I love the photo at the top of this post. Since Covid began (an unbelievable three years ago), often it's felt like making and distributing the products we love has been so much harder than it ever was before. Part of this has to do with the fact that so many things just feel so much harder post-Covid than pre-Covid. Since we're an electronics manufacturer– and especially since we're a small manufacturer– getting the parts we need to produce the products our customers love has been difficult or even impossible at times. To keep the company growing, we've had to completely re-design almost every part we manufacture. That's taken years– actual years!– and many times I've felt like that child standing at the bottom of that big stairway: OK, deep breath, time to start again. Here we go.
The most amazing part through all of the challenges has always been YOU, our incredible customers. Truly, you have kept us going, pushed us to develop ever-better and more innovative products, and waited patiently as we've communicated delay after delay in being able to make light and sound kits for many of your favorite models.
The worst part? Having to continually reply to your messages and Forum posts with repeated "yes, we're working on it" and "thank you for being patient" while still feeling like that kid at the bottom of the stairs!
2023 is a new year, and for us it's a new beginning. We're finally ready to start climbing that big stairway and we're almost ready to show the world everything we've been working on during the Covid times. I always want to create products with features you can't find anywhere else, because I know the hobby electronics market is not standing still. Almost every week I see a new (usually China-based) company offering hobby lighting products, usually at rock-bottom prices (and occasionally with dubious quality). It is now common when shopping for generic brick building sets to see the words "includes light kit" along with the product listing.
My job is to convince you there's more to adding lights to your model than a quick Aliexpress or Amazon purchase. More on that to come in future blog posts.
What to expect
I want to be clear on what you can expect from us in the coming months– hopefully this will answer most of the "when will you have <x> ready?" questions that come to us.
We are a small company– that's one of the things I love about running Brickstuff. We know our customers, they know us and they know what we stand for. While being small is a wonderful thing, it also means you can't do everything at once. During Covid, one of my mistakes was to keep saying "yes" to most requests and to keep trying every new idea that came to me. In the end, that usually meant not being able to actually finish many things. I'm writing this post from my office, and in front of my desk are 30 plastic bins. Inside each of these bins is a new product that's just about ready to launch. We can't put it up for sale yet, because I haven't written the instructions for it, or I haven't made packaging for it. I think you're going to love every one of these new products, but in order to give me time to finish them and get them out for the world to see, I've realized we need to set an intense focus for the year. That means some products will be accelerated, while others will be paused or retired.
Some of the biggest changes are listed below.
Our BrickScreen product line is incredibly popular with our customers, and we've been working in the background on a whole new generation of screens, with new animations and features. I think you're going to love them when they're ready, but for now we're going to pause the manufacture of our current designs.
I expect to be able to launch the new BrickScreens lineup in May of 2023.
Pausing: Holiday Products
We have a growing list of holiday products, and we have some incredible new products in store for Holiday 2023. Expect to see these emerge on the site in late summer 2023. Until then, we will not be re-stocking any holiday products.
Pausing: Custom Work
One of my favorite parts about my job is working with customers to design special or custom assemblies, kits, and parts for their models. As part of our need to focus, however, I've made the difficult decision to suspend all new custom work requests and projects for the entirety of 2023. If you have something custom you'd like us to make for you, please reach out again in early 2024.
Re-Launching: Starter Kits
We've completely re-thought our approach to Starter Kits, so you can expect to see the new products in this line emerging around March 2023. Until then we will continue re-stocking our Light Strip and Pico LED Starter Kits. Our Lighting Effect Starter Kit will not be re-stocked, as lighting effects are going to become a standard feature in most of our new Starter Kits.
Our current website is running on 10-year-old technology. It's time for an upgrade– this will not come as any surprise to our customers. We're already working on the new site in the background, so you can look forward to a much-improved shopping experience later in 2023.
Focus Area: Interoperability With Other Vendors
We want Brickstuff to be your go-to brand for everything light and sound related, whatever your hobby. To make that vision a reality, we're close to launching a full line of adapters that will let customers use our products with those from every other major vendor on the market. We're long past the days when you could get the best of everything from one company, and we want to be the leader in making what you already have work with all of our products. We also want to be a bridge in helping you connect products from one company with products from another, even if the only Brickstuff part in the middle is an adapter. Look for these new products to launch in the Spring of 2023.
Focus Area: BrickPixel™ Lighting System
Since 2013, we've been working on an easy-to-use system for controlling hundreds of lights with a single controller. This technology has been used in some of our Premium Kits (notably, our Millennium Falcon, Disney, Hogwarts, and Ecto-1 kits), but in 2023 we're launching the BrickPixel™ system in multiple kits, so anyone can deploy their own blinky control panel, synchronized airport landing strip, or disco dance floor.
Focus Area: Sound
Look for more of our kits to include sound as a standard feature. We're even putting sound into some of our smallest, most basic kits because we think sound is almost as awesome and essential as great lighting. We'll have pre-loaded sound, sound you can add and control yourself without writing any code, and even sound players that play multiple sounds at the same time. Think: sound modules for LEGO® train engines.
Focus Area: New and Upgraded Premium Kits
I saved this one for last, but it's our biggest focus area right now. With all this new technology finally ready for release after three long years, we're going to be delivering on our commitments to customers to create dynamic light and sound kits for some of the most in-demand LEGO® sets. We have accumulated a huge backlog of sets we want to make, so we're going to plan and release them in groups of five.
2023 First Half (January-June)
- Ideas Motorized Lighthouse (set #21355)
- Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer™ (set #75252)
- ICONS Eiffel Tower (set #10307)
- Harry Potter Diagon Alley™ (set #75978)
- Ideas Tree House (set #21318)
2023 Second Half (June-December)
- Star Wars AT-AT™ (set #75313)
- ICONS Lion Knights' Castle (set #10305)
- Creator Haunted House (set #10273)– in time for Halloween 2023
- ICONS Galaxy Explorer (set #10497)
- Ideas Home Alone House (set #21330)– in time for Christmas 2023
I think that's the bulk of what we'll be able to take on this year. That means that many other sets people have been asking about (Titanic, Hogwarts Express, Carousel, and Roller Coaster, Mos Eisley Cantina, and Medieval Blacksmith among others) will need to wait until 2024. I'd rather say "not this year" to certain sets (even though I really want to work on them) than keep saying "soon" and not being able to deliver for our customers.
In order to make room on the production schedule for these new 2023 sets, we're going to be discontinuing the following Premium Kits:
For the discontinued kits, we'll continue selling our current stock until it's sold out– after that, we won't make kits for these sets again.
Throughout 2023, we'll continue selling our most popular Premium Kits like the Millennium Falcon, Ecto-1, and Monster Fighters Haunted House. In fact, these kits will benefit from our new technology and will see some upgrades (more details coming soon on that).
Speaking of upgrades, we're also going to deliver upgraded kits for two of our most popular sets: the Ferris Wheel and Ghostbusters Firehouse. Look for these kits to be available starting in the second half of 2023.
Well, this turned into a much longer post than I'd anticipated, but I wanted to have a single place where we could share our updates and set expectations for 2023. If you have an interest in our schedule and plans, please do sign up for this new blogging platform so you can comment on posts, and also so you'll receive updates via e-mail when they're available. With this new platform and its ability to post much more than just text, I plan to be sharing updates and behind-the-scenes details more frequently than in the past.
On behalf of everyone here at our small family-owned company, thank you for your support, encouragement, and great ideas. I can't believe 2023 marks our 12th year in business, and I'm exicted to see where all of our new ideas and technologies take us in the years ahead.
Rob Klingberg, Brickstuff Chief Enthusiast