Not so dead yet? – LEGO strikes back on LEGO VIDIYO

After I kind of panic-posted yesterday, things have rapidly developed within the last 24 hours. LEGO have published an official statement which you can read e.g. here on Brickset.

Of course it’s the usual corporate bullshit bingo of a PR department caught flat-footed on a Friday afternoon only a few hours away from everyone being out of office and I wouldn’t put too much stock in that they actually know anything about the future of the products, but at least indirectly it sheds some light on what a debacle VIDIYO must be behind the scenes. If they need  one and a half or two years to re-evaluate it, then you know how they screwed up.

The statement is insofar also questionable as they insist that they tested it thoroughly and feedback was good. RLY? Tested with high-income families that buy their kids new iPhones every year and wouldn’t mind the exorbitant cost and performance issues of the app? Sure, I won’t pretend that getting free review samples and early access to unreleased products always has an influence, if only subconsciously, but did really nobody see how defective the app was and how ill-conceived e.g. the proposed pricing was?

I mean I’ve worked as a Beta tester in the software world for many years and never was never shy about calling out nonsense. Not that my message always was heard, but if I had been involved in VIDIYO‘s early development and testing I sure would have slapped a few things in their face. Not to sound too pompous, but it’s clearly a case of “You should have asked me!” *lol* or to put it more academically, they should have a broader testing base. You know, even poor guys like me who don’t even have a suitable smartphone, are single and have no kids buy this stuff. It’s funny how companies always get themselves into trouble by restricting their testing just because you don’t fit certain criteria. But I digress…

So what does all this mean? Personally I think they should just leave it be. As a brand VIDIYO is burnt. After this debacle, retailers will be extremely skeptical to even touch it if an when new products come out two years down the line. Who knows, even then they may still have stuff in their warehouses from the first wave that still hasn’t sold despite clearance discounts. Any serious brand consultant would tell them that.

And there are of course similar issues with the end customers just as well. I would love to see series 2 of the minifigures to still come out, but after that would I actually wait for more than a year for something else? I consider that unlikely, given how much stuff LEGO fire out and how limited my budget is. It’s not like I would need VIDIYO to part with my cash and couldn’t find something from Ninjago, Friends, Creator and so on to be just as relevant. Many people will find themselves in a similar situation and will simply have moved on…

VIDIYO – Vidi-*duh*?! – The sudden Death of LEGO VIDIYO

Contrary to what some people may believe simply because my occasionally overcritical or even cynical view of some things I do not like writing those swan song posts about failed LEGO products, but sadly I can’t always avoid them, especially when it concerns a series that I actually kind of like. I got burned with Hidden Side and now it seems history is repeating itself with VIDIYO.

None of this is official yet, so it should be taken with a grain of salt, but Promobricks apparently got wind of the series’ more or less immediate cancellation (German, so use the translation functions in your browser if needed) via their connection to some dealers. Even the second series of the Bandmates minifigures is in limbo, as apparently retailers have not been swarming to new orders and even cancelled existing ones. This could in effect mean that the series will only be available in LEGO stores and via a handful of select sellers, potentially making it very difficult to get a complete line-up. That is of course if it does come out at all.

What definitely won’t be appearing as per Promobricks‘ scoop are new sets such as the K-Pawp Concert (43113) that I just reviewed. I was planning to do reviews of the other sets as well now that I have them, but I’m not sure if that is still worthwhile. It’s a consolation, however, that at least I managed to get a complete set of figures from the first wave and I’m only three or four BeatBits short of having a complete deck of them as well.

Now of course the big one: The “I told you so!” moment. As you can glean from my introductory article only a few weeks ago it was rife with skepticism. Despite me liking the artistic qualities, I had serious doubts about the commercial viability and long-term success. The prices for those BeatBoxes were simply too crazy and a lot of other things just felt wrong from the outset. Combined with visibly slow sales in the physical retail locations I regularly roam on the hunt for LEGO it didn’t take much to conclude that this was anything but a success. Sure, the ongoing pandemic-related issues may play a part, but it’s not like other LEGO themes didn’t sell like crazy under the same conditions.

So to cut my ramblings short and get to a point: In my mind it was clear that we’d be lucky if this got to live out its regular two-year cycle and then it would be phased out one way or another, no matter what. Never could I have guessed that things were so dire that LEGO would pull the plug so quickly and radically. Remember: The collectible minifigures came out only in February and the sets in April (here in Germany). Sales must have been completely disastrous with retailers not even ordering the minimum numbers to re-stock their shelves. In the end LEGO may not have had a choice because nobody wanted their product.

