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).
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.
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.
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.