Fans of LEGO Collectible Minifigures (CMF) are in for some major changes in 2023 – as LEGO have officially revealed that they will be transitioning the current blind bag format to a more sustainable cardboard packaging format from September 2023 onwards.
I was privileged enough to sit in a small, closed group interview with the following members from the LEGO Minifigures and Packaging team, and got to hear first hand from Rose Shulman (Sustainable Packaging Manager), Myra Lind (Marketing Manager, LEGO Minifigures) and Lukas Brza (Packaging Specialist) on these changes, and more importantly, the context behind it. They have also graciously shared some concept ideas and photos.
This is in line with LEGO’s efforts to fully transition to fully sustainable and recyclable packaging by 2025, which is a company-wide mandate.
This is understandably, going to upset quite a few people, as you can automatically tell that it’s going to be near-impossible to “feel” and easily identify Collectible Minifigures, which has been a tradition as old as time, given that these boxes are rigid and it looks like there won’t be any way to identify minifigures.
I hope to give you a bit more context into the conversation and Q&A with the LEGO Minifigures team, and what I think this means for LEGO Minifigures, so do read until the end, and I’d love for you to share your thoughts after digesting this news.
Firstly – I am a MASSIVE fan of LEGO Minifigures, and if you’ve been following the blog for some time, you’ll know that LEGO Minifigure reviews and the theme in general is one of my favourites from LEGO, so I feel very passionately not just about this line, but also what it means for fans.
Again, these changes are not happening immediately, and LEGO have plans for this to be live from September 2023 onwards.
Here’s a mockup of the final LEGO Minifigures Packaging.
And here are some actual production samples.
Why is LEGO making this change?
LEGO have a pretty ambitious mandate – to ensure that all their packaging are sustainable by 2025. This is a company-wide initiative, so this impacts nearly every single product produced.
This is why we’ve seen upcoming changes such as internal plastic bags switching to paper very soon, LEGO showcasing their prototype bricks made from recycled plastic and more recently, the new paper-based packaging for LEGO Baseplates.
This isn’t the LEGO Minifigures team cooking up new ways to sell more product, or to make it more frustrating for consumers and fans.
Again, this is a company-wide mandate, and the LEGO Minifigures and Packaging team began thinking about how to solve this problem of transitioning to sustainable packaging way back in 2019, so this has been in the works for some time.
When large corporations and brands like LEGO make huge strategic changes like this to completely move away from single-use plastics, it often comes from the top (senior/executive leadership), and there are often wide-ranging impacts, as all teams and stakeholders need to work out how to make this work.
Again, this isn’t greenwashing or marketing, but there are business considerations too – as many of LEGO’s top markets (most recently Canada) are beginning to ban the use of single-use plastics, so LEGO are pretty on the ball here to begin this process early, and start working out solutions.
Making an effort to consider the “culture” and history of LEGO Collectible Minifigures
It was slightly comforting that the team involved with this were acutely aware of the culture of “feeling minifigures” at stores. In one of the presentation slides, it was even titled “an important culture”, and they acknowledged that in their search for a solution.
In the Q&A, I did ask them, that how this new packaging would maintain and honour the culture and tradition of “feeling minifigures”.
Their response below:
This was a difficult decision, especially as we recognize how the experience of ‘feeling-the-bag’ is so significant within the community. However, whilst we need to make this trade-off, we believe it is for the greater good of delivering a more sustainable and functional packaging solution for LEGO Minifigures that hones in on our Planet Promise. As it stands, we have no plans for creating identifying features on the packaging, however you never know what happens in the future.
Brickset also did pose questions about whether there would be any identifiers or markers on the outside of the packaging, akin to barcodes and dot codes that appeared in the first few series.
For those new to LEGO, LEGO Series 1 had unique barcodes for each minifigure (see below), and earlier series had dot codes (raised bumps) on each blind bag that could very reliably tell what was inside.
Their responses were not reassuring:
As it stands, we have no plans for creating identifying features on the packaging, however you never know what will happen in the future.
