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stickers vs. printed pieces

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stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby banthafodder » Sun Mar 22, 2009 8:45 am

I would like to get some opinions on this subject. Most of the sets over the last couple of years have come mostly with stickers. The printed pieces are far superior for durability and appearance. Would there be a consensus on paying a little more to have them make printed pieces for the sets? Then you have sets like Ahsoka's starfighter which have a mixture of printed pieces and stickers.

Argument for: -Pieces look better and are more durable
-For pieces with a small radius the stickers are woefully inadequate and peel off within a day.
-Many of the star wars sets are being bought by adult collectors and longevity of a piece is of interest.

Argument against: -Better selection of pieces in that some pieces can be customized with different stickers.
-We have already seen increases in the price due to licensing.
-Don't have to have as much stock on hand since pieces could be interchanged for new sets.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby donneyboy » Sun Mar 22, 2009 8:53 am

PRINTED PARTS!!!!!! I am so sick of applying stickers, its not funny, and if you mess up, it is next to impossible to fix it. so I would gladly pay a few bucks more to have the parts printed.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby MrCRskater » Sun Mar 22, 2009 9:15 am

Printed parts, hands-down!! Though I haven't had any problems with stickers peeling off, my big beef is that they're

a) difficult to apply, ESPECIALLY when you're trying to apply the same sticker on each side of a model and are looking for symmetry
b) next to impossible to remove and reapply if you screw it up
c) are not always printed squarely on the sheet, so the sticker itself is not symmetrical. A recent example is my V-19 Torrent, for which the Republic insignia stickers were both skewed (and not the same way), so they're not symmetrical in themselves or to each other

I would gladly pay a few dollars more per set to know that I was getting printed parts every time. But if LEGO really wants to avoid printing parts, I think even water decals might be a better solution. They'd be even more difficult to apply, but would look WAY better!
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby dWhisper » Sun Mar 22, 2009 10:41 am

First, a few misnomers to address here...

"Many" sets being bought by an adult may be true, but the vast majority are still being bought by parents for kids. That's what LEGO focuses on, and what they need to gear their products towards. Adults have the UCS line, but system sets are for kids, and will remain as something for kids.

That being said, any of us being willing to pay more for a set doesn't matter, because it's the whole line that is affected by prices. I'm quite certain that LEGO has a small army of people that do nothing but figure out price points, and what consumers are willing to buy, how many sets sell at a give price point (battle packs sell more than Vader's TIE, which sell far more than the Republic Gunship). Pushing something up in price hurts their sales; and if the vast majority of their customers (kids) don't care about stickers, it makes a lot of sense to just leave the stickers and drop a set a few bucks. This is especially true on smaller sets were that price really matters. LEGO needs to serve its core business first, and that means doing what's best for kids. And most don't care if a brick has printing.

Beyond that is cost, and cost compared to scale. Printing a sticker sheet is relatively cheap; people in our minifig forum do it all the time. Printing on a brick is expensive; it's an uneven surface, it requires special ink, and there's a big quality control addition. Stickers make it so any brick can be used across sets, and you don't need a special inventory item for a specific set. That 2x2 slope can be used everywhere, not just in the one set. Printing on that slope adds considerable cost to a set, and means that set gets less, or cuts have to be made elsewhere.

Ultimately, it really doesn't matter. If you're displaying sets, stickers work just fine, and take a bit of care. Common bricks still get printing a lot of time (control tiles, Republic insignia), and in some sets, printing is still done to make a piece look good (TIE screens, discs on the AT-TE). But in a lot of sets, printing really ruins a brick (Ahsoka's fighter's big ugly slopes). Not having the stickers means that brick is always like that, and it's basically a ruined part if I ever decide to part it out.

And besides, not like whining about it really is going to change anything. From a business perspective, the choice LEGO made was obvious, and necessary, and it's better to just accept it and get on with enjoying the greatest toy out there.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby MrCRskater » Sun Mar 22, 2009 11:14 am

dWhisper, for all of your hypercritical commentary on others' posts, I was shocked to see a couple glaring grammatical errors in your post. Practice what you preach, brother!

dWhisper wrote:. . . and in some sets, printing is still done to make a piece look good (TIE screens, discs on the AT-TE).


I would contend that this is not done simply to "make a piece look good", but because of the impossibility of placing flat stickers on spherical surfaces. It's really done out of necessity.

dWhisper wrote:But in a lot of sets, printing really ruins a brick (Ahsoka's fighter's big ugly slopes). Not having the stickers means that brick is always like that, and it's basically a ruined part if I ever decide to part it out.


