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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.