That won't stop fans (and Blizzard Entertainment developers) from geeking out about them, so you can expect more than a few IOUs under Christmas trees this year, whether it's for the chance to build Dorado or to make yourself a D.Va. The one model that ...and more »
The mini-figures included in upcoming LEGO 'Overwatch' sets.LEGO
One potentially hot gift for Overwatch players won't be fully available for the holiday season: Most LEGO sets based on the popular team shooter's characters start shipping January 2, though you can pre-order now.
That won't stop fans (and Blizzard Entertainment developers) from geeking out about them, so you can expect more than a few IOUs under Christmas trees this year, whether it's for the chance to build Dorado or to make yourself a D.Va.
The one model that's available now as a Blizzard exclusive is a $25 mini-Bastion. The full sized version will be available after January 2, will cost $50, and actually transforms -- the first LEGO model to do so.
I recently caught up with Blizzard Vice President of Consumer Products Matt Beecher and LEGO Group Designer Woon Tze Chee to chat about the new sets.
Heather Newman: How did this partnership come together?
Matt Beecher: So I would say there's no shortage of LEGO enthusiasts on the Blizzard campus.
Newman: You can see that in pretty much on every office on campus.
Beecher: Myself included. There's always the right time for the right opportunity. As the Overwatch player evolved, people would take a look at the size of the players -- we have 40 million -- and just the level of engagement that we were seeing around the world. You look at all these people that are dressed up as their favorite heroes, and I think also on the retail side, there was a lot of demand. It just felt like this was the right property to work on together.
We spent a lot of time with the LEGO team, actually showcasing a sizzle reel at one time which featured all the different community-driven play sets that were created. What this partnership is about is understanding what the community wants, and delivering them an authentic experience for them to use their imagination.
Dorado, with Reaper, McCree and Soldier 76, retails for $30.LEGO
Newman: How did you decide which characters to feature?
Beecher: On the front end, we invited LEGO to our campus to spend time with a couple Blizzard immersion days, with the Overwatch game team, including Jeff Kaplan, and the Overwatch leadership team. [They] spent a lot of time together just kind of ideating, brainstorming together with the designers that came from LEGO.
We really spawned a lot of ideas, and we started looking at those through different lenses. The lens of what do we want to deliver for the fan experience? The lens of playability. There's a lot of research that LEGO team did in trying to understand which play sets come together the best for the audiences. And through collaboration we ultimately got to the six play sets that we announced here.
Newman: Can you walk me through the sets that will be available?
Woon Tze Chee: So the first set is Tracer versus Widowmaker. They're probably two of the most recognizable characters from the game, just because Tracer pretty much appears in most of the communications of the brand. And also they are the classic rivalry in terms of story telling, and that's why we put them together. The next set is the Hanzo versus Genji set. That one was highly inspired by one of the animations that they did, which is the dragons animation. That speaks about conflict between the two brothers. It's $19.99. It features the Shrine, which is one of the iconic locations within the animation.
After that you get Dorado, and in that set we feature Soldier: 76, which is one of the founding members of Overwatch, and he too got an animation called "Hero." And again, that's sort of where the inspiration came from. We included two other characters that have a lot of history in terms of story telling, Reaper and McCree. And in that set, we included the payload, which is one of the play modes of the game. We included that as a physical way of playing with it.
After that you get the $40 price point, which is D.Va & Reinhardt. In that set you're literally building two characters of the game, and two of the most popular tanks.
Tracer, Widowmaker and the payload retail for $15.LEGO
Newman: Talk with me about the big version of the set available now: Bastion.
Chee: It's a detailed model of the character from the game that transforms. It is the first time you're getting a LEGO model that fully transforms. In the game, Bastion transform from recon, essentially a robot form, to a turret, and that's what we have achieved. It also comes with a light brick that allows you to change the eye from blue to red, which is one of the thing that they showed in the animation, and it's one of the feature that we wanted to include.
Newman: What other set are you releasing?
Chee: The last set will be the biggest of the assortment. It's the Watchpoint: Gibraltar, and its set consists of a big rocket, and it comes with Winston, which is one of the characters that we really wanted to put in a set. Because of the scale of the set where it's a tall rocket, we make use of the scale and introduce two flying characters, Mercy and Pharah. That's also because the combo of Mercy and Pharah is very meta at the moment in the game.
We wanted to bring this sort of understanding and detail into the play set, sort of defense. And then it [also] comes with Reaper, because in the game, Reaper has his normal mode, and then he goes into his Death Blossom mode and we sort of include that as well in this set.
The good thing about this set is, [in] the set Tracer versus Widowmaker, it comes with the payload of the Gibraltor map, which is a sort of like a drone. You can connect that drone to the back of this rocket, which is what the game actually does when you complete the map. So in a way, the first set links to the last set, and it completes a nice little cycle.
The Gibraltar set, which retails for $90 and has 730 pieces.LEGO
Newman: What makes a set more playable than another set?
Chee: I think with Overwatch being a very new IP to the LEGO group, and also we're hitting a different age group than we're usually targeting, a little bit higher age mark, we spent quite a fair bit of time trying to strike a balance between a set that has play features, versus a cool model that they can just display. With older children, they might not want to play with the model that much, but they find it cool and they might want to build it and display it.
Newman: And with some very adult children.
Chee: So that's really the kind of balance we're trying to strike, and it's a lot of discussion internally as well as the tests with the fans, with different age groups, that we sort of find this balance.
