Daily Archives: November 8, 2011

LEGO Universe End Game

It seems that the troubled story of LEGO Universe now has an end date.

A press release went out last week and email notifications started going out to users after that letting everyone know that LEGO Universe will be shutting down on January 31, 2012.

On March 5, 2007 a press release went out announcing that LEGO and NetDevil would be joining forces to create a LEGO themed MMO.

At that point, in the MMO world, NetDevil was primarily known for its troubled Auto Assault online game, published by NCsoft, which would be closed down in July of 2007.

LEGO Universe, after a couple of missed dates, eventually went live just over a year ago, on October 26, 2010.  And it has had problems ever since.

Originally a traditional “buy the box, pay a subscription fee” model MMO focused on kids and claiming to offer parents ease of mind on safety issues, it failed to distinguish itself on all counts.

Its well established main competitors (e.g. Club Penguin, online since 2005 and Toon Town, online since 2003) offered free to obtain, free to play options along with parental controls on par with LU, while pay to play games like World of Warcraft offered superior parental options.

So the only real draw was LEGO base game play, and LEGO Universe failed to stand out in that department as well, as so accurately documented by Oz over at Kill Ten Rats.  In our own house, my daughter tried the game and went quickly from enthusiasm to boredom.  She stopped playing and has never asked to play the game since.

NetDevil bowed out of the LEGO Universe drama with a press release on February 24, 2011, which also pretty much ended their existence as part of Gazillion Entertainment, which purchased NetDevil back in July of 2008.

In June 2011, LEGO announced that LEGO Universe would go to a free to play model, the current panacea for all ailing MMOs these days.

All of which brings us to today’s email blast from LEGO.

Hello Adventurer, today we are very sad to announce that LEGO® Universe will be closing on January 31, 2012. This was a very difficult decision to make, but unfortunately LEGO Universe has not been able to attract the number of members needed to keep the game open.

We realize how sad this will make the many players who have enjoyed LEGO Universe and we are committed to providing open communication with both kids and parents as we transition through this difficult time. We understand this is a challenging change and apologize for not being able to give parents forewarning before the general announcement.

We are thankful to have had the opportunity to share this adventure with an amazing community of players. We hope you will continue to enjoy LEGO Universe for the last few months. As a thank you, if you are a paying subscriber on December 31, 2011, we will provide you the full game for the final month for free.

Again, we want to thank the fantastic community of players who made LEGO Universe such a vibrant, fun and creative experience.

Hello Adventurer, today we are very sad to announce that LEGO® Universe will be closing on January 31, 2012. This was a very difficult decision to make, but unfortunately LEGO Universe has not been able to attract the number of members needed to keep the game open.

We realize how sad this will make the many players who have enjoyed LEGO Universe and we are committed to providing open communication with both kids and parents as we transition through this difficult time. We understand this is a challenging change and apologize for not being able to give parents forewarning before the general announcement.

We are thankful to have had the opportunity to share this adventure with an amazing community of players. We hope you will continue to enjoy LEGO Universe for the last few months. As a thank you, if you are a paying subscriber on December 31, 2011, we will provide you the full game for the final month for free.

Again, we want to thank the fantastic community of players who made LEGO Universe such a vibrant, fun and creative experience.

Sincerely,

The LEGO Universe Team

The Details:

  • The game will be turned off on January 31, 2012 at midnight (EST).
  • All current subscribers (1, 6 or 12 month plans) who still have active subscriptions on December 31 will receive a refund for any remaining game time remaining after December 31 as well as free play from January 1, 2012 until January 31.
  • For example, if you purchased a 6-month subscription on September 1, 2011 (which would expire on February 29, 2012), you would be refunded $16.66 for the 2 months following December 31.
  • We will begin processing all refunds on February 1, 2012. All refunds will be made to the credit card used for the original subscription.
  • If your subscription expires before December 31 you will need to purchase an additional 1 month subscription by December 31 in order to get the free game play in January (again, any unused game time as of December 31 will be refunded.)
  • LEGO Universe game cards can only be used until December 1st 2011. Unused game cards after December 1st can be converted to LEGO Shop @Home gift cards for the same value.
  • Please note: Details on how to convert unused game cards will be posted on December 1.
  • You can continue to enjoy the free to play zone until January 31, 2012 but your last chance to convert to a paying subscription is December 31, 2011.

There is an additional FAQ with more details available.

And so a sad end to a game with such promise.  There is no curse like failing to live up to ones potential.  And I am sure this was a hard decision at LEGO.  Once you have all that effort sunk into a project, once everything is in place, once the machine is running, it is tough to just turn the switch off and send everybody home.

But LEGO has been through tough times of its own.  The first decade of this century saw them stumble and really have to rethink how they did business after many years of simply succeeding because they were LEGO.  That lead to a series of tough decisions that brought them back from the brink and set them to focus more on profitability than market share.

And that focus is clearly being felt now.  LEGO Universe isn’t hitting its goals and is going to be cut.

I am sure this is sad news for those who play the game.   I certainly find it sad, if in a more abstract sense, since we haven’t played it for months at our house.

In the end though, they appear to have failed to capture the essence of what makes LEGO building sets popular.

What should have been the direction for LEGO Universe?  Less “block-based WoW” and more “LEGO Second Life?”

(The latter with more parental controls and less some smaller quantity of flying penises, of course.)