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Monday, March 7, 2016

Old vs. New: Has LEGO gotten worse?

If I've heard it once I've heard it a thousand times, and in a thousand ways.  "LEGO has gone downhill." "LEGO was so much better when I was a kid."  "LEGO used to make good stuff, now they're just in it for the money."

In my latest effort to explore the sources of these feelings, I look at two fire station sets, one from 1994 and one current.  I chose 6571 Flame Fighters to represent the old school specifically because it is the biggest of the classic era, and with its play value & level of detail one could argue it was the best (though nostalgia bias will rule that argument for most folks).  Being the last in the classic style before the juniorification of LEGO System in the late 90s took its toll, 6571 also was able to benefit from the largest parts selection in its class.  In spite of my attempts to give the classics the best possible fighting chance, I can't help but feel there's hardly a contest here.
Just looking at the one image above tells much of the story -- the modern set is dramatically larger and includes more of everything.  In fact, it comes with over twice as many parts.  At the same time, the price/part ratio of the new one is just over half that of the classic, bringing the inflation-adjusted (i.e. real) retail price within very close range.

1994 2016
Parts 428 919
Minifigs 4 6
Price (in 2016 USD) $88 $100
Price/part $0.205 $0.109
Bricks & plates 146 (34%) 259 (28%)

The last row of the table above addresses the common, related complaint that old LEGO sets were made with standard pieces you could rebuild into anything, while new ones are mostly prebuilt with single-use molds.  All I did was pull up the part inventories on Bricklink and sort them by category, tallying up all plain, un-modified, traditional bricks (including rounds) and plates in each set.  For a single data point, the difference in percentages is statistically insignificant.  Perhaps even more telling & on-point is the reverse view of the numbers, showing that 66% of the classic set's parts were not basic bricks & plates.

All that said, what do you think?  Has LEGO gotten worse over the years as many detractors wax, or do the numbers and visual & play feature comparisons accurately convey a different story?


  1. I have to say, Lego has DEFINITELY gotten better. Sure, there are some bad parts about new lego, but in the end the sets we get today have so much more play value and most of the time, look way better.

  2. id take the new one. You still get more bricks plates. And I'm sure with imagination the single pice mounds can still be reused?
    Agree with Adam, more play value and looks better.

  3. Its different from generation to generation. I can't say neither of them are good or bad, todays sets are nice, fancy and colorful, but the vintage sets has much more warmth in it. (My Own Thoughts)

    1. Yes! It's the warmth in the old ones isn't it that make you think they're better!

    2. i think lego sucks now it is not even close to as good as it was in 2016. there new fire station set is horrible compared to the other versions

  4. Mostly better, but as someone who's into trains and grew up through the 12V era in the 80's my kids PF stuff lacks so much functionality of my old 12V sets.

  5. Interesting comparision, would be interesting to have a similar comparison on 80-ties vs current train system, I belive current trains would have a harder time to match up against the automatic points, crossings, decopuling and the various extra train cars that was available at the time

  6. I agree with previous comments that the new Lego offers way more possibilities.
    I was very interested to see that the Mindstorm kit was one of the biggest selling for 2015.

  7. I'm honestly agreeing with both sides. The kid in me likes the idea of Classic Lego sets being rebuilt into anything your imagination desires (kind of the whole point of Lego; a new toy every day), while the adult in me likes how much more amazing Lego's gotten with pieces being used for more specific sets.

    BTW, love your vids, are you planning on reviewing some sets from Ice Planet 2002? It's my favorite 90's space theme.

    1. What i worry about is how dark lego will go....the nexo sets seem to look very evil and i worry about the message that has on it saying being evil is a good thing?

  8. I played with Lego throughout the 1970's and, aside from GI Joe, it was my very favorite toy, hands down.

    That being said, to say that Lego has 'gotten worse' is about as dumb a statement as I can imagine. Today's sets put the sets I had as a kid to SHAME. My sets were incredibly basic, with few details and so blocky it was ridiculous. Compared to today's sets they look dull, bland and not even that much fun. (They WERE, but side-by-side they look pretty bad.)

    Today's sets are AMAZING in comparison. So detailed, much more life-like and a heck of a lot more fun! You can build practically ANYTHING with today's Lego parts!

    Lego has done an outstanding job to bring us a toy that's ultra-creative, highly detailed, has difficulty levels for the entire family and, in most sets, has incredible play value.

    Their prices are pretty much the same too, taking inflation into consideration!

    As for the line that they are 'only in this for the money', please! Of course they are i it for the money, what toy company, or ANY company, isn't doing what they do for the money?!?!

    Lego also has an incredible outreach program, donates millions to charity and cares about the environment, something most toy companies can't say with a straight face.

    So please, for anyone who thinks Lego has 'gotten worse' over time, do yourself a favor and be quiet, because you know not of which you speak.

  9. lego is amazing am i right please say yes or no

  10. The issue is that with newer Lego-Technic-sets, you can make only what you are told to make via the instructions. Over-specialised parts mean that you cannot make your own vehicle/contraption etc of your own design. Whilst that which you are told to make might be better, the argument is that has the newer lego-technic stifled creativity? Or were the majority of the customers not very creative anyway and Lego had to change to stay alive?
    Meccano has a similar problem.

  11. (Re-Edited)

    As a child from the 80s and early 90s, I feel like Lego had only improve in some areas but there are areas like innovation or new ideas that is kinda lacking and not very classic or unique as it once was. It is almost like Lego had lost its original classic identity and lacking new concepts or ideas so it had to copy ideas from Hollywood movies like Harry Potter, Batman, Spiderman or like Pirates of the Caribbean movies. In the past, I feel like there were more choice to choose especially if a kid wants to go with Lego's unique ideas and not from the movies such as the classic themes/ideas like the Ice Planet Lego, Lunar Base with space monorail, Lego's unique classic pirates vs the soldiers of admirals and tribal islanders with shark and crocodile and the Black knight castle with dragon vs the haunted castle soldiers of medieval theme and there were also many lego city themes as well. The only new legos that still seem classic or similar to the old legos is the Lego city which is based on the ideas of Lego itself. However, I am not saying that copying ideas from movies is a bad idea but it is not gonna be a classic lego either which shows the lack of innovation or lack of new concept or idea from lego itself. Kids would immediately know that these are not Lego's original ideas but are actually from the movies that they had watched. They might attract kids who are fans of these movies and comic super heroes but they still don't look classic and not being lego's unique ideas and that is the problem I am having with new legos. Of course, many modern kids might disagree with me but I am speaking on how I feel about new legos vs the old classic ones as a child from the 80s and early 90s. Maybe I am old fashion but this is how I feel. However, it still good for Lego to add new facial expression feature to these lego characters which is what was missing back in the 80s and 90s even though, the classic same smiley face is still gonna be classic for me and this is why when I think of Lego characters, I always think of the same classic smiley face all the time. For modern kids, they might not understand me and they might think that it is too boring to put the same smiley face on all the characters which is also weird to them but for me this is normal and this is still very classic looking lego character's face. Anyway, this is just my feeling and my opinion as child from the past so I don't really know how modern kids might think or feel.