We’re now at the halfway mark in 2022, and the LEGO Group has already found plenty of ways to surprise us this year – for better and worse.
Clearly not content to rest on its laurels, the LEGO Group has this year come through with some seriously surprising products – while also making some seriously strange decisions, both in respect to its portfolio and beyond. It’s all added up to another fascinating six months in the LEGO-sphere, in which we’re never quite sure what to expect next. (Until it’s rumoured, anyway.)
From new partnerships to fan service (or the lack thereof), here are 10 ways the LEGO Group has managed to surprise us in 2022.
10 – Its first PlayStation set
From the moment Horizon Zero Dawn debuted in 2017, its robotic dinosaurs seemed prime for transforming into LEGO models – an idea the wider community quickly made reality through countless custom builds. And for a while, it seemed like the only way we’d ever get a LEGO Tallneck or Thunderjaw, because the source material seemed beyond the realms of the LEGO licensing machine.
Quelle surprise, then, when 76989 Horizon Forbidden West: Tallneck was unveiled back in February, a full three months ahead of launch. It’s since arrived to acclaim from the fan community, and has continually sold out at LEGO.com. Here’s hoping that prompts the LEGO Group to bring us that Thunderjaw, too – or at least more PlayStation-inspired sets in general.
9 – Ignoring an anniversary
Look, it’s no secret that the LEGO Group properly loves an anniversary. In 2019, it released an entire wave of sets to commemorate 20 years of LEGO Star Wars; last year saw both NINJAGO and Harry Potter’s respective anniversaries celebrated through unique minifigures; and this year is almost entirely focused on the LEGO Group’s 90th birthday.
But when it comes to Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, all that anniversary love has mysteriously up and vanished. The middle prequel movie is getting remarkably little attention in the LEGO line-up this year, with just two sets to date in 40558 Clone Trooper Command Station and 75333 Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Jedi Starfighter. We’re still waiting on that Geonosian Arena…
8 – So many LEGO CON reveals
You know it, we know it and the LEGO Group knows it: LEGO CON 2021 was a bit of a damp squib for set reveals. And that’s fine! It was never meant to be anything more – at least at the time. The company clearly heard feedback from the wider fan community, however, and delivered an extraordinary medley of new stuff in this year’s livestreamed event.
Among the new sets shown off for the first time – and, perhaps even more surprisingly, not leaked beforehand – were 10497 Galaxy Explorer, 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle, 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum, 75337 AT-TE Walker and 31207 Floral Art. June 18 was a big day for LEGO fans, and we’re already looking forward to LEGO CON 2023 as a result.
7 – A Deathly Hallows set
Last year, the LEGO Harry Potter team deflated expectations of ever getting more sets anchored around the final Wizarding World movie(s), suggesting the Deathly Hallows wasn’t quite as suitable for the theme’s target audience as earlier entries. But it turns out they were only joking, because this summer’s range has ventured into the seventh movie after all with 76403 The Ministry of Magic.
Yes, it’s only one set so far, but it’s one of the biggest in the summer wave, and is attached very distinctly to the Deathly Hallows through its minifigure line-up. Fingers crossed it’s just the start of a magical relationship between the LEGO design team and the climactic moments of the Harry Potter saga.
6 – Partnering with Hasbro
If the LEGO Group’s partnership with PlayStation was surprising, its collaboration with Hasbro was a revelation. These are two titans of the toy industry, and historically competitors, coming together for the first time for a product with both logos on the box in 10302 Optimus Prime. LEGO and Transformers are two brands we never expected to see together, but here we are.
Head here to find out more how it happened, directly from the set’s designer Joseph Patrick Kyde. It’s a fascinating story, if only for the fact that we still can’t quite believe it happened at all.
5 – A highly-coveted minifigure…
The fans asked, and the LEGO Star Wars team listened: Commander Cody is finally making a comeback in this summer’s 75337 AT-TE Walker. It’s a clone-heavy set, with three 212th troopers and a Clone Gunner in the box too, and looks like a stand-out set from the summer wave. Given just how long the community has been clamouring for Cody, this will be one set that’s likely to sell out very quickly.
4 – …but not a highly-coveted animal
While the LEGO Star Wars team is happy to cater to fans’ requests, however, the LEGO Group has also passed up yet another chance to bring back the goat in this summer’s City farm sets. We’ve got a lamb, chickens, a calf, piglets, a new sheep, rabbits and so much more, but nowhere in the mix is a goat – much to the chagrin of LEGO animal collectors everywhere, given how much the current goat commands on the aftermarket.
3 – The return of tall minifigures
There have been plenty of reasons for the LEGO Group to reintroduce its longer minifigure legs – originally used for Woody and Jessie in the original wave of Toy Story sets – but we never thought blue cat people would be the catalyst that made it happen. But it’s 2022, a year in which expectations are clearly made to be defied.
Cue the announcement of LEGO Avatar – in itself surprising, for debuting sets based on a movie now 13 years old – and the return of the longer legs last seen in the early ‘10s. Now that they’re back, it’s surely only a matter of time before the LEGO Star Wars team reconsiders its attitude towards them for characters like Chewbacca and Darth Vader… right?
2 – Postponing a set, for all the right reasons
One particularly welcome surprise in 2022 (so far) was the LEGO Group postponing the planned launch of 76980 Titan, its first (and only) set based on Overwatch 2. Disappointing for franchise fans, no doubt, but also absolutely the right decision in the wake of revelations surrounding corporate culture at developers Activision Blizzard.
If the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)’s lawsuit has passed you by, click here to find out why it’s such a big deal – and why its impact has been felt as far as LEGO Overwatch sets.
1 – Not one, but two 90th anniversary sets
In early 2021, the LEGO Group launched a poll to choose a theme to celebrate the LEGO Group’s 90th anniversary. We’ve since waited with bated breath to learn whether Castle, Space, Pirates or BIONICLE would be selected for this summer’s commemorative set – only to find that the LEGO Group has smashed its own rules by choosing not one, but two themes to champion.
Those are Castle and Space in 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle and 10497 Galaxy Explorer respectively, both of which pay perfect tribute to vintage (and much-loved) themes and sets. They’ll both arrive in August, but 10497 Galaxy Explorer is already available to pre-order in the US.
Will the next six months have similar surprises in store? Time will tell, but based on everything that’s already happened in 2022, we’re going to go out on a limb and say: yes. Absolutely. We can’t see any other outcome…