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    LEGO vs. Mega Bloks and Other Clones


    You are browsing in the construction toys aisle of your local retail or toy store. You carefully look at the three main choices of building blocks: LEGO, Mega Bloks and KRE-O. You can’t decide which one to buy for your children –they all look the same on their boxes. This article outlines the advantages & disadvantages found in both LEGO products and inexpensive alternatives so that you can choose what’s best for you.

    At the moment there are many alternatives to LEGO bricks on the market, the two main ones being Mega Bloks and KRE-O.

    Mega Bloks, a Canadian company, was called “Ritvik Toys” when it started in 1967 and later changed its name to Mega Bloks in 2002. It quickly became one of the main players in the building blocks industry. Mega Bloks, over the years, have created everything from Smurfs to dragons in their products. Mega Brands (includes Mega Bloks, Mega Puzzles, Board Dudes and Rose Art) currently has over 1000 employees. There are four different types of Mega Bloks’ bricks:

    • Maxi size, introduced in 1985, is intended for very young children. The blocks feature slightly rounded corners and edges and have tall rounded studs.
    • Mini size, introduced in 1989, is designed for toddlers and preschoolers. The bricks, like Maxi size, have slightly rounded edges and corners. Mini size bricks are the same size as LEGO DUPLO bricks.
    • Micro size, introduced in 1991, has sharp edges and corners and is for experienced builders. This size is the same size as ordinary LEGO bricks.
    • Nano building system, introduced in 2004, is the smallest of all of the bricks that Mega Bloks have made and is not compatible with any other type of plastic bricks.

    The LEGO Group has filed many lawsuits against Mega Bloks for the use of “their” studs and tubes construction system. LEGO believes that this is a violation of its trademarks, but most of their lawsuits have been unsuccessful.

    Possibly after seeing the success of LEGO's girl orientated theme, Friends, Mega Bloks have decided to launch new “Barbie” and “Hot Wheels” (both by Mattel) themed sets next year (2013).

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    KRE-O is manufactured by Oxford, a Korean company, and marketed by toys and board games company Hasbro. KRE-O, unlike Mega Bloks, is relatively new to the industry and includes sets based on the recently released films Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Battleship, which were both based on Hasbro’s toys. KRE-O, which means “I create” in Latin, keeps growing in popularity ever since it launched in June 2011. KRE-O’s human figures are called Kreons, and look for the most part like LEGO minifigures. A third line of sets have been confirmed and will be based on the 2009 revival of Star Trek and a new 2013 sequel are to be released in the future.

    Although brands such as Mega Bloks and KRE-O are seen as alternatives or copies, people still buy them simply because of the fact that they are the cheaper than good quality LEGO bricks. Plus, if a child has collected a lot of LEGO sets, then the kid’s parents buy him Mega Bloks sets, the bricks from the clone sets will still be compatible with official LEGO bricks. Many young children wouldn’t know the difference between LEGO and clones, so parents usually buy Mega Bloks and other copies, that look like LEGO, but are actually worth much less money.

    Parents buy clones for their children because they are inexpensive, but there are also many disadvantages of buying non-LEGO building blocks/bricks. Many of the bricks that are included in Mega Bloks or KRE-O sets are of poor quality and do not go together well. Some builders combine clone bricks with LEGO bricks in their models; however, their creations are usually mismatched with dull coloured and loosely connected Mega Bloks and LEGO bricks. Mega Bloks is also known for having a substandard website (compared with LEGO.com) and limited support for builders.

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    Official LEGO products, on the other hand, are of great quality and are very durable. The LEGO Group has a team of designers that invent well-designed sets that children will eventually play with. One of the advantages of buying LEGO sets is that they don’t usually devalue in price, as there are many people willing to buy second-hand LEGO on auction websites such as eBay, etc. Another good thing about LEGO is that they have the rights to many exciting themes (such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, DC & Marvel Super Heroes, etc.), which have produce rare bricks and sets. LEGO also have an awesome website (LEGO.com) that boasts downloadable building instructions, games, video, an online shop, and many more exciting things. There are also lots of devoted LEGO fans, who connect with each other through the internet in forums and fan groups. Mega Bloks, unlike LEGO, has little fans and is practically ignored by LEGO enthusiasts.

    Another great advantage of buying the different kinds of LEGO bricks (Quatro, DUPLO, Normal Bricks, TECHNIC, etc.) is that they all click into each other. DUPLO bricks slot nicely into Quatro bricks, Normal Bricks click on underneath DUPLO bricks and so on.