This to me is shocking news, on a Friday no less and I’ll still need to let it process and sink in, even if it is only preliminary and unverified and things may still turn out differently. Still, I’m quite sad. VIDIYO may not have been for everyone and certainly it had a ton of flaws, conceptually and in execution, but I really liked many aspects of it and I’m going to miss it…

Neo(n) Pop – LEGO VIDIYO, K-Pawp Concert (43113)

While my musical tastes are rather eclectic and diverse, I never really got the hang of K-Pop. Even by standards of other commercial music obviously cooked up in a lab this genre still tops it off by being even more artificial and synthetic with the intent of quickly building a fan base and then milking it being a bit too on the nose. Of course on the other hand that despite all this this is a huge slice of the music market and even more so since it got popularized in Western spheres as well in recent years, interestingly a lot in the crowds that are also the target demographic for VIDIYO. Therefore it seemed an almost natural conclusion that LEGO would pick up on this trend and indeed the K-Pawp Concert (43113) is a result of that.

LEGO VIDIYO, K-Pawp Concert (43113), Box

Pricing and Contents

The set retails for 50 Euro officially, which technically is okay for 514 pieces and within what you would expect to pay for LEGO stuff. In fact considering what a single BeatBox would cost at regular price this is very reasonable. However, you always have to consider how much bulk you get out of it and in this case the caveat is that this is essentially one big collection of tiles of all kinds with a minimalist suprastructure underneath. This set only has handful of actual bricks and otherwise only consists of plates and brackets. That’s not per se a bad thing, just not something special either.

LEGO VIDIYO, K-Pawp Concert (43113), Overview

Because of these aforementioned points you need to be very sure that you actually want the set for what it represents and don’t have wrong expectations. You’ll really end up with a pile of very colorful tiles and not much else when you disassemble the model again like I regularly do because I don’t have enough space to keep them around long-term. With that in mind, naturally I recommend you get this as cheaply as possible to make it economical. I’m not telling you anything new and by now it may seem redundant, but here it becomes even more of a thing as most of those tiles are dirt cheap on Bricklink and you really don’t want to throw out more money than you have to.

Ultimately I got my package for 36 Euro on Amazon Prime Day, which is okay. There’s a good chance this will drop below 30 Euro eventually, so if you’re not in a rush, you could save even more. I suspect, though, that the popularity of the minifigures will prevent prices dropping too much even during clearance sales, so waiting too long may not be a good idea as you could end up empty-handed. I guess this is one of those cases where you have to trust your gut feeling.

Minifigures and BeatBits

The big core appeal of the whole VIDIYO series is undeniably the minifigures, not least of all due to their flamboyancy, creative use and revival of existing figure parts in different colors and new pieces and prints. This to some extent also applies here, just a bit toned down. Knowing how crazy those bands go with dyed hair, make-up and crazy dresses, the figures present here seem surprisingly tame. For a K-Pop themed set you would expect this to be even more insane than the real human counterparts, yet here it feels a bit like a harmless furry convention where everyone is only wearing their head piece. I attribute this to the set’s design colors being re-used, with the Dark Purple and Dark Turquoise simply absorbing too much “energy” and making things look a bit drab.

This also goes for the minifigure stand and BeatBits holder. It is in fact rather odd to me that they used the cyan color as this would make it harder in the companion app to detect which figure is placed on it. Aside from the three character-specific tiles you get an additional fourteen ones, randomly distributed across each set. I didn’t get lucky and only got pretty standard ones adding to my pile of duplicates, so not much to report on that front.

LEGO VIDIYO, K-Pawp Concert (43113), Minifigure Stand

The Stage

The stage is based around a “neon” design as you would find it in big cities’ entertainment quarters and shopping zones at night or as a stylistic element in all sorts of “cyber…” themed movies, games or other art. In relation to the K-Pop theme this could be interpreted as representing the respective parts of the city of Seoul or something similar. To that effect the design establishes a strong contrast between the Black and Dark Purple base surfaces vs. the bright border elements. This is on some level even quite realistic, as a lot of stage equipment is covered in black paint, vinyl/ fake leather or velvet/ carpet in order to make it “invisible” by minimizing light reflections.

LEGO VIDIYO, K-Pawp Concert (43113), Front View

The color choices for the outline elements are okay, but personally I’m not that much a fan of the Dark Turquoise. ever since LEGO reintroduced this color three years ago they seem to run rampant with it and are using it way too much. I would have preferred a friendlier color closer to the Light Aqua elements such as Medium Blue or Dark Azure, but ultimately this is a case where many different combinations would be adequate and could work.

LEGO VIDIYO, K-Pawp Concert (43113), Front View

The stage design is unfortunately rather conventional and repeats one of the mistakes I was most critical about with Hidden Side – the ever same triptych layout. This is even more regrettable here, as the idea with the squares turned on one of their corners offers lots of potential for more innovative designs.

