When Lego’s Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens game goes on sale this week, users will get something different beyond . . . well, more Star Wars in Lego form. They will also get to explore subplots and side stories that didn’t make it into the actual movie.
There’s C-3PO finding his red arm, Han Solo and Chewbacca hunting for Rathtar beasts (the giant balls of tentacles and teeth that wrecked havoc on their freighter), and a ton of other side tales that weren’t included in the movie. And they're all presented with Lego's trademark color and humor, something that has propelled their gaming properties to incredible heights over the past few years.
"We work hard to create an authentic experience in the games, Tim Wileman, an associate producer on the game, told Co.Create. At the top of the list is being faithful to source material and having an authentic experience, but at same time bringing our own personality and humor into games. It’s something that we're famous for—sometimes the humor is subtle and sometimes it’s more obvious and slapstick. Our writers and designers bring these characters to life, sometimes to soften the more shocking or violent things that occur in these films but other times just for fun. That’s paramount to our game."
It’s a formula that’s led to financial success for Lego. According to Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, which holds the Lego video game franchise, more than 165 million units have been sold in the past decade. This includes both licensed titles such as Star Wars and Lego Jurassic World and original projects like Lego Legends of Chima and Lego City Undercover.
One of the biggest changes in the game series over the years has been in the way characters behave on-screen and interact with players. While Lego characters did not speak in earlier games, that has changed—which is something the financial success of The Lego Movie solidified. Wileman says that one of his favorite aspects of the game is how The Force Awakens talent including Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, and Carrie Fisher all contributed original audio for the project.
The fact that Lego Star Wars also managed to pull in that star power for the game is also a sign of how the Lego game franchise has expanded over the years. TT Games, the British developer behind the series, was acquired by Warner Brothers in 2007 and earned a reputation for making fun, family-friendly games out of media franchises that customers buy at a steady clip. For licensees, opting to have a game made in Lego form means a wider consumer base than they would see otherwise.
Meanwhile, Lego and Warner Brothers are gearing up for a project that could potentially be even bigger than any individual Star Wars game. The franchise’s latest iteration, the Minecraft-like sandbox game Lego Worlds, is currently in pre-release on Steam. Expected for a 2017 release, it was recently announced the game would have an online multiplayer option. David Haddad, president of Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, told Co.Create that "Lego Worlds is a bit of a different experience for us." The multiplayer aspect, as well as the world creation sandbox parts of the game, differ sharply from Warner Brothers’ past history of mainly franchise-inspired (The Hobbit, Star Wars, DC Comics, etc.) games.
Lego’s other major gaming project, Lego Dimensions, is a multi-universe mashup that takes characters from a variety of intellectual properties like DC Comics and The Simpsons and puts them together in a common game with related physical accessories. Shortly after Disney discontinued their similar Disney Infinity series, Lego and Warner Brothers announced an expansion of Lego Dimensions that will include content from Ghostbusters, Adventure Time, Mission: Impossible, Harry Potter, The A-Team, The Goonies, Sonic the Hedgehog and others over the next year.
Disney’s loss seems to be Lego's and Warner Brothers’ gain. Regarding the new Dimensions characters, production head Jonathan Smith of TT Games noted that "the mixture of different IP [intellectual properties] is a source of endless glee for everyone on team and for the players as well."
In the meantime, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is going on sale this week and is available for all major gaming consoles and the PC. But beware: Even though the game has a lot of content that isn’t in the movie, you still won’t learn who Rey’s parents are.