Tag Archives: lego

Nintendo Attractions Coming to Universal Parks

Ben Kuchera, Polygon:

Universal has theme parks in Orlando, Hollywood, Japan and Singapore, and it’s currently unknown which parks will be getting these attractions, or what the attractions with entail. The most recent large addition to Universal Orlando was the well-received Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and the addition of Nintendo characters and rides could be a potent weapon against the competing Disney resorts.
It sounds like we’re going to have to wait a bit more details. “The immersive experiences will include major attractions at Universal’s theme parks and will feature Nintendo’s most famous characters and games,” the press release said. “More details will be announced in the future, as the Nintendo and Universal creative teams work to create specific concepts.”

After the success of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I trust Universal to do a respectable job with Nintendo’s IP. While I often daydream about a dedicated Nintendo theme park, I don’t belive their IP alone is enough to engross visitors for a full day.

My wife’s immediate reaction: “Legoland is screwed.” Interesting that Universal seems to be playing LEGOs own game: license out massive, mixed brand IP for a variety of experiences, personalities, and worlds under a single umbrella.

I’d comfortably say that since the early 2000s, Disney resorts felt like the only go-to theme park destinations. Today there is certainly more reason to divide time bewteen multiple resorts.

With Disney’s admission prices skyrocketing, the inclusion of Marvel and Star Wars, Tomorrowland and Jungle Cruise films launching, and Universal’s expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter married with Nintendo attractions, the theme park industry is in for exciting times.

Also, very fun to watch Nintendo’s rapid expansion outside of the dedicated console video game market. For a company who’s traditionally been set on a singular market, they’ve certainly made some very quick moves outside of their comfort zone.

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Gambling for Kids

Mark Sorrell, Children’s Media Yearbook as excerpted by The Guardian:

Well there are a few issues here. Freemium apps aimed exclusively at kids are actually pretty rare and, thanks to a number of high profile missteps, certainly not getting any more popular.

A look at the top kids’ apps charts reveals that, rather uniquely, the top grossing apps are paid and not free. That’s definitely not true of the adult-orientated categories. The hubbub of the past two years has worked, and the kids market has largely got its house in order.

The problem comes when kids play games that are aimed at adults, but that children also adore. We’ve already established that kids love games and can deal with game mechanics that are at a far greater level of complexity than they exhibit in other areas of their development.


But there is a gradual understanding that within freemium, it’s not the more mercenary and mendacious techniques that are the most successful. A well designed freemium game uses money as a way to increase player agency and allow an extra form of expression rather than as a gating mechanic or devious trick. Spending money in many of the more successful freemium games is a symbol of the player’s enjoyment, not capitulation.

And when it comes to children interacting with these games, well, it’s not like we haven’t historically been teaching kids to say, gamble, anyway.

Panini Sticker books, those are definitely gambling for kids, and they sell six billion stickers a year. Those little LEGO Minifigure packs with a random minifig are gambling for kids. LEGO are the world’s biggest toy company

A closed packet containing a random prize has been an acceptable way to stop a child from making terrible, horrible noises in a public place for decades.

LEGO did not become the world’s biggest toy company by selling blind packs of random minifigs to crying children. LEGO neared bankruptcy prior to obtaining a license for the Star Wars franchise. The success of that license spun into numerous other licenses for Harry Potter, Marvel and DC, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc. LEGO also spun these franchises into lovable video games (free of in-app purchase), movies, and many other merchandising endeavors. They are not a company who has rooted their business practice in micro transactions for digital commodities or goods.

Andrew Sielen on his Reality Prose blog:

In 2004 the LEGO group was in trouble. They were losing money and losing market share to other toys and entertainment products.  In order to address some fundamental issues in their business, they needed to cut costs. Leading up to this crisis, LEGO bricks had been adding new designs and colors without consideration for the cost to the business. LEGO went through a large reorganization and cut the production of unique elements in half, the variety of colors in half, and the number of suppliers by 80%. This, in addition to an increase in licensed sets and an expansion into video games, saved the LEGO Company.

Sure, the “blind pack” is a form of immediate gambling and a successful side business but it also encourages diplomacy in trading. It’s the same practice that never stopped trading card or vinyl figure collectors from growing their collections and offering up the pastime of a scavenger hunt for the whole set. If a “whale” happened to have a massive amount of extraneous coin, they could easily buy the lot of a “blind” collectible box with probable certainty that they would complete a series. Or they could walk into any trading card shop and shell out for that rare Kobe Bryant rookie card without hesitation.