I would for instance have favored an asymmetrical design with one of the wings being much longer and a square pattern in the central section (where the animal head is) serving as a centralized stage entrance with a proper door/ tunnel. Similarly, another oversized square could have served as a video screen. I also would have added a centralized dance floor (yes, even in the most cheesy 1970s discotheque/ dance club style) as currently the various separate islands are not connected and therefore could not be reached in a logical/ plausible manner.

On that note: There are seven spots where minifigures can be placed which kind of aligns with most K-Pop bands being pretty large squads. However, with only three actual figures many of these locations will have to be left empty unless you have additional ones from other sets or the Bandmates Collectible Minifigure Series 1. Another issue with the islands is the stability. Though the stairs use these brackets and they usually have a tight enough clutch power to provide some stability, it’s still relatively easy to break them off along with the plates attached to them. This is mostly owing to the individual isles not being supported and interconnected with additional “bridge” plates or a centralized big floor as I was mentioning earlier. Not the end of the world, but in my world these “loose ends hanging in the air” constructs are just bad design decisions.

LEGO VIDIYO, K-Pawp Concert (43113), Detail, Head Sculpture

The set offers only a handful of transformable features with the central head of the unicorn, which can be changed into a kitty face by rotating it 180 degrees, being the most notable. Both designs are executed nicely enough and it’s almost sad that they can’t be shown at the same time (without some extra work, that is). Other transformations include the small markers on the outermost positions and the speaker towers next to the central plate.

The back side does not have that many surprises with only a small recreational/ backstage area in the center section. Interestingly it features a “rhythm game” setup where you have to hit colored squares on an electronic mat/ floor to control a music-based game. Unfortunately this isn’t fully fleshed out and doesn’t include an actual arcade cabinet or gaming console. even just randomly throwing in two of the game controller tiles would have helped to sell the illusion.

LEGO VIDIYO, K-Pawp Concert (43113), Back, Center

Hidden Parts

While it doesn’t bring something revolutionary to the table, this set contains a few interesting parts, mostly used in a way where it doesn’t stick out at first. The most visible of those are the round 1 x 1 studs in Bright Light Yellow, a color variant only recently introduced with LEGO ART and apparently they had enough stock to also use it here. Other additions include the various Dark Turquoise and Coral 1 x 4 tiles and plates. Aside from the printed tiles there’s a unique exclusive item in the shape of the full height 1 x 1 slope attached to a 1 x 2 plate in Light Aqua. Finally there’s two 1 x 1 clips in Medium Lavender used to good effect in the cat’s ears.


Concluding Thoughts

There are some undeniable shortcomings with this set, yet at the same time it is bright and joyful enough to make you overlook them generously. If I somehow was on LEGO‘s “focus group testing” list and had access to their unreleased info I sure would have nudged them towards a few of the things I mentioned, but at the end of the day none of them are critical failures. It’s more my designer mind going crazy in all directions and trying to explore the what-might-have-beens. Would be interesting to find out what alternative designs they had worked on before settling on this one.

However, with all that said I feel that the shortage of minifigures is a major omission and cardinal sin. You just can’t take a play on K-Pop tropes and then come up short with the number of band members. That and of course the “camouflage” colors of the characters that are there and that are too similar to the ones used on the stage itself. In fact I think it would have been an interesting experiment to have say three figures with bright glittery white “suits” to get that feel of “cloned” artists that is so prevalent in these groups.

Ultimately of course it’s up to you. I’ve laid out my reasoning, but can’t deny that the demographic for this set and the others in the VIDIYO is rather narrow. You may want to take your money elsewhere if you want more bulk, but if you want a complete set of the figures and don’t mind getting a ton of those tiles I mentioned earlier as well, this can be an interesting enough option for the right price.

Pimp my Ride! – LEGO VIDIYO, Robo HipHop Car (43112)

As I promised in my generic overview of LEGO VIDIYO I wanted to try to get some of the proper sets and so here we are with the first of them, the Robo HipHop Car (43112).

LEGO VIDIYO, Robo HipHop Car (43112), Box

As you recognize right away, the packaging shares the same issues laid out in my article with the overly emphasized mobile phone and virtual environment making it hard to even decipher what you get in the package. Really not worth any further discussion and the less said about this terrible artwork, the better.

Pricing and Contents

I was reluctant to even get this set, as even by just looking at the promotional photos it became clear that it wouldn’t be the most attractive, but I kind of wanted the minifigures to add to my line-up of VIDIYO characters (Maybe this will be the first minifigure series ever where I collect them all and get a complete set?) and one has to start somewhere, as it was the cheapest offering at the time. The other sets had not yet dropped enough in price to fall into my affordable range.

