In Defense of Lego VidiYo and What Could Have Been

Not every toy line is a smashing success, and even the big names have experienced a few failures to launch. It really sucks when you are one of the few who actually enjoy said line and see the potential for it to be great. Yes, I am one of the handfuls of people who actually really enjoyed the Lego Vidiyo line and am sorry to see it go.

With less than a full year on shelves (March 2021 – January 2022), Vidiyo got written off and called a flop before the full first round of products was fully released. Yes, this product suffered from some strategic missteps and never really seemed to leave Beta versions, but I don’t think it’s fair to completely write it off. The concept and idea behind it were solid, and dare I say it… innovative. It just fell apart in the execution.

It didn’t have to be this way.

What Is Lego Vidiyo:

To quote directly from Lego’s official site, Lego Vidiyo is:

… a music video maker for kids, that combines old-school bricks with state-of-the-art AR tech to revolutionize kids screen time! Because why should creative kids just consume content… when they could be making it instead?

Lego.com

It’s a neat concept. You get a very cartoonish minifigure, a special base, and a handful of Beatbit tiles in each box. You’re directed to download an app and scan in your character and tiles – similar to a QR code – to have your figure come to life through augmented reality. Depending on what you scan in, you can unlock different video effects or character stylings. From there, you can select a song from a small library of music thanks to a partnership with Universal Music Group, and “film” a music video directing the minifigure with the tiles you selected. The video can be viewed and stored only using the approved app.

Lego Vidiyo Party Llama Character and Beatbits (Lego.com)

According to the official press release, this launch was aimed at ages 7-10 and provided a “refreshing opportunity for children to express themselves creatively.” Then, they proved they really know this age demographic by releasing a branded single with a costumed character and well-known childhood icon, Ne-Yo.

Honestly, I had no idea about the music video here until well after I found out about the product line.

Why I Liked It:

Initially, I grabbed the $20 “Beat Box” with the Unicorn DJ because I thought I could do something clever with it for an Instagram post and the price was right. And, like, it was really cute! Once I dug into the set and saw some of the pop culture references on the Beat Bits, I bought in.

A lot of the theming and design for Vidiyo were clearly pulled from Millennial music. Going through everything you can find homages to 80s hair metal, 90s RnB, and 00’s Emo phase. We’re talking about the characters, app features, dance moves, beatbits, all of it. I mean, come on… the shark heads for the characters look almost identical to the shark fruit snacks of my youth (and also the infamous Katy Perry Left Shark at the same time). This makes sense, Millennials are probably the ones designing it since we’re not actually still children. These figures were designed to be homages to music that the “parents” are familiar with, not the kids.

The price point for the larger sets wasn’t bad either. “Adult” Lego sets can run hundreds of dollars. The most expensive Vidiyo set was still in the double digits. It was also a boombox, so again… tell me who it was designed for because I don’t think children know or appreciate what cassette tapes are these days.

In summary; a toy I played with as a child released a cute, colorful, musical nostalgia bomb that costs enough to feel like a treat but not so much that I have to give up groceries for a week. Yes, I’m going to get it.

Why It Should Have Worked:

On all accounts, Lego Vidiyo should have been a modest hit. The Blind Box concept is a staple item in collector toys and Lego has clearly had success with it in just about every minifigure release. Minifig sets themselves are clear winners for the brand as well. These minifigures are really cute and unique!

The little square beatbits included with the packaging were also a neat idea; 2×2 tiles printed with a loose resemblance to some recognizable musical moment. There are 122 of them to collect as well with some tied directly to the minifigures/sets and some a random luck of the draw. It felt a little like a “gotta catch ’em all” situation, which we all know is an established win for any toy collectible. Lego clearly likes the concept since they’ve reused it with the 20th Anniversary Harry Potter sets including random Wizard Cards.

The thing that I thought would have been an added bonus was the integration of technology into physical creative play. Like it or not, children have their own screens and are making digital content. Augmented reality is cool and already used in so many clever ways. Why not lean into it?

