Q: Broadly speaking, what's new in season two?
Doug Heder: Last year when we launched Lego Dimensions, we were committed to the idea that it would be a platform – a system that would continue to grow and expand and not need to be replaced by new boxed product every year. So we stayed true to that promise – we're not gonna replace that hardware. We're just gonna keep continue to release new waves of toys and content that will continue to grow out the Lego Dimensions experience. Last year we gave you 15+ levels all on disc in the box that could be played through with just your starter pack characters, and then you could unlock additional adventure worlds and even in some cases additional standalone levels through the expansion packs.
This year we're going to keep doing that, but in a much bigger way. We've got at least 18 new standalone levels between our three story packs, so it's even more content that was originally in that Starter Pack box. We've also got an additional four Level Packs where there will be bespoke levels. So 22 new levels of gameplay content amongst the various expansion packs. And that's in addition to the new adventure worlds for each of the brands, which are even bigger than what we built last year. And in addition to all of that, we are introducing battle arenas for every single season two pack. Whether it's a fun pack, a team pack, a level pack or a story pack, you're going to unlock an exclusive environment or battle arena map. We're really excited about this, it's obviously a first for any Lego game: four player competitive multiplayer gameplay in a couch setting.
Q: What are you doing story-wise this season? Is Vortek back? Or are we just dealing in discrete expansion pack episodes?
Doug Heder: The content is more discrete than it was last year, and that's the nature of the way the packs are releasing. The story packs come with six new levels of content, and they're really focussed on the brand in that box. So, if it's the Ghostbusters story pack, that's six levels of gameplay that's from start to finish the entirety of the new Ghostbusters film that came out this last summer. If you look at it compared to our other standalone games, that's equal to a full film game that we've released in the past. For example: Jurassic World came out a year ago, and in that game you had four separate movies, each as their own adventure within that package. So think of a story pack as one of those full complete movies. That being said, there are still nods and important details that you're gonna see, clues that are alluding to what's happening with the Vortex storyline. We’re certainly not done with him, and there's going to be more content with him in the future, but for right now we're focussing on the stories of those individual brands.
Q: Does this mean we won't see standalone games outside of Lego Dimensions anymore?
Doug Heder: No, you can definitely see continued support for the standalone games. Dimensions is an interesting concept because it does allow us to explore a lot of properties and brands that probably in all likelihood wouldn't get their own standalone game. Think about The Goonies for example: it's a 30 year old property, there's a lot of nostalgic love for it, but there's probably not enough content there to warrant an entire standalone boxed game. So getting to do a level pack around The Goonies is ideal. We get to put all the best moments from the film into a level, the designers can go nuts in that one level, and it's great – it's a ton of fun. That's the spirit behind Lego Dimensions. You just saw this summer The Force Awakens come out, earlier in the year the Lego Marvel Avengers game came out. We've got more standalone games on the horizon, just nothing that's been announced yet.
Q: You've been incredibly successful working with other companies to get characters into the game. I'm thinking here of franchises as diverse as Mission: Impossible, Adventure Time, and Sonic the Hedgehog. How do the conversations with IP holders start?
Doug Heder: We've had people reach out to us, and we’ve gone out to others who may not have thought they were an obvious fit for Lego Dimensions. Nothing is off the table when we’re talking about what could come next, that's what is so much fun from the production and game design side is being able to blow out expectations. When we showed our line-up for year two with properties like A-Team, Knight Rider and Beetlejuice, people's heads were exploding. It was really exciting, the novelty of being able to include all these different brands into one game experience. The conversations start with people – especially now we're in our second year we're getting used to this idea this new system – people are always submitting ideas very informally to the design team. And the senior management team have to go out and initiate those conversations with the different licence holders. The properties will themselves inspire the design work: "If I could do that Beetlejuice level, what would it be like?"
Q: Two promotional figurines are not available to buy on their own: DC Comics hero Green Arrow and Supergirl. Will these get separate releases?