This set comes with 387 pieces that build into a sizable model, but one mustn’t be fooled. There isn’t that much bulk, after all, with a lot of small and thin parts being used. This is in part out of necessity due to the car requiring thin side walls in order to allow for room in the interior, in part it’s down to how some things are designed. That is to say that even once completed the model feels relatively light when you expect its weight to be higher.

LEGO VIDIYO, Robo HipHop Car (43112), Overview

I got my set for 23 Euro, but as I’m writing this it already has dropped to 20 Euro on some outlets. That means it is pretty okay in terms of price, even more so when you consider what a single BeatBox costs. I feel that you get a decent return value even if this may not build into the greatest brick-built car model on the planet.

The Minifigures

The set comes with only two minifigures, which is adequate enough for such a small and relatively cheap model. Stylistically they match the theme with silver and gold tones making things look robotic, though that also makes them look a bit bland and cold. The prints are done nicely, though. It’s just that perhaps a hint of red or orange here and there would have made them look more lively. If you feel like it, you can of course complement the crew with the minifig from the HipHop Robot BeatBox (43107) or for that matter a similar looking dude from the upcoming series 2 of the BandMates.

The set comes with two exclusive BeatBits (bottom left and top right corner on the stand in the respective image) and 14 other random ones to add to your collection of these tiles. Based on my analysis of their functionality in my article I’d say that one merely adds some robotic noises and the other an overlay sticker that looks like a spray tag, so nothing special there.

A Color Conundrum

Before we move on to the actual review of the car, allow me to get one thing out of the way: The color. Yes, it may appear nitpicky, but to me it’s clear that this whole car should be in a different livery. The specific point I’m trying to make is that this is a “pimp ride”, i.e. a highly modified and customized car meant tot impress people as it passes by and clearly that would also include the coating. Therefore this model just seems completely backwards as Black is way too mundane. This is not saved by the various golden accents, as in fact they amplify my impression that the situation should be inverted.

Yes, for what it’s worth, the car itself should be all gold and have black details (or any other fitting color for that matter like Dark Red for instance) and my gut feeling tells me that this may have been the way it was originally envisioned by the designers. Naturally, things then inevitably fell apart when everyone came to realize that this would mean that a ton of parts needed to be produced in Pearl Gold extra for this set and there was no budget for doing that. They probably would have needed to team up with the Ninjago team to make it worthwhile and get the permission and funds, as lately they already have been doing a lot of pieces in gold over there already.

In light of that limitation this set already gets lesser grades from me. I’m not even getting hung up on the gold aspect. I just feel that any color other than black would have been better from Bright Green to Dark Azure, including bits of other colors sprinkled in to create patterns. This would also have brought it more in line with the craziness of the rest of the VIDIYO sets.

The Car

As mentioned earlier, this is meant to represent a type of car that wouldn’t even be allowed on the roads in most countries of the world over safety concerns. That being the case, it’s probably fair to say that this is as US-American to the bone as it gets. Still, even there it would be hard to imagine something like this with its large protruding speaker boxes and robot head sculpture driving around without requiring some super special permit and exception rule which you then have to have ready at all times because you so easily catch the attention of police and they check you all the time…

The mentioned big elements are mounted on turntables and have two presentable sides, so you can change their orientation as you prefer. The speaker boxes also serve as part of an imaginary stage, with another such spot being on the car’s front hood. I’m sure this is also more specifically used in the app, but since I don’t have it, I can’t enlighten you on that part.

The rear trunk has been converted into a pool/ Jacuzzi, which is actually a mod you get to see every now, and then and from what I gather it is popular to rent cars that have been converted like this for certain types of parties. Driving around must be a nightmare, though, given how the dynamics of the water would affect stability. By comparison the pool presented here feels tiny, however, as it would barely allow a single person to fit in and stay covered in water if it were real.

More or less this is where the big head sculpture gets in the way and this also somehow prevents the cockpit from looking better. There is no real seat, no steering and no back wall. While the large robot head is kind of cool, perhaps they simply crammed in too much and a “Less is more!” approach might have resulted in something more elegant and believable.

The front view is also spoiled by the model looking overstuffed and the many add-ons distracting too much. If at least the front stage spot was hidden under a smooth bonnet…


Concluding Thoughts

This is an okay car, just not the smash hit that VIDIYO would have needed. At the end of the day this feels more like an oversized Speed Champions model of an old American convertible and as such would likely get passing grades, but it more or less completely fails to convey the bonkers nature of VIDIYO or for that matter even the insanity of those custom cars driving around in the sunny states of the US.

The most disappointing and frustrating fact remains that one can actually see that the potential is there, but that it was thwarted by the practicalities of LEGO being LEGO, meaning general corporate policies and cost consideration very likely prevented  the designers from carrying out their original design idea. The way it turned out unfortunately isn’t even on par with some better designed Creator 3in1 cars and since they opted for the most boring color choice, there aren’t any parts to scalp in exotic and rare colors, either.

