Tag Archives: LEGO Universe

LEGO Legend of Chima Online – A Second Try at a LEGO MMO

LEGO Universe is just a memory, some random screen shots, and a painful timeline at this point.  But that doesn’t mean LEGO is out of the MMO business or that a LEGO MMO isn’t a good idea.  LEGO has a new MMO going, LEGO Legends of Chima Online.

LEGOChimaOnline450LEGO has teamed up with Warner Games for to take another run at the whole MMO idea.

I am not sure why they haven’t gone with Traveller’s Tales on this plan, as they are the people who have made pretty much ALL the good LEGO games, from LEGO Star Wars forward.  Then again, TT does seem to have a pretty set formula, one that might be getting old by this point.

Anyway, with lessons learned from LEGO Universe, things have a new flavor.  The game will be web based, using the Unity Plug-in as a platform.  It will be free to play, with premium options.  And it will be focused on a single, LEGO owned property, the Legends of Chima, which LEGO is starting to roll out as building sets, games on the DS and Vita platform, and a television show on Cartoon Network.  So a big cross channel cash-in is being attempted here, and it looks even more ambitious than the Ninjago campaign.

The site for Legends of Chima is up and running and the game is in open beta and seems to include all of the standard MMO features from levels to combat to inventory management.  The critical game features that LEGO is calling out are:

Free to Play – LEGO Legends of Chima Online is a free-to-play online game! Membership and Premium currency are available to further enhance the experience but are never required!

Build – As the new commander of your Outpost, it is up to you to decide what you want to build and where you want to build it. Every building provides benefits from generating and collecting studs, creating weapons and armor, or providing your hero with special skills and abilities! You can also build and destroy LEGO creations within the game world.

Create & Customize – Be the hero you want to be. Your skills depend on what kind of Outpost you choose to build! There are no classes, no restrictions – you can play the way you want to play! Customize items by picking which color brick you want to build them with!

I suppose we will see how a new LEGO MMO stands up in world that already has Minecraft and EverQuest Next Landmark on the way.  But this time around, the goals seem to be more modest and the focus a lot more concentrated for LEGO.

LEGO Universe is No More

I already ran down the quick history of LEGO Universe back in November.

That was when they announced that the game would be shutting down.   And the date of the shut down has come and gone.  The game joins an ever growing list of MMOs that have seen their last day.

Last view of LEGO Universe

Actually, their original press release said midnight on January 31, 2012, but was anybody really holding out for that last day?

There is still a FAQ regarding the closure, which will probably remain for a while.

LEGO Universe: October 26, 2010 – January 30, 2012

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.)

LEGO Universe Solves ONE of My Complaints…

Just last week I was complaining about LEGO Universe and how, given that its direct kid-focused competition almost all have a free to play aspect to their games, it was pretty much in a losing position in our house.  Why pay for 30 days and patch when Animal Jam or Club Penguin are always just there waiting for you?

A monthly subscription MMO that requires a box purchase just doesn’t cut it in the kid focused market these days.

So LEGO is fixing that.  As noted over at Massively, LEGO Universe is going to align itself with its market segment and introduce free to play content.  Press release here.

They are not going the cash shop route, ala FreeRealms.  Instead, it appears that the model will be more akin to Toontown Online, where subscribing members will get access to content which non-paying member will not. (At least that is how Toontown was working last I checked.)  The model, from the press release.

LEGO Universe will continue to generate revenue through paid memberships, and there are no plans for micro-transactions at this time. Players can try out the free-to-play zone for an unlimited period of time, and can pay $10 (USD) per month to become a LEGO Universe member and receive full game access. Those who sign up for extended memberships will continue to receive discount pricing.

The LEGO Universe free-to-play experience will offer a limited selection of game content, including two adventure zones and one player property area for building their own virtual LEGO models. Paying members will have access to all areas in the full game, along with membership benefits such as competitions and community events.

I wonder if the free portion will be enough to entice people, since it sounds somewhat limited.

We shall see if they can hold to that model.  I think that a LEGO game that sold virtual kits through a cash shop might be an unstoppable force if done right.  But that might be a bad, or at least a costly, thing for me.

And they are also doing away with the need to buy the box.  Given the amount of patching that needs to get done once you run the installer from the CD, that is probably a good thing.  I’m glad I didn’t pay full retail for my box.

Unless, of course, they just make the current installer from the CD available.  That would be a bad thing.  The whole patching from ground zero is one of the reasons I will likely never go back to Runes of Magic.  Well, that and their patch process is/was complete crap.

So we’ll see what LEGO has really learned.  A giant download and long patch process before being able to play can be a killer.  So can an annoying sign-up process.

The allure of LEGO will drive some people, but just because you’re now giving some of your game away for free doesn’t mean instant success.  Will LEGO adapt or will they just continue to bleed in new and different ways?

The Slow Rise & Sudden Demise of LEGO Universe

At least at our house.

I have been interested in LEGO Universe since it was announced.  LEGO is kind of a big thing at our house.  And we love all most of the Traveller’s Tales LEGO games.  So a LEGO MMO seemed like a natural.

But we never quite got around to buying it.