To bring up your other point, the target audience here is under 14, so from a marketing perspective the idea that a printed slope is ruined is absolutely foreign. Also unlikely that members of that demographic are into parting out their sets. So I think the majority (both youngin's and AFOL's) prefer printed parts in all cases.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby dWhisper » Sun Mar 22, 2009 11:36 am

I'm a stickler for the shift key, I avoid correcting someone's grammar unless it's the "make your eyes bleed" sort of post, specifically because I know I'm not 100%. Seriously, go look at the posts I make, no one is perfect (and my whole "writing posts and influencing people" in the CoC says that... we don't expect perfect, we just like to see effort). Anyways, that's neither here nor there.

It's a fair point on the curved pieces, but another element is that on similar parts to Ahsoka's fighter, they've just shrunk down the sticker you put on the brick to keep it away from the curve. As for parting... that's true, but kids do break sets down to build other things. Sometimes with shocking alacrity, in fact, and put together cars from a TIE fighter. In this sense, printed or stickers really doesn't matter to a kid, they just want the toy. I'm willing to argue that AFOLs or collectors are the ones who care, and we're always a secondary consideration to LEGO. We have to be, because we're such a small chunk of their business.

I suppose some of my feelings go with other toys of my youth. GI Joe vehicles were frequently stickered-up hunks of plastic, and a lot of other toys rely on these to keep costs down. Fact is, it makes economic sense for LEGO to use stickers, so us liking printed more really doesn't matter, because it's not something that's likely to change.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby MrCRskater » Sun Mar 22, 2009 11:54 am

True enough, kids really don't care what the parts look like when they're building their own models. Heck, maybe those printed slopes from Asohka's fighter would make for a sweet street racer (from a 9-year-old's perspective).

I also agree with you that as much as we all like the printed parts and dislike the stickers, it just isn't going to change. I guess we should be thankful that LEGO still goes to the effort to print some of the easier and necessary pieces like tiles and windscreens. . .
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby banthafodder » Sun Mar 22, 2009 11:58 am

Yes there are sets built for kids but when the average price for star wars sets is over $40 then a price increase of a few dollars is not so bad in comparison to a 5-20 dollar set. For a a set in the 120-400 dollar range there is difference and many of the parents buying sets for their kids are buying these sets one to two times a year. When an entire line is at issue I feel that the AFOL is the target client especially when there are over 20-30 sets in a line.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby dWhisper » Sun Mar 22, 2009 12:04 pm

I warmed on stickers somewhat as I've bought non-Star Wars sets to increase my parts, to be honest. With tiles, especially, it's easier to have a sticker I don't have to apply and get good parts instead (like with the Batman, City, and Indy sets I've bought over the years). I've also learned that making sure bricks are clean/smooth before putting things on and stickers can last forever.

I just broke down the AT-TE (because the new one is so much better), and it had a mix of stickers and printed parts. The windscreens with stickers actually look better than the printed slopes on top, which have faded somewhat over the years. When it was put together, everything was good and clean, not dust, etc, and the stickers are stuck just as good now as they used to be.

However, I also leave one set put together for display, and may part out further ones. The only stickers out there that I've disliked in recent memory were some control panel stickers and the various insignia stickers. But I also recognize that by adding those stickers, they've been able to greatly expand where those things show up.

That and the Rebel Battlepack stickers are just cool, and are so useful for MOCs and minifigs.

As for the adult "high dollar" sets, the fact that they're targeted to AFOLs is the exact reason they need to use stickers and not printed pieces. While the dollar value is high, the margin is most likely lower because of the economies of scale that surround the sets. A set in the store, like a battle pack, RGS, or Bomber all mean there are hundreds of thousands of these sets, if not millions, being shipped. More sets being produced means that bulk production is more profitable. It's cheaper to buy 1000 of an item (per piece) than it is to buy 100 of the same thing; that's why manufacturing is typically consolidated as much as possible.

With the UCS sets, there are thousands of a set being made, which means that specialized sets are even more expensive, and typically have to be dedicated to custom or hard to sticker pieces (like the windscreens). More than that, these sets have a high occurrence of custom or special parts that may only exist in that one set, and those are more expensive to make than the normal plates and blocks. So for LEGO, it makes more sense to print something common across the line than set specific, and it makes even less sense to print something that has such a low market penetration.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby The Brain » Sun Mar 22, 2009 12:43 pm

While I hate the arduous process of actually applying the stickers, I feel extremely good when my patience and application skills create a completely finished product. For example--I built the newest RGS back in November, and the stickers took me about 20 minutes to apply with my satisfaction. When I placed the last one on the brick and stepped back to admire the set, I felt immensely pleased with my abilities.