As such therefore this model has only very limited value both in the VIDIYO series as well as a generic car and I would only recommend this to people who have a very specific rationale like eyeing the minifigures or wanting to modify it into a proper convertible.

Audio, VIDIYO, Disco? – A closer Look at LEGO VIDIYO

I more or less wanted to let this slip under the radar quietly, but now that I have bought more of the LEGO VIDIYO stuff than the initially planned “handful of minifigures”, I figured it would not be a bad idea to pour this into some sort of mix between a review and opinion piece.

Crazy is Beautiful!

As you well know from reading my blog, I’m not big on minifigures. I like the occasional specimen I get with one of the sets and I even have been known to buy one or two examples from collectible minifigure series if I really like them, but I certainly don’t go out of my way to get complete sets. This is slightly different with VIDIYO as it really tingled my nerves as soon as I saw first pictures of the figures. This is my kind of crazy done the right way. I immediately loved the flamboyant colors and exuberant designs.

This is such a nice deviation from LEGO‘s usual often uninspired, way too conservative and boring stuff. And I’m saying this buying Friends all the time and having had my share of Hidden Side and Elves. Point in case: At the end of the day some Chinese knock-off sets often look more extravagant and daring, as it’s all too obvious that LEGO‘s sets have reached a point where they get smoothed over way too much in order to not offend potential customers and thereby negatively impacting sales. It’s really great to see them taking some risks here. Unfortunately, though, they don’t seem to pay off, so let’s delve into the many reasons why VIDIYO may still not be as great as I had hoped.

Somebody told me…

…there’s an app and from what I hear (and found on ze Internet) it’s not particularly good. It’s functions are similar to the Hidden Side app where you scan a bunch of sets and in this case also individual figures and your device will bring up virtual scenes on its screen that line up with the physical world thanks to Augmented Reality (AR) technology. In addition, the app also analyses the BeatBits, a selection of printed tiles that come with each set and trigger specific actions or grant you bonus content.

Now obviously I don’t have a suitable mobile device and never used it myself, so definitely I’m talking out of my ass on some points and rely on other people’s opinions, biased as those already may be, but there are at least some facts that can objectively not be denied.

  • The initial launch was a complete debacle with many people not being able to download or launch the app at all or the app refusing to launch again after a number of previous uses. This apparently boiled down to data corruption damaging the application packages and/ or their signatures as used by mobile operating systems to validate their genuine status. This was fixed a few days after launch in an update.
  • The app as a whole is slow and unwieldy even on relatively beefy devices. You can verify that yourself to a degree by watching captured videos of the gameplay mechanics. This seems to be a two-fold issue: For one, not much care appears to have been spent on actual performance optimization because the app likely was released in an unfinished state too shortly before the deadline, and two, due to the inclusion of a massive amount of assets (3D models for the sets and figures, extra contents, moves, music, sound effects and so on) the packages are huge and looking up stuff and loading takes a while.

The consensus from most commenters/ reviewers is that it’s just not fun enough and they quickly moved on. That of course most definitely affects one of the core functionalities as well – creating and sharing clips, which simply doesn’t seem to be a thing people are interested in because it is way to convoluted and only works from inside the app. That’s because LEGO want to ensure everything stays kid-friendly and submissions are reviewed before being released for sharing, but naturally this does make very little sense to users who are used to sharing everything they want to at whim – including young kids. Arguably this is probably dead in the water and can only be considered a failure.

Another point is that the app goes way over the top uses LEGO elements that do not exist in this shape and form in the real world. Yes, we’re of course talking about that old thing where even some thirty year old molds haven’t been done in a given color to date yet. Now my nerdy obsessions are arguably my own business, but it’s a major disappointment and I’m sure there are some other people out there that might feel the same way.

Point in case: In a modular building system any new piece can open up new creative avenues in unexpected ways the original designers haven’t even thought of. You know, it’s that old gag where you have waited for a simple slope to come out in a specific color that suddenly makes it feasible to build a project you had on your mind for years. Therefore at least some of those elements should have counterparts in the real world and not just exist virtually.

Another Packaging Disaster

One of the biggest obstacles for physical retail with Hidden Side was the poor packaging design that did not clearly communicate what it was about. I laid out some of the many reasons in my Post Mortem then and sadly LEGO seemingly haven’t learned anything from that debacle. Let’s begin with the collectible minifigures.

Those are sold in small cardboard boxes and not in foil bags like other minifigure series. People have moaned and groaned about this a lot, as apparently it makes it a lot more difficult to figure out which figure is inside if you can’t mangle and scrunch those bags to feel with your fingers, but hey, that’s life. It adds a bit of thrill to the experience as you may get duplicates unless you happen to have a mobile x-ray at hand. Some people also have claimed that in a freshly opened carton with 24 of these small boxes you get all characters twice neatly sorted, but I have no way of verifying this.

