The Life and Death of Lego Universe

So I have been peripherally following the MMO Lego Universe mostly because my household is a VERY Lego house. My 9 year-old son has an entire chest-of-drawers filled with Lego from dozens and dozens of sets we’ve bought him over the years. When Lego Universe launched my wife showed keen interest in it, so I ended up buying three copies so we could play together as a family.

It’s sad to see today as the final day of this MMO. They went Free-to-play last year, and that didn’t bring in the money that they needed to stay afloat, so they decided late last year to shut it down forever on January 30th, 2012. The game had a lot of promise, but in the end, I think I can pinpoint things that contributed to its failure.

  • This is a big one: No grouping at launch. I don’t know if they ever added the ability to team up later, because after the first few months, my wife and I had stopped playing. There was no way to group, which meant that “playing together” was simply a matter of organized kill-stealing from one another to complete quests. I would have loved to group up with my son, but the game never made that possible. I think I ended up only playing for 60 days, and my wife went for like 6 months. (My son’s subscription never lapsed.)
  • No microtransactions at launch: Considering how much money people pay for physical Lego bricks, I am sure they’d shell out money for virtual ones. There were a ton of projects that I wanted to try to build in Lego Universe, but I never had the exact bricks I wanted. I would have paid them real money to get them.
  • No real leveling system: You purchased gear using Faction Tokens, and the higher the gear the better you were. So Faction Tokens were essentially XP. And you didn’t get Faction Tokens for completing quests, only for killing mobs. This made the gameplay very very grindy. Find a spot where Faction Tokens are easy to obtain, kill stuff until you can’t stand killing stuff anymore. Rinse, repeat. They added levels later, but I think they had already lost their interested parties.
  • Free-to-play was a simple “Forever free demo”: You were restricted to only the first two or three areas of the game, 20 hours of play if you streeeetched it. Getting anywhere else required a subscription. There wasn’t enough content to make playing for Free and augmenting with microtransactions, worth it.

In the end, Lego Universe was ambitious, but seemed to be forced out the door too early, and the improvements needed to solidify their users took too long to come out. There were things I really did like (they exploration was great, the pet system was fun), and I really think the MMO space is sadder without the iconic bricks available as an option to players out there.

2 Responses to “The Life and Death of Lego Universe”

  1. John says:

    Man. I don’t think I was really even aware of this game, but it sounds like it had some good options (or maybe I was told about it and immediately dismissed it as something I wouldn’t want to pay for.) I kind of wish that I’d played it…but with problems like those, I’m kinda glad that I never did.

  2. jacob says:

    I wasn’t aware of it either. too bad, would have been fun to play with my kid as well. But alas, it seems like you pretty well laid out all the issues.
    Have you and your kid experimented with putting together mmo’s yourself? I’m wondering if there are good options for kids who want to get started making games rather than just playing them. In my day we would peek and poke memory to get more gold, but nowadays things are pretty sophisticated. I imagine there are plenty of good tools out there where kids can get started, but I don’t know of any off hand.

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