Also, as discussed above, the nostalgia bit. Life is hard and people want to be reminded of things of their youth when everything felt easier. Lego knows this, that’s why they’re doing things like releasing sets from Friends & Spice Girls.

Of course, I have the Spice Girl set…

Where It Went Wrong:

You might have noticed that I haven’t brought up the app yet. That’s because it was pretty bad. It felt like it was stuck in perpetual Beta testing; it crashed and glitched and DRAINED your phone battery something fierce. When half of your product depends on an app, you need to make sure it’s functioning the way you want it to. It felt like certain aspects of the experience were put in the “figure it out live” category and they never really did.

It was also completely insular; you could not save and share your Vidiyo videos outside of the app. You also could not really connect with friends on the app. In theory, you could watch other people’s Vidiyos on the main feed, but I never got one to work. It was as though the designers took a social media feed and removed all social aspects from it. Since this toy was presented to be aimed at children, I do understand how the choice was made to lock it down because of privacy concerns. I also understand how Lego probably didn’t want to create and manage a whole new social networking platform because that’s a lot of a headache. What I don’t quite understand is why you couldn’t save the Vidiyo directly to your device. I assume it had to do with the music licensing, but I suspect that could have been worked around for short clips. Kinda like how they did for HitClips back in the day.

However, remember the quote from the Lego site, I brought up earlier?

… a music video maker for kids, that combines old-school bricks with state-of-the-art AR tech to revolutionize kids screen time! Because why should creative kids just consume content… when they could be making it instead?

Lego.com

Is it really creating content when you can’t share it?

The lack of user sharing did Lego a huge disservice. In addition to essentially nullifying a large portion of your branded mission statement, it cut off a huge opportunity for organic marketing. Children have social media accounts now, COPPA be damned, and adults like to play with toys too. These videos could have created some great user-generated content for Lego without the company having to do a thing, as well as having some localized virality among friend groups – which is absolutely how kids end up wanting new toys.

The second issue was the mixed messages when it came to demographics. With the product itself leaning towards a younger audience but the theming and musical references skewing towards their parents, I don’t know if Lego knew what direction they wanted to push Vidiyo.

Ultimately, the line has been put on hiatus for 2022 with maybe a relaunch for 2023, but it’s not looking likely.

How I’d “Remix” it:

As someone with an opinion on everything, I have some thoughts on how to save this line without completely throwing the whole thing out the door. The bones are good. It just needs a little shaping.

First, I would figure out how to make the app work better and at least allow the content created with it be able to be saved to the device. I’m not a legal expert but I would imagine that there is a way to make that not be a liability for Lego. Next, in addition to another round of minifigs, I would relaunch with a set of low to mid-tier priced builds that actually had some building involved instead of the pop-in-place construction of the Beat Boxes.

Lastly, assuming that Lego wants to keep this target demographic in the 7-10 age range, I would look for an up-and-coming musical act that was in the late elementary demographic and team up with them to do a small-scale partnership. You need someone like XOMGPop!. Not only would there be Studio Siwa involved, but their candy-coated dance troupe vibe is exactly the energy needed to bring some life back to this line. Plus, they were at a big licensing event in Vegas this spring so you know they’re looking for a tie-in. I actually have some real thoughts on what this could look like, which I should save for another day because this post is already hella long.

My unsolicited sale pitch aside, there is such an opportunity to leverage the connection with UMG to find music acts to collaborate with. If that falls through, both Nickelodeon and Disney are elbow deep in that age range and can probably provide opportunities beyond just commercial time to make those same connections within that demographic. Also, omg… Encanto-themed Minifigs & Beatbits? Yes, please!

Conclusion:

Lego’s Vidiyo is a fun idea with a lot of potential that struggled to deliver on its promised intentions. That happens when you’re the first to do a new, innovative idea that hasn’t been fully tested. If the company takes what it learned from the exposed weaknesses (and somehow reads this and listens to me about my partnership proposal), I believe this can be reworked into a successful product line with ample opportunity for growth in the future.

And, if not, I have a full collection of a “hard to find” Lego line that should provide some potential resell value in about 10 years when it becomes chic again.

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