Of course, I later discovered that I had placed the nose art stickers on the opposite sides, so I had to take them off carefully and reapply them. It worked perfectly, thank God. :lol:
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby Tyrant » Sun Mar 22, 2009 3:02 pm

Assuming it wouldn't dramatically impact the price, I would prefer to see them printed because I hate putting on stickers. I got enough of that with G.I.Joe vehicles in the 80s.

As for them never going back since they have "obviously" chosen this format, is that really certain? Castle had printed torsos and shields at one point. Now they are printed and show no signs of going back to stickers. I'm just saying they have changed their mind about these things before so there's no reason to assume it's set in stone now. Whether complaining about it will do any good is another story though.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby dWhisper » Sun Mar 22, 2009 6:24 pm

Well, ultimately, I'd assume that the guess of using printed stuff or not lies with the set designers themselves. Castle doesn't have the licensing bent Star Wars does, and also uses pretty normal parts. Statistically, they also have a pretty poor price/piece ratio (as does pirates), and still use a lot of stickers to make bricks, windows, flags, etc. I only saw a very small number with sticker shields (a couple undead sets that I remember), but a huge number of the more recent stuff had those stupid burp with printing on them or tall bricks with stickers.

I suppose it's a trade off in Star Wars... do you want stickers and new minifigs, or old minifigs with nothing special and printed bricks. Because my understanding of the process is that you can't have both in most cases.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby Joedward » Sun Mar 22, 2009 7:14 pm

The Brain wrote:Of course, I later discovered that I had placed the nose art stickers on the opposite sides, so I had to take them off carefully and reapply them. It worked perfectly, thank God. :lol:


Just to poke my nose in. Why didn't you just remove the pieces they were attached to? One sticker on one piece on one side, the opposite sticker on the exact same type of piece in the exact same position......

Anyhow, I do generally prefer stickers, but don't always apply them. Over the years I've started applying less and less, because I'm more likely to break the ship apart and attempt to build something else. So yeah, printed pieces would be great to have, they make the models I paid to get look better, but having the choice from getting stickers has seemed like a huge plus over the last couple of years.
And you never know, in a few years I may start cutting them up and using them on MOCs. So there's another bonus.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby Draykov » Sun Mar 22, 2009 7:27 pm

I'm realistic about the situation, but all things being equal, I prefer printed parts to stickers. More often that not, a printed part will already have a non-printed counterpart in the inventory and if it doesn't, it's easy enough to use some Brasso to get the printing off if you really wanted to.

But, this issue has come up before and dW has already made some very valid points. It's not always a simple matter of raise the price on a set and you can add a few printed pieces either. In come instances, you'd be dealing with the possibility of adding one printed part to a set and subtracting several other pieces to keep it at a certain price-point, which ultimately, would hurt the overall model. If that's the most likely alternative, then I can live with stickers I'll never use...just so long as the occasional printed piece still makes it into the LEGO inventory (particularly slopes and tiles decorated with cool computery designs).
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby Tyrant » Sun Mar 22, 2009 9:04 pm

dWhisper wrote: Statistically, they also have a pretty poor price/piece ratio (as does pirates),

Are you talking about Castle or Star Wars here? I ask because I am not seeing it with Castle. A few of the sets (mainly the Troll Warship) are out of whack, but the majority are very close to the 10cent/part ratio and include numerous figures.
dWhisper wrote:and still use a lot of stickers to make bricks, windows, flags, etc.

Which sets do this? Most Castle windows, flags, and bricks are actual pieces. There's a sticker banner in the MMV. Almost all the Castle flags are printed pieces (I can't think of one that isn't printed, but I assume at least one somewhere is a sticker). There are brick stickers now (in one currently available set), but before the switch to bley there were printed pieces with bricks printed on them. The majority of these things in Castle are not done with stickers.
dWhisper wrote:I only saw a very small number with sticker shields (a couple undead sets that I remember), but a huge number of the more recent stuff had those stupid burp with printing on them or tall bricks with stickers.

As far as I know, all of the recent shields (like the older shields aside from the very start of Castle in the 70's) are printed. I think (I didn't own any, so this is a guess from what I have seen online) the Viking shields were stickers, but the vast majority of Castle shields are printed. Most of the tall bricks that have things on them that I recall are the Vladek symbol bricks, and they are printed. Castle has used stickers before and the KCS and MMV right now use them in a few spots, but the majority of things in Castle are printed.
dWhisper wrote:I suppose it's a trade off in Star Wars... do you want stickers and new minifigs, or old minifigs with nothing special and printed bricks. Because my understanding of the process is that you can't have both in most cases.