    There are also two things that LEGO has, but Mega Bloks doesn’t. These two things are the TECHNIC building system and Mindstorms. TECHNIC uses beams and pins (instead of bricks) to build models. Some TECHNIC sets even come with electronic motors, lights and remote controls. These electronics are part of a sub-theme called “Power Functions” and they make TECHNIC vehicles & machines run. One other thing that Mega Bloks and KRE-O don’t have is a robotics system. The LEGO Group has created Mindstorms, a theme in which builders create a model out of LEGO TECHNIC elements then add the Mindstorms NXT brick (the robot’s “control centre”), three motors, and four sensors (which can provide information about obstructions, different colours, etc.). This makes a fully-fledged robot that can be programmed by using the included software on a computer. You can even make it move in the direction you want using an app on your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone.

    The main drawback with LEGO products is the cost. The LEGO Group prides itself on having strict product control, which generates exceptional products. With good quality comes higher prices, and that’s generally why numerous parents go for the less expensive option(s) when it comes to construction bricks/blocks for their kids. But as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. It doesn't take long for children to get frustrated with inferior quality bricks from KRE-O or Mega Bloks and toss them in the trash.

    If you are planning on buying some construction toys for your children, my recommendation is to find out (if you haven’t already) what suits your child and buy that product. If you don’t know what is best for your kids, then I suggest going with good quality LEGO –even though it may cost more, it’ll last longer and is (in my opinion) better overall. Also, from the standpoint of collecting and investing, the LEGO brick is far and away the brick to pick. LEGO investing has exploded over the past several years has become the toy of choice for not only children, but adult collectors and investors as well. All in all, LEGO is the way to go in my opinion.

    What kind of building toy do you and your children prefer? What type do you have the most of in your home? Share your opinion in the comments below.

    This is a guest post by Nathan (a.k.a. Yodaman5556), who is a blogger, a Star Wars and LOTR fan, KFOL (kid fan of LEGO) and all-round LEGO fanatic. He enjoys spending afternoons experimenting (and building) with LEGO bricks. He blogs about LEGO news, information and rumours on his website, BrickExtra.

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    We Thank Nathan for taking the time to write this excellent article and have also awarded him 500 BrickPoints! Please check out his website BrickExtra, he does a great job covering LEGO.


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    Posted

    Thanks, Nathan, for a well written article...

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    Posted

    Thank you for letting me write it! :)

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    Posted

    Interesting read..thanks

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    Posted

    Great article Nathan. And I have to say that I agree with you that LEGO's are the best overall but I have to admit my kid likes KRE-O transformers as well!

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    Posted

    Quality wise LEGO is first, KRE-O/Oxford being a very close second, then MEGA BLOKS. The only thing I disagree with is that the quality of KRE-O/Oxford's bricks are almost as good as LEGO. There's nothing cheap about them. The price of their sets are also the same as any LEGO set as well. It's MEGA BLOKS that promotes itself as being cheaper then everything else. Although the cost of their HALO and WORLD OF WARCRAFT sets would say otherwise.

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    Posted

    I have a few pieces of Megabloks. (Slipped into a Lego lot by some dishonest ebay hack) Made in China, truely China-quality garbage. That said, a lot of Lego parts are currently being made in China as well. I see a slip in printing quality especially.

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    Posted

    You just reminded me. I'm holding a MINIFIGURES mystery bag, and on the back it says, "Components made in China" That's it. The WHOLE thing is from China. Agreeing with what you said, many sets say they contain pieces made in China. Some years ago they started making parts in Mexico as well.

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    Posted

    Ya, the gap is definitely closing between the clone brands and LEGO. Mega Bloks latest World of Warcraft sets have some very good quality. In fact, I'd say that the figures are more details and better looking than the LEGO minifigure. However, LEGO minifigs will always have the classic icon look to them and will always be #1 for that reason. I've reviewed, on the Brick Show, all of these sets and I've said that from a weapons perspective Mega Bloks makes the best stuff hands down. I also like some of the unique bricks that they've released as we've held onto some for the sole purpose of using them in brick films. Look at the ice pieces from the Lich King and Sindragosa set. Those bricks are the most unique bricks on the market. However, there are still some quality issues on some of their non-Halo and Wow lines. I've seen it improve over the last 2 years and they've told us that they are putting more effort into quality which is why you've seen higher prices on the HALO and WoW lines. Overall, I see that alot of it is becoming of fight over licenses. K'Nex has even got two great licenses with Angry Birds and Mario Kart. And now, Erector has also a few good licenses with Sonic the Hedgehog and Gears of War. KRE-O is Hasbro, the largest toy company so their licenses are going to be good and they have deep pockets. Of course, I don't ever see anyone surpassing LEGO and the premier building toy. But, I do see that the other companies have position themselves nicely to create their own little niche for fans of the licenses that they own.

