Connect the dots, people. And not just the official LEGO theme “Dots.”
Today, LEGO finally officially revealed their LEGO Ideas Sonic the Hedgehog set, and it raises one very important question: will there be more.
I’m typically a skeptic whenever excited fans of a LEGO Ideas project cry for a full theme of it, but Sonic seems uniquely prepared for more, and no, it’s not because I expect it to be extraordinarily successful or because fans care or anything like that.
It’s because of two little pins on the end.
If you’re unfamiliar with the LEGO Ideas program, LEGO’s rumored “Games” branding, or just the core LEGO connectors, we need to lay out why all this is important to the Sonic set.
LEGO Ideas is an officially run crowdsourcing platform where LEGO fans can build models, get public support, and potentially get their model made into a retail LEGO set. To get a set approved, you need to submit it to the LEGO Ideas website, get 10,000 supporters on that website, and wait to see if the plethora of LEGO designers, marketers, and license managers can and want to turn it into a real set. More and more Ideas concepts are reaching supporter goals ever year, but only a tiny fraction ever get fully realized.
The Sonic Mania LEGO Ideas pitch already started from a weird place. In an unusual move, LEGO Ideas neither approved nor eliminated the design during the Sept. 2020 review. Rather, it went under consideration through another review session, ultimately being approved in Feb. 2021. There’s room for an argument that this additional time could be LEGO working with SEGA for a more involved licensing deal. However, before I get too into conspiracy theories, there has since been another set spanning multiple review sessions, one based off Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, which is still under consideration following Oct. 2021’s results.
Let’s step forward to September and December 2021 for a pair of rumors, that LEGO is revising their video-game-centric branding, and that the “LEGO Games” line would soon include a yet-unannounced Tallneck set from Horizon Zero Dawn. While this does not directly imply further Sonic sets, Minecraft, Super Mario, Overwatch, and these rumors show LEGO to be quite interested in maintaing and adding video game brands to their license portfolio.
Finally, we need to talk about the pins. LEGO bricks don’t solely connect using the iconic studs on top. Modern LEGO designs regularly use studs on top, studs on sides, pins, axles, ball joints, bars, clips, and a number of other connectors.
In the picture above, you’ll notice a black connector sticking out of the bottom right. These connectors are “pins,” and they’re often used to hold the sides of two bricks together.
So far, this makes sense. The original Sonic Mania LEGO Ideas design (pictured above with gray pins) was modular, letting you snap level components together in whatever way you want. And the video on the set’s storepage even shows off that the level pieces can be disconnected and rearranged:
Except for one small detail:
The individual stage components don’t attach via round pins. Instead, they use LEGO’s plus-shaped axle connectors to attach the palm tree, the bridge, the loop, and the spring at the end. Further, the pins are arranged to fit side-by-side horizontally, while the axles are stacked vertically. There’s no room for pin connectors. So why are the pins even there? They just seem way too conspicuous.
I see four possibilities:
- To give creators way to expand using their own collection.
- To encourage fans to buy multiples of this set, stacking their Green Hill sets together.
- Because they intend to release more sets that you will be able to connect to this one.
- Because they want to leave themselves open to releasing more in the future.
While 1 is not drastically out there, LEGO doesn’t really need to give their community an easy connection point. If a LEGO fan has enough of a collection to DIY a Chemical Plant stage, they know how to mod in a connection to it.
2 is the cynical argument, and hardcore LEGO fans are inclined to purchase duplicate sets in order to acquire parts. However, this typically isn’t a release philosophy that LEGO follows, especially LEGO Ideas. There’s always been a bit of business skulduggery when you need to buy a specific set to get the minifig you want or if you’re building a small army of Stormtroopers, but there aren’t many expensive sets that directly encourage buying multiples of the same.
You probably know this by now, but I’m inclined towards 3 or 4. If LEGO is interested in expanding into more and more video game licenses (and aforementioned rumors suggest they are), a combination of the successful Paramount movie and the 30th Anniversary has given the Sonic brand a significant boost in the public eye. SEGA is always interested in putting the brand out there in as many ways as they can, and there’s no toy line that gets attention quite like LEGO. Removing the “Mania” theme from the original Ideas pitch opens up a more generalized Sonic branding that can fit a wider selection of games to pull from, and the final product is missing several elements from the original pitch that could very easily be added to later sets, most notably the giant Eggman Robot.
I want to emphasize, this is not any manner of confirmation. Agreements fall apart, and hopeful plans may not be realized; that’s just the nature of business sometimes. But the use of a completely different connector on the end is too unusual to be arbitrary. If there are more Sonic sets planned, expect LEGO to announce them sometime next year. If they have a long-term plan in mind, they would more likely capitalize on the modular nature before the original Ideas set leaves print. And if we don’t hear anything next year, it’s safe to assume we’ll only have the one.