LEGO conspiracy theory links short shelf lives to subscription service

Tin foil hats at the ready: one LEGO fan reckons the LEGO Group is shortening shelf lives of sets to sell them through its subscription service.

According to Brick Fanatics’ sources, a number of LEGO sets that have only just launched – or have even yet to arrive on shelves – will be retiring from production at the end of 2022. Among those are 75321 The Razor Crest Microfighter, all three Marvel mechs, the Spidey and his Amazing Friends range, both new Harry Potter Hogwarts Moment books, and 76183 Batcave: The Riddler Face-off.

The typical shelf life of any regular retail set is around 18 months, though some subthemes are shorter, while others are longer: the Microfighters generally last around 12 months (with exceptions like 2021’s 75298 AT-AT vs. Tauntaun Microfighters), while some LEGO for Adults sets, like 10255 Assembly Square, can remain in production for years.

What’s more surprising is the number of traditional LEGO sets that aren’t part of those subthemes slated to leave shelves within a year, or in the case of those Harry Potter sets, just nine months. There is precedent within that range – two of last year’s Hogwarts Moments retired before 2022 – but the Batman and Spider-Man sets feel harder to fathom.

But like any good LEGO mystery in the 21st century, there’s a conspiracy theory for that.

In his latest Q&A video, LEGO YouTuber MandRproductions responds to a question posed by one of his viewers, Taylor Hauser, which reads: “Brick Fanatics just released a list of sets retiring in 2022. A few sets surprised me to be on the retiring list… Is this what the LEGO subscription [service] is going to be? You pay five bucks a month so you have access to sets [for] longer?”

Hauser posits that the LEGO Group is deliberately shortening shelf lives for sets, so it can charge LEGO fans to access their second and/or third years in production. The LEGO subscription service – in case you haven’t heard – is not a sure thing at the moment, but the company floated the concept in a VIP survey back in December 2021.

Among the potential benefits of such a service was the opportunity to buy ‘past sets from the LEGO archive’, with a proposed price point of £4.99 per month. But given what we know of the LEGO Group’s production processes, it’s difficult to imagine ‘past sets’ referring to anything other than recently-retired sets that didn’t sell particularly well the first time round.

LEGO is considering a subscription service with access to retired sets
A surprising number of LEGO fans aren’t interested in a subscription service

It’s not like the company is secretly sitting on a warehouse full of Green Grocers or Café Corners (right…?), and we’ve been told time and again by designers that many of the moulds for older elements no longer exist, preventing particular sets from re-entering production. That leaves only the sets that didn’t sell through initially – or sets that may have been deliberately retired prematurely.

Okay, this theory is really as ‘tin foil hat’ as it gets, but it’s tricky to rule anything out with the LEGO Group. As a company, it’s often as unpredictable as it is predictable – that’s all part of the fun – and this could simply be a way of managing inventory volume as much as anything. Why waste production capacity on smaller sets that won’t necessarily sell, while heavy hitters like 10294 Titanic and 76178 Daily Bugle remain perpetually unavailable?

Producing a smaller number of Batcaves or Spider-Man HQs for those fans signed up to the subscription service could be one way to tailor demand, in the face of continued shorter supply. But that’s perhaps putting too much stock in this conspiratorial idea, and ‘past sets from the archive’ does suggest the products in question would be older than ‘last year’.

We won’t know for sure until the LEGO Group reveals more about its potential subscription service – should it ever come to pass. In the meantime, click here for everything we definitely know about it so far.

Would you pay £4.99 a month for a LEGO subscription service to purchase recently-retired LEGO sets? Let us know in the comments.

Support the work that Brick Fanatics does by purchasing your LEGO using our affiliate links.

Chris Wharfe

I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then. You can follow me on Twitter at @brfa_chris.

One thought on “LEGO conspiracy theory links short shelf lives to subscription service

  • 09/02/2022 at 22:56
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    No I would not and I really resent the prospect of being asked to pay £5 a month for the benefit of buying sets that should be freely available to buy still to everyone. This screams of money grabbing by Lego and not what I would expect from them. I a huge and loyal fan but this proposal feels a tough pill to swallow. I filled the survey at the time. I just hope enough fans feel the same way and don’t encourage this charge for in effect just having the ‘right’ to shop for their products. This feels very wrong! I took a look at all the other ‘benefits’ but nothing else felt worth the monthly fee, just a bunch of half baked filler ‘perks’.

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