Nintendo teased a big ol’ something on Mar10 Day 2020 that something being a collaboration between Nintendo and LEGO, specifically the Super Mario brand. Super Mario has slowly become its own pillar of branding for Nintendo merchandise, which is important heading into ventures like this, the upcoming movie, and theme park stuff. It isn’t clear what the LEGO collaboration is, but it’s probably sets, rather than a video game. Frankly though, a video game would be the preferable option, as it feels like a Super Mario LEGO set in 2020 would be a little late for a couple of reasons.
The main reason is that it should have happened already. LEGO is in a weird spot right now. It’s still a huge brand of course, but in the middle of a decline. When the video games were originally blowing up and superheroes and the first LEGO movie were a thing, the company saw huge growth. But after the LEGO Batman movie sets failed to take off and some of the recent video games didn’t really go over as well as usual, LEGO had to step back and lay people off. Basically, LEGO overstepped chasing dollar signs then had to chill after it backfired a bit.
That doesn’t mean LEGO is failing or anything, and there have still been cool projects happening. LEGO has dabbled more into video games with Minecraft and Overwatch sets, which seem to have been well-received. The video games aren’t being pumped out as much anymore, but one big one is on the way for the Star Wars series. But either through hesitation or deals just not coming together, Nintendo has already been in the brick building toy space for several years now.
If you want Super Mario, there have been K’Nex sets around for years. Most of these showed up around the Wii and 3DS era (and are branded specifically for the games of that time), but they’re still widely available now. Nintendo’s other major property (sort of) is Pokemon, and those are still actively getting some pretty awesome Mega Construx sets. You can waltz into a GameStop or Walmart and find rad sets featuring multiple Pokemon or one big one, and they’re always engineered for cool action setpieces. In some ways, those are more impressive than LEGO and way less expensive.
What I’m getting at is that LEGO sort of oversaturated itself in recent years, and Nintendo’s past of being weird about licensing probably prevented an earlier collaboration. That’s a bygone era at this point. Since around when the Wii U died, Nintendo has been chasing IP deals much more aggressively. It was a survival tactic that really paid off, especially once the Switch turned into a smash hit. So perhaps this is the result of timing or Nintendo having more leverage to make a deal more in its favor.
I’m not upset or bothered by the news, and based on the strange-looking teaser Nintendo posted on Twitter, I’m actually really curious about what this ends up being. If it’s sets of LEGO in a traditional sense that’s cool, but a little weird to me. If it’s a new LEGO game that’s meant to come out around the Illumination movie, that would be a safer, and probably smarter, move. We’ve already seen Nintendo work with Ubisoft on more than one project, so it isn’t a stretch anymore to see a different developer handle Nintendo’s big boy.
Anyway, Mario and LEGO is a thing now, and it’ll probably end up being a big deal. I just think it's odd. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.