Why AFOLs Are Threatened By The Bionicles 90th Anniversary Vote
I’m going to start this conversation with a little pre-text. I am a Bionicle fan, but I believe Bionicle will not be selected for the 90th anniversary. There are so many arguments being hurled from one side to the other and we’re here today to iron them out. We’re dispelling rumours about BOTH sides of the argument. Bionicle fan ones too.
"I am a Bionicle fan, but I believe Bionicle will not be selected for the 90th anniversary."
The biggest swirl of Adult Fan of LEGO drama right now, just in case you missed it, is the recent 90th-anniversary public voting poll by LEGO over on the LEGO Ideas website.
As described by the LEGO Group themselves
To celebrate the 90th Anniversary of The LEGO Group, help us choose a classic theme to be reimagined as a single new product for the 2022 LEGO Adult Portfolio. We have created a list of our 30 favourite classic LEGO themes for you to choose from.
Splitting this fan vote into two parts, you will have three votes in the first vote. You can vote a maximum of once for a theme in the first vote. This vote will be 100% transparent!
The second vote will be the top three themes from the first vote. One of the three themes will be the theme the 90th Anniversary Set will be based on. This vote will not be transparent, so it's still a little bit of a secret.
So why is this becoming a huge drama suddenly?
What has gotten people so angry and frustrated?
Well, it simply comes down to one theme being on the list, Bionicles.
"People need to learn that not all LEGO is intended for them."
The Bionicle Background
Once again, for the benefit of the doubt, if you don’t know what Bionicles are/were, I’ll lay it out for you.
Bionicles were a LEGO construction based theme that utilised a slightly different building style outside of LEGO’s standard “SYSTEM” or “Brick-built” style and utilised new and innovative moulds to try and create a new building style.
The theme originally was released markets outside of the U.S. for preliminary testings and was initially met with controversy amid LEGO’s strong “no violence” stance. The initial wave, ‘officially’ released in 2001, followed the story of mythological biological sentient robots in a village/island styled theme, where six destined heroes would use their elemental powers to fight against a dark enemy. It was a theme about “Good Warriors banishing Evil Foes” and introduced LEGO’s first true step in innovative storytelling with LEGO.
The theme spanned from 2001 to 2009, and then was abruptly discontinued in 2010, although LEGO pulled the plug on the theme back in 2008 secretly and didn’t inform fans until 2010. The decision to cancel Bionicle came from an inability to continue to draw in new fans on the theme due to its everlasting lore and a general diminishing in the fanbase over time, as people phased out of the theme over time.
So why are the AFOLs so mad?
As stated by LEGO themselves, the winner of this vote has the chance to be selected to be a part of the AFOL portfolio for the 90th anniversary and be released in 2022. Despite the fact that all of the themes have a good chance, Bionicle is a hugely prevalent theme.
There is a lot of debate that is happening now with this voting system. Left, right and centre, really upset AFOLs who actively dislike the Bionicle theme are swearing black and blue that the system is rigged or that there are bots that are overtaking the voting system and that the whole thing should be regarded as moot.
Now, I’ll preface this in saying that I am a Bionicle fan. I grew up with it and my first LEGO set that I owned was the 2001 released Tahu. But I will be as neutral as I possibly can addressing some of the important debate points.
“BIONICLE SAVED LEGO FROM THE BRINK OF FINANCIAL DISASTER”
Bionicle’s influence in saving the company from financial disaster is not the sole reason for the company's returned to financial stability. It was a combination of factors, such as the culling of overcomplicated moulds, changing of company hands, refining the idea of innovation to resort back to basics and the partnerships between LEGO and such entities as Star Wars around the release of STARWARS: The Phantom Menace.
Do not misinterpret me, Bionicle is still a factor. Many AFOLs link general media articles where there is an omission of Bionicle in the article and this is basic journalism if you complicate the story or can’t explain it simply, readers switch off.
“THE VOTING SYSTEM IS INHERENTLY FLAWED”
With this, I agree. This has been well summarised by Lukas Kirth over at Stonewars.net. Lukas used the preliminary voting statistics (these are not the official results, as this article has been written before the information release) and in a logical and informative way, managed to reconstruct the categories of the preliminary vote to show that the voting system is flawed in its clarity.
Breaking down some of the themes of the past years, such as Classic Castle, Wolfpack, Dragon Knights and Black Knights diminishes the prevalence of demand for Castle-based LEGO sets. If you were to, per se, combine the total votes of all these subcategories into one simple blanket term, such as “Castle Sets”, the number of votes as a whole would be a lot higher and Castle actually ranks at No.1 on the list.
