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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
After our visit to the Lego store in Colorado, our family continued our short vacation normally. I remember looking up at the sky. The buildings sent sparks of cold lightning through my body. Normally people think looking up to the stars and thinking of the universe makes them feel insignificant and small. For me, I mostly felt that way whenever I saw a clear blue sky. The buildings in comparison did not help. The call came when we were heading back to our home. During our road trip, my mother noticed she had a voicemail on her cell. When she checked it, the entire family was... well, concerned by what she had to say. "Oh my god... Oh my god, oh my god..." The words continued to present themselves over and over. "What?! What?" My brothers and I and even our dad continued to ask for what seemed an eternity packed into a single minute. "[LOL you don't get to know my real first name. Trololololol] won a trip to Legoland!" Now, I don't exactly recall what my reaction was at the time. I assume it involved goosebumps, a pounding heart and pinching myself expecting to wake up back in our hotel room. As you could imagine I had a lot to think about on the way home. The trip was for four people. Our mother decided she would stay home, which meant our dad, Akano, KK and I would be leaving for California during our summer break the following year. That was the plan, anyway. I remember I was a bit bummed that I was taking my brothers (we did NOT get along as children) instead of my best friend from school. If I had the power to decide who would go with me on the trip, I could tell you that I would've had no intentions of taking either Akano or KK with me. Fortunately for them I was still only nine and our parents wouldn't allow me to be so cruel (lightweights. XP). Now, during the fall, I would spend my time imagining what the trip would be like. I was in pretty high spirits most of the time; heck, it was hard not to be. It's not every day a kid has a dream like this become a reality. It sounds really childish (well, I was a child after all), but back then I guess I just thought the world was simple. Black and white; good and evil ... it was simple, really, the way the world worked. Adults always seemed to make things complicated for no reason. They would argue about... oh, politics or who was right and who was wrong. It just always seemed dumb to act that way, childish even for a child. Back then I thought I would never understand those silly adults. Though, that was before September of 2001. I woke up on the eleventh and got ready for school. I was in fourth grade. The day seemed normal enough. Take the bookbag, grab some money for lunch, and set out alone for the bus. Akano and KK were in middle school by this time, so they had to wake up even earlier. Those mornings on the bus seemed a lot quieter than they used to, though I was glad, in my own way, to have a little time to think. The bus arrived at my elementary school and I got off and went to my classroom like always. Our teacher told us we would be doing a news project today and that we'd watch the news and do a project about what was going on in the world today. She turned on the classroom TV and switched the channel to the news. By that time, only the first plane had hit the world trade center. Our teacher immediately turned the TV off. Trying her best to smile, she told us we would be working on a different project today. She handed us out some worksheets to fill out, and she went to contact the principle, I assume, about what was happening. In the meantime the students of our class were talking about the news we'd just heard. I can't remember if I was one of the children who got picked up from school by their parents that day... Actually, I think rode the bus home as usual. Needless to say, with everything that happened with the airlines, our trip was postponed. That wasn't my biggest concern, though. After that day, things were scary. I wasn't sure what was going to happen and all I knew was that our country was at war. I remember my friends and I wondering if the school lunch had poison in it as an attack on the school. It sounds silly to even think that sounds logical now, but back then it just made me nervous. My friends and I were talking about how we'd prefer a quick and painless death. It scared me to think about death back then. I remember thinking to myself that I didn't want to die. After a month or so had passed, I had realized that life before that day and life after that day weren't so different. I still woke up at the same time, I went to the same school with the same teacher and the same friends. Over time I began to realize how lucky I was to be a kid. My life didn't seem to change at all, and yet others that day lost so much more. That was one of the earliest times in my life where the world didn't seem so black and white anymore. Shades of grey started to appear in my line of vision. I still had a long way to go before I would see in color. I know my timing isn't quite perfect, but I would like to end this blog post with a tribute to what happened on 9/11/01. I haven't forgotten that day nearly eleven years later... I don't intend to forget any time in the future.