Newman: Why Overwatch as a franchise specifically to start with? Obviously Blizzard has a bunch of IP.
Beecher: The broader approach is the franchise of the future. A lot of times Overwatch is thought of as the bright and shining future we're fighting for. [Our] franchises of the future are operating on a multi-platform approach, meaning we have game play, we have linear content, we've got Esports, and we've got consumer products. Overwatch strongly checks a lot of those boxes, and that's why it felt like the right opportunity to start with with LEGO.
Newman: If things go well, that you can see pursuing LEGO products with other IP?
Beecher: It needs to be the right time and place for both parties. I mean, we would definitely be interested in discussing that. With World of Warcraft, there's a hundred million-plus people that have touched that experience at some point in their life, so there's a very broad and diverse audience around the world that supports World Of Warcraft. But it obviously would be a mutual decision. We need make sure there's enough indicators pointing to that it would be a great idea.
[Ed. note: LEGO spokesmen declined to comment on the possibility of WoW products.]
A full-sized Bastion (not to be confused with the mini version on sale now) will set you back $50 and has a turret mode.LEGO
Newman: How do you design a set for an audience that's maybe new to LEGO as adults?
Chee: Well, when we develop products, we always take it as someone who has never built a model before. So that's our approach. So the model will be designed and the building sequence would be designed in a sense that it's targeted at the right age group, and having the right complexity, and that's how we always approach our model. We never assume that someone has already built it before. We always assume that someone is buying LEGO for the very first time.
Newman: Are there rules of thumb in terms of saying, "Okay, this is a set for younger players, so we know that we want to include no more than X pieces of X steps to get from sort of beginning to end?" Is there a formula in terms of how long these things typically take folks to put together?
Chee: I would say no. There is no formula. But typically, you're right in the sense where we're developing products across multiple price points. And that also includes across sort of different level of complexity, and that's how we approach it. So you have the smaller sets that are generally a simpler build, versus a larger set that's generally more complex. So that sort of spectrum across different complexity caters to them.
If you're someone that has built LEGO models for long time, and you can just buy a big set and without any problem build with it. And if you're sort of intimidated by it, then you go for the small sets, and start from there.
Newman: What age groups do you expect to pick up these sets?
Beecher: For Overwatch we have a massive and diverse community. The line is designed for teens and collectors in general. I think that's the core that we're starting at, and for the aging on the packaging, that might be for safety and compliance issues that don't relate to, that's only for an eight year old. Because I'm almost 52 and I'll be building every single one of these sets.
Reinhardt and D.Va, sold together for $40 (with 455 pieces.)LEGO
Newman: How does a LEGO set or character come together? Like D.Va, for example?
Chee: That's the set I worked on. Particularly D.Va, in that set you're actually building a character from the game, therefore we put a lot of focus on getting the look and the proportion right so that it stays true to the reference material. So in that set, you get D.Va as a mini figure, and we molded a new hair piece for her because her design was so iconic and special that we needed a new hair piece.
And normally in a set it is not just me who is working on it, but you get a element designer who works on a new piece that's needed. You get the graphic designer who generally works on all the graphics as well, how the mini figure looks. And then you have the model designer, which is me, who designed the model.
So in this case, the graphic designer would look at the reference of D.Va and translate that into a mini figure. The characters are very detailed, so he really had to take all those details and scale it down, simplifying them because a mini figure is generally this tall, right? And so the design doesn't appear cluttered, but still sort of iconic and recognizable.
Newman: How did you design her mech?
Chee: We went through a process where we were really exploring with the scale and detail of the model to make sure that they are right to the reference material. That process, it's done together with Blizzard. We would work on something, we would send an image over to them, they would comment on it, they'd sometimes sketch on it, and this process goes back and forth multiple times until everyone's happy. And then we have a model that's true to the reference material, but also fulfills that quality that we need as a LEGO model, as well the complexity that is right to the age point.
Newman: Were there changes that you made along the way?
Chee: Most of the comments came from the team for, because it's a character, so it's a lot about the shape, the look, and the proportion, which is something that we really wanted to get right as well. So one of the things that went back and forth a couple time was the dome shape, because D.Va is relatively curvy. The mech is very curvy, and so getting that dome shape right on the top of the mech took quite a few processes.
We always try to achieve what they want us to achieve -- but still thinking about that the structure and stability that we need, complexity that we need to make sure it's to the right age mark, and all the other constraints that we have, and just really striking the right balance and at the end of the day [until] it gets to a point where everyone's happy and we have a model.
Hanzo vs. Genji at the Hanamura Temple includes a "Shimada Henchman," 197 pieces and disc shooters to represent the dragons for $20.LEGO
Newman: So I expect you're going to be selling a few copies of these at Blizzard HQ.
Beecher: There's no way to overstate the amount of enthusiasm on the Blizzard campus for the LEGO partnership. It's true, and having been in the creative meetings with the LEGO designers and the Overwatch development team, they are all collectively so geeked out about these products to come out. We cannot wait to get these sets into the hands of the community.
Newman: Why release them January 2 and not for the holidays?
Beecher: Looking at the excitement stemming from the community, we wanted to be able to bring the partnership to life as soon as possible. Being able to offer an exclusive moment at Blizzard’s biggest show of the year, BlizzCon, with the LEGO Overwatch Omnic Bastion, was a great first step. We are looking forward to bringing LEGO and Overwatch to an even wider audience at the start of the new year.
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