Lego Universe: Farewell
By Shannon Doyle (Leliah), OnRPG Journalist
For years now Lego games have been popular, beyond popular even. The revitalization of Lego games started with Lego Star Wars in 2005. Since then they have explored the seas with Pirates of the Caribbean, broken out a famous whip with Indy, Rocked out with Rock Band, entered the magical world of Harry Potter and the dark world that is Batman. But these were all single player games with multiplayer options as well. In 2010 they skipped genres going into the ever popular and profitable MMO world with Lego Universe.
In the Lego Universe all Minifigs (lego people) are in great danger from the Maelstrom. You must team up with people from all over the world to take on this dark force before it consumes all. From the start it was clear no expense was spared in the development. Commercials were aired on television, something few MMOs do. And perhaps coolest of all they got Patrick Stewart to be narrator. Sadly all good things must end. And on January 30th, 2012 Lego Universe did.
Why did it happen? Ultimately, like with so many things it came down to money. They just weren’t making enough to make it worth keeping the game running. But why weren’t they making the money? I have a couple of theories on this.
Marketed to the wrong people. MMO players tend to be older than any other group. This game wasn’t for them unless they’ve loved Lego their entire lives. They went out of their way to make it kid friendly and safe. I can only imagine kids loved it. The right people, the people they should have gone after are gamers with kids. It was family friendly, a great jumping in point for the children of MMO players. Like training wheels before getting into the “big boy” games. Most importantly it was a game you could play with your kids. But what family would be willing to pay for more than one subscription to a game? That brings me to my second theory.
Should have been Free to Play from the start. Evidence is showing that the free to play model attracts people by the bajillions. Everquest 2 saw a 300% increase in players after going Free to Play. F2P draws more people in, people who may not have originally played. It would have allowed more families to play together. If only the marketing were targeted to the right place.
So I’ve said it was awesome. And if I didn’t, it was awesome. From the very first moments I was giggling and it never stopped. But what made it so fantastic? From the moment the game started up and you started typing in your password the little minifig host covered his eyes. If you waited on the screen long enough you would see a minifig getting chased by a dragon. The personality the minifigs had were absolutely the number one best thing about Lego Universe. When you got to the character creation screen the minifig who was selected would give you the most adorable grin and start pointing at the button to go into the game. The others who weren’t selected would do their best to grab your attention. Sometimes even crying when they weren’t picked. It broke your heart and made you want to play all of them at once.
The personality didn’t stop there. It continued through the game in emotes and NPCs. Sure, Lego Universe didn’t have crafting like most MMOs. Instead it had something that was really perfect for what it was. Building your own home using lego bricks. Building was easy and fun. You got to use various pieces you found through your travels to build the home of your design. The efforts that they went through to make it safe for kids was honestly, jaw dropping. A scan of your ID was attached to your account, every name had to be approved. If you were an adult playing this game they knew who you were, where you lived and you really got the feeling like if anyone did do something to endanger kids it would be dealt with swiftly. Lego Universe had the amazing graphics you’ve come to expect from Lego games. And they wouldn’t hesitate to show them off. You could view certain areas through binoculars which would take you on a short visual tour of the local area. They also made things more interesting to kids (as if they needed to) by having minigames and leadership boards to create competition.
There were a few things, other than marketing that weren’t done so well. Well, to be honest it’s only one and a half things. The half is the security. The chat ability only allowed you to use words from a dictionary of words they deemed acceptable. While understandable for the safety of children I could see it being very annoying for adults, especially roleplayers. Despite that though I did find roleplayers on the message boards. The only true negative thing I could really say about Lego Universe was that it felt more like a single player game than an MMO. I never felt any pressing urge to play with other people. I was happy to go through everything on my own. With the exception of some of the minigames which required a bit of coordination with your teammates.
What can we learn from Lego Universe? After I logged off for the last time I found myself asking this question to my husband who reviewed the game back at the start. We came up with a few things.
Security can be both a blessing and a curse.
Marketing is important to get right.
The best games make you feel young, no matter how old you are.
And most importantly, make a game that makes people laugh.
Lego Universe is going to be missed by kids young and old. So many things were done right in this game it really is a shame to see it go. I hope that in the future there will be more games like it. Even though I only played it a short time I loved it. I can’t really find the right way to say it, so I will let my minifig say it for me.