As we wrote this article, the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing around the world. We decided to show our opinions on China bricks toy scene in the 2021. The research here is mainly based on what’s going on in China market and may not apply to the western market. Nevertheless, we hope our research could provide insight to China bricks market as a whole. We are going to focus on seven topic below

1. The quality of China brands bricks will be higher

LEGO is the best of bricks toy quality, it is the truth. But the Lego price is too expensive, and at such a price, it is difficult for the majority of children, even adults, to access it. Lego has always been a dream for many people. The price of lego is 5-7 times higher than that of China bricks.

In the past, the quality of Chinese bricks was considered poor. Like Lepin, a brand known for copying products from Lego, the quality of bricks is only 8/10 compared to lego. The raw materials that make up the bricks are still made from ABS plastic – a safe plastic for children. But because using the mold is not really accurate, the quality of bricks is low.
But that is the thing of the past. Currently, China’s toy industry is extremely developed and leading the world. Even Lego has built factories in China. High-precision mold machining has reached a new level. The best quality bricks in China right now are Gobricks (You can see more about Gobricks here) Gobricks is considered the “Foxconn” of the toy bricks world. Many brands have used bricks from Gobricks for their bricks, such as Moldking, Sembo, PK (You can see the brands using Gobricks bricks here).

Through tests conducted by WikiMOC, and according to the feedback from hundreds of thousands of our customers in China, Europe and United State of America, the quality of Gobricks tile is very good, about 98% Lego bricks and for the price of only 1/3 to 1/4 compared with Lego bricks.

We – WikiMOC- as a strategic partner of Gobrics, we have a lot of orders for children’s play centers, schools and science clubs. Orders to purchase several tons of Gobricks bricks. You can view the WikiMOC and Gobricks partnership information here

2. Cooperate with famous brands to acquire Intellectual Porperty Division

Many China brands had collaborated with famous brands to achieve higher commercial values for their sets. This is a way to move up the value chain. Like lego with the Starwars brand or Bugatti super car brand. Right now some of China bricks brand develop own IP.

Enlighten/QMAN used its Keeppley brand to sign up anime related Intellectual Porperty Division like Doraemon, Pokemon, Evangelion, Onmyoji etc. SEMBO works with cultural arms of the Beijing Forbidden City Museum, People Liberation Army, China National Space Administration in making sets with themes related to patriotism and local culture. Xinyu/Happy Build obtained a license from Toyota in order to make sets related to Initial D anime.

Happy Build obtained license from Toyota
Happy Build obtained license from Toyota in order to make sets related to Initial D anime

For 2021, the practice of acquiring third party IP will continue and we would see more theme that’s resonance with consumers in China.

3. MOCer Collaboration

The Rebrickable site and LEGO IDEAS had became source of free design and inspiration for clone brands. For years, you could find copies of MOC instructions being sold on Taobao. After LEPIN operation was shut down, wholesale copy of LEGO design became risky move for many clone brands. The brands like Bela, Lele who used to produce counterfeit LEGO had launched sub brands that steal MOC design. Overnight, Rebrickable became the place that clone brands mined for building instruction and making sets without authorization from the designers. Brands like CADA, HappyBuild and Mould King are willing to pay for MOC design. However, Mould King also guilty of stealing MOC design and not compensating designers.

List of designers that collaborated with Mould King.

We hope western MOCers be more approachable and open in collaborating with alternative brands. One need to realize it is hard to count on LEGO to pick your design even after achieving 10,000 votes. Having clone brands that’s willing to pay and produced the sets would be dream come true for many.

4. Guochao 国潮 aka China-Chic

Over the past few years, China has seen a surge in young consumers’ interest in domestic brands and products that incorporate Chinese traditional style and culture, a trend known as guochao (国潮) or China-Chic. China’s young adults grew up during the rise of China as a global economic powerhouse. The 20-25 age group is becoming one of China’s largest spending groups. Under such influence, they shifted their attention from pop culture imported from Japan, Korea and the West and started to develop interest in traditional Chinese art and literature. Guochao is not only about the rise of domestic brands, but also the resurgence of traditional style and cultural elements. Clone brands that incorporate guochao are Sembo, Keeppley, Cayi, LOZ, Sluban, Gudi, Forange, Decool, just to name feel.

The Brickheadz from Caiyi on Traditional Chinese Opera characters

5. Crowdfunding as Marketing Tool

More and more alternative brands go to Modian (摩点), a chinese crowdfunding App to promote their sets and getting funding and commitment from customers. Xingbao was one of the early adopter by releasing its Yellow Crane Building set early to supporters in Modian. Through employing this method, the brand could built a base of hard core supporters. Fan chat group formed on Wechat and QQ to discuss and share the photos of the new release and the built sets. Viggi(未及) which is a sub brand under SEMBO launched the sets first through Modian before taking the products mainstream.

Sembo Viggi Kamakura Train set which loosely based on a opening scene in Slam Dunk anime.

To entice fans to put down deposit to commit to the “project” on Modian, the starter promise big discount for early birds and handed out exclusive gifts. Also more goodies unlocked when the funding reach certain stages. A good example is Keeppley, a sub brand of QMAN that released its Chinese Spring Festival set through Modian with goodies like brickheadz, acrylic display box and discount for early birds. Also the brand had lots of interaction with fans during the fund raising period and providing after sales support like correcting the manual and mail out missing parts.

6. Rise of Brands with Competence In-house Designers

The alternative brands realized that copying from LEGO is not long term strategy. There is need to develop in house designers for sets with own IP and designs. Brands that had strong designers are Sembo, Qman/Keeppley, Sluban, Gudi, Cada, Rael and Woma. Decool/Jisi relied on both internal and external designers. For example Ian Ying from Malaysia had worked on sets such as Courage of Three Kingdoms for Decool. We notice these designers had getting better in their designs over the years. The day will come where China clone brands designers would rival the LEGO designers.

7. The Fate of Knockoffs

The LEPIN Saga came to closure on Dec 24 2020 when the gang lost the appeal and confirmed to rot in jail. LEPIN boss Li was sentenced to imprisonment of 6 years and with a fine of 90 million Yuan (US$ 14 million). It is an expensive lesson for the KO brands out there. The message is clear, do not infringe on trademark and copyright or you will be dealt with. The case was significant to make it on national broadcaster CCTV. Our friend took a shot of the news about the LEPIN gang of 9 when they were paraded and humiliated in front of the reporters.

Looking Ahead in 2021

Hope you enjoy our 2-cents on China clone bricks market in 2021. Today is Chinese New Year eve. Wishing all the readers of CMI a Happy Spring Festival and Prosperous Year of Ox!

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