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When I was younger, the backs of my Castle/Space Lego set boxes showed alternate model builds for the supplied pieces, configurations not detailed in the instruction manual. I appreciated these creative ideas, showing me other things I could make with the pieces; I found them inspiring and sometimes challenging as they were presented without instructions. The inclusion of these models made me keep clippings from the boxes in order to replicate designs.

Today, it seems that alternate model designs are no longer presented on the backs/sides of Lego boxes.

Has Lego discontinued this practice, and why? Has it been dropped entirely for all sets, or is it simply not done for "licensed" sets (Batman, Star Wars, etc.).

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    Almost all the Technic sets still have instructions for a second model (online rather than printed). I suspect the problem is that sets and parts have become more specific so it's harder to make a decent B model, especially with the smaller sets. 100 parts, half of which are minifigs, just doesn't give a set designer many options. – Móż Nov 27 '14 at 3:50
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I don’t have an answer to why they stopped, but this site is trying to get instructions together for all the old stuff. www.backoftheboxbuilds.com

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I don't have enough reputation to post a comment, but in response to this comment by user3509 (and the similar answer from MartenFerret):

I would also hazard a guess that for brand sets part of the deal was that alternate models weren't allowed for copyright reasons - for example, a Star Wars X-Wing set can only build an X-Wing. Lego then probably made all sets follow the same design pattern for their own brand cohesion.

The original 7140 X-Wing model released in 1999 did have the traditional alternate builds shown on the back of the box: enter image description here

So if it's a licensing-based decision, it was a later one.

  • I am of the opinion that this response complete with imagery to justify it should remain an answer. – JoshDM Oct 21 '20 at 19:39
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    Okay, I have enough reputation now to make it a comment but I'll leave it up as a separate answer instead. – Nition Nov 5 '20 at 22:57
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I believe the reason is purely commercial. Why would parents buy another box of bricks if there are pictures of so many things their kid can build with only one set?

Nowadays there are no alternate models on backsides of boxes. Instead, there are some teaser pictures of other sets, and sometimes a message saying "Collect them all!"

Isn't it rather obvious?

Anyone of the same opinion?

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    LEGO doesn't seem to be that kind of a company..... – undo Oct 18 '15 at 10:53
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    "Why would parents buy another box of bricks if there are pictures of so many things their kid can build with only one set?" - I thought the freedom of buying so many things with only one set is exactly why parents are supposed to buy a box of LEGO rather than another toy. – O. R. Mapper Oct 26 '16 at 9:00
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    Plus, since you can't build alternate models at the same time as the original, this could be a reason to push for more purchases – Joubarc Oct 10 '19 at 11:56
  • @undo Yeah, but they do need profit for salaries and maintenance and whatnot – technicguy1 Oct 29 '20 at 22:10
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I do believe the LEGO Group has limited the instructions to only one build, not including the sets that are meant to re-build differently (in this case there are 3 instruction sheets).

enter image description here

If instead of actually rebuilding the set you mean alternate views (like the back of a model, or the unfolded model, etc.) this still applies to most sets that have an inside, unfold, etc.

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    I'm referring to the instruction-less alternate builds, which were commonly displayed on the back and sides of the box. – JoshDM Nov 27 '14 at 5:45
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    @JoshDM I do believe that the LEGO Company has stopped displaying instruction-less builds, but sometimes you still see alternate views or unfoldings of the same build. – Timtech Nov 27 '14 at 12:53
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    Have they given a reason why? – JoshDM Nov 27 '14 at 17:01
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    I believe the parents complained that there weren't instructions provided for the alternative models, so Lego stopped showing them. I don't know if anyone can confirm this factoid, but I'm sure I read it once somewhere. – Windfire Nov 27 '14 at 21:53
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    This is the sort of info I'm looking for. Needs more research to back it up, but I'll accept any answer with a sourced variant on this comment info. – JoshDM Dec 31 '14 at 17:34
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Most sets are licensed. If Lego, say, offered alternate models for Star wars sets, each alternate would need to be approved by disney ...which costs money Lego wouldn't know a return on.

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    About a half, but not the most, with roughly, 220/477 licensed sets for 2019. And you just cannot really build much SW/DC/Marvel alternatives from SW/DC/Marvel sets. Same goes with most of other licenses. However there are exceptions: 42030, 42063, 42053. – Alex Apr 21 '20 at 15:48
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    Marten, welcome to Bricks.SE. There seems to be much speculation on the whole license/contract/permission topic. Nobody knows the details of LEGO-Disney contracts. Maybe LEGO has other reasons to not present alternative models on the boxes. We do not know that. If you do, please provide some evidence. @Alex I think that you could build alternate models from ANY set (except maybe buildable Star Wars figures :) You could also speculate that B-models are sometimes better than the A-models, so LEGO wants to avoid this embarassing situation. – Aziraphale Apr 21 '20 at 20:34

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