LEGO is increasingly taking its brick world into the digital age. And the toy company’s latest game could pose a real problem for Minecraft.
The Danish toy maker has unveiled LEGO Worlds, an open-environment game made entirely of LEGO bricks that can be freely manipulated, almost like a virtual LEGO set. Sound familiar? It should: media reports point out LEGO Worlds sounds a lot like Minecraft, now owned by Microsoft (MSFT).
Interestingly, LEGO is debuting the game even though it’s still in development, meaning users can play now even if all the features aren’t included yet. LEGO says it wants users to play the game and offer feedback with the hope that developers can improve LEGO Worlds over time.
LEGO’s new game isn’t the first time a physical toy maker has followed the tech industry’s lead when it comes to innovation. Remember Zynga’s (ZNGA) hit Words with Friends? That was essentially a knock off of Hasbro’s (HAS) Scrabble. Toy companies haven’t historically been great at coming up with tech games on their own — instead, they tend to rely on partners with more expertise to effectively compete on video game and digital platforms.
Executives at LEGO have long contended their bread-and-butter will remain physical toys, like sets based on characters from films like Star Wars and Batman and original packages that play on broader themes like a fire department or a police station. While those sets are LEGO’s core focus, the company is showing it’s willing to expand its toy box a bit more in recent years. It came out with a hit film last year, while LEGO also partners with video game makers to produce games based on its brand, including a Skylanders-type game called “Dimensions,” which will hit store shelves this fall.