Sunday, 12 May 2013

May the Fourth be with you. Well… some of you.

“May the Force be with you.”  

One of the most recognisable phrases in cinema history, introduced to the world in 1977, via ‘Star Wars Episode IV : A New Hope’.  Fans all over the world have questioned why Lucasfilm, when releasing any of the five subsequent films (all of which were released in May) didn’t do the obvious and release them on May the Fourth.

May the Fourth be with you.  It’s a sort of pun, you see?  It’s even become known as Star Wars day for crying out loud.

But while Lucasfilm might have chosen to ignore this obvious tie-in date, Lego haven’t.

Back in 1999, they signed their first licencing deal with Lucasfilm and started creating Lego Star Wars models.  And for some years now, May the 4th (and quite often a day or so either side of it) has been ‘Lego Star Wars bargain day’.  There are usually some decent discounts to be had,  but more importantly to many, spend over a certain amount of money, and you’ll get a ‘not available anywhere else’ minifig or similar.  Last year it was a chromed TC-14 (think C-3PO, but in silver), and this year it was Han Solo in his Hoth outfit.

The rumour mill as to what the discounts might be usually starts production a few months beforehand, and is based on complex analysis of sales patterns, length of time that a set has been available, wild speculation and guesswork.  Nearer the time, people will comment on the forums that they’ve ‘heard something’ from a ‘Lego insider’, or have had an ‘off the record conversation’ with a store manager, and this is chewed over and debated at great length.

Anyway.  This year, the hot rumour was that the 10227 UCS B-Wing was going to have a 50% discount.  In the UK this retails at £169.99, and in the USA, $199.99.

The B-Wing has been available since October 1st 2012, or a little over 6 months.  It had a ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it’ part in Return Of The Jedi, and according to wikipedia, this is because it’s very thin from certain angles.  This made it difficult to film against a green screen and still make it stand out against the blackness of space.  So much of the planned footage was dropped, and it only ended up being on sceen for a few seconds.

So when it was released, much of the Lego buying population thought ‘Huh?’.  There are any number of iconic vehicles in the Star Wars universe that could have been given the UCS treatment, which are far more recognisable than the B-Wing.  Luke’s Landspeeder, the Empire’s Speeder bikes, and the one that many fans are clamouring for, Boba Fett’s Slave 1.

So it’s safe to say that at £170, a ship that most people didn’t remember hadn’t exactly been flying off the shelves.  I’d had a good look at it on AFOL day when I picked up R2-D2, and while there’s no denying that it’s a big (1) set, and does look pretty cool, you have a hard time justifying the money.

But at half price…  I think I could be tempted by an £85.00 B-Wing.

The other people who would obviously be tempted were the Lego resellers.  Safe to say that if they could, they’d be buying up armfuls to stash away for a while and then make a killing once the set had gone EOL.  So reasonable to expect that Lego would impose a one, maybe two, set limit per person.

Anyway.  May 3rd rolls around and the forum is buzzing with expectation.  At this point it doesn’t matter whether your granny’s next door neighbour’s friend’s cat has heard anything, even if it is directly from the CEO of Lego himself, right now, you just want to see what’s actually available on the site.

Well done, Lego…  (2)

Yes, the B-Wing does get 50% off.

If you’re in the USA.

UK and elsewhere?  You get nothing off it.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.

And that per person restriction it might have been sensible to put on?


Seriously?  Five?

I can believe that there are one or two guys (3) out there who want to build a battle fleet, and so might need a bunch of these, but for the most part, anyone buying five of these is going to be selling at least three of them.  As the sun rolled around and stores began opening across the USA, it didn’t take long for the stories of disappointed Lego fans to surface, who got to the till only to be told ‘sorry - none left’, while other people struggled out of the door with an armful, giggling to themselves about ebay.

They were available on the US Lego website for a while, but unsurprisingly, they didn’t last long.

The UCS B-Wing. Amazing value, if you're in America.  
Elsewhere, not so much...

(Image courtesy of

Meanwhile the rest of the world were granted the sort of discounts that you could usually find on Amazon every day of the week.

May the Fourth looks like it can be a huge amount of fun, what with all the speculation and whatnot, and (depending on where you live), there are some stunning bargains to be had.

Yes, there were probably people who were happy with a small discount on a set, particularly if it was something they’d been after for a while, if they got their limited edition Han minifig.  Other people had been waiting for the much vaunted UCS Red Five X-Wing which went on sale on the 4th.  Although it sounds like that was pretty much forgotten about in the USA, as everybody stampeded for a B-Wing shaped bargain. 

Can’t help thinking though, for a family friendly, global brand, they’ve got a lot to learn about treating their customers fairly.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

(1)  I mean big!  The downside of which is that you need a lot of space to display it properly.

(2) Insert slow, sarcastic handclap at this point, known in some circles as a ‘Golf clap’.
No - I have no idea why it’s known as a golf clap.

(3) And let’s face it, it is going to be guys.

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