That logic, however, is also flawed. Lukas acknowledges this, that if you don’t correctly summarise the votes, one person could simply have voted for three of the above themes and thus, their vote be worth three times as much. So, he then breaks it down as to one vote per Castle/Space/etc theme and Castle still ranks up top.
However, Bionicle is still in the top 3. We won’t know this for sure for at least a few more days.
“IF THEY MAKE BIONICLE THE 90TH ANNIVERSARY SET, IT WON’T SELL”
I, shockingly, 100% agree. Bionicle is not the larger market here, as above and is a little bit more niche. It would fundamentally suffer the same problem that LEGO had when the theme was dissolved, too rich in lore, not drawing enough new interest, focuses on a specific market.
I do think there might be interesting ways that it could correlate in the final vote, however. Imagine that the final three votes are Castle, Space and Bionicle, with Castle topping the list. The set is a castle set, but on small prints or stickers, the LEGO Group reference the supporting finalists, through scriptures or etchings. There are creative ways that they can do this and acknowledging the runner ups.
I would LOVE a new Bionicle set, and because Bionicle is on the list, it is entitled to its chance, but realistically, a Bionicle set won’t happen.
“BIONICLE ISN’T TRADITIONAL LEGO”
Bionicle is not traditional LEGO. This is a correct statement. But to alleviate it entirely as not being “LEGO” is a vastly incorrect statement. At what point is LEGO not LEGO?
Does Bionicle connect with standard LEGO bricks? Yes. Not all of them, but yes.
Does Technic connect with standard LEGO Bricks? Yes. Not all of them, but yes.
"Bionicle is not traditional LEGO."
This entire movement and the debate hinges mainly around this one idea and to my absolute horror, as brought out the AFOL “SYSTEM” elitists, the most toxic and vile LEGO community I have ever seen. Just because it is different, does not mean that it does not belong. The level of belonging is subjective to the purview of the collector, but the core fundamental fact that LEGO created this, and LEGO produced this, means that it is a LEGO Product.
Technic is in a slightly different vein but is a completely different building system to traditional bricks and somehow that is more accepted. I don’t really understand why. Bionicle utilised a similar pin/axle/gear system with new moulds, but for some reason, is not held to the same limelight. If someone can, please, logically explain this to me. Leave a comment below.
I understand if Technic were this high on the list there would be people upset about it too, but I am very doubtful that the LEGO community would become as toxic and horrible as it is now. Also, might I add that Bioncile actually initially started off as a Technic theme? It was only rebranded to Bionicle in 2004.
“BIONICLE IS LARGE PART OF LEGO’S HISTORY. IT ISN’T REPRESENTED ENOUGH”
This statement is correct but is from incredibly flawed logic. LEGO has represented Bionicle over the years and funnelled a good level of development into it when it was in its prime. Board games, McDonald's Toys, Direct-to-DVD specials and the reboot even had a direct-to-Netflix special, but as far as current-day representation goes, there isn’t much to go on.
Most of where this argument stems from is the Ninjago City Minifigure with Galidor Torso. Galidor, being one of LEGO’s worst themes in the history of the company, managed to sneak its way onto a large collectable set on a T-shirt. To have a theme brought over to a Minifigure city-medium is really cool, like the Ninjago T-shirts or the worst LEGO theme to possibly exist ever¸ but what some fans want is something like this.
Many Bionicle fans, like myself, would love to have a Minifigure with a Bionicle T-Shirt. It’s a cool throwback and would be used for Sigfigs alike, but understand, I do not agree with the statement that Bionicle isn’t represented enough.
The error to this logic is that other dead themes, like Paradisia, Belville and Fabuland are also not as well represented. Yes, Bionicle and Fabuland appeared in The LEGO Movie as a brief glimpse of alternate worlds, which was awesome by the way and Fabuland figures appeared in The LEGO Movie 2 as…uhhh… “Prisoners with jobs”.
Bionicle is not an easy medium to convey or reference and the wish for more representation comes from simply just wanting more. I’m sure there is a Chima fan or a Lord of the Rings fan (also me!) that simply wants something to scratch that itch.
But if they make a Fabuland figure in the next Ninjago City expansion, I’ll have some grumpy emails to do…
“BIONICLE DOESN’T REPRESENT THE BIGGER AUDIENCE”
That is true. From the article linked before, this has been shown that Bionicle is not the largest audience but is still a prevalent audience amongst the voting community. To simply ignore it because it isn’t the loudest voice in the room is flawed logic. It is also worth noting that the Bionicle LEGO Ideas project gained the required 10,000 votes in 25 days, so the Bionicle community is definitely strong and prevalent.
