While watching/listening to this week’s episode of GT Time, the panel discussed the game announcements of this week, including Lego’s entry into the toys-to-life genre, Lego Dimensions. Frequent panel member, Brandon Jones, an obsessive Disney Infinity collector, firmly believes that with Lego moving into this space that we’ll no longer see traditional retail Lego games and that moving forward everything will be shuffled into Dimensions. While we have no way of knowing right now if this is true, as even with Lego Dimensions on the way we still have both Lego Jurassic Park and Lego Marvel’s The Avengers to look forward to this year among others, it still has got me thinking, and more than a little worried about the future of the Lego video game franchise.
NOTE: Anyone wanting to see the Dimensions talk can skip to 19:13.
Gaming, as of late, has become a very cynical hobby: Games are arriving to shelves broken (Assasin’s Creed Unity; Halo: The Master Chief Collection); Are incredibly short with a high price point (The Order 1886); A remaster of a game you already own (God of War III; DMC); The ever-expanding free-to-play/play-to-win mobile market or hide content behind pre-order bonuses that just require an unlock. One franchise that has continued to thumb their nose to all of these trends are the Lego games. Lego Marvel Super Heroes, still one of the best games to own on the current generation of consoles, has dozens of hours of content and none of it was hidden behind any pre-order bonuses: You bought the game, and you played to your heart’s content. It did have extras that you could buy, but it was only a few additional characters, something that anyone would be okay paying for as it came pre-loaded with over 150 characters. It was the same case for last fall’s Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, however that game did introduce season-pass levels into the Lego series, but subtracting those stages and the characters they added, you still had a very meaty experience for just the price of the disc.
It’s difficult to really talk about how Lego Dimensions will change the Lego formula as at this point we don’t know anything about it other than the price. Will it be structured like a traditional Lego game? Will it hinge itself on player generated content like Disney Infinity does? How long will the Level packs be? At this point it’s unrealistic to know this as the game was only officially unveiled mere days ago and I’m sure as E3 approaches we’ll learn a lot more, but these are still some questions I want to see answered, in particular the Level Pack length. In Canada the Level Pack’s are being sold at $29.99 and yeah, they do come with a figure and two vehicles, but a fear of mine is that they’ll be no longer than the season-pass levels found in Lego Batman 3. Those were acceptable at a couple of dollars a piece and fifteen dollars for six, but an hour and a half of content even with the awesome Lego figures is a bit much to ask for. The showcase Level Pack right now is Back to the Future, which I admit I will probably buy Dimensions just to play, but I hope it’s just more than the end of the first movie and done in a flash. For it to be worth the asking price, I want to visit Hill Valley in the 50’s, the future and in the wild west. The Level Pack’s appear to be the Dimensions version of the Disney Infinity playsets that were at least around three-to-four hours long, which I think would be an acceptable length and worth the asking price.
The dark cloud that hovers over all of this is what it means for future Marvel games. Disney is not keen on making anything other than Disney Infinity and free-to-play mobile games leaving the Lego games as really the last great hope for those who want to play any Marvel games on a console, PC or handheld without having to pay for figures and a mediocre single player campaign. I’m very excited to get my hands on Lego Marvel’s The Avengers in the fall but equally if not more excited for there to be a Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2. Should the Lego model moving forward just be to plug everything into Dimensions, it’s incredibly doubtful that Marvel will want to cannibalize future Disney Infinity figure sales against Lego Dimensions mini-figs or that we’ll be able to get our hands on another forty hour, one hundred plus character Lego Marvel game. That being said, Lego has produced a lot of Marvel sets and WB Games by year’s end will have two Marvel games under their belt, so perhaps if we’re lucky both companies will just see the two games as a way to sell even more toys, especially as it’s expected that Disney Infinity 3.0 will be heavily Star Wars themed and will at best maybe have a few Marvel figures.
From what we can infer from the launch trailer, and more so from the extended launch trailer, TT Games seems to be handling what properties they use in Dimensions very intelligently so there is still a lot of reasons to be optimistic about Dimensions. You can already pre-order things like The Wizard of Oz and Back to the Future sets at EB Games (Gamestop to us Canadians) so we know that they’re coming, but in the extended trailer you see Joel McHale perform a reading of the portal with a PKE Meter from Ghostbusters, possibly hinting that we’ll see either characters or levels from that property somewhere down the line. As much as I would love to see a full Lego Back to the Future game or Lego Ghostbusters, I highly doubt WB Games would green light either but as tiny packs as part of a much bigger whole, they work perfectly. The same can be said of the licenses that are showing up in the game like Batman and Lord of the Rings. TT Games have really done all that they can do with just Batman and already did Lego Lord of the Rings, so why not use these to sell Dimensions? Something I was incredibly surprised NOT to see was the mention of Harry Potter, one of Warner Bros.’s most well-known and profitable franchises that has already had its own series of Lego Games, but hey, you’ve got to save something for Dimensions 2, right? especially when the game already comes with one wizard in Gandalf.
We’ve still got a lot to learn about exactly what Lego Dimensions is outside of what franchises we’re going to see and how much everything will cost. Dimensions is in a pretty terrific space in that not only can it make a lot of money for WB Games and all of the license holders, but it gives TT Games the chance to work on properties that they may not have had the ability to work on otherwise. That all being said, I hope that this doesn’t come at the expense of the traditional sixty dollar Lego games. Who knows how many properties have the ability to handle the Lego name like a Star Wars, or an Indiana Jones etc., but as long as there’s at least one, I hope there’ll be plenty of gold bricks to collect and characters to unlock that don’t require getting a second job.