lördag 11 augusti 2012

Lord of the Franchise

I doubt it has escaped anyone that there will be a bunch of new Lord of the Rings movies out soon; they are based on the Hobbit (and various appendices) and the first of three will be out this december.

Celebrating three more movies to annoy purists with!
Games Workshop has had a series of battle games out since the first movie came out ten years ago. Originally a skirmish game which has branched out into a proper large battle game as well if one is so inclined as to wanting to game large battles in Middle-Earth, and quite frankly, who isn't? The new movies promise to breath more life into the franchise and offers new possibilities for Games Workshop to further add to the vast figure collection. More money to lure away from unsuspecting youngsters and their parents, I hear you cry. More of badly designed figures released to an odd schedule, meaning that you never, ever, can field the exact army you want. More of always having to buy more figures to comply with ever-changing army lists, to counter the latest powerful figures released for the opposition, or to add to a unit that has had its minimum size suddenly increased.

Nasty little Hobbitsessss... changing my armylists... Gollum!!!
But it's not certain that this will happen. And even if it does, Games Workshop is hardly the worst of the bunch when it comes to squeezing the last penny out of its franchises.

Another company which jumps on the bandwagon with LotR franchices is Lego. It missed the opportunity the last time, but has since successfully franchised brick versions of both Marvel and DC superheroes, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean and of course, Star Wars. (To be fair, it did license Star Wars when the Phantom Menace was released.)

My.... preciouuusssssssss...
It's actually a good idea. The Lego sets nowadays are quite advanced, some are challenging builds and many are quite ingeniously constructed. The minifigures have detailed clothes and faces and you can even see the resemblance with the actors. The range is launched with the accustomary five sets in different sizes, just like the Star Wars line was launched back in 1999. The sets are all based on the previous films, with a computer game also in the works. Boxed sets based on the new movies will of course also be released when the movie has premiered.

But here's the rub. In an effort to squeeze as much money as possible from the license and ensure they sell all   the sets, Lego has spread all the popular characters over almost all of them.

The only way to get a certain wizard. Knobbly staff included.
Let me break it down.
  • Gandalf is only available in the set 9469, Gandalf™ Arrives, together with Frodo.
  • Sam and Gollum are only available in set 9470, Shelob™ Attacks, together with Frodo.
  • Merry is only available in set 9472, Attack on Weathertop™, together with Aragorn, Frodo and a bunch of Ringwraiths.
  • Boromir; Legolas and Pippin are only available in set 9473, The Mines of Moria™, together with Gimli and a bunch of Moria Orcs. Oh, and they have a cave troll. No Frodo. 
  • Aragorn and Gimli are also available in set 9474, The Battle of Helm's Deep™, together with King Theodén and a bunch of Uruk Hais. Legolas has for some reason been replaced with Haldir... and there are no other Rohirrim in the box, go figure.
  • There are also two other sets released; 9471, Uruk-hai™ Army with four Uruks, Eomer on horse and one Rohan soldier, and 9476, The Orc Forge with Lurtz, an ordinary Uruk-Hai and two Mordor orc workers.

The only way to get Sam and Gollum. But you get a special poisoned Frodo, and Shelob is kinda cool.
So, if you want to play for instance, the stand at Balin's tomb in Moria, you need to buy four sets to get the whole of the fellowship. Even if you just want to play the Weathertop battle you need to buy three sets to get all the hobbitses. To play the breaking of the fellowship you need to buy three sets to get all of the fellowship (minus Gandalf) and then one or both of the Uruk sets -- you get more orcs in one, but you get Lurtz in the other, typical. If you want to play the Battle of Helm's Deep with proper forces, you need to buy the Mines of Moria set as well to get Legolas, and the Uruk Hai Army set to get some Rohirrim. One can hope they will release "battle boxes" or similar like they have with Star Wars, where you get four figures from one faction and some bits of equipment.

Everything the pervy hobbit-fancier needs, in a box.

Compare this to Games Workshops Mines of Moria starter box for their Lord of the Rings game; you get all of the fellowship, a bunch of Moria orcs and a cave troll, as well as some scenery and rules to boot! And it costs as much as one of the mid-sized Lego sets. Granted, you need to paint the miniatures yourself in the GW game, so you can't really compare the prices. But you can compare it on the basis of what you need to buy to get a good start, wether you intend to play wargames or just play with the figures inside. And you can compare it on the basis on how much disillusioned parents need to buy to get certain characters...

At least LEGO is not going the collectible route, collectible as in buying a package with a random figure inside trying to get the one you want... oh wait. LEGO has totally done that as well, but with their LEGO City line.

Yep... collectible, randomized packages. Evil bastards.

So what's my point? It's that maybe, just maybe, Games Workshop is not the Evil Empire we gamers want to make it into. Sure, they are a business and making money is their first and foremost goal. So they have to act the way they do, sometimes at least. But they are not much different from other big corporations that want your (or your parents') hard-earned cash. By comparison I think LEGO corp is waaaay better than some other toy companies out there, churning out action-figures by the thousands, with dubiously-themed movie tie-ins.

WTF? Have you ever seen Spidey drive a car?

But yeah, I will probably go see all the movies, buy all the LEGO sets, the new boxed game, most of the miniatures, and then the blue-rays. Because I'm a sucker for Lord of the Rings and they know it...

6 kommentarer:

  1. It might not be all that strange that Lego does only give certain figures since they publish Lego dioramas, not "Play/Game in Middle Earth". If they did, who would pay the €300 they would charge for the box. Now you can give the kid one box at Christmas, then one box at her birthday, and an other after she came back from the dentist. I don't see this as any worse than GW's changing army lists.

  2. Well of course they do it to sell more kits!

    My point is that GW is often described as the Evil Empire who makes it impossible for gamers to collect the army of their own choosing, while they are simply doing what everyone else is doing to, and they are not worst by a long shot. It would have been nice for LEGO to include all the figures necessary in their big boxed sets, wouldn't it? Like GW actually do. Collectors will buy all the sets anyway, and kids will get a complete playset for christmas, but still want the next set for their birthday.

  3. What I wanted to point out was that selling dioramas or similar limited scenarios, is different from selling a complete product. I mean if you wanted to build/play the D-Day landing at Omaha beach, would you like to pay for (and get) all the equipment used in North Africa? I consider what Lego are selling to be diorama kits.

    1. Your comparison is a bit off... to use the same analogy, it would be like if I wanted to build the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach and bought a dioarama kit, and found out that say, the Sherman Duplex Drive tanks and the german infantry were missing and only available in two other, different kits.

      Yes it's a price point, i.e. will people really pay to get all in one box? My answer is if you pay around 150 euros for the biggest box, why couldn't they include Legolas and some Rohirrim in it?

  4. It's a company Leif, and they want to make money. They could be more customer friendly, in my opinion, but, since I don't do fantasy games, I can't get bothered, and it's not right to have an opinion. I'll see the movie though. :)

    1. My point was that I don't think GW are that bad... there are far worse companies out there. *cough* Hasbro *cough*


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