You can only really play so many subscription MMOs at a time, and when LEGO Universe came out, World of Warcraft was still popular at our house.  So I did not see the need to rush out and drop $40 on the box.  I could wait and let things settle.

Time went by.  The price of the game was cut in half.  $20 for LEGO Universe.

And while Cataclysm was fading for us somewhat by this point (the instance group was face rolling content while my daughter had played all Summer in the beta with a fully equipped level 85 character and was getting bored and not willing to level up through the content) $20 still seemed like a bit much when my daughter had Animal Jam, with the benefits of being free and browser based, to occupy her gaming time.

And more time went by, LEGO took over LEGO Universe from NetDevil, and began offering the game for $10 via the LEGO Online Store.

$10… that was tempting.  I’ve bought games I know I’ll never play for $10.  I bought City of Heroes: Going Rogue on Steam for $10 in a fit of bargain basement insanity over the holidays, along with Hearts of Iron III. (And at least I’ve played Hearts of Iron some, or I did until the new Combat Mission title came out.)

But even at $10 I passed.

The game was still available for $10, with free shipping last I checked.

Then I got a reminder from the LEGO Store that I had some VIP points to redeem.  With those applied to the price of LEGO Universe, I finally hit a price point I could not resist.

$5.46 turned out to be the right price

Yes, for five dollars and forty six cents, I could commit to LEGO Universe.

It arrived in the mail and we installed it on my daughter’s iMac.  I created an account and we launched the game and waited for it to patch.  And waited.  And waited.  And went to bed  and got up the next morning.  And waited a bit more.

And then we could play!

And play my daughter did.

Meanwhile I tinkered with the parental controls.  Said controls suck.

Well, maybe “suck” isn’t the right word.

They are on par with most free to play browser based games I have encountered, which is to say they appear to be a rudimentary after thought of very limited value, though it is hampered by the LEGO Universe web site, which I did not very friendly in helping me get to things I was seeking.

And there is the fact that I have been spoiled by Blizzard’s parental controls.  I have griped about how they took a workable UI and made it worse, but it still allows me the option I want when it comes to parental controls, the ability set time slots when my daughter is allowed to play.  I do not want to have to constantly police her computer for online games when she is supposed to be making a birthday card in Kid-Pix or writing up her science fair project. (Which involved LEGO as well.)

Still, for a boxed monthly subscription game that pushes the parental controls and kid safety aspects of the game, I was disappointed.

But my daughter was very excited about the game and played that first weekend, totally forgetting about Animal Jam, the kid focused browser MMO associated with National Geographic.

It was her game of choice the following weekend, though we did have to do some more patching as they had just dropped a new update that week.  But still, she seemed to be enjoying the game quite a bit, and called me over to show me the house she was building and a few other neat things.

But the weekend after that, LEGO Universe was forgotten.

My daughter’s favorite game was Animal Jam again.

I did not get a chance to play it with her.  I only ordered one copy remembering, perhaps falsely, that there was some sort of “family account” associated with the game.  However I was unable to find any reference to this on the rather jumbled LEGO Universe web site, so perhaps it was something they mentioned as a possibility before launching.

I asked my daughter to list out what she liked and did not like about LEGO Universe, to see why it did not stick with her.  This is what she gave me:

Likes

  • Cool gear
  • Cool dance moves
  • Cool pets
  • Dungeons which other people can go in
  • Groups
  • Build your OWN home

Dislikes

  • You cant say LEET, UBER, HAX. IRL, HALLO stuff like that
  • You have a limited speech
  • You have to PAY for JUST a month
  • you cant make new characters on different servers
  • YOU HAVE TO WAIT FOR LIKE 89 HOURS FOR THE PATCHES TO DOWNLOAD! (no wonder they don’t have many players)
  • It is frustrating!

Now, some of her dislikes reflect the kid safety aspects of the game. (And her exposure to Barrens chat.)  The one option I had in parental controls was the ability to limit communications.

And, of course, the whole patching thing happened to hit her two weeks running.  Patience is an almost unknown virtue in a 9 year old.

But I also think part of the reason that LEGO Universe did not stick with her is that she is developing her own interests.  LEGO is clearly my influence, and while she has not rejected it completely, it has begun to fade in favor of her own ideas.  Right now, for example, she is very much into the cat society Warriors series of books, having devoured two dozen of the titles so far this year.

So she likes to draw cats and play with things that are cat related.  She even pays more attention to our own cats and has taken to combing them regularly.  Yay for good side effects.  She likes to make up cat names in the theme of the books, which I am told (by her) follow the format of <thing> + <cat body part>.  So you end up with something like Brambleclaw.  Of course, I fail at this, coming up with names like, Toastertail which gets the response, “Dad! Cats don’t know what a toaster is!”  My explanation about knowing a cat that got its tail singed by a toaster falls on deaf ears.

Animal Jam, which lets her play as a cat, trumps a game that merely lets you play with LEGO bricks. (Penguins are also out.)