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    Posted

    I am looking forward to see the STAR TREK theme from KRE-O. I'm hoping for a Bird Of Prey set of instructions that I can convert into LEGO bricks.

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    Posted

    thanks for the article - couple of days ago found myself in Kmart on the Kreo, Lego and Mega block aisle - in my book Lego is the winner , tho Kreo had some interesting stuff and i liked the Mega Blocks boxes designs

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    Posted

    Thanks For the info, I can't understand why Lego has not won it's legal battles, he evidence seems so clear.

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    Posted

    tommy120: Take a look at the below content from Wikipedia -it explains why LEGO hasn't been so successful with their ongoing legal battles: At least two of the leading clone manufacturers have been challenged in court by Lego. The lawsuits have mostly been unsuccessful, as courts have generally found the functional design of the basic brick to be a matter of patent rather than trademark law, and all relevant Lego patents have expired. The Canadian company Mega Bloks was sued on the grounds that its use of the "studs and tubes" interlocking brick system was a violation of trademarks held by Lego. On November 17, 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Mega Bloks' right to continue selling the product in Canada. A similar decision was reached by the European Union's Court of First Instance on November 12, 2008, upholding an EU regulatory agency's reversal of opinion following an objection by Mega Bloks against a trademark awarded to Lego in 1999. On September 14, 2010, the European Court of Justice ruled that the 8-peg design of the original Lego brick "merely performs a technical function [and] cannot be registered as a trademark." The English company Best-Lock Construction Toys was also sued by Lego in German courts in 2004 and 2009. The German Federal Court denied Lego trademark protection for the shape of its bricks in the latter case. The Lego Group did score a success in 2002, when its Swiss subsidiary Interlego AG sued the Tianjin COKO Toy Co., Ltd. company for copyright infringement. A claims court found many Coko bricks to be infringing; CoCo was ordered to cease manufacture of the infringing bricks, publish a formal apology in the Beijing Daily, and pay a small fee in damages to Interlego. On appeal, the Beijing High People's Court upheld the trial court's ruling. ....and this one: "Automatic Binding Bricks" were patented by the Lego Group in 1958. Several competitors have attempted to take advantage of Lego's popularity by producing blocks of similar dimensions, and advertising them as being compatible with Lego bricks. In 2002, Lego sued the CoCo Toy Company in Beijing for copyright infringement over its "Coko bricks" product. CoCo was ordered to cease manufacture of the products, publish a formal apology and pay damages. The English company Best-Lock Construction Toys was sued by Lego in German courts in 2004, and 2009. but the Federal Patent Court of Germany denied Lego trademark protection for the shape of its bricks. The Canadian company Mega Bloks were sued by Lego in 2005 for trademark violation, but the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Mega Bloks rights to sell their product. In 2010, the European Court of Justice ruled that the eight-peg design of the original Lego brick "merely performs a technical function [and] cannot be registered as a trademark." From these Wikipedia articles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lego and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lego_clone

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    Posted

    Thanks for the article. I am really interested to see what the Star Trek line looks like when it comes out.

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    Posted

    Something that bugs me which no one else mentioned is all of the mystery bag Collectible Minifigures rip offs from the other brands out there. Even Playmobile is in on it.

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    Posted

    Blackj_ck: That really annoys me too. Mega Bloks is doing it with their World of Warcraft stuff and, as you said, Playmobil is doing it (along with many other companies that I can't all name right now). It's so sad to find companies that can't think up their own ideas and wait for other brands (like LEGO) to think up great ideas that they can then capitalize on. I just hope that the courts realize this and let LEGO sue them.....and win (for once). Oh well, I guess there isn't much that we can do at the moment (except for buying the official LEGO CMF's and not the "copies" -that way the clone companies will lose money).

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    Posted

    BUY LEGO. Do not buy anything else. I wasn't suprised this is a common belief, but just wondering what the consensus was with non afol parents. I was in a large Australian Department store last week, and a mother was with her little boy with a lego set in her arms. The boy asked her mother what she thought of a Mega Block set as well, and she replied. "We aren't buying that." Naturally, the boy asked, "Why not." The mother replied, "Because it's crap." I laughed. The mother looked quite well to do, and probably in a high social demograph, so I couldn't help but wonder, if this is the thought of many of the parents out there. Clearly the parents had either purchased Mega Blocks before and were disappointed, or their loyalty to the Lego brand was significant. In hindsight I wished I had struck up a conversation with her asking why, as it would be interesting to hear a probable non afol reason as to why non lego sets were 'crap'.

