We love the LEGO games here at Dealspwn.com. From humble British beginnings, Traveller's Tales blended our favourite films with our favourite childhood toy, creating a gentle, accessible, hilarious and compelling set of adventures for everyone to enjoy. We've certainly had a lot of it to enjoy, too, from Star Wars to Indiana Jones.
And Harry Potter. And The Lord Of The Rings. And LEGO City Undercover and The Chase Begins and DC Super Heroes and DC Super Heroes 2 and Rock Band and The Adventure Continues and Pirates Of The Caribbean and Ninjago and The Legends Of Chima and Marvel Super Heroes and Universe in Peril and the LEGO Movie... culminating in a Hobbit tie-in that launched before the Trilogy has even completed, offers scant new features, feels unpolished and arrives less than two months after their last major release.
Uh-oh. This is actually rather worrying... because we've seen it before. When a franchise oversaturates its own marketplace and directly competes with itself because a publisher wants too much of a good thing, the alarm bells are bound to go off - as we learned thanks to a certain extinct music game featuring plastic guitars and a billion unnecessary semi-sequels all clamouring for attention.
If Warner Bros. doesn't throttle back, there's a real and present danger of our beloved LEGO series going the same way.
Back in the day, each new LEGO game was a vast improvement or significant deviation over its forebears. The fabulous core gameplay remained the same, but the puzzles, characters, and abilities all expanded with each new iteration, as did the size of the world and the scope of its ambitions. But over the last couple of years, each release has been less and less ambitious (with notable exceptions, of course), while the gaps between them have shrunk exponentially.
Take The Hobbit. Not only does it offer practically nothing new save a terrible crafting system that actively makes the game worse, but it follows The LEGO Movie videogame that released back in late February, itself riding on the coat-tails of Marvel Super Heroes... and the Universe In Peril handheld tie-in. Its quality seems to have suffered as a result of aggressive timetabling - Brendan calls out "so many bugs" in today's review - while fans of the films will be understandably furious to learn that it naturally doesn't include AN ENTIRE THIRD OF THE TRILOGY, which will have to be bought separately at a later date despite retailing at full price.
Indeed, many of the latter LEGO games have been criticised as unambitious and relatively lacklustre when compared to TT's past work, and The Hobbit is nothing less than a poster boy for unnecessary rushed-out sequels for a franchise that actually needs to keep its quality standards high. Why wasn't it held back so WB could concentrate on marketing the LEGO Movie Videogame, free to release as a complete and competent package down the line?
Because money. As Guitar Hero taught us, this lust for following the lucre can have disastrous consequences. We lapped up the numerical sequels, but then the poxy little sidenotes followed, the artist-specific boxes that should have retailed as DLC and the terrible attempts to cater for other less rock-loving audiences. Activision saw that there was easy dosh to be made, and milked hard. So many games released so quickly that us punters were left bemused and confused, left with little reason why we should keep spending money on a series that, frankly, was going downhill quality-wise and trying to piecemeal us at the same time. We've only got so much money to spend and so much time to dedicate to our favourite hobby, and sequelitis caused us to fall out of love with it in dire fashion.
Eventually resulting in the entire market imploding as us jaded gamers decreed that we weren't going to keep throwing unnecessary money after good. Guitar Hero was its own worst enemy, oversaturating its own marketplace, and we can't help but worry that LEGO might be headed the same way if malaise and fatique sets in.
What's especially galling is that, like Guitar Hero, LEGO doesn't actually have any competition. At all! None! It doesn't even have Rock Band breathing down its neck! Warner Bros Interactive absolutely doesn't need to crack the whip and pump out new games so aggressively, since the best games stay in the chart for yonks and are based on timeless movie/TV/comic licenses. They don't go away, they stay relevant and profitable, yet TT games have been cranking games out so hard lately that even the magnificent Marvel Super Heroes is now £3.74 on Steam - and old news.
Don't get me wrong, that's a great state of affairs for us savvy dealhounds, but it's bizarre to see a massive price cut designed to let a brilliant game compete with other games in its own franchise a few months after launch! Needlessly competing with yourself is a very special kind of stupid.
We've yet to see a bad LEGO game, but releasing a glut of reasonable, half decent titles is just as bad, and just as likely to crack our rose-tinted spectacles long enough to ask why we should bother buying the next one.
Perhaps LEGO could become a hub or service like Disney Infinity, with downloadable content doled out on our terms at smaller prices. Maybe TT could focus on tighter download games on XBLA and PSN to fill in the gaps between flagship releases. But by far the simplest solution would be for Warner Bros to slow down and let TT Games get on with it at their own pace, taking their time to construct something truly fantastic at an appropriate time, or maybe even take some time out to design the next generation of LEGO game. Then, when we're missing our fix so very badly, storm in like a triumphant prodigal son and reap the benefits.
It's on you, Warner Bros, and your hand's on the throttle.
Oh, and don't think we've forgotten about you, Telltale! The Walking Dead was brilliant because you devoted so much attention to one single project, but with Borderlands, Game of Thrones and TWAU all in the pipe, you'd better not take us back to the bad old days of Jurassic Park and Back To The Future. Take your time and do it right.