So LEGO Universe, which was met with an initial burst of enthusiasm now sits idle.  And given its monthly subscription nature, it seems unlikely that we will return to it.  The game competes squarely against many browser based MMOs that offer at least some play aspects for free.  Thus when my daughter to come argue her case with me about why I should allow her to subscribe to a given game, a case that is much easier to win if she can say, “I’m already playing it,” LEGO Universe seems destined to lose.

And so it goes.

Who will speak for LEGO Universe?  Not I.

Press Release Bookends for NetDevil and LEGO Universe.

In with a press release.

The LEGO Group Selects NetDevil To Create Branded MMOG

Billund, Denmark – March 5, 2007 – The LEGO® Group today announced it has commenced a working relationship with NetDevil® to develop a massively multiplayer online gaming experience to further engage its dedicated and active community.
“As children around the world continue to spend more time online, we are developing new and engaging ways for them to interact with our brand,” said Lisbeth Valther Pallesen, Executive Vice President, Community, Education and Direct Division LEGO Group. “The LEGO brand represents construction, creativity and problem solving – values that complement the MMOG market. By merging the online world of social interaction with physical play, the LEGO brand is providing new experiences for children, as well as fans. NetDevil’s technological capability, openness to work with a large community, and enthusiasm for the LEGO brand make them a natural partner.”
“Playing with LEGO bricks and developing online worlds are both creative activities. To bring them together is deeply professionally satisfying and we look forward to working with the LEGO team,” said Scott Brown, president of NetDevil.

About the LEGO Group
The LEGO Group (www.LEGO.com) is a privately held, family-owned company, based in Billund, Denmark. It was founded in 1932 and today the group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of play materials for children, employing approximately 4,500 people globally. The LEGO Group is committed to the development of children’s creative and imaginative abilities. LEGO products can be purchased in more than 130 countries.
LEGO and the LEGO logo are trademarks of The LEGO Group. ©2006 The LEGO Group.

About NetDevil, LTD
NetDevil is a leading independent game development company that specializes in the creation and construction of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). Founded in 1997, under the inspiration of JumpgateTM, the world’s first massively multiplayer space simulator, the company carries on a commitment to creating interactive, virtual worlds in unique and elaborate settings. Led by a development team of talented and experienced industry veterans, NetDevil has grown to over 50+ employees with plans to hire and retain top industry talent for work on its large-scale projects in development. All NetDevil employees share a common vision to bring the mysteries of new and exciting worlds to life as immersive online universes. NetDevil is a privately held company, with headquarters in Louisville, CO.

Out with a press release:

February 24, 2011 – SAN MATEO, Calif. – Gazillion Entertainment and LEGO System A/S jointly announced today that Gazillion agreed to sell its rights in the development of the LEGO Universe massively-multiplayer online game to the LEGO Group, the publisher of the game. The majority of LEGO Universe development team members, formerly part of Gazillion’s NetDevil subsidiary, have been offered employment by the LEGO Group, who will continue game development and operations from the current Louisville, Colorado studio.

“We’re excited about the launch of LEGO Universe, and are happy to have the developers officially join the LEGO team,” said Jesper Vilstrup, Vice President at the LEGO Group. “This acquisition demonstrates our commitment both to the ongoing success of LEGO Universe and to an overall strategy to expand our brand online.”

“Gazillion’s focus is developing, operating, and publishing the next generation of browser-delivered games,” said David Brevik, Gazillion Entertainment President and COO. “We’re proud of the game our team built, and are certain that it has a bright future. The transition of members of our team to the LEGO Group enables us to focus completely on internally-published, free-to-play game businesses.”

LEGO System A/S entered into a work-for-hire relationship with NetDevil to build LEGO Universe in 2006. In 2008, Gazillion Entertainment acquired NetDevil. The acquisition of the rights to the game and the ability to transition members of the team to continue work on the game follows the fulfillment of the LEGO Universe development contract. Gazillion will move its other NetDevil projects to a new location.

About LEGO Systems A/S
The LEGO Group is a privately held, family-owned company, based in Billund, Denmark. It was founded in 1932 and today the group is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of play materials for children. The company is committed to the development of children’s creative and imaginative abilities through its products, which can be purchased in more than 130 countries. Visit www.LEGO.com

LEGO and the LEGO logo are trademarks of The LEGO Group. (c) 2011 The LEGO Group.

About Gazillion Entertainment
Gazillion Entertainment is a privately held developer and publisher of free-to-play online games for everyone. Gazillion’s games feature revered brands and original properties, superior production quality and unmatched gameplay. Gazillion Entertainment is headquartered in San Mateo, California. For more information on Gazillion Entertainment and its studios please visit www.gazillion.com.

I included the “About” sections of the press releases just to juxtapose what changed and what remained the same.  LEGO is still LEGO, and their stock statement is basically the same.

NetDevil though, has lead a more turbulent existence.  Jumpgate, Jumpgate Evolution, Warmonger,  and Auto Assault leave something of a mixed legacy for the company.  And even LEGO Universe has its issues.

And Gazillion… well, their statement sounds like a dozen other companies that are hot at the moment.  What more revered brand than LEGO will then be working with I wonder?  Tupperware?

I’m glad to see that the team working on LEGO Universe will be able to carry on.  But this is yet another marker for where the money is going these days.