You would think that LEGO at least would have put the available real estate to good use and printed something nice on the box, but no, it’s a boring mess of black, magenta and dark cyan where ironically the minifigures are barely even recognizable since they blend in with the background. The cardinal sin, however is – you guessed it – that a good chunk of the available area is occupied by a fake mobile phone screen that itself is completely overloaded with details and nonsensical garnishes.

LEGO VIDIYO, Collectible Minifigures, Packaging

If all that wasn’t bad enough, the boiler plate text doesn’t help, either. I don’t expect anyone buying any of this stuff without having informed himself/ herself about what VIDIYO actually is, but let’s assume you haven’t done your due diligence. Wouldn’t you wonder what a BeatBit is actually supposed to be? This is just marketing gobbledygook that tells you nothing.

The BeatBoxes don’t fare much better and repeat the same mistakes. Personally I find it amazing how you can manage to plaster multiple 12 x 12 cm squares with so many details that it all ends up being visual noise while at the same time not providing any real info about the product inside.

LEGO VIDIYO, Various BeatBoxes, Packaging

This tragedy is revealed when you inspect the box from all sides. Again the mobile device aspect is put front and center with hardly any actual product shots. If you didn’t know it, you would think LEGO are trying to sell you mobile phone accessories rather than a buildable toys. This is not helped by the muted colors and images generally appearing too small, contributing further to the overall noisiness. The design would need to be much more clear cut and vibrant to really look attractive on a retail shelf.

Little Value, High Price – The BeatBoxes

The BeatBoxes are a new product idea for VIDIYO and apparently are meant to appeal to kids who want to take their favorite toys with them everywhere they go. Whether this has any real merit I cannot tell, as I haven’t seen any children running around with this yet, but conceptually that’s sound. At the time of writing there are eight of these boxes, six from the first wave and two from the second wave in summer. Whether there will be any more in the future remains to be seen, but I’m not too optimistic for various reasons.

LEGO VIDIYO, Various BeatBoxes, Front End View

One of those reasons is that I’m in fact only able to show you some of the boxes because I got them cheaply from Amazon Marketplace and only paid around 8 to 10 Euro for each as opposed to the 20 Euro official suggested retail price here in Germany. Yes, if it wasn’t for the possibility of importing discounted stuff conveniently from the UK and other countries via Amazon, you’d be stuck with pretty insane local pricing. This is a grim realization, though just as luck would have it as I’m writing this I just ordered the remaining four boxes from a German web site for 10 Euro each as well.

Generally, though, and there is no way to put it nicely, LEGO are completely out of their fucking minds! This is utterly bonkers and those original prices are in no way justifiable. This becomes even more clear when you consider that ever since prices have occasionally dropped down to under 7 Euro for some of these boxes, which makes them only 2 Euro more expensive than a collectible minifigure pack. I have no idea how Amazon UK or other retailers even make revenue off those low prices, but the whole affair may simply prove that the prices for VIDIYO are indeed artificially inflated beyond all reason.

LEGO VIDIYO, Various BeatBoxes, Back Side View

The real point in all this is that you are basically asked to pay for a custom packaging, which is a big “No-No!” in my world. You see, there are other toy lines out there where you would get such a small suitcase more or less “free” (on a strict ideological level; of course you still pay them, just not that much), but somehow when it comes to LEGO they always ask you as a customer to pay for their crazy ideas that you didn’t even ask for.

LEGO VIDIYO, Unicorn DJ BeatBox (43106), Size Comparison with LEGO Friends Box

This is what rubbed me the wrong way with the Friends cubes, and it’s even more upsetting here, given how they went overboard. You should not have to pay this much for non-functional elements. If they feel they need to have a trés chique custom container the investment in the molds and production logistics first and foremost has to be on their own dime.

That said, there is nothing wrong with the way it turned out. The container looks nice enough from the outside with the rounded corners, the transparent top section with the slightly frosted sides, the silicone band and the fake headphone ear muffs. The level of elegance varies with the color combinations, as some look a bit more pleasant than others, but of course you can always re-combine elements if you have multiple of these boxes.

The whole thing falls apart into three main sub-assemblies with one being the transparent cap with the handle, the second one being the lower container and the third the minifigure stand. The container is two rows of bricks high and has slots for holding up to 16 BeatBits, i.e. 2 x 2 tiles plus there is some room left to throw in some other accessories and a few building pieces or even a second minifigure, but you have to decide your priorities. There’s not enough space to throw in everything.

