LEGO has teamed up with Nintendo to bring us the kind of news 2020 needs.
The brick hithouse is working on a stocky version of most people’s favorite Italian plumber.
Yes, LEGO Super Mario is on his way. We can all buy one later this year.
The announcement was teased on Mario Day (Mar 10) and we got full confirmation the following afternoon in this video. He is the result of four years of work between Nintendo and LEGO.
This will be a “smart” Mario that has LED displays on his chest and face, which allow him to interact with the LEGO world. LEGO has created new, digitally-enhanced bricks that will recreate the on-screen Mario environment. It’s important to make him feel at home.
Squash a Goomba and Mario will look delighted, get hit by a fireball and he’ll show true pain. He can talk, he can play music, and his head seems to come off, but I’m not sure why yet.
Players can build their own game levels for Mario to bounce around, picking up coins and generally sorting out the plumbing. He has a bluetooth button on his back, which is a pretty clear signal of how he’ll connect with other characters and devices.
LEGO’s project and design lead, Jonathan Bennink, also added in this interview, “He has a color sensor on the bottom between his feet so we can read a selection of the LEGO color palette. You can add your own bricks in the levels that you make and get coins from that, but the main action rates come from scanning barcodes.”
The barcodes are stickers that can be applied to the tiles.
Bennink confirmed that Nintendo has had a significant amount of input on the technology side, with LEGO leading the design.
That seems a sensible approach.
Mario looks as block-headed as you’d expect, compared with the rotundity of his screen-based incarnation.
There are rumors that LEGO Mario will connect with Nintendo Switch games, too. For example, progress in the man-made Mario world could transfer to the computer games.
Other companies have tried to create this physical-digital connection recently.
Adidas has just released a product called GMR, which is an insole for football boots with a smart tag. It tracks how fast and how far you run, then uses this data to update your player in the FIFA video game. You can see more about it here.
It seems a little clunky and the link is tenuous.
The strategy is clear, nonetheless. By partnering with companies in related but non-competing industries, adidas can bring us further into their ecosystem. They also get to create a conceptual link between their physical products and other, very popular digital products.
The mutual benefits for Nintendo and LEGO are self-evident. Two much-loved brands, collaborating on what looks like a very innovative product.
So, why have we waited so long?
Given that we have Sonic the Hedgehog LEGO (I do quite literally have it, in a box somewhere), why are we only seeing Super Mario LEGO now?
As it turns out, the story goes back decades.
Nintendo and LEGO have been competitors from the early days when Nintendo made toy sets. In fact, Nintendo essentially made knock-off versions of LEGO bricks in the late 1960’s. Many believe there has been an ongoing rivalry between the companies since then.
There is other, more recent evidence of this enmity.
LEGO has a fantastic platform called LEGO Ideas, where fans can suggest new bricks they’d like to see. Fellow fans can vote and LEGO says any set with over 10,000 votes will be considered for production.
This Flintstones one looks brilliant:
As does this Steamboat Willie:
Anyway, it’s well worth looking around on there.
My point was, loads of people have suggested Nintendo collaborations and they have been very popular, but LEGO has always shut them down.
In a statement, they said this is because another company held the licensing rights for Super Mario toys.
Now, the two companies have found a way to work together. It looks like it has been worth the wait.
What’s next for LEGO and Nintendo?
This paves the way for all sorts of LEGO Nintendo. We should expect to see a lot more Mario toys, and a Zelda set seems inevitable. Luigi’s Mansion and even Mario Kart could make for some great toy sets too, but really the possibilities are endless.
The one I’m keeping my eye on is a potential movie. ‘The LEGO Movie’ was superb, while the 1993 ‘Super Mario Bros’ movie was not.
If they get their heads together, we could finally get a decent Mario movie out of this partnership.