Another UCS release, another Internet full of vitriolic comments that frequently delve into libel and personal attacks against LEGO employees. Here's my take on it all, complete with several heaping servings of counter-snarkiness (update Sept. 3: plus now more objective analysis and some responses to additional hate I've received off-site for daring to think for myself and not blindly join the hate train!).
Objective:The original set's $400 USD in 2008, adjusted only for inflation, would be around $450 USD today. The updated set has 200+ more parts and 3 more proper figures. In 2008 dollars the updated set should have been roughly $425. In 2016 dollars that would be approx. $475.
Now looking at a constant baseline for value, the updated set is $25 USD or 5% overpriced.
Update Sept. 3: On a whim, I decided to try another purely mathematical method for calculating today's value of the updated Death Star. We LEGO fans have used $0.10 as a nice round price/part ratio for years now, and though the basic reality of inflation makes holding onto this single number indefinitely an absolutely unreasonable proposition, I will employ it once more here today. However, it is quite universally accepted that the four "parts" that make up a minifigure are worth significantly more than four 1x1 bricks or studs. My observations have led me to value an average minifig in a set at around $3.50 USD apiece -- a number still comfortably lower than the retail price of the CMF figures that are produced at lower quality. On this basis, the updated DS has an all-time record 25 x $3.50 = $87.50 worth of figures which must not be ignored in a value determination effort. It then has 4016 - (25 x 4) = 3916 remaining non-figure parts, and even at the increasingly unrealistic $0.10 ideal price point, that's $391.60 worth. This creates a total value of $87.50 + $391.60 = $479.10. This paints the set as 4.4% overpriced, strikingly close to the previously-referenced inflation-based projection.
Completely different purely numeric approaches into which any potential personal bias simply cannot factor, essentially one single result.
Subjective:Overall I'm glad the UCS Death Star is back on the market. The original was still selling decently well when it was available, so it's good that people who still want it will be able to buy it at retail again, rather than having to pay "investor" prices for the original (which, interestingly, jumped straight to $500+ USD immediately after the discontinuation -- recognize that number?).
Price, as per the emotionless, fact-based simple analysis above, is about 5% on the high side. To me, 5% in 8 years is not something to revolt over, especially when I consider that this 5% number will, itself, be neutralized by inflation in less than 4 years, or half the original set's lifespan.
Minifigure updates are overdue and the new Han hair looks good. The addition of more proper figures/droids is welcome.
Responding to The Hate:"LEGO designers have gotten lazy."
- This is as valid as saying they have gotten Pluto, or chartreuse, or insert any other irrelevant, completely senseless word here. This was never, in any way, a project to redesign the Death Star. It was a simple update (the second for this set, by the way). LEGO did not deprive deserving LEGO fans of their 2016 UCS AT-AT birthrights. The man-years and hundreds of thousands of dollars of development budget (anyone who thinks this is an exaggeration has never worked in product design and/or completely ignores a little thing called "salaries") required for a new UCS set were not available to this project. Those man-years and hundreds of thousands of dollars were assigned to other sets, many of which have already been on the market being happily bought and enjoyed by many thousands of fans around the world. Calling LEGO designers "lazy" is just spiteful slander.
- At best misinformed, but frequently a lazy (!) old scapegoat argument. Data shows conclusively that LEGO spreads licensing fees across their entire product line. Licensed theme sets have no additional fees included in their retail prices that are absent in original IP sets. You can spend some quality time looking at prices & price/part ratios at Brickset to confirm this. I do so regularly, myself.
- Most observers (myself included) reacted with shock to the sudden change of retail price by a factor of $100 USD. That's a large number and a lot of money, period. It begs the question, "why?" See the "Objective" section above. Release to release, accounting for inflation (which is a must for any reasonable debate & comparison), it's actually $50 more cost for about $25 more value if you consider the parts and figures. However, I do think it can be argued that the ~200 new non-figure-related parts can be ignored in a value discussion as they mostly fail to add to either play or display values, instead contributing to durability, ease of build, updated internal building standards, etc. There are still 3 more minifigs, so there is definitely some additional value, though it does not add up to $50.
"This isn't worthy of the UCS designation."
- The UCS designation was applied to the original, and remains on the update. Whether the set is "worthy" of this stamp is debatable, but the factors behind that debate have not changed in any way. If the Death Star is unworthy now, it was unworthy years ago, (begin maximum sarcasm here) back when LEGO was not "lazy" or "greedy" and they made things for fans and not for money (end sarcasm).
"This is just a re-release. How dare LEGO try to trick us into believing this is a brand new set?"
- Nobody is trying to trick anyone into believing anything. LEGO said, and I quote, "The Death Star is back!" Nowhere have they said, in any way, "look at this brand new never-before-seen design that we spent a full UCS development lifecycle to bring to you!" This is an update to a pre-existing set. That's all.
"Because of this and Attack on Hoth, we're not getting two proper UCS sets this year."
- This is partially true. The Hoth project took quite a fair amount of internal effort to bring together, regardless of how the finished product was received by fans. It also took up a new UCS set "slot," if you will, for the year. The Death Star update, however, did neither.
"I already have the original, now they want me to pay $100 more for some different figures."
- I refuse to be at all diplomatic in responding to that statement -- it is just completely false. Again, the updated DS is an update. LEGO is not targeting owners of either of the older revisions of this set, with the new minor update. In my opinion it's quite thoroughly ridiculous to suggest that they are or would.
Update Sept. 3: "JANG, a lot of collectors hate everything about this, so obviously hating is the right thing to do. Why won't you just get on the bandwagon already?"
- Because for one thing, I'm not "a lot of collectors." I'm me, and I'm going to share my opinion, straight, no matter who likes it or not. Also, more to the point, I don't feel I have any rights bestowed by a higher power to receive a brand new 4,000+ piece display-only set made exactly to my personal liking every year. I don't feel I have the right to have anything I specifically want manufactured by anyone, unless I'm directly paying an individual craftsman for a specific custom piece of work. More than that, I know that I, as an adult fan of LEGO, am in the extreme minority, the single smallest blip on LEGO's market radar. My value to LEGO as a consumer is a single digit percentage of that of any 7-year-old, as it rightfully should be. My personal wants do not and should not drive what LEGO does. The company doesn't exist for my personal entertainment (nor that of other people like me). Thus what I personally want in LEGO sets to display in my home does not factor into my evaluation of the quality or value of any of their products.
Update Sept. 3: "Clearly because you're not joining the hate train, you're sponsored by LEGO or trying to get sponsored by them."
- As false as can be on all accounts. The LEGO CEE team offered to put me on their free set recipient list long ago and I declined. Ask them yourselves -- their email addresses are readily Googlable. It's a deep, deep shame that so many people automatically default to attacking the character of anyone whose opinion they disagree with, suggesting any differing point of view must be the result of a corporate sell-out or some form of "brainwashing."
A sudden $100 price increase definitely sucks. However, it sucks a lot less when you consider the reality of inflation. To avoid so many cries of "this sucks" in the future, all LEGO can do is regularly adjust for inflation the prices of products that are going to remain on the market over an extraordinarily long term. Of course, folks would say that sucks as well. This updated Death Star's build is practically unchanged, but the figure selection got an overdue, major upgrade. The value based on parts & figures in the 2016's re-release is about 5% worse than what we got in 2008, but 5% doesn't strike me as a number worth rioting over.
All in all, I personally think this whole thing is about as big of a deal as LEGO is making it, which is not much at all.