How many of you remember the death scene for Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring? Personally, I remember it being one of the most tragic but also incredibly badass redemption deaths of a character since the invention of the self-sacrifice grenade moment that’s been in almost every action/horror movie. I ask because since a recent fantasy kick brought on by an oddly impromptu urge to play Skyrim, my brain went to a weird place that began wondering if that and the many other kick-ass moments from the LOTR movies (shout out to the “You shall not pass” and Saruman being impaled on a water wheel scenes) will be remembered 20 years down the line by people my age. Kind of like how the flying-kick-to-a-purple-caveman-using-a-death-paralysed-dinosaur scene from Yor: Hunter from the Future is remembered by almost nobody today except weirdos who find an entertaining charm in objectively terrible B-movies.
Then I remembered that, thanks to a certain toy property, it probably won’t be. The only difference being that Sean Bean getting shot by multiple arrows has been replaced with Sean Bean being shot by one arrow, a broom handle, a banana and almost an egg-laying chicken. Which I’m realizing as I read that sentence over again, was something I’d ever imagine myself writing.
For those of you who have never seen this scene before or haven’t seen the title of this article and have no idea what I’m making an obvious segue to, here it is in full to prove that I’m indeed not screwing with you.
This brings us by complete coincidence to the topic of Lego games. More specifically, we’ll be taking a crack at answering today’s question: “Why are there so many Lego games?”
The short and sweet answer to your question, dear reader, is that they’re incredibly popular with just about everyone.
But that’s no fun to write about and most likely feels, to you and everyone else reading this, like an incredible dick move against someone who took the time out of their day to send us a topic. So, let’s take a deeper look into the popularity of the series.
The fact of the matter is that Lego games, at least the ones made predominantly by Traveller’s Tales (TT), are incredibly popular because they appeal to a wide audience. Anybody of any age and any level of experience with games, from hard-core to beginners, can pick them up and enjoy them. They can be played for the gameplay, to have fun with a younger family member or simply to enjoy a favourite licensed property being brickified. They’re suitable for young kids because they replace the more violent aspects of certain licensed properties with hilarious cartoon violence that also isn’t beneath adults to laugh at, see segue into this topic at the beginning of the article for an example. And adults can latch onto the nostalgic property that the game is based on, while telling the story’s basic plot points for the previously mentioned younger audience to invest in.
And this approach has worked out incredibly well for them, especially considering that the games have sold over 100 million copies of games since Lego Star Wars first hit the shelves in 2005. Which, fun fact, is about 800 miles worth of physical copies if you sat them side by side. So if you want to make a really odd road that reaches from Brisbane, QLD to Canberra, ACT, you have your stepping stones and then some!
But since being a wide-eyed child of thirteen years old, breaking apart that weirdly placed spaceship-conference room from the beginning of The Phantom Menace on my PS2, TT has continued to shoot out games at a rapid fire rate. Titles that made us go “Woah, neat!”
To a resounding and slightly dissapointed “Oh.”
Then back to a high appraisal of “Fuck Yeah!”
And with each release, TT has only gotten better at what they do. Even each movie-based release they’ve brought out have been some of the best movie-tie in games of recent memory. TT has gone from simplistic Crash Bandicoot-esqe level hubs to large open worlds full of collectables, things to break and Easter eggs to find. Lego City Undercover is a personal favourite of mine for its love of police shows/movies and Nintendo shout-outs. Hell, they’ve even evolved in terms of their use of voice acting, going from their version of “Simlish” (Which I personally call something that sounds like a LOTR fan with a lisp: “Legolish”), to original voice-acting and the occasional use of a movie’s vocal tracks (eg: Lego Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park and Jurassic World). The later I would consider not a fantastic choice, considering the audio quality shifts from sometimes clear to sounding like the actors were speaking into Styrofoam cups. But I will admit that I can see it as an intelligent way to make sure that fans of the property aren’t disappointed by possibly mediocre voice work.
But then, as I was on the verge of gushing over some personal memories of these games that would bring this article to a grinding halt, something came to mind about the TT release schedule in conjunction with their popularity. Other game series with a very frequent release cycle, such as Assassin’s Creed, have shown to lose its audience over a long period of time; either due to over-saturation or customer mistrust due to a bad release
The Lego series has been around for over a decade now and, sure, it’s seen its share of dips in sales and average-at-best releases.
Even with such a large audience, you would expect the series to have reached its limit in popularity before being completely overly-saturated. But it seems like it’s only gotten more and more popular as the years have gone on.
So how the hell does that work?
Then I remembered a quote from Mark Warburton, a TT Game Producer, which basically answered the question for me: “Lego is just ingrained in our society and it’s not going anywhere soon.” Which isn’t wrong, considering that almost everyone I know has some kind of Lego set or model sitting somewhere in their house.
At the time of writing this article, TT now has over 20 Lego games under their belt. Not only that, but along with the release and continued support of what is frankly what you could call the “ultimate Lego game”, Lego Dimensions, TT is continuing to release games through 2016. These include Marvel’s Avengers releasing earlier this year, Lego Star Wars Episode 7 later in the year, and the expected release of TT’s take on Minecraft, Lego Worlds, sometime near the end of the year. Oh, and if that was news to you: Right?! How fucking awesome is that?! It’s in early access if you want to check that out.
But the popularity of the games doesn’t just come from a building block toy being so cemented in our culture. Another reason as to TT’s success has been due to an incredibly wise following of pop culture trends, both in and out of the gaming world. TT has given loving treatment to the fandoms of franchises both past and recent (Eg: Star Wars, Harry Potter and Batman). They’ve also kept up with the 2010 and onward popularity of superheroes in movies and TV shows, as well as highly anticipated movie releases like The Hobbit and Jurassic World. TT has even followed a very recent gaming trend to its most logical conclusion with the release Lego Dimensions: using separately purchased, albeit pricey, collectable Lego toys to unlock various in-game content packs for a wide range of properties, such as Scooby Doo, The Simpsons and even Portal.
The popularity of these games also makes sense from a game design stand point when you consider that TT has managed to make their games familiar to long-time fans, while also being easily accessible to new players with each new release. And that’s because they’ve found a simple control scheme and design formula that works and that they’ve stuck to with each release:
- Smash up everything in sight from Star Wars droids to small trees.
- Build/fix broken things in the level environment, like a broken table into a platform.
- Solve puzzles through platforming and various character skills like force powers, flying or interacting with control panels.
- Find a metric butt-load of collectables to unlock other characters and levels.
Fundamentally, it’s the same game being made over and over again; and we all know it. But with each new game and property that they use, they build upon existing mechanics while keeping just enough of the basic design and control scheme that is both familiar to fans and can be picked up in a matter of minutes by newcomers. An admirable formula when you compare it to some modern games that can spend up to an hour teaching you their basic mechanics.
But what I think ultimately contributes to the popularity of the games is their continual high quality, even when some of the games don’t do as well as others.
And the reason is that the TT team behind the games are massive fans of the brands they adapt. This leads to them making the kinds of games that they, as fans, want to see when they combine Lego with the franchises and properties that they hold near and dear to them. Every level, every character ability, every joke and every reference that you love from these games was put in there by people who are massive fans of these properties and want you to have as much fun as you possibly can with them.
As Warburton says, “The games have to be fun, and at the end of the day, what’s more fun than Lego?”
This topic was sent to us via our Facebook page. We hope you enjoyed our first article and that we helped answer your question. We look forward to more questions from you in the future! Let us know what you think in the comments!
Are you ready, players?