What happened to building a franchise and the “long game?” Video game sequels, be it Super Mario Bros. or Sonic The Hedgehog, are just iterations of the same game. Trickle in a new characters, mechanics, and levels and you’ve got yourself a sequel. Those that fell in love with the characters and gameplay from the first iteration are likely to scramble for the next.

Take a look at the Pokémon franchise. The first iteration of the game (red and blue) offered the first 151 Pokémon. However, each version only included 140 of said 151, 11 of which were exclusive to each version of the game. A single player could purchase both versions of the game along with two Game Boys, link them up and trade amongst themselves. However, the likelihood that a parent would allow for such an investment for 11 extra Pokémon was highly unlikely. Instead, children were encouraged to trade amongst their friends with the different version of the game.

This crazed investment of time, energy and community built a sustainable franchise… from collectibles. Just as with trading cards or any other expanding collectible sensation, offering more collectibles was an opportunity for more revenue; therefore, more and more Pokémon were created. This has continued for 16 years over several handheld console generations and spawned TV shows, movies, and various other merchandizing opportunities.

Carnival games still exist even though we know they are rigged, but we keep coming back for the chance of triumph. Even monetary gambling offers a chance at monetary and physical return. Sorrell’s cover of an IAP’s ability to “increase player agency and allow an extra form of expression” acknowledges the industry’s nearly unanimous “thumbs-up” of aesthetic IAP. Though, I’m not sure I see how buying a new dress for Barbie and “gambling” are linked.

The success of in-app purchases comes from whales. Children are not whales. Sorrell inadvertently touches on this with mention of games for adults vs. games for children. The problem is that these games are marketed and available without restriction to all age groups. It seems to me that if an IAP dev can wrangle a few bucks out of a unsuspecting child and ignorant parents, that child may come to believe that the nature of games is to pay for progress, thus a spiral.

The first time I played a console game and realized I did not have to feed the machine another quarter, I was sold. Once I owned the console, I could enjoy limitless play albeit at the hefty cost of a console and finished games. I learned to save and research for fulfilling experiences and communal discussions. Turns out, that trade-off was something millions were willing to make. The arcade vs. console era taught me more about money management than begging my parents for another roll of tokens.

Update: Howard Phillips, as quoted in “Console Wars” by Blake J. Harris:

Play itself is very rewarding for children. Maybe in some respects there’s a little too much play, but play is still important. And there’s this whole social opportunity, this currency of interaction, with friends, family, and even strangers. That kind of attitude extends beyond the playground, so I was really happy to be expressing that aspect of games.

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Minecraft: You make the story

Harlem Grey writing for Gamer Headlines on Minecraft:

The indie sand box game that would rock the world and give indie developers recognition. The other games on my list did great things for their genre, Minecraft revolutionized what it means to be indie. Low budget, little support, one man developing it. The Alpha was released on PC in 2009 and would later on rise in popularity, many updates saw the growth from the alpha into the game we have today. Minecraft fully represents the quote at the top of the page, it’s not the most beautifully detailed game, it has no story but the success of this game is all from you. You make the story, the world and the character in the simplest way.

Last week in my office, a mother brought her son to work and stationed him in an unused cubicle. He was equipped with nothing but a MacBook Air and headphones. Hours later, my colleague whispered for my attention and told me to look into the boy’s cubicle. Like the rare sight of a beaver build a dam, my colleague and I quietly watched in amazement.

This kid was flying through the world of Minecraft at breakneck speed, building up and tearing down the environment, crafting explosives to drill into its natural water-supply. He was architecting the world in his imagination in real-time. Unlike our need to buy specific LEGO sets for certain pieces we required, his limits were overcome with a quick toggle to YouTube a video teaching new techniques.

This jumping back-and-forth between learning and application, curiosity and realization, and the drive to engineer a universe was incredible to watch. Minecraft has the power to unlock imagination in ways we only dreamed of as children.

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LEGO female scientists


We’re very excited to release Ellen Kooijman’s Female Minifigure set, featuring 3 scientists, now entitled “Research Institute” as our next LEGO Ideas set. This awesome model is an inspiring set that offers a lot for kids as well as adults.

From geochemist Ellen Kooijman:

As a female scientist I had noticed two things about the available LEGO sets: a skewed male/female minifigure ratio and a rather stereotypical representation of the available female figures. It seemed logical that I would suggest a small set of female minifigures in interesting professions to make our LEGO city communities more diverse.

Did I mention that I love LEGO?

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