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    Posted

    bonsaibuddyman: Hmmm....yeah it seems the majority of parents know about the different brands and want the brand that will last and not break (which, of course, is LEGO!) for their children. That's certainly what happened with my parents when I was young.....although I do have a few Mega Bloks (I don't know where they came from!).

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    Posted

    Thanks for the article. Nice read!

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    Posted

    While I've been a die-hard lego fan since I was a wee lad, I found this article fairly harsh. I've enjoyed my kree-o transformers and Halo sets immensely. The Halo sets in particular can be mistaken for model sets, and their figures are so detailed they look like fantasy game painted sculptures. It's good that Lego has some competition to keep them on their toes, a fact they don't like apparently as seen in all these frivolous lawsuits. Trademark law is meant to protect slogans and graphics/logos, not tangible items. That is what patent law is for. Accordingly Lego has to compete with others on originality, for which we all benefit

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    Posted

    jeff_14: My friend owns a few KRE-O Transformers sets that he got from his grandparents for his birthday or Christmas or something. He hates KRE-O (he even said that he was going to burn some pieces of it at Guyforkes!). Other people I know like KRE-O is a "reasonably good quality, cheap alternative to LEGO". It all depends on whether you want extremely good quality and big fan base or a okay quality, inexpensive alternative like KRE-O. For me personally, I'd never buy anything but LEGO simply because that's what I like and I've grown up with [mostly] just LEGO. As you said, the KRE-O figures are quite good and detailed, but I think that their sets just look like they didn't put much effort into them (see these just recently announced ones here for example: http://brickultra.com/mega-bloks-power-rangers-megaforce-sets-2013/ and http://brickultra.com/mega-bloks-world-of-warcraft-faction-packs-rojo-and-wildhide/). That's just my opinion. :) And about the trademarks and patents: Yes, you're right about the trademarks and LEGO did patent the LEGO brick (http://www.google.co.nz/patents?id=dNtXAAAAEBAJ&printsec=abstract&zoom=4#v=onepage&q&f;=false) in 1976 and the minifigure (http://www.google.co.nz/patents?id=vf17AAAAEBAJ&printsec=abstract&zoom=4#v=onepage&q&f;=false) in 1976 as well as many other types of bricks over the years. But the problem is that the original LEGO brick patent has already expired and that has allowed other companies such as KRE-O and Mega Bloks to "steal" the brick idea. :(

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    Posted

    I'm a little surprised that the Kre-O Blocks are held up as equel to Lego in quality, although the 'Kreons' are undeniably PATHETIC.

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    Posted

    I think that Mega Blocks and Kre-o are insignificant and unsatisfactory unlike LEGO. I had a friend who bought a Mega Block set, It was one with a battle ship and some planes or something and I thought it was the coolest thing, of course that was when I was little and didn't know any better. Bottom line... only one can be king, and it's always the firstborn, LET LEGO RULE!!!

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    Posted

    The Transformers Kree-ons and sets are pretty sweet. I'd say Lego has had to get better since Mega Blocks first came along. When they thought their idea was protected, they could afford to be less concerned with quality, which is why so many sets from 10 or more years ago were less than memorable.

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    Posted

    jeff-14: Yes, the KRE-O Transformers sets were okay to start off with, but now I'm a little bored of them....it seems as though KRE-O is just going to become a better quality version of the good ol' Mega Bloks (with all these licensed KRE-O themes in the pipeline). I think what you were trying to say at the end of your comment was that LEGO made "lesser quality" sets when "they thought their idea was protected" by their patents 10 years ago. LEGO's brick patents expired way back then and companies such as Mega Bloks saw their chance so they started to make brick building sets. LEGO, by that time, realized what was going on and took Mega Bloks and other brands to court several times...but they generally failed because their patents had expired. Now other brands such as KRE-O are tapping into the market as well because they know that LEGO "can't" really do much about it. As you said, the quality of LEGO's products has improved dramatically since all these other companies started doing the same thing as them more or less. This is because LEGO knows that to compete with them and stay the number 1 building block company, they have to have a better product than the rest. Another reason for the improvement of LEGO's products is that: 10 years ago they didn't have the advanced technology of today (note the thousands of new molds in the recent sets, for example). :-) ....man, that was a lllooonnnggg comment....phew! :P

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