Reimaging Success: Lego Universe 10 Year Anniversary

Posted: January 1st, 2022 under NetDevil, Opinion, Video.

The 10th anniversary originally went unnoticed by me, but not by everyone.

Just To Recap

May 2009

I started working at NetDevil on the Lego Universe Project.

October 2010

Lego Universe launch date, NetDevil founder Ryan Seabury resigns.

November 2010

NetDevil founder Scott Brown resigns, joins Seabury at End Games.

January 2011

Last NetDevil founder Peter Grundy leaves.

Feb 2011

Lego purchases NetDevil development team from Gazillion, about half of the team is laid off, including myself. Gazillion absorbed the other development project, and had earlier laid off the Jumpgate Evolution team, ending NetDevil as a studio.

August 2011

Parts of Lego Universe were made free-to-play, Game is now free to download, business model is monthly membership only.

September 2011

Ninjago content lands in Lego Universe.

November 2011

Lego Universe announces that it will be shut down in January, remaining development staff of Play Well Studios is laid off save for the live team. Roughly 2.3 million active users at this time, but only 100,000 subscribers.

January 2012

Servers are shut down.

I worked on Lego Universe longer than the servers were live – just 15 months. This was a huge passion project for everyone involved, and I got told to hit the bricks.

There were plenty of reasons to walk away from this experience as a failure. That is what we all felt like collectively. On many criteria – commercial success, we all lost our jobs, and the fact that it no longer exists – it was objectively a failure.

“It was devastating, I don’t have a better word than that. It was devastating. Because we thought we had built something that was going to be a game for decades.” ~Scott Brown

“…to have LEGO Universe – this thing I was super proud of – just gone, was a pretty big hit. I didn’t really realize the impact it had on me for probably a good year. I had to really separate my self-identity, self-value, mental framework from my work which in my first 30, 35 years of life was inexorably tied together.” ~Ryan Seabury

In 2018, CEO of the Lego Group during Lego Universe’s development and operation expressed regret in shutting the game down. “I consider this one of my greatest fiascos: that we weren’t persistent,” which is easier in hindsight with titans like Minecraft and Roblox in the same space.

Quotes taken from Bits and Bricks Podcast on the 10th anniversary.

Initially, and somewhat strangely, we were expecting a large success. I could sit in on kid test groups and kids were falling out of their seats when watching the trailer and peeing their pants when they got to test the game.

Looking back 10 years later, even though it was short lived, people did get to play the game, which meant it did get to reach and impact its audience. It might not have been as wide reaching as it could have been, but clearly it was intense for those that got their hands on it.

“To get some feedback from someone that you actually like, touched someone’s head out there and gave them a super positive memory from their childhood, right? Like that’s…ultimately at the end of the day that’s why I’m a game developer, right? It’s like, I want to get into people’s heads and create memories and experiences that they will look
back at and cherish, right? Like that’s, in my mind, the way you live forever, right?” ~Ryan Seabury

I agree with Seabury, the point of all of my toils, and I worked hard on this one, is to have an impact. The funny thing about impact is it takes a while to see the full effect, and it can be hard to measure.

I was shocked to see the public outpouring 10 years later, clearly the impact was very real. I wonder how much was because the premature and sudden ending to the game caused some emotional scars.

So many comments about bringing it back, it was pivotal to their childhood, it was ahead of its time, their favorite Lego game, favorite game at the time, and some who was their favorite game period (I’m honored). For some, the reason they took an early interest in programming (this really hit me in the feels). In general, just so much love for the game was expressed. And there were legitimately millions of you that played.

It was successful, just not quite successful enough.

For any of the fans out there, I’ll have the game’s soundtrack play you out

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