The legendary Danish toy manufacturer – who hasn’t played with the colorful bricks? – once again proves to be a modern company. After near-dead experience five years ago, Europe’s largest toymaker has been embracing the new possibilities of this digital era – like crowd sourcing – to keep children hooked to the pirates, knights, ordinary and science fiction figures. Next Web editor and crowd sourcing expert Eric Bun admitted in March that even he was tempted to download the Lego programs and start designing Lego projects.
During a press conference at the Lego HQ in Billund, Mark William Hansen announced the launch of Lego Universe, a MMOG that lets players create online versions of themselves and interact with each other. It isn’t just some – let’s do something with online games- idea, as Hansen ended up at Lego after writing his doctoral thesis about mass customization.
The PC game Lego Universe will mix real-world style environments with the funny-looking characters and buildings made of plastic bricks. After creating a personalized avatar, users can spend virtual money to buy virtual bricks. Yet they don’t need real money to acquire this online currency. Hansen explained to Reuters: “The more a child plays, they collect more coins and more bricks. The more you play, the more you get to build things. We want kids to come and play together”.
I love this tactic, and hope it will prevent fraud and theft scandals as happened with Habbo Hotel. And if it doesn’t, at least kids won’t spend all their pocket-money on virtual bricks, they should spent that on soccer cards for crying out loud. Or real Lego bricks, and that’s probably what the Lego executives are hoping for.