Could you explain this to us? To me anyway, that doesn't make sense (I'm sure I am missing something, that's why I asked for an explanation). That sounds like saying if you want oranges to plant an apple tree. Printed pieces =/= minifigures in any way I can see, which is where my confusion is coming from on this.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby The Brain » Sun Mar 22, 2009 9:40 pm

Joedward wrote:
The Brain wrote:Of course, I later discovered that I had placed the nose art stickers on the opposite sides, so I had to take them off carefully and reapply them. It worked perfectly, thank God. :lol:


Just to poke my nose in. Why didn't you just remove the pieces they were attached to? One sticker on one piece on one side, the opposite sticker on the exact same type of piece in the exact same position......


Yes, I did realize this...a tad bit later though. I guess you're just a step ahead of me. ;) It's fine now though, the stickers still have their adhesion and are perfectly lined up.

I did also think of another plus for stickers--they allow for customization. Just look at the new RGS and the upcoming LAAT/C--they both have 2 sets of nose stickers, for whichever pair float your boat. Can't get that with printed parts.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby dWhisper » Sun Mar 22, 2009 9:59 pm

Did you own any of the Knight's Kingdom or Undead sets? They were riddled with stickers. And comparing to current sets amounts to a small handful, there's simply not much castle stuff out right now. Those that were hovered around 12-13 cents per set, and while they were an improvement over the stuff from 06 and 07, they're still high. Beyond that, most of the focus is on pirates, not castle

The best set out now, the Market, is unique in being so low. But none of the other sets are at 10 cents per part. Dwarf Mine is also close (and to be fair, during it's original release, it was under 10 cents). King's Castle, the re-release, has stickered shields by the way, along with the flags. Yes, there used to be a lot more printed parts, but that was true with all the other lines (Star Wars included) as well. The switch to Bley happened around the same time that LEGO got a lot more mindful of their costs, and printing, chrome, and piece count all came under the scope. We live with those changes now. I've never said anything about figures being stickered, I was showing that as an example of what you get in sets by accepting stickers over printed parts... greater variety.

As for the last thing... my understanding is that teams budget all the aspects of set creation, and there's a finite number of dollars to do everything, get pieces, design the instructions, development of the model (and alt models, as Steve told us), new custom parts and colors, and brick printing. Trade-offs are made between all these aspects. Power Miners traded a bit of piece count for new rock monsters and new colors, and heavily uses stickers (and few, if any, printed pieces). Same with agents. Indy sets use stickers, given the number of custom pieces and colors they employ. Getting printed parts means we lost something else in the set.

I suppose my point in all of this is that the sticker thing has simply been beaten to death, again, and again, and again. More than Clone Wars faces, new grey, and Han-Shot-First combined. Yes, we'd all love printed pieces, but waxing eternal over it just clubs that horse a few more times. Like the scalping thread, this has so run its course. Feel free to keep dragging it around, I suppose.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby Tyrant » Mon Mar 23, 2009 6:04 am

dWhisper wrote:Did you own any of the Knight's Kingdom or Undead sets? They were riddled with stickers.

KK, no I don't any and I assumed that's what you were probably talking about. Undead, as in the skeletons, yes I own all but the Skeleton Ship Attack. The only one with stickers I recall was the Kings Castle Siege. I own more than one of all of them and I don't have mountains of unused stickers laying around. I do have mountains of figures and shields that didn't take stickers.
dWhisper wrote:And comparing to current sets amounts to a small handful, there's simply not much castle stuff out right now. Those that were hovered around 12-13 cents per set, and while they were an improvement over the stuff from 06 and 07, they're still high. Beyond that, most of the focus is on pirates, not castle

When I said out right now, I should have specified that I meant everything post KK and KK II. Personally, I don't consider 12 to 13 cents per part to be massively out of whack. Especially when the sets usually include several figures.
dWhisper wrote:The best set out now, the Market, is unique in being so low. But none of the other sets are at 10 cents per part.

Check out the Tower Raid sometime. $30 for 364 parts and 5 figures. Or the Troll Battle Wheel with 508 parts and 5 figures for $40. The Dwarf Mine Defender with 86 parts and 3 figures for $10 is coming in at roughly 11.6 cents per part. The King's Castle Siege is at 10.3 cents per piece. As you mentioned the Dwarf Mine was in the plus under the old price, but even with the new price it comes in at 10.4 cents per piece. Now the Troll assault wagon is off at 12.4 cents per piece and the Troll Warship is way off at 16.3 cents per piece.