LEGO VIDIYO, Various BeatBoxes, Figure Stands

The minifigure stand and the window shutter plates on the sides are new elements in the LEGO portfolio and no doubt also contribute to their misguided attempts at recouping the cost by cashing in at the back of their customers. Yupp, to me this is yet another case of “Nobody asked them for this.” where you pay solely for the presentation when the functionality could have been achieved with existing parts. It may just not have looked as sleek and might have required to be built from more pieces.

The central stand in the end is going to end up as useless fluff in your LEGO collection. It’s essentially an oversized old style “pilot chair” bracket (which they only use very rarely these days) and shares the same limitations like needing extra space to even attach to other elements, multiplied by four times the size. Another limitation is that the hinge attachment points only have notches for ninety degree increments. This makes sense for how this setup is used for stowage in the box, but would prevent using other angles in a custom build.

The hinge plates’ primary function is apparently to hold the BeatBits, but they fit standard measurements and can be integrated into your MOCs without problems. More on the tiles in a different section further down.

The figures in these BeatBoxes are nice, and top off the already elaborate regular minifigures from this series. Aside from some of the molds for the heads being exclusive, they also distinguish themselves with extra prints on the arms and dual molded leg pieces in some cases. My personal favorite is the alien DJ with his waterdrop like transparent helmet and the overall friendly feel.

LEGO VIDIYO, Various BeatBoxes, Figures

The Collectible Minifigures

The more affordable part of VIDIYO are the collectible minifigures, though even that is a relative term. After having ramped up the price to 4 Euro from the original 3 Euro two years ago, this one adds yet one more on top and can cost you 5 Euro per pack. A few online retailers offer bulk buying where this can cost around 3.50 Euro, but that’s still expensive enough. For me, anyway. The “fault” is of course with the extra pieces for the stand and the BeatBits, for which LEGO siphon your wallet. I wish I could say this was justified, but when you consider what extras, custom prints and even new molds for hair, heads and accessories other minifigure series include at no extra cost, this hypothesis doesn’t hold up. Again one can only state that LEGO are milking the cow.

LEGO VIDIYO, Collectible Minifigures, Various Figures with Stands

That doesn’t take away from the gorgeous figures and the love and effort that went into creating them. The prints are finely detailed and elaborate and for the most part also produced in good quality. There are a few smaller issues where sometimes the opacity/ density is a bit lacking, but given the fictional nature of the characters I never found this as annoying as e.g. white prints on Star Wars figures not being thick enough. If you will, even a technically incorrect faded print will look alright in the context of the figure and just appear as yet another color or print detail.

Another benefit of this series having come out is the plethora of new color combinations and recolors for some elements that should provide plenty of opportunities for mixing and matching them to create custom minifigures. In addition you will likely also see a lot of these pieces in other sets in accordance with the old rule that once LEGO have introduced a certain color for an item, it tends to appear more often, be that just to deplete their surplus stock bit by bit.

LEGO VIDIYO, Collectible Minifigures, Various Figures

On the other hand I find the extras a bit lacking. Every other character only has the standard microphone and it would have been lovely to get the boombox in a different color instead of just the ones that were used in other minifigure series already. On the bright side, some characters come with vinyl disks and each of them has a different print and color combination, so if you want to fancy up e.g. your recording studio/ radio station in the Downtown Diner (10260) then here’s a good opportunity. One of the characters (of the ones I don’t have yet) also has a saxophone and another one a Keytar, but overall nothing too crazy.

Tiled Logic – BeatBits

The BeatBits are meant to expand the functionality of the AR app, but for most people not interested, not able or downright refusing to use it they will simply be welcome additions as colorful decorations. At this point there are allegedly 102 of them and with every new set and minifigure this number will grow, as each one contains at least one unique and exclusive tile. The graphical style is overall pretty consistent and based on contemporary graffiti styles, mangas/ comics and video games with heavy text stylings, abstract art and characters displayed in exaggerated poses. Some are more fancy, others just bits of text on a background pattern.

LEGO VIDIYO, Various BeatBits

Despite not having used the app myself, I think a pattern to the specific functions of each tile type can be deduced easily. The largest group is represented by the Dark Turquoise BeatBits and they appear to be sound effects and sound-driven graphical effects such as a VU meter/ equalizer spectrum. The Yellow tiles indicate specific additional dance animations for characters. The Black items are technical effects such as transitions and wipes, counters and clocks or even test and calibration patterns. The Lime Green tiles hint at backgrounds and environmental effects, whereas the Magenta ones look like ones that transform the characters and place them in a different environment similar to costumes and scenes. Finally, the Orange pieces look like another set of technical effects such as adding shake/ vibrations (or removing it), slow motion and a few others.

