Is Lego Minifigures Online correctly assembled for MMO success? (Wired UK)


LEGO/Funcom


The mechanics of for-profit companies mean that competitor
success breeds a desire to innovate along similar lines. Like soap
opera characters leaving half drunk beverages in bars and coffee
shops, Lego has been remiss at not cashing in on what Activision
coined as the “toys to life” genre.

These are games that use collectable toy-lines as the means to
access locked away in-game characters. Skylanders Trap
Team
and Disney Infinity 2.0 are this year’s big
hitters with amiibo, Nintendo’s new offering, following soon after.
Lego has been sitting on a trump card here with its hugely popular
collectable series of Minifigures.

Lego Minifigures Online is a new video game that
finally leverages this asset as part of a new massively multiplayer
online experience. After the troubles with Lego Universe,
that launched in 2010 and only lasted two years before its plug was
pulled, the new game does things a little differently. Most
critical here is a new revenue model as the failure of Lego
Universe
was put down to not being “able to build a
satisfactory revenue model in our target group” by Jesper Vilstrup,
Vice President of Lego Universe.

The new game is actually quite similar to Lego
Universe
, although edging more towards a console Lego
video-game experience that’s outright MMO. Players still progress
and upgrade their different Lego characters, but now this is more
closely tied to building up a collection of figures based around
the foil “blind pack” Lego Minifigure purchases made in real
life.

Getting hands on with
the Lego Minifigures Online
Beta it’s interesting to
see just how strong the physical-virtual cross over is. In the game
when you acquire new characters you are instantly taken to a
virtual replica of opening a real world foil pack. It creates the
same buzz of excitement that kids have enjoyed with the physical
minifigure collecting.

LEGO Minifigures Online Diary #1 – Getting Started, Membership, In App PurchasesFamilyGamerTV

These packs are purchased with the in-game Diamonds currency
that is awarded to the player (slowly) by progressing in the game.
Although the game is “free to play” it also offers the option of
speeding up progress by purchasing Diamonds at different price
points (£3.99 for 1250 diamonds, £7.99 for 2750 diamonds, £23.99
for 9000 diamonds). In the game a minifigure pack costs 750
diamonds which works out around £2.40 to unlock a character which
is about the same price as buying a physical Lego Minifig.

Although not the case currently, Lego apparently plans to
include codes with future series of physical Minifigs that would
then unlock characters in the game. This route to unlocking game
content would be £2.49 for both the physical and virtual figures
together.


LEGO/Funcom


Here is the first hurdle for parents and players: distinguishing
what is good value here. Not only do you have to translate from
Diamonds to real money but also weigh up the relative benefit of
the physical vs. virtual product for your money.

Things get more complex when you factor in the option of
subscriptions for Lego Minifigures Online. This not only
grants access to some advanced in-game features like chatting to
other players but also offers regular free virtual Minifig
characters as well. Subscriptions range from £5.99 for a month to
£29.99 for 6 months and £44.99 for a year.

The game itself is developed by Funcom who made The Secret
World
MMO. The Beta is currently only on PC but the full game
will also come to tablets in due course. Action is controlled via a
mouse and keyboard on the PC. You point and click your way around
with a Left Mouse and attack with a Right Mouse.

LEGO Minifigures Online Diary #2 – Membership, Pack Opening, Pirate TrialsFamilyGamerTV

As you progress you can develop your party of three characters
in role-play fashion. Minifigures are grouped into three
categories: defender, striker, and builder each of which are needed
to solve different puzzles and complete battle challenges.

Like
Skylanders
, it’s in the detail of each character where
the game really starts to come to life. Each of the minifigures
have unique attacks and skills that can be developed. An instant
family favourite for us was the DJ character who throws records and
drops big subwoofers on enemies. My daughter also liked the Bee
Girl who throws honey pots to stick enemies to the ground before
finishing them off with a bee attack.

Again familiar to those who have played other “toys to life”
games, each of the characters also has a secondary grouping. These
include Tech, Life, Light, Shadow and Magic and bring to mind the
Skylanders elements. Finally each Minifigure has a
five star rating for Power, Defence and Creativity.


LEGO/Funcom


As you progress through different player vs. player and team
challenges characters can be upgraded with power bricks. By placing
these in different configurations you can increase the power of
their abilities.

Although the Beta only offers a subset of worlds the final game
will take players on an adventure in multiple classic Lego
locations such as Pirates, Space, Greek Mythology, Caves, Jungles
and The Medieval Times.

Apart from the complexity for families to work out best value,
the other downside is that the physical-virtual cross over is one
way. Whether buying a real world toy or entering a code this is
different to Skylanders because progress is not save back
to a physical product. In fact this is more like the Angry
Birds Go! Telepods
model where QR codes grant access to in
game characters.

Overall though it’s a lot of fun and highly moreish. In fact,
I’ve already had to introduce some limits on playtime in my
household. Combine this with the already super-collectable and
pocket money friendly Lego Minifigures and this seems to be a sure
fire hit for Funcom.

Lego Minifigures
Online
Beta
 is available now with the full game
expected for release this Autumn.

Andy Robertson is a freelance family gaming expert for the
BBC and runs Family
Gamer TV
.

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Source: wired.co.uk
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