Lego Dimensions

Preview – LEGO Dimensions

It was inevitable that LEGO would join the race to combine video-games and toys. Unlike Skylanders, Disney Infinity and Amiibo, which have approached the market from the video-game side of things, LEGO Dimensions comes with a clear toy aspirations.

If you’ve not seen the announcement already, this is a video-game toy hybrid product using physical LEGO characters and vehicles to unlock features in the game. The game comes primarily in a starter pack that will cost you $100/£100 and includes the game, a Lego Toy Pad reader and minifigures for Batman (with Batmobile), Gandalf and Wyldstyle.

This gets you in the door but as is the way of these things not all the content. The experience is then expanded by a variety of different packs. Level Packs ($29.99/£29.99) contain new mission-based game levels unlocked by placing their minifigure, vehicle and gadget toys on the Lego Pad. Fun Packs ($14.99/£14.99) extend the line up of character but add no levels. Each one contains one minifigure and a related vehicle or gadget. Team Packs ($29.99/£29.99) are for those after an expanded collection but again doesn’t expand the levels. They offer both a pair of minifigures and a vehicle or gadget for each with unique in-game abilities.

The game is coming out on the majority of platforms on its September 27th launch date, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Wii U but not the Wii. While most serious gamers have moved on from the Wii, many families still have this system and will feel the pressure here to upgrade. Interestingly, Skylanders are still supporting the Wii each year and with good sales reasons.

Coming from the toy space is evident at the big differentiator with LEGO Dimensions is that the toy is a proper plaything rather than collectable plastic figurine. This goes some way to offset the higher price of the game and the packs, but still this is unlikely to be the cheapest option. It is LEGO after all.

To preserve this toy aspect of their minifigures you can detach them from their NFC bases. This seems a little strange as it divorces the actual figure from the on-screen interactions. Also for families it makes the valuable tiny circles of plastic easier to lose. Believe me, children can lose much larger pieces of LEGO is the hardest to find places.

My preference would have been to seen the NFC tech buried in the minifigures themselves. This is something Nintendo are experimenting with in the new Yoshi’s Wooly World amiibos that in wooly form have no base and instead include the tech inside them. This one change transforms them from figurine to cuddly plush plaything.

The Toy Pad peripheral is Dimension’s portal and (once built from the LEGO bricks) enables you to bring in up to seven different NFC toys. While this leaves the door open to four player possibilities gameplay is more likely to match the usual LEGO video-game experience. More likely is that this is used to bring in (and quickly switch between) a range of characters on each level.

The game also supports brining in gadgets and vehicles via the central disc on the Toy Pad. This not only grants a reason for the physical packs to come with more actual LEGO but also opens up more game-play options for the different franchises.

Those franchises are a big part of the excitement of LEGO Dimensions with Warner able to draw not only from DC Comics and Disney properties but also the strong range of LEGO sets. Exactly which sets will be included at launch is still up for debate, but my money is on the LEGO Elves toys being included as they already provide their own physical portal and key-collecting mechanic.

At New York Toy Fair this year, before LEGO Dimensions was announced I asked Soren Laursen, President of Lego for Americas about his strategy around video-games and whether LEGO Elves gaming mechanics were intentional. While side stepping the question he also made it clear that gaming was increasingly important to LEGO.

The bottom line to many families will be whether there is enough value in LEGO Dimensions to warrant the investment. This will be all the harder for those who have already jumped in with both feet to either Skylanders, Infinity or Amiibo. The competition of these four players is already driving innovation but it seems unlikely that the market can support all four in the long term. If LEGO Dimensions wins big this Christmas it will be at the expense of Skylanders or Infinity.

There are still a lot of outstanding questions here but LEGO Dimensions is an interesting proposition that does a lot of things right. If that price moves even slightly in the right direction it’s going to sell like hot bricks this holiday season.