Physical toys that can be used in video games are a big deal right now. Activision's Skylanders have led the way and sell well every holiday season, but they've been followed by Disney Infinity and Nintendo's amiibo.
They're about to be joined by Lego and Warner Bros., who together hope to pull together a group of characters, worlds and features that can compete with the nostalgia offered by Disney and Nintendo.
They're off to a great start. The trailer for the just-announced Lego Dimensions video game shows off characters from Back to the Future, The Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings, Batman and The Lego Movie.
"When kids play with Lego bricks, they build beyond the singular brands, intermixing all of their favorite characters and universes, and we have come up with a way for players to experience that in games," said Jon Burton, Founder and Creative Director of TT Games said in a press release. "Now for the first time in a videogame, Lego fans can play in the virtual world and in the real world - combining everything without restrictions. Imagine putting Lego Gollum from The Lord of the Rings behind the wheel of the Lego DeLorean Time Machine in New Ninjago City - the creative play is endless."
The basics seem to be exactly the same as previous games of this ilk (like Disney Infinity): You take a physical toy and place it on a portal-like device connected to your game console, allowing you to instantly play with that figure in the video game.
What could be something of a game changer for these Lego toys is that they appear to be fully functional mini-figures that can be separated from their NFC chip, which would allow you to play with them the same way you play with any other Lego toy.
That's huge, because while other toys-to-life figures can be nice (I find the Disney Infinity figures to be of a particularly high quality), they're entirely stationary and don't work to well as actual toys. They're better for a shelf than a toy box. Functional Lego figures could be a different matter entirely.
There's also a lot of opportunity in terms of variety, depending on how much you can truly mix-and-match the toys in Lego Dimensions. If this game can reach anywhere near the zaniness of The Lego Movie, there will be a lot of room for imagination.
Of course, none of this will matter if the game itself isn't fun to play, but they're starting with a good foundation. Developer TT Games, who has made a lot of stellar Lego games in the past and is developing Dimensions, has a good track record.
Lego Dimensions is scheduled for release September 27 for the Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.