Dismantled: Lego Universe Closing

By Adam Smith on November 7th, 2011 at 9:20 am.

My parents got rid of my Lego when I was a teenager - perhaps I was expected to pay a monthly fee

An increasing number of massively multiplayer games are offering free entry into their worlds but it stands to reason that, more often or not, gangs of salesman will be roaming inside, or at the very least there will be equivalent of concession stands littered about the place, stocked with pricey but powerful socks and the like. Lego Universe began offering a free trial back in June and these short months later, the announcement reaches us that the game is shutting down.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the game’s quality rather than the increasingly crowded free to play market, or maybe it’s because the amount of ‘free’ on offer wasn’t enticing enough. It didn’t show much of the game and some might say there wasn’t much game to show. As may become a common refrain, the free version of the game hasn’t managed to lure enough people in to paying subscriptions. On January 31, 2012, Lego Universe will cease to be and this will lead to developers Play Well Studios closing their doors.

Whatever the case, it’s curtains for the bricks.

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43 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    bear912 says:

    Sad news…

  2. Kollega says:

    Awwwwww. That’s just sad. A Lego-based MMO seemed like a good enough idea, but looks like it won’t be able to live up to the potential now.

  3. Temple says:

    And the alt-text is true! Had to buy my parents a house just so I can keep my stuff in it.

    How can the people allowed to use LEGO(TM) fail to create something good when we are falling over ourselves to give money to people who make things like Lego but not Lego confuses me. Cats also confuse though, so.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Because Minecraft is the best Lego game available and until someone comes up with a game which offers that amount of building block freedom, the customers will always feel a bit disappointed.

      Also Lego the real blocks is better than most computer games!

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I would guess it’s because the designers said “Hey, this Minecraft thing is pretty neat. Let’s make something like that.” and then the Marketdrones said “Minecraft will never make money. Make it like WoW but you can also build things. Also, we make the decisions because we are Marketdrones.” and then the designers said “But-” and then the Marketdrones said “BEHOLD OUR GRAPHS! OBEY OUR METRICS! RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!” and then LEGO Universe was made.

    • Tatourmi says:

      Sheng-ji: Try garry’s mod. Way closer to legos in my opinion ;)

    • Urthman says:

      The problem with a free-form building game for kids is that parents don’t want their kids playing games filled with giant LEGO cocks. And the kids don’t have credit cards of their own.

  4. Vexing Vision says:

    Lego Universe was a very creative game, with a horrible, horrible monetization model.

    Not going F2P in the first place is what killed the game – a game targetted at 12 year old kids requiring credit card to register is all about not understanding your target audience.

    Which is such a shame. I thoroughly enjoyed the Beta, and I strongly recommend anyone with an interest in MMOs logging in to try it out before it closes. There are SO MANY good ideas here….

    • Wulf says:

      This is a truth, some parts of it were quite original, and you’re also very right about the monetisation model.

      They’d have been better off going with something like what Free Realms offers, which seems to bet the perfect gateway to modern MMORPGs for young uns. Really, Free Realms is so perfect in comparison to what I’d expect an MMORPG for young uns to be, and so competent, that I always completely forget that SOE had any involvement at all. Almost all of what SOE is involved in is a shambles, but Free Realms was a bit good.

      NetDevil should have used that model for LEGO Universe, which was also a bit good, and like you said, had some great ideas. But how can you entice a kid to play with a toy if you have it setup the way they do, without even so much as an easily accessible free trial.

  5. Premium User Badge

    MerseyMal says:

    Not at all surprised. Didn’t have nearly enough content to sustain a game which relied upon retaining subscriptions and the free play model they decided upon was decidedly shonky.

  6. Fiyenyaa says:

    I guess there is at least one world that’s really ending in 2012, then.

  7. Premium User Badge

    MonkeyMonster says:

    as others have said – lego universe so potentially amazing and if you didn’t have space or money to get enough bricks to build your own this looked like it could get you there… shame but I suspect it will be back sometime sooner rather than later.

  8. Premium User Badge

    wyrmsine says:

    My love of Lego would normally obligate me to find this sad, but my experience with the game leaves me with nothing but a dull lack of surprise. All I wanted to do was put a 2×2 brick on an antenna, and beat people with it. Maybe later, I’d build a racecar or a wicked cool spaceship, and fly that around. If you’re going to make a Lego MMO, it would be advisable to let the players build things that could be used in the game. That might even be the core appeal of a game about Lego.

  9. zbeeblebrox says:

    Not that sad. LEGO should take this as a lesson that a proper MMO of their toy should be – DUH – a Sandbox Game. Not some cheesy grind-a-thon adventure trying desperately to be Runescape.

  10. Edawan says:

    The MMO bubble continues its slow collapse.

    • aircool says:

      Mmmn, not really.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      it’s more of that whistling farty noise you get from a balloon as some of the smaller MMOs are forced out of the tight neck-hole between gaps in your breath

    • Premium User Badge

      sonofsanta says:

      @Hoaxfish: I hereby declare that metaphor (simile?) of the day. Congratumalations!

  11. aircool says:

    Mincecraft is what LEGO Universe should have been.

    • Icarus says:

      Can’t help but agree with that, actually. I’m surprised nobody’s made a LEGO texture pack for Minecraft yet.

    • GallonOfAlan says:

      There is at least one LEGO texture pack for Minecraft.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      They were too scared of penises to allow that sort of thing.

