Warner Bros. and Lego Unveil Gaming and Toy Initiative Lego Dimensions
By Brooks Barnes for The New York Times
Warner Bros. and Lego are deploying Batman, Marty McFly, the Wicked Witch of the West and other movie characters in search of profits in the booming area of entertainment known as “toys to life.”
Warner, which has three Lego movies in the works, on Thursday unveiled a gaming and toy initiative called Lego Dimensions. Lego will sell collectible movie-character mini-figures, which Dimensions players, using a Lego sensor base, can bring to life in a Warner-published video game. The companies plan to release Dimensions worldwide starting on Sept. 27.
David Haddad, general manager of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, called Dimensions “a very ambitious project with enormous expansion opportunity.” To add heft, Warner has recruited character reinforcements from competing studios. Universal has licensed “Back to the Future” characters, for instance. Characters owned by 20th Century Fox are also expected to join Dimensions as it rolls out.
Highlighting Mr. Haddad’s bullishness, Dimensions starter kits will cost about $100, or roughly 30 percent more than a competing product from Disney.
By some measures, Warner and Lego are late to this party. Activision Blizzard created the toys-to-life market in 2011 with its wildly popular Skylanders, which is now on a fourth incarnation and has generated $3 billion in sales. Disney arrived in 2013 with Infinity, which, analysts estimate, has sales nearing $1 billion, enough to turn around an entire Disney division. Infinity players mash together characters from Pixar, Disney and Marvel movies. A “Star Wars” version of Infinity is expected next.
Late last year, Nintendo arrived with its own figurine-based game called Amiibo. As a category, toys-to-life sales in the United States totaled $671.3 million last year, a 64 percent increase from 2012, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm.
But Dimensions signals the first time that a toy giant has arrived on this scene, said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities. “There is still plenty of room for Warner and Lego,” he said. “This category is just getting started. You’ve got to imagine all the big toy franchises — Hot Wheels, Barbie, G.I. Joe, Transformers — looking very closely at this same opportunity.”
Movie studios have struggled to gain a foothold in gaming, but Warner’s track record has been better than most. Warner Interactive, home to games like Batman: Arkham City and the Mortal Kombat series, is expected to generate $1.5 billion in gaming sales this year. Warner also has a popular line of traditional Lego games.
What justifies the price? “The amount of playability, and the embedded brick-building,” Mr. Haddad said. “In that sense, it’s not very comparable to what else is out there.”