From a technical point of view it is worth noting that you do not really need the actual tiles. It seems that the whole thing also works with photos/ scanned images of the tiles and other web sites have already provided long lists and suitable materials. My own photos are probably too low resolution and too heavily compressed already, but even they may work, at least intermittently and unreliably if only you get close enough to the screen. I’m stunned that LEGO didn’t add extra measures to prevent this since one of the core arguments of actually buying the sets and minifigures is circumvented this way, but I guess having a personalized QR code in every package to prove ownership would also be a bit weird and not kids friendly.

How the detection of the images works is an open question, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the app actually only tries to match a specific set of pixels in each tile. A full pattern detection is of course also possible and these days nothing particularly challenging as long as you keep updating the app with references for every new tile set. It would be interesting if someone found out how it actually works.


Concluding Thoughts

Sadly I feel that the whole VIDIYO story is going to end up like Hidden Side. LEGO could easily have a potential hit at their hands, but more or less already screwed it up by once again having wrong priorities about the content and in addition simply being greedy.

Especially the latter needs some major course correction. I’m not going to bore you with my anecdotal observations, but around these parts the sets and minifigures aren’t really flying off the shelves and that’s never a good sign. You know, in order to sustain a series like this you have to sell a minimum every month to justify investing in more future stuff. I just don’t see that happening here and so the series may go “Byebye!” pretty quickly after only two years if it even lasts that long.

The technical issues with the app and the lame concept of a TikTok-knock-off are another major problem. Until they drastically improve on that front and re-invent the gameplay loop I cannot see how half a year down the road there is even anyone using the app, let alone contribute to the video community they are trying to build. This seems so ill-conceived on so many levels and LEGO are simply moving too slowly in these markets that change every day.

So there you have it – I wanted to love VIDIYO and for some parts of it I certainly do, but overall I see just a lot of bad things ruining the whole thing. What are your thoughts on the matter? Feel free to comment below.

Dumbest LEGO Presentation ever?

At this point in time LEGO is not least of all known for its many external activities, be that licensing deals with entertainment content behemoths like Disney or things like getting their feet wet in software. Inevitably this means other parties being involved and one of those is Apple, a little company you may have heard of. It’s the time of the year where they hold their WWDC and show of new stuff. You guessed it, one of those, the iOS 12 ARKit Presentation, rubbed me the wrong way, so here’s a few thoughts on it.

First let it be known that I’m not a great believer in all that VR/ AR stuff. I’ve written a lengthy article on that on my old main blog which you can read, but if you don’t, here’s the basic gist in one sentence: As long as everyone tries to squeeze VR/ AR for money by selling you expensive hardware, software and services, it’s nothing more than an industry-driven fad at the cost of the user, i.e. you. they want you to buy expensive new iPhones, headsets and what have you, because naturally last year’s tech won’t do and of course it’s all tied to some exclusive service you have to sign up and possibly pay for. Sounds damning, doesn’t it?

Interestingly enough I could see a use for AR for location-based services like finding shops and restaurants near you just by looking through some glasses with a HUD and on some level I can even see it working for games, but I don’t count LEGO in that category. To me the whole point of building models with physical plastic bricks is to get away from all that “computer stuff” when you may have a day job where you are sitting in front of some screen already. I should know, as I’m still doing so much work on my PC even in my free time, yet I’ve made a conscious decision to go with LEGO to spend time with other things. In so many words: I couldn’t be bothered about doing LEGO virtually, even if I had one of those expensive iPhones.

Therefore IMO the presentation hit all the wrong beats. Aside from the fact that it felt way too forced and rehearsed (How credible is it even when some higher-level manager tries to play cool?), they picked the wrong content. Modular Buildings are typically not for kids playing with them, they are expensive collectible sets! So how on Earth did LEGO even think anyone might be interested in seeing minifigures actually running around the Assembly Square (10255)? True, people integrate those buildings in big LEGO cities all the time, but the presentation probably couldn’t be further away from reality, as most users will probably just leave the models sitting there and enjoy how they look.

Could we see another sign of LEGO totally not “getting it”, meaning them not understanding their own user base? I do understand their desire to branch out in other directions, but when it comes to integrating their products with the digital world I could think of a million other things first. Clearly, they haven’t been very successful with their digital ventures and the stench of failure just doesn’t come off LEGO. Dimensions, anyone? Whatever AR-based world-building they may have in mind, it could end up being just the same thing happening all over again.

The small streak of hope is of course that it’s all just a preliminary demo made to impress and no actual commercial product may ever come from it. Still, in times of diminishing revenues (totally their own fault) there’s always the risk of LEGO falling for a quick cash grab and that could have lasting long-term effects. One of those incidentally could be that they totally de-value their sets when making them available virtually, leading to a further decline in sales. The term “death spiral” all to easily comes to mind…