How Lego is using Doctor Who and The Simpsons to create the next big video game – The Verge

Those are big numbers, but the toys-to-life space has even bigger potential. Skylanders is the biggest name in the genre, and since 2009 it has generated $3 billion, selling more than 250 million figures. Other competitors, meanwhile, have seen success, but on a smaller scale; as of March Nintendo says that it has sold 10.5 million amiibo figures.

Lego Dimensions will be looking to differentiate itself in a few ways. For starters, there’s the sheer number of diverse properties that will be smashed together in the game. Dimensions will include characters from:

  • Back to the Future
  • Doctor Who
  • The Simpsons
  • Portal 2
  • Ghostbusters
  • Jurassic World
  • Scooby Doo
  • Batman
  • The Lego Movie
  • Lord of the Rings
  • The Wizard of Oz

It’s a huge range, and likely to grow bigger as new expansions and add-ons are announced. (If you’re wondering why Star Wars, the franchise TT built its name on, isn’t included, it’s because Disney just launched its own Star Wars-based toys-to-life game.)

The other feature that makes Dimensions different is that the game uses actual Lego bricks and figures. The base game will include Batman, Wildstyle, and Gandalf minifigs, along with a Batmobile and a portal used to scan characters and vehicles into the video game. The car and portal are made of standard Lego bricks and pieces that you put together yourself. Characters and vehicles rest on an NFC-enabled base so you can scan them using the portal, and more will be sold separately.

According to Ricks, one of the big reasons the game has been in the works for so long is the R&D required to create new Lego sets that would work with the game. They have to work as toys and be small enough for a child to play with, but they also need to fit alongside other Lego sets on the portal, so the vehicles you build can’t be especially large or unwieldy. And since each vehicle has three different variations, this took a lot of testing. “Everything has been exhaustively tested by the Lego Group,” he says, “ensuring that there’s the right balance.” All of the Lego sets you see in the game started life as real toy bricks.

The appeal is obvious, but that’s not a guarantee of success. Instrument-based music games were once gaming’s hottest genre before players became burnt out on buying lots of plastic instruments. The same could happen for toy games, too, now that there are hundreds of millions of plastic figures already out there. Lego is also coming to the game very late, as Skylanders launched in 2009, while Disney Infinity followed up in 2013. Families that are already invested in one series — full games cost upwards of $60, while individual figures are around $13 each — are unlikely to want to take on another expensive hobby.

That said, the Lego brand has proven very resilient. Last year it overtook Hasbro to become the biggest toy company in the world, and while The Lego Movie seemed like a strange idea at the time, it went on to gross more than $468 million. If there’s any company that could enter the toys-to-life field so late and still be a success, it’s probably Lego. “We’re just concentrating on what we know, and what we do best, and what Lego does best,” Ricks says of the market.

Outside of Dimensions, TT is also continuing to grow Lego video games in different ways. There are still traditional TT-style Lego games like Lego Avengers in the works, but next year the studio will also launch Lego Worlds, a creativity-focused game that looks more than a little bit like Minecraft. (While the full launch isn’t until next year, Worlds is currently available as an “early access” game on Steam.) It’s not clear what form the Lego games will take in a few years time, but there’s a pretty good chance they’ll still be around one way or another.

“I think we’ll be crafting Lego games until I’ve got great grandchildren and long grey hair,” Ricks says.