Doug Heder: We've not announced anything. Right now the Green Arrow is an exclusive event figure that we've given out at a couple of events. The first time we did it was at E3 in the United States. We're looking for as many opportunities as we can to get that gift into the hands of fans. There's nothing to say yet about rolling it out in some formal way. We’re not going to sell him separately, I can tell you that much. But we are looking at a number of different programs. For Supergirl: similar situation. That is an exclusive incentive with the Sony Starter Pack for PS4. It's gonna be that way for some time for the near future, but again we're looking at all possibilities, and nothing to announce today, but we hear our fans loud and clear, especially folks who already own a Starter Pack. We wanna find a way to get that figure into their hands. Bear with us, we’ve heard the feedback, and we're gonna do what we can do.
Q: Were you surprised by the closure of Disney Infinity?
Doug Heder: I think we all were, for sure. Those guys that worked on that game are a talented group of artists, programmers, and designers who were clearly passionate about the property. It's always sad to see a product go away.
Q: It does free up Marvel and Star Wars, and you've worked with those properties before…
Doug Heder: We've definitely worked with those properties before – we released a game for both just this year. There's no plans to bring either into Lego Dimensions, but nothing's off the table, and we do look at everything. But we have to consider each thing. You asked about standalone games, and we have to look at what makes sense for each brand.
Q: Which IP is on your personal wishlist? Putting aside your PR hat for the time being.
Doug Heder: I would love to – and this is a little bit tongue and cheek, I'll admit – but, could you imagine a Lego Roman gladiator game? I would love to see Ben-Hur or Spartacus or something like that. I'm a huge fan of those epic Roman films, and I think there's a ton of fun stuff that could happen in there… The sword and sandal Lego game, right? We'll get Lego minifigure Russell Crowe to come in and be the gladiator again. That would be amazing!
Q: Are there any properties you can't touch? I've seen people asking for Warhammer 40,000 to somehow be included.
Doug Heder: This is obviously a multilayer operation. You've got a partnership in TT Games and Warner Bros. Games and The Lego Company. And each company has its cultural values and pillars that are foundational to the success of each. Lego is a very family friendly company, but again you look at the list and I think there are some surprises in there – however, I don't think any of those go against those values or core ideals for Lego. Like I said, nothing is off the table, but we have to work within our audience and expectations. We are still an age 10 plus game, so I'm probably not going to get the gladiator level pack anytime soon, and unfortunately I probably won't get the Aliens or Terminator pack that I also want.
Q: Given the number of companies involved, I'm amazed any of this has come together.
Doug Heder: Yeah, we’ve had some pretty crazy conversations. We’ve had conference calls with Fox and Universal and Warner Bros. all on the same line, and we're talking about "What can Homer Simpson do with Finn from Adventure Time and Batman?" These really fun, blow-your-mind conversations, and they happen all the time.
Q: It makes sense, because mixing up brands is how kids play.
Doug Heder: And that's what has helped this so much. If it weren't for that Lego brand and identity and the idea that those toys already do that... You go into a store that sells Lego product and see this huge assortment of different popular culture brands that come from all different kinds of sources. We had Doctor Who last year and Back to the Future and Portal 2 – just really interesting, different brands coming together – and its really cool that when we go out to partners and approach them with the idea of Lego Dimensions, people get it. It's not as hard of a conversation as you might think it would be, because at the end of the day we all have a soft spot for those Lego toys, and who doesn't want to see their brand represented in minifigure form? It's such a cultural icon now.
Q: At what point do you leave the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 behind?
Doug Heder: When fans stop buying product. We still do a lot of business on those platforms, and we've been able to work within the parameters of those machines. Every machine has its life cycle, but we've no plans to step off those yet.
Q: Augmented reality seems to be a natural fit for the franchise. Have you had a play around with HoloLens or Magic Leap?
Doug Heder: Between AR and VR, it's definitely opening people's minds to what could that mean not just for Lego games but games in general, and there's definitely a lot of interest in that space. At the end of the day, we're all tech geeks and fanboys, and think this stuff is as cool as the next kid, so we want to jump in that space and play there. But we have to see what makes sense for the brand and the franchise, and how can it provide a meaningful new experience that makes what we're doing already better and more fun. It's easier said than done.