When the blind-bagged characters first debuted in 2010, finding specific minifigures was mercifully easy. Each packet carried a barcode pattern unique to one of the 16 characters in the box, so all you needed to do was cross-reference that pattern to pick out your faves.
The LEGO Group quickly picked up on that method of side-stepping the surprise nature of the Collectible Minifigures, however, and by the time the third series arrived in 2011, the unique codes were gone.
That meant the only avenue left for buying specific characters was man-handling their flexible plastic packaging. And while that approach served us well for the rest of the decade, it looks like that’s all about to change – at least if LEGO VIDIYO is any indication.
The augmented-reality theme’s new series of collectible characters, 43101 Bandmates, comes packed in cardboard boxes rather than plastic packaging. If that’s at all suggestive of what’s to come with the regular Collectible Minifigures series, we could be in for a rough ride.
In case it wasn’t obvious, you can’t exactly fondle cardboard boxes to figure out what’s inside. At best, you’ll be able to shake them to hear how densely-packed they are, which could give some hint of the contents, maybe? (We’re clutching at straws here.)
It’s tough to complain too much about the switch, because it’s obviously way more environmentally-friendly. The packets used up until now can’t be widely recycled all around the world – and therefore don’t really gel with the LEGO Group’s ambitions to use only sustainable packaging by 2025.
But it’s probably also not too much of a stretch to imagine that the company is very happy with the change for a different reason. If collectors can no longer seek out individual characters, they’ll be forced to either buy truly blindly (for the first time in the theme’s history) or pick up an entire box in one go, which is obviously no bad thing for the LEGO Group’s bottom line.
The choice that we may face as consumers (should the cardboard packaging indeed transfer beyond VIDIYO to the regular Collectible Minifigures line-up) is pretty binary, then: either be prepared to part with stacks of cash (whether to buy an entire box or keep blindly buying characters), or sack off the theme altogether.
If collectors begin to ditch the blind boxes en masse, it’ll be interesting to see how the LEGO Group reacts. Will it find a way to make their contents more obvious to those who care to find out (as with the earliest series’ barcodes), or will it simply retire the long-running theme?
It might have been incredible to think of that happening even a year ago, but we’ve already seen this year’s 71029 Series 21 pare things back to just 12 characters from the usual 16 – even if that decision apparently wasn’t motivated by sales.
Whatever the future holds for the Collectible Minifigures, it seems very likely that in the immediate term, we’re going to be looking at a very different packaging style.