“PEOPLE HAVE BEEN USING BOTS TO AFFECT THE VOTE. NOBODY COULD BE VOTING FOR BIONICLE”
Lukas’ article did very well in addressing this, the answer is simply that we do not know if or how many bots were potentially used.
While the number of new registrations from September 2020 to December 2020 averaged 1,076 users per day, a stunning number of 10,748 new users registered with LEGO Ideas on January 17 alone, the first day of the survey. In total, 28,666 new users registered on LEGO Ideas in the four days from January 17 to 20, which comes to an average of about 7,167 new users per day.
Unless LEGO specifically checks the accounts to dud/unverified emails or knows how to find botted votes, I don’t think that they can properly filter this information out. To those who then simply suggest that you look at the votes cast by accounts older than the competition itself, your logic is also incredibly flawed.
Ask yourself this, why did you create your LEGO Ideas account?
Some people make an account to simply back a LEGO Ideas Project. Others to participate in competitions. Others made their accounts so they can vote in community polls that they personally relate to where they think that their voice matters and can make a difference.
If you had a chance to bring back a long-dead theme that you looooooved as a kid, like Wolfpack, but never used LEGO Ideas before, you’d have to make an account. Then imagine you were told your vote doesn’t count because you never made an account before the vote began and your voice doesn’t matter.
You’ve excluded someone because they’re new and not part of an “already existing semi-elitist group”. That’s dramatic, but showcases the point; that isn’t fair - that’s discrimination.
“PEOPLE ARE NOT VOTING CORRECTLY. YOU NEED TO CANCEL THESE VOTES”
Not quite true. Some people participated in the vote and only voted once, despite LEGO saying to vote for three. Bionicle was a theme that this happened a lot with, but also happened with Classic Space. The statistical difference is huge (11.9% to 1.0%), but to alleviate votes for Bionicle because of this is silly.
Some people (22) also managed to vote twice, but the results of removing these doubles were insignificant to affect the results. But this comes down to interpretation. LEGO said the following -
Do you have one or two (or even three) favourites in mind? Great! Well, in that case, head over to the Activity page and cast your vote!
This implies that you can vote for up to three, so for my interpretation of this, these votes get to stay.
“BIONICLE ALREADY HAD A REBOOT. IT DOESN’T DESERVE TO BE ON THE LIST”
True. Bionicle did have a reboot and is one of only two themes in LEGO’s History to do so. (The other being Ninjago)
To people who were not amongst the Bionicle fanbase, you would know that the Generation 2 of Bionicle was a huge letdown. The traditional rugged aesthetic and mechanical feel of the sets were replaced by the new Creature and Character Building System (or CCBS) that was used in Hero Factory, and if you’ve ever gotten a mech set as of late (Like a Hulkbuster), you’ll know why some people didn’t love the system.
The half-open shells and limiting the versatility of the parts caused some fans to turn away. Now, all companies grow and develop in their own way, and the sets weren’t bad, I really enjoyed the re-envisioning of the OG crew, but it was the reimagining of the story that really killed the theme.
Bionicle always prided itself on a rich and mysterious lore. They had runic texts and additional reading that could be found, an err of mystery. Where did they come from? Who is the bad guy? The swirling vortex of dark energy around the bad guy, who was represented as a twisted version of the people they were sworn to protect, slowly trying to lull the heroes to his side. That was epic. The reboot destroyed these principles in favour of a more basic storyline to draw a new audience.
They chose one of the gimmick features of the early 2000 Bionicle sets, simplified the story with no real lack of consequence and made the bad guy a traditional “I want all the power and I want to rule the world” motive. It wasn’t the same, and hence why LEGO pulled the plug again, what they had, they lost.
But that leads into my counter-question, what classifies as a reboot? Does it need to carry the same name, story or aesthetic? Does Castle 2007 count as a reboot for Classic Castle? What about Knight’s Kingdom? Does the 2015 Pirates wave count as a reboot for Classic Pirates? Or my personal favourite, does The LEGO Movie ‘Spaceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP!!!’ and ‘Space Squad’ count as a reboot for Classic Space?
….Or the book exclusive with the Orange Classic Spaceman? Or the other Classic-Space Book Micro-Builds? Or the Exo-suit LEGO Ideas with the Green Classic inspired Spaceman? Or the CMF Minifigure series that have the Classic Space logos plastered all over them?