The focus of the brief was on securing a more sustainable packaging solution that uses renewable materials and can be recycled in many of our markets. So whilst there will not be external identifiers at launch you never know what we will work on for the future.
A really insightful part of the presentation, were taking us through the different prototypes that had to work with.
Option 1: was these paper-based bags/sachets.
Option 2 were these moulded minifigure-head or square-shaped packs which were made out of pulp which had a chamber that you could store the contents in.
Option 3 had a few variations – these cardboard packaging which has triangular shapes.
Also these cubical packaging formats, which had customisable shapes.
And these pillow packaging.
After narrowing down the format, which was the cubical format, the team also explored different shapes and played around with these concepts before deciding on the square ones.
These remind me slightly of the Vidiyo Bandmates square packaging, but the team were conscious and worked intensively to find a solution that would be flexible in shape, and unlike the LEGO VIDIYO boxes, would allow us to pack each box with elements, without needing a single-use plastic pre-pack bag. In our transition to a more sustainable packaging solution, this was a key success factor for us.
Interestingly, The new LEGO Minifigures boxes are different to those used for LEGO VIDIYO Bandmates. However, as a direct result of this experience, we did make structural changes to the LEGO Minifigures boxes to avoid incidents of theft as Vidiyo Bandmates boxes were very easy to open.
The new LEGO Minifigures boxes are more secure as they are sealed by a machine all the way around and not with labels as the Bandmates boxes were. In fact, we had been discussing an easy open function for the LEGO Minifigures boxes but decided against it based on the learnings from LEGO VIDIYO.
My thoughts on the new LEGO Minifigures Packaging
I will miss the old packaging for sure as these are so iconic to me. LEGO Minifigures was actually one of the things that brought me out of my dark ages, so I will forever be grateful to the theme for bringing me back, as this blog would likely not exist without it.
Feeling minifigures, writing feel guides, and helping people identify minifigures they want is such an important piece of content I focus on, and something I look forward sharing in my LEGO Minifigures Reviews.
While I support the move away from plastic blind bags, I think it’s a terrible, and consumer unfriendly idea to have these truly be “blind boxes”.
In the followup conversations, many Fan Media Ambassadors who participated (including myself), did raise up the fact that this would not be received well by fans, and did try to push them towards reconsidering identifiable markings, or even a QR code that you could scan to tell you what’s inside.
I don’t like the idea of completely blind boxes, because these LEGO Minifigures aren’t cheap, and many fans, mostly want to either complete a whole set, or just get the characters they want, instead of “gambling”.
With subtle markings or a way to tell what’s inside, you can still choose to be surprised and get a “random” minifigure, and it provides the best of both worlds.
Thankfully, each complete box will still contain 36 boxes minifigures, so it’s very likely that LEGO will continue to include 3x complete sets per box.
I also think that this new “blind” format does allow LEGO to do some fun, collectible stuff like random secret inclusions, or re-introduce super chase minifigures (Mrs Gold, anyone?) or mess around with rarity to turn Collectible Minifigures into some rarity-driven theme.
Personally, I also think its wasteful to encourage overconsumption, as fans might buy more than what they need just to roll the dice, and get the character(s) they want. I don’t think these things should be ingrained in kids, as they are already exposed to so many different blind boxes, or virtual loot boxes in video games.
What you can do to help shift LEGO’s view
Remember, this new change only takes effect in September 2023, and packaging only gets finalised much closer to the date – likely about before the end of 2022.
You need to be vocal if you do not like this change, and share your feedback accordingly.
LEGO have encouraged everyone to share their thoughts on this, so please leave a comment below, as I’ll be collating feedback from my readers and community on this change.
I think the door is not completely closed on having identifiable markings, or some way to tell what’s inside, so it’s really important to make your voice heard.
I buy a LOT of LEGO Minifigures – after getting a complete set, it’s not unusual for me to “army build” minifigures I like from the series, and this will absolutely reduce my appetite to buy if I cannot tell what’s inside, so I will literally buy less LEGO Minifigures when this change occurs.
What are your thoughts on the new sustainable LEGO Minifigures packaging? Do you think it’s a good change?
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