After that robbery in the Dresden Green Vault was all the news yesterday (I do live in beautiful Saxony, after all), today another kind of shockwave ripples through LEGO communities all over the world. Yepp, LEGO just officially acquired Bricklink. First reactions are mostly negative, as this could have far-reaching repercussions for the secondary/ second-hand LEGO sets and pieces market. Of course it’s hard to predict how this will pan out, but here are some thoughts on this.
First let’s begin with the positive side – Bricklink could become LEGO‘s new Bricks & Pieces outlet. Anyone who has ever tried to order separate pieces from the online shop will no doubt have mixed feelings about it. My personal experiences are just bad. I basically gave up on it because it never seems to work and is overall just not worth the trouble. The basic drill usually goes something like that:
You spend forever sifting through seemingly random lists of parts since of course, unlike LEGO seem to think, nobody knows the design numbers by heart to be able to use the search function. This gets even worse if you jump across parts from different sets. In such a case the software may just go belly up if you are trying to order unavailable parts, sends you back to the shop’s start page and resets the entire shopping cart, so it’s empty and you have to start over from scratch. Even if you are lucky and none of this happens you could still be thwarted when the hand-over from the separate sub-shop to the big parent shop where your payment is actually handled doesn’t work. See the problem?
So with all that in mind, a new shop would be a godsend even if Bricklink itself is more or less pretty crooked and atrocious not just from a web design standpoint. It could be cool if LEGO officially supplied dealers on there with bulk shipments of parts, leading to better overall availability and perhaps better prices. The pertinent question, though, is “Will they or won’t they?” and that’s where things get dicy.
Just like some large sellers could benefit from such a move, others that have been chugging along with small shops or specialized in specific items might fall between the cracks and just give up. They may not be able to have competitive pricing, they may have to take down not officially endorsed stuff like custom parts that collides with LEGO‘s overarching policies, they may simply run out of supplies when LEGO has too much control over everything and their sometimes a bit shady supply chains collapse. Which is getting me to a point.
The thing that really gives me a tummy ache is the level of control this move give’s LEGO on the whole. While so far it seems they have no concrete plans to change too much on Bricklink right away, they could always do so at a whim and at a moments notice. They could enforce whatever rules they see fit and by sheer power of numbers dictate prices, product availability and a few other things. Again, at this point it’s all speculation and maybe because I got burned by some big corporations in my life I’m all to wary and paranoid about such matters, but it is a point of concern…