I am still posting In the End and The Biological Chronicle flash fiction series. Aside from that, though, I think the term fits me well, at least better than the others do. 2) Hobbyists To the Hobbyist, fanfiction is a fun pastime, not practice for a future in fiction writing, like how Aspiring Professionals treat it. Most Hobbyists usually do appreciate criticism, but the degree to which they do varies considerably, ranging from listening to even the harshest of criticism to ignoring/attacking anyone who points out even one small typo in their work. To be clear, I'm not saying Hobbyists are bad writers. Oh, no. There are many good Hobbyists (in fact, some of them are on par with professional fiction writers when it comes to quality). And many Hobbyists do take their craft seriously, even if they do not write as often or produce as much work as Aspiring Professionals do. Nonetheless, their work ethic is generally not as good as that of the Aspiring Professional. They can go months at a time without writing a single word of fanfiction and usually take an inordinate amount of time to finish longer works. If they are in the middle of writing an epic, for example, and some life crisis comes up that they can't avoid or fix immediately, they will generally drop the fic at least until the problem is dealt with, often without alerting their readers until the problem has passed. Some Hobbyists can be quite prolific, but the vast majority aren't, although they definitely post more fics than Contestants or One-Shooters (see below). Hobbyists can also be fairly active in their fanfic communities, participating in critic's clubs or judging contests or whatever. I'd say that most fanfic writers are Hobbyists. They write fanfiction for fun or to connect with fellow fans or to explore their favorite franchise or whatever, but their true passion usually lies elsewhere. They, too, stop writing fanfiction at some point, though unlike the Aspiring Professional, their disappearance is usually noticed less (unless they were very popular or good, that is). 3) Contestants A Contestant is a fanfic writer who only writes fanfics if there is a contest going on. If there is no contest, then they aren't usually writing anything even if they have some story ideas. Like with every other type of fanfic writer, the Contestants' quality ranges from amateur to professional. They probably make up an even larger majority than Hobbyists; however, I generally do not think of them as members of the fanfiction community due to how rarely they write. A Contestant might become a Hobbyist or even an Aspiring Professional, depending on how much they enjoyed writing their contest entry, but the vast majority do not. When they disappear, few people care because they didn't write very much (unless what they did write was exceptionally good, of course). 4) The One-Shooter These guys generally do not write anything longer than a short story; heck, sometimes they stick solely to flash fiction. It's mostly because they are afraid of committing to longer works. These guys may have ideas for longer works, but they lack the will, discipline, and commitment necessary to see them through to the end. And if they have ever tried to write an epic-length story, then it is usually lying abandoned somewhere on the Internet and is often the reason why they stick to short stories/flash fics. Because they stick with short stories and flash fiction, One-Shooters can be incredibly prolific, often even more than the Aspiring Professional. They're usually pretty good, too, at least when it comes to writing short fanfics. They do great with prompts, but sometimes have difficulty in coming up with original ideas as a result. I'd say these guys make up a sizable minority in most fanfiction circles, but the extent to which they do varies from community to community. 5) Collaborators An uncommon group, Collaborators rarely work on their own. They prefer to write fics with at least one other writer, sometimes with more than one. Failing that, they may rely heavily on multiple beta readers for feedback and ideas in their works. Collaborators generally put out much less work than non-Collaborators, mostly because they are working with another writer, which almost always increases the amount of time it takes to finish a fic. Their epic-length stories generally remain unfinished mostly due to the challenges of working with another writer. Like I said, they're not very common at all, so it can be hard to gauge the quality of their work. Nonetheless, I've seen enough Collaborators in fanfiction that I figure they deserve a category all their own. 6) One Fic Wonder Pretty self-explanatory. These guys write one fic--sometimes an epic, sometimes a short story (though usually a short story)--that becomes suddenly popular, akin to the kind of unexpected successes in original fiction (such as Harry Potter, Twilight, or any other breakout series). After the initial buzz dies down, though, these guys often disappear. Most of the time it's because, like Hobbyists, their true passion lies outside writing and so generally do not try to follow up their big hit with another story. When they do write another story, it usually isn't as popular as the original even if it's just as good if not better. Some of these One Fic Wonders, as I call them, do go on to write more fanfics, maybe even become Aspiring Professionals, but that is rare and does not always happen. These are the six different kinds of fanfic writers I've noticed over the years. These categories aren't mutually exclusive (you could be a One Fic Wonder Contestant, for example, or a One-Shooter Aspiring Professional or whatever), nor does being one type mean you'll always stay that type (a Hobbyist could become an Aspiring Professional and a One Fic Wonder could become a Hobbyist). And of course, they don't cover all fanfic writers (although I have a hunch that they cover most of them). To be clear, I am not asserting these categories as the undisputed, undebatable Truth or whatever. I am merely sharing my observations to see what everyone else thinks. Do you agree? Disagree? Notice any other types that don't fit into any of the six I mentioned above? Share your thoughts in the comments. -TNTOS-