Family video games are big business year-round and worldwide. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (TWX) has tapped into this evergreen kids market by partnering with The LEGO Group to sell over help sell more than 100 million LEGO video games based around huge franchises like Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, The LEGO Movie, DC Comics and even Marvel Comics over the years. LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is the latest collaboration between Warner Bros.-owned developer TT Games and DC Comics, celebrating 75 years of the Dark Knight.
The first two LEGO Batman games sold over 20 million copies. Michael Pachter, video game analyst at Wedbush Securities, believes Warner Bros. will sell 4-5 million copies of LEGO Batman 3.
“LEGO games account for 20-30% of sales,” said Pachter. “Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is diversifying away from LEGO well with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Mortal Kombat X, and is exploiting DC characters well with games like Batman: Arkham Knight.”
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham takes the action to outer space and across the galaxy for the first time. The game, which features over 150 DC characters inside and outside the Batman universe, involves a plot that has super villain Brainiac aiming to destroy Earth. Batman teams up with the Justice League and other super heroes like Super Boy, Shazam and Hawkman.
“LEGO Batman 3 includes not only huge characters like those in the Justice League, but even obscure DC characters like Polka Dot Man, characters from other media like Nurse Joker from The Dark Knight and Oliver Queen from Arrow, and even real life people like DC Creative Officer Geoff Johns, Conan O’Brien, and Kevin Smith,” said Mike Schramm, video game analyst at EEDAR. “Kids targeted at the LEGO brand won’t know or get all of these references, but fans and reviewers will likely be impressed that TT Games has been so comprehensive in recreating the DC Universe.”
Appealing to the parents who play LEGO games with their kids, Warner Bros. enlisted the original Batman and Robin, Adam West and Burt Ward, to reprise their 1960s TV versions of the Caped Crusaders in the game.
“Our Batman in the TV series was kind of zany, but believable from time to time for the kids,” said West. “And with this terrific game I found that by pushing it a little more, by making it somewhat more distinctive and overwrought and excited, that it worked.”
With space exploration added to the gameplay experience, players can pilot an assortment of flying vehicles including Batman’s Bat Rocket and Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet. Arthur Parsons, game director at TT Games, said the space combat is a throwback to classic arcade gaming.
Warner Bros. has expanded the LEGO Batman toy universe beyond games to home entertainment releases. Traveller’s Tales founder Jon Burton, who has worked on numerous LEGO video games, also wrote, produced and directed LEGO Batman: The Movie – Super Heroes Unite and co-executive produced THE LEGO Movie. Burton wrote the stories for LEGO Batman 2, which was the first game to introduce voice acting to the franchise, and LEGO Batman 3.
“If you enjoyed the story in LEGO Batman 2 you’re going to love this one because it’s the same style of humor, but with more characters and more locations,” said Parsons.
Schramm said TT Games’ LEGO game titles provide consistency to Warner Bros. thanks to their regular release schedule. LEGO Batman 3 is the fourth LEGO game from Warner Bros. to hit store shelves this year.
“A title like Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor or Batman: Arkham Knight might attract more attention from reviewers and sell more copies, but those titles come out less often and are much more of a risk,” said Schramm. “The LEGO games are dependable, solid releases and TT Games’ success allows Warner Bros. to experiment in other areas while keeping its various franchises strong.”
It’s been nine years since LucasArts and independent developer Traveller’s Tales unleashed LEGO Star Wars to gamers around the world. That LEGO franchise, and others released by Warner Bros. since the company acquired Traveller’s Tales in 2007, have connected with parents who grew up playing games and now play with their children.
According to the Entertainment Software Association, 55% of parents believe that playing video games helps the family spend quality time together. The LEGO Batman franchise has stood out for its fun and engaging gameplay regardless of age.