Another year and another San Diego Comic Con under our collective belts. I am more or less fully recovered from my trip and decompressed enough to gather my thoughts on how LEGO handled their minifigure giveaway this year. I’ll only be talking about the minifigure giveaway and not the exclusive sets that were for sale. That will be in another post which you probably won’t want to miss.

So this year, LEGO did something they’ve never done before and actually put out information early on how the queueing process would be handled. There would be a line upstairs away from the exhibit hall floor. Attendee badges would be scanned and fans would walk up to an iPad where there was a custom built app and a single “Play” button. Press the button and you had a 50/50 chance on winning that day’s exclusive minifigure. If you lost, you would walk down what I affectionately call Loser’s Lane and if you won, you would walk over and pick up your figure right then and there. And how did it go? Fantastically! It went so smoothly and efficiently that I almost forgot how bad it was the previous years. I really have to tip my hat to the events team that planned it this year as they addressed every major problem from years past and created a non-riotous, almost enjoyable experience.

Almost, because if you lost, you just wasted half your day waiting in line for nothing. And what sucks even more is the fact that they’ve had leftover minifigs on just about every day. So clearly there is still room for improvement. I’ve made a short bullet list on a few things that could still be improved upon.

1) I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: get rid of the game. This random chance game of getting the figure is pointless especially when there are leftover figures at the end of the day. On more than one day, I witnessed at least half a box’s worth of figures being taken away. If the intent is to give all of the figures away and you’re ending up with tens and maybe hundreds of figures leftover, there’s something wrong with the system. Get rid of the game and make twice the number of figures for next year and just give them away.

2) Don’t turn people away. I saw people being turned away from the line without even being scanned. And with no end time announced for the giveaway, it is understandable that an attendee would think that they have a chance to play their iPad game if there were leftover figures and the staff was still present. The few days that I was there until the end, both conditions were true and yet people were being turned away. Granted this was several hours after the giveaway started, but there was still a line when people were being rejected.

3) Improve the packaging. Apparently, two pallets worth of boxes were crushed and the bubble on the clamshell packaging was damaged on many of the figures making it hard for mint in package collectors and those with severe OCD to get a nice, clean package. I do rather like the clamshell design but those poor bubbles. This was an issue acknowledged by the staff and will be addressed next year.

I emailed LEGO about the first two points above and this was their response:

“I spoke to our events team who facilitated the giveaways each day and they assured me that the raffle only ended when everyone who had lined up had gotten to the front and a chance to enter. Any consumers that were cut off or turned away were people that were attempting to enter the raffle for a second time or were exhibitors that were not permitted to enter the raffle. We did not end the raffle before everyone that had lined up and wanted to enter did so, and everyone that had lined up for the raffle by 12:30 had a 50/50 chance of winning a minifigure. We do have a small number of minifigures that are given to our license partners for business purposes and they were all kept together with the consumer giveaway minifigures for security purposes.”

So, they say nobody was turned away but I along with a few other people witnessed that exact thing happening. And this is probably the point that irks me to no end: being told something didn’t happen when I saw the whole thing go down myself. Any other answer probably wouldn’t have annoyed me as much. I mean, seriously, there are four lights! And if you have minifigures leftover after the line has dissipated AND you’re turning people away, clearly the system isn’t perfect. That iPad app was a custom made app, perhaps turn up the probability of winning from 50/50 to 60/40 or 75/25. Or go all out and do like 90/10. The faster you get rid of your supply, the faster the line goes away, and the faster everybody can go on about their business. You’re just wasting everyone’s time otherwise. And that’s probably why they capped line at a certain point; they were just tired of dealing with the giveaway.

If I were to give them a letter grade for this year’s minifigure giveaway I’d have to give them a solid B+. A few more tweaks and it can run even better next year.