Time for some controversial opinions!
Ever since I got my hands on a few discounted LEGO Friends sets a few years ago I’ve been mostly disappointed with LEGO City sets. Even in the smaller Friends sets I was pleasantly surprised with the level of detail in brick built landscaping. Yes, not everybody is a fan of minidolls or the abundance of pink parts. I’m not a minidolls fan either. This is not my point though.
My take on this will be very biased and nostalgic. I grew up with LEGO sets from the eighties and nineties. Every curve or angle needed to be built with rather simple parts and limited colors. This has shaped my use of LEGO bricks and taught me to express myself creatively. One of the themes I frequently got was Town, the current City theme. So judging sets for children (when buying presents etcetera) I will always look for a challenging build suitable for their age. To give a similar experience like LEGO was for me as a child.
However, looking at the current City range the building experience just doesn’t look right above 5 or 6 years old. Yes, kids will play with the sets for sure. However the ‘educational’ quality of sets in this theme just isn’t there like I remember it to be. Especially buildings lean heavily on big bricks or panels. Or use very specific parts that replace brick built solutions. In my view this results in very simplistic sets. Is that really what LEGO is about these days? Stuntz is another example within the City range showing this trend. Big ramps and specialized big parts for playing with the bikes. Surely this will provide loads of fun for younger kids. However, when kids grow older interest in playing that way will fade. And the toy will just end up not being used anymore because of limited rebuilding options.
There are indeed plenty of interesting parts like animals or minifigure parts that make City sets worth buying. So even AFOLs will contribute to plenty of sales for the City theme. This means there might not be an economic necessity for LEGO to change anything to the range of sets.
But here I want to go back to compare product ranges between City and Friends again. Looking at the Summer 2023 wave, the Friends wave has a very clear age range from easy to harder to build sets. The 41737 Beach Adventure Park might be the best example. It’s a 1,348pcs 12+ set featuring Technic play functions.
This buildup isn’t that obvious within the City products range. All sets provide more or less a similar building experience focused on big parts. Also advanced techniques like Technic play functions are absent from the bigger sets
And next to that there seems to be a cycle of releasing updated versions of the same sets over and over. The food stalls are mostly ice cream, pizzas, burgers or hotdogs, where Friends has a big diversity in food parts.
And the ever present police chases and fire rescues can be a bit lackluster at times as well. The sub themes like Arctic/Space/Jungle/Miners also come back with similar color schemes every few years. Last year provided an exception with the farm subtheme, but 3 out of 4 sets retired within 6 months. Hardly enough to judge the potential success I’d say. Of course kids are the target audience for City and they won’t be aware of the repeats if they grow up.
So Friends tried to freshen up the theme with the reboot of January 2023. Introducing new characters, artwork and changing the color palette. And only judging by AFOL reaction this has been rather successful. Friends is perceived as being more interesting as it used to be. So is it time for City to get the same treatment? New sub themes, more diverse sets, adding sets with more advanced building experiences?
What do you think? Is LEGO City great the way it is right now or would you like to see the theme changed? If so, what changes would you like to see? Share your thoughts in the comments below.