Driven by huge losses, Lego is going back to the basic product (spotted at Slashdot). The market gets a lot of criticism, but in this parent's view anyway on this one the market has spoken and it's right.
Lego toys that are designed to let you make a particular structure, like say a Star Wars craft, are basically horrible. They sound like a great idea, and the kids clamor for them, but they are expensive and have limited play value. First, although there's a great dog-on-its-hind-legs quality about the finished product, the assembly is usually too complicated for younger kids. Second, the result is fragile and anyone who tries to play with it finds it falls apart in their hand. Third, you can't take it apart and mix it with anything — you'll never be able to put it back together again without that one critical weird piece you can no longer find. Fourth, there aren't as many other things you can make with the set as you'd expect given the high (licence-fee-driven?) price.
Despite all this, at least in our area it's been remarkably difficult over the last six years to find large collections of just generic lego to make, say houses and garages even though there's much much more play in those. It would be really nice if that changes… Although there will still be stiff competiton in our household from the number one toy: Playmobil. (Well, number one non-electronic toy anyway.)