10 times LEGO genuinely surprised us in 2022
From partnerships we never saw coming to weird and wild announcements, 2022 has been another year full of surprises from the LEGO Group – for better and worse.
As we rocket towards the close of another year, there’s no time like the present to reflect on the 12 months just gone. We’ve already counted down our top 10 LEGO sets and top 10 LEGO minifigures from 2022, but beyond just pure products released across the last year, the LEGO Group has continually found new and more impressive ways to surprise us.
That wasn’t always for the better – some of these surprises were met with resounding negativity from the community, with good reason – but you can’t say this hobby doesn’t keep you perpetually on your toes. Hold on to your hats: here are 10 times the LEGO Group surprised us in 2022…
10 – A LEGO Deathly Hallows set
The LEGO Group has been famously (and frustratingly) recalcitrant in its attitude towards Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sets since resurrecting the Wizarding World theme in 2018, going as far as saying that the later Potter movies weren’t the right fit for its key demographic. Quelle surprise, then, when the company unveiled its summer Harry Potter wave back in April, which was headlined by 76403 The Ministry of Magic. Here’s hoping it’s the first of many.
9 – The end of LEGO VIDIYO
It’s very rare that the LEGO Group actively announces the end of a theme, and even rarer for that to happen midway through production, probably because it’s a bit like admitting that it’s failed – but that’s exactly what happened with LEGO VIDIYO. The company confirmed in January that it had pushed the pause button on the theme, and no new sets have arrived since.
This one was perhaps not too unexpected given the initial reception to the augmented reality-theme, which was criticised for being too expensive and too reliant on the corresponding app, but it’s still surprising to see the LEGO Group say it out loud.
8 – LEGO sets based on a 13-year-old film
The LEGO Group doesn’t always focus exclusively on the here and now – look at LEGO Star Wars, or in 2023, The Lord of the Rings – but deep dives into cinematic history are typically preserved for some of the biggest cultural icons around. Despite its box office standing, few people would count James Cameron’s Avatar in the same ballpark, but that didn’t stop the LEGO Group from releasing an entire wave of sets anchored around Pandora in October.
A second wave tied to Avatar: The Way of Water will arrive on shelves on January 1, which feels a little more relevant, and arguably you’d need the first film’s sets to give them that context. But maybe the most surprising thing about 2022’s freshest licensed theme was the return of long minifigure legs…
7 – Doing the right thing by Overwatch 2
Thanks to images that surfaced first through an online retailer, and then through a product catalogue, we know that the LEGO Group had at least one set in the pipeline for Overwatch 2. But the company confirmed to Brick Fanatics in January that it had postponed the launch of 76980 Titan – now seemingly indefinitely – while it reviewed its partnership with publisher Activision Blizzard, which is currently being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for (among other things) allowing and encouraging sexual misconduct towards its female employees.
We couldn’t say we were confident at the time that the LEGO Group would do the right thing, but all credit to the higher-ups: pausing the product launch was definitely the right decision. (Here’s why.)
6 – SDCC exclusives are no more
For years, the LEGO Group simultaneously delighted convention attendees and aggravated the rest of the world by launching San Diego Comic-Con-exclusive sets and minifigures, which typically command extortionate prices on the aftermarket.
If there’s one good thing to come out of the pandemic, though, it’s that in disrupting the release schedule for those sets – the LEGO Group was forced to distribute 2020’s exclusives through US retailers after the physical convention was cancelled – it created a path for the company to abandon them altogether. As of summer 2022, SDCC exclusives are apparently no more. Let’s hope it stays that way.
5 – Current and future LEGO Ideas sets
Across three different reviews in 2022, the LEGO Ideas team managed to surprise us on three separate occasions with the sets it’s picked to go into production. Who could have predicted we’d one day see LEGO sets based on BTS (hello, zeitgeist), Hocus Pocus (a critically-panned ‘90s movie) and the Orient Express (LEGO Ideas has never done trains before)? Not us, we’ll tell you. We are very much looking forward to that train, though.
At the same time, some of this year’s brand new LEGO Ideas releases have managed to surprise in good ways and bad. 21333 Vincent van Gogh – The Starry Night was even better than we expected, while 21337 Table Football has already proven to be one of the theme’s most troublesome products: development was so difficult that the LEGO Group nearly canned it completely, and it’s already available for 30% off.
4 – A trio of mega Marvel models
In 2022, LEGO Marvel joined Star Wars and Icons in the ranks of themes receiving more than two £150+ sets in one calendar year. And one of its three mega models – 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum – has arrived to a very warm reception, not least among modular building collectors. But the other two? Hmm. Maybe the less said about 76210 Hulkbuster and 76215 Black Panther the better.
Both of those sets are surprising additions to the LEGO Marvel line-up for different reasons, but the one that unifies them both is… who was asking for these sets? Very few people (at least judging by comments online), and while that’s not always a prerequisite to a good set – the LEGO Group has surprised us in good ways before, like with 76178 Daily Bugle – neither of these seems to have found much of an audience.
3 – Prices up, down, and – finally – up, up, up
In January, the LEGO Group surprised us all by adjusting the prices of dozens of its sets in the UK and Europe, supposedly for better consistency across the continent. These were mostly minimal tweaks, and some sets even came out the other side a little bit cheaper. It turned out that was only a taste of what was to come, though: and the main course would be much more severe.
In August and September, the LEGO Group took the unprecedented step of increasing prices on a quarter of its portfolio mid-production, citing ‘increased raw material and production costs’, with some sets rising at exorbitant rates. Simply put: we’re never going to financially recover from this.
2 – LEGO and Hasbro: working together?
While the LEGO Group’s big new licensed theme for 2022 was surprising enough, it wasn’t the only partnership that blew our minds this year. The biggest surprise set was undoubtedly 10302 Optimus Prime, partly for being a Transformers set that can genuinely transform, but before that for being the first LEGO set created in conjunction with Hasbro – traditionally one of the LEGO Group’s biggest industry rivals.
You can read how it happened here, or click here to check out just a few of the doors that it could open for the LEGO Group.
1 – LEGO CON was actually good
We’ve saved the biggest surprise of the year for last: this summer’s LEGO CON event was actually really good. That’s in terms of both the show itself, which entirely stepped up its game from 2021, but also the reveals it had to offer, with multiple new sets unveiled live during the streamed event.
Among those were our number one product of the year, 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle – launched to celebrate the company’s 90th anniversary – and 75337 AT-TE Walker, one of 2022’s best Star Wars sets. We’re already looking forward to LEGO CON 2023.
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