Even the Skeleton sets weren't terrible. The Skeleton Ship Attack comes out to 11.1 cents per piece. The Crossbow Attack is the same. The Catapault is sitting at 8.1 cents per piece and has 4 figures for $10. The Skeleton Prison Carriage is off a little at 10.4 cents but it also has 5 figures, 1 living horse, and 3 undead horses. Then the Skeleton Tower is off at 12.4.

So I am not seeing what you are talking about. The Warship is majorly out of line with the general pricing scheme, but almost everything else is no more than 12 cents per piece and a few are under 10 cents per piece while still providing several figures and almost everything is printed as opposed to stickers. I am just not understanding where the hating on the Castle pricing scheme is coming from. Pirates I can somewhat understand though.
dWhisper wrote:King's Castle, the re-release, has stickered shields by the way, along with the flags.

Like I said, I knew there had to be some set that did.
dWhisper wrote:I've never said anything about figures being stickered, I was showing that as an example of what you get in sets by accepting stickers over printed parts... greater variety.

I was referring to the figures in the yellow castle showing that they moved from stickers to printed once before so it's not absurd to think they would do so again. Torsos are different from accesories, but the point that they went from stickers to printed before still stands.
dWhisper wrote:As for the last thing... my understanding is that teams budget all the aspects of set creation, and there's a finite number of dollars to do everything, get pieces, design the instructions, development of the model (and alt models, as Steve told us), new custom parts and colors, and brick printing. Trade-offs are made between all these aspects. Power Miners traded a bit of piece count for new rock monsters and new colors, and heavily uses stickers (and few, if any, printed pieces). Same with agents. Indy sets use stickers, given the number of custom pieces and colors they employ. Getting printed parts means we lost something else in the set.

Thanks. That makes a lot more sense and I see what you are saying now.
dWhisper wrote:I suppose my point in all of this is that the sticker thing has simply been beaten to death, again, and again, and again. More than Clone Wars faces, new grey, and Han-Shot-First combined. Yes, we'd all love printed pieces, but waxing eternal over it just clubs that horse a few more times. Like the scalping thread, this has so run its course. Feel free to keep dragging it around, I suppose.

As long as it doesn't turn into "death to TLG", I don't see what the problem is. As I said in the scalping thread, there is really only so much that we can all say in regards to what we want to see TLG make this year (which is probably about as useful as complaining about stickers) and how cool the new sets are. To keep the site alive between major news events, at some point discussions beyond the obvious have to take place. Otherwise people drift over to some place like Eurobricks (nothing at all against them, I am on there too) where there is discussion to keep things going although their mods are considerably more interested in keeping things on topic to the point that I wonder what they're trying to prove sometimes. I think my point is that killing discussions like this (not saying you're doing that, but your dead horse comments here and your comments in the other poll like thread don't really help keep the discussion going) is counteractive if your goal is to have any kind of vibrant community.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby dWhisper » Mon Mar 23, 2009 8:00 am

I suppose clarifying on the lines is important, since there's a noticable difference between KK and the undead sets that followed. My guess would surround the lower production costs of skeletons compared to minifigs (similar to battle droids being cheaper than clones as a forged part than an assembled one). I don't own the sets you mentioned, to be honest, since I focus on castle stuff I can easily reuse in move, and a lot of the parts in newer sets languish unused for all time. I'll tame your word that their ratio has improved, but in my recent buying, Pirates!, Indy, power miners, and even Star Wars has shown the opposite trend.

As for threads, yes, discussion is important, but moreso, what we discuss is the greater merit to the site. Beating down talked-out topics doesn't do much for us, talking about things like the economics and practice of set design does. I was referring specifically to the whole stickers thing. A lot of things covered here are outside that, and deserve to live on, but some things would serve us better if they join dancing baby, pets.com and CNET in the dark depths of he Internet tubes.
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Re: stickers vs. printed pieces

Postby Tyrant » Mon Mar 23, 2009 9:12 am

dWhisper wrote:I suppose clarifying on the lines is important, since there's a noticable difference between KK and the undead sets that followed. My guess would surround the lower production costs of skeletons compared to minifigs (similar to battle droids being cheaper than clones as a forged part than an assembled one). I don't own the sets you mentioned, to be honest, since I focus on castle stuff I can easily reuse in move, and a lot of the parts in newer sets languish unused for all time. I'll tame your word that their ratio has improved, but in my recent buying, Pirates!, Indy, power miners, and even Star Wars has shown the opposite trend.

I would say your guess on the skeletons (and battle droids) is right on. It's what I have been assuming anyway. Depending on what you are wanting to use the parts for, the Tower Raid set is probably worth looking into.
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