    • Zippy says:

      No, ROBLOX (http://www.roblox.com/) is the game LEGO Universe should have been. The benefit of using virtual blocks instead of real world ones should have been that the blocks are unlimited..making kids grind for enough blocks to build stuff with wasn’t appealing to them. (Or at least, not to my kids.)

  12. UnravThreads says:

    I’m not surprised, really. The free-to-play change was a misnomer. What happened was you were allowed unlimited access to the first zone of the game, and allowed your own little plot to build on. The game restricted you massively, more so than some demos I’ve played. It was a glorified trial, basically, not an actual free-to-play shift.

    It did have potential, and I will say that some aspects of it were pretty cool. It took a lot of influence from the current Lego games by Traveller’s Tales, including even some animations I suspect, and it could have been really, really good, but it wasn’t.

    I think Lego should really bring back the Creator series of games.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Or combine one of the licensed adventure LEGO games with the gameplay of the Creator games. That’s the logical answer to Minecraft without going full-on Minecraft clone.

  13. kwyjibo says:

    The problem with a kids mmo is that kids don’t have credit cards.

    • sneetch says:

      Neatly summarised there. Small denomination LEGO “money” cards in the big retailers might have made all the difference.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      or is it that they don’t have jobs?

    • therighttoarmbears says:

      Get a job, Kids!

  14. metalangel says:

    Wasn’t it the case (as per the PCG review) that after rollicking fun doing the main quests you were left with a horrific grind to earn bricks to build your own stuff?

    Also, is anyone else a bit put off by the grimacing faces Lego figures now have?

  15. wccrawford says:

    There were 2 things wrong.

    1) There wasn’t enough RPG content. There were a few quests, but they were all relatively short and only your gear dictated whether you’d finish or not. There were no mysteries, just a linear path.

    2) There wasn’t enough LEGO content. Sure, everything was made of lego, but the only place you could build was at your own home. Everywhere else was just prefab stuff, with a tiny bit of customization for vehicles.

    And this wasn’t wrong, but didn’t help: Everything felt like an ad for LEGO. When the implemented Ninjago content, I didn’t feel like they were pleasing the fans (Are there any fans?) but rather trying to make Ninjago look cool so people would buy it.

    • Sabre_Justice says:

      Remember this is (poorly) aimed at kids, and presumably they’re trying to attract the kids that they’re trying to get into Ninjago.

      But from all I hear this is a big disappointment… otherwise I woulda been all over this game.

  16. mjig says:

    I never got the fascination with Lego. I always preferred K’nex. Probably half of my waking childhood was spent building with them.

    • GallonOfAlan says:

      The fascination with LEGO is probably that you can built a reasonable representation of most things, unlike K-NEX where you can only build a reasonable representation of things that are made of girders.

  17. malkav11 says:

    A bit of one and a bit of the other. The game I played during beta was mildly entertaining but really wasn’t even as rich in gameplay as the (fairly light) Traveller’s Tales games. And given the target market, they should have been free to play from the start and instead never really got there.

  18. Mutak says:

    It was a combination of shallow game play and unsatisfying free-form building – it won’t be missed much. Adults wanted to build cool complex stuff with legos but you had to play a pretty weak game to get the parts to build with and the editor was not user friendly. Something as simple as lining up pieces next to each other was hard to accomplish. Kids would have been happy with the game, but it was a paid subscription and parents would rather buy their kids real legos than virtual ones. It should go without saying that if adults couldn’t make much use of the building side then kids certainly weren’t going to get much out of it.

    Someone could have made a great game out of this, but apparently not that studio. Just in case someone else is considering rescuing it:
    1) F2P
    2) Basic blocks should drop like crazy – let the vendors sell specialized pieces.
    3) Better inventory management. I shouldn’t have to wade through hundreds of unsorted blocks to build stuff.
    4) Simpler editor – auto align by default.

  19. nullward says:

    Why don’t the folks at Lego just ask Notch to do their next game? There’s someone who got the “Lego” vibe right. Lego games should be about building things, not mimicking existing game styles and adding a dash of Lego pieces for flavor. That’s basically what Lego Universe was.

    Users should be able to create everything in a Lego game except the skybox.

  20. Mr_Initials says:

    Sigh. I knew this would fail from the moment I heard it would not be free to play. I would have played it if it had been. Even when the demo/trial came out, I didn’t want to play it.

  21. Nick Ahlhelm says:

    Sad news. I think the game could have been hugely successful as a true Free To Play. Instead, well, my dreams of an ultimate LEGO crossover game seems to be for naught.

  22. PopeJamal says:

    The first time I tried Lego Universe,it took me five to ten minutes to login because the login screen was bugged out. I’d say it’s more of a quality issue than a crowding of the F2P sector. Of course, I couldn’t be very bothered with the game after spending that much time just trying to login.

  23. TheGameSquid says:

    I obviously never tried the game, but I’m still sad because HOT DAMN I LOVE ME SOME LEGO!

  24. XGSkippy says:

    Sucks to see a game die that had some decent customization…Im going to give it another quick play and record it for posterity. Videos should be up at http://www.youtube.com/user/XtraOrdinaryGamers if anyone is interested…

  25. Dave Mongoose says:

    Can’t believe I missed this news when it was first announced :(. It’s sad (but not unexpected).

    I bought the game when it first came out and, within the free month that came with the box, I completed all the core content that was available… with three different characters.

    I did enjoy it and felt like I got my £25′s-worth, but there was nothing to subscribe for: there was probably less content than there is in a Lego Star Wars/Batman/etc. game, and the building, racing and achievement grinding distractions weren’t enough to keep it going.