Though Fast Company dubbed Lego: “the Apple of toys” in 2015, they doubt Lego’s newest dive into technology. The company plans to release an augmented reality (AR) app called “Lego Hidden Side” in late summer 2019. Physical brick sets, selling at $20, will combine with a free app where kids can play with the model while hunting ghosts in the digital world. The author argues that this game doesn’t feel like play, claiming it doesn’t fit any criteria from Perter Gray’s five-part definition of play below:
- Play is self chosen and self-directed
- Play is activity which means are more valued than ends
- Play has structure, or rules, which are not dictated by physical necessity but emanate from the minds of players
- Play is imaginative, non-literal, mentally removed in some way from “real” or “serious” life
- Play involves an active, alert, but non-stress frame of mind
However, I would argue that the game could actually be headed for success. In 2016, Nintendo launched Pokémon Go, which became an international success and remains a top app in the App Store today. Though Lego targets an entirely different demographic, it still could be pegged for success. More children chose to play online, meeting the first criteria. The ultimate end result is to catch virtual ghosts, making the ends far less valuable than the means. The game is structured with rules, and kids’ minds can still be active and alert while using devices, such as adults do crosswords and logic puzzles on their devices now. Though the imaginative process is somewhat guided, it is still present through the augmented reality. AR merely lends a rendered image of what was already being imagined by kids, and they may come to expect this as technology continues to disrupt different functions of everyday life.
As for the business model, it can seem doubtful for Lego’s immediate success. The new product could cannibalize sales of their existing models, and the free app is an expensive investment in development and maintenance. However, the app surely will have in-app purchases available, which could bring in revenue previously unattainable.