With the success of collectable toy-game crossovers like Disney Infinity and Skylanders it was only a matter of time before LEGO cashed in their super collectable Minifigures with a video-game tie-in.
However after problems monetising its LEGO Universe game it has taken a little time before releasing a new online experience for LEGO. LEGO Minifigures Online is the new game, and doesn’t look all that dissimilar to LEGO Universe.
It offers an online adventure experience with quests, power ups and a variety of brawling and puzzling. It’s quite similar to the LEGO console video games, like the upcoming LEGO Batman 3 Beyond Gotham, apart from here you are playing in a browser on your desktop computer.
The biggest difference to LEGO Universe is the tie-in to the physical LEGO product. Firstly game-play revolves around collecting, earning and purchasing virtual versions of the foil Minifigures packs. There is even a virtual 'opening moment' where you discover which character you have won.
Although LEGO hasn’t made much of this angle so far, in interviews and the general approach to the game it seems pretty clear that one way to get in-game characters will be with a code that comes with the next series of £2.49 physical Minifigure line.
In the game you purchase characters with its Diamonds currency that is awarded to the player by progressing. Although the game is initially free to play you can speed up progress by purchasing Diamonds at different price points (£3.99 for 1250 diamonds, £7.99 for 2750 diamonds, £23.99 for 9000 diamonds). Virtual Minifigures packs costs 750 Diamonds in the game which works out around £2.40 to unlock a character.
Subscription, Foil Packs and In-App Purchases in LEGO Minifigures Online
You can also opt for a subscription model that grants access both to some advanced in-game features like chatting to other players and also regular free virtual Minifig characters. Subscriptions range from £5.99 for a month to £29.99 for six months and £44.99 for a year.
Although this may appear to dilute the approach of Skylanders where you have to own the physical toy to play the in-game character, this does offer families more options. The danger though, like with Angry Birds Go! is that this makes it hard (at times almost impossible) for customers to compare value between a physical and virtual purchase. Communicating these options clearly will be important for LEGO Minifigures Online.
Getting Started with LEGO Minifigures Online
Either way, LEGO Minifigures Online looks like another reason that the collectable character range of toys will continue to sell well. Time will tell if the financial model supports the video game better than LEGO Universe.
LEGO Minifigures Online is currently in Beta and will be fully released this autumn.
Andy Robertson is a freelance video game expert for the BBC and runs Family Gamer TV.