Lets get Phygital!
So earlier in the year, Nexo Knights was unleashed on the world. A castle sci-fi mash up theme with weird angular pieces, a garish color scheme and an associated cartoon. Then the sets hit the streets, to a generally positive reaction: certainly the sets have. With their novel angles, distinctive colour scheme and an soon to be seen cartoon, marketing people were starting to use this strange new word. Phygital. A portmanteau word: Physical play, linking in with with a digital experience: Or…some way to get the kids to play with the toy, because there is an associated video game and TV show. The NEXO Knights were set up to be a triple media experience: Lego sets, that interacted with the video game; A cartoon that inspires children to use of construction toy; A video game featuring characters from the cartoon, set up as a quest based battle game with powerups. Powerups you collect through obtaining lego sets, other merchandise, and watching the cartoon.
But… how about the other aspects of the phygital world? Specifically the less physical and more digital. The animated series is self explanatory: the characters are developed, and grow over the course of the first series- some more so than others. These help to guide set based play, and provide stepping stones for a child’s own story telling. It is far more a Kids’ Show rather than a Family Show, particularly with the brand of story telling involved. There is also no doubt, looking at the characters that this is a LEGO series, with the graphic style being very minifig oriented. The game however warrants a look into in its own right.
It doesn’t matter if you win or lose… playing the game is what counts.
Another in the collection of ‘Free Apps’ associated with most of the current lego themes, this one encourages you to buy more lego as you progress: You start the game as Lance, one of the NEXO Knights, initially searching for the other NEXO Knights to then work together and defeat the not always, but now evil Jestro. As you travel through your quest, you have the opportunity to battle a number of Jestro’s Minions.
These are not the same yellow goggle wearing minions that assist Gru in his efforts to form a family and work as a supervillian, but start off as horrible little giggling red things. Fortunately they are easily smote down with a single flash of the sword. Then there are more. And they bring stronger friends. Then the fights take too long. And your knight gets beaten to a pulp. So – we look to NEXO powers. You obtain NEXO powers for your knights to use through scanning a shield into the app. The shield is recognised through a series of markings around the margin of the shield. Different shields give different powers.
Gotta get them all
The first NEXO power is obtained in game very readily, and some can be obtained as you complete levels. I got my next few powers from a sample DVD I was given earlier in the year. The back of the DVD had shield codes printed on the back. And then it got a little harder.
“I know,” I said to myself,”There are images of the box art and sets, on shop.lego.com. Why don’t I just call that up and see if the image is of high enough resolution to scan”
So… here’s the thing: When you look the shields in the set photos, as well as on the box art, dummy shields are used:
There are no little ‘bar code’ markings
around the edge of the shield. Except one – Next to the ‘Nexo Knights Logo’ on the box is a picture of a shield with a sword: this one is scannable – Nexo Blade – Don’t miss this one- its not that it is especially awesome, it’s just that its there for the taking . If you attempt to scan a dummy shield, the game invites you (politely) to
find an actual shield code to use. You can share your NEXO powers with a friend: a QR code appears on screen, and they can scan it to add it to their collection. In case you are curious, the shield shown with the tick does not get recognised by the system at all!
Shield designs to upgrade NEXO powers can be found in all sorts of places:..the actual shields in the Nexo sets, but also in official Nexo knights merchandise, such as comics, promotional displays, and they are also displayed during the program, when the knights call to access powers. Some of these sequences can be found in the videos on the Nexo Knights website. NEXO powers can also be shared with friends. These upgrades offer enhancements in battle, either attack, defence, healing, or a combination of the three.
One of the problems with ‘take a picture of it to scan it in’ technology if that there is little to stop someone from posting a picture of the code online, for others to scan. This does detract from the fun of hunting for them all. So, to deter extremely patient people, with a desire to sit infront of their computer and scan all the codes in, scanning is limited to only 3 powers in rapid succession, and then you need to wait to enable scanning capacity to build up.
The game is somewhat repetitive in its nature: select your knight or knights, select your 3 NEXO powers to be able to use in battle, and then enter the level. Experience levels increase your abilities, as do rewards you pick up at the end of battles. There are typically only 3 battles in an individual level, of increasing difficulty. Points at the end of the battle go towards upgrading armour, weapons and transport for your knights.
In-game mechanics are pretty simple: touch where you want to go, and your knight goes there. When you encounter an enemy, a battle will follow. Attacking is easy: tap on the enemy. As quickly and as rapidly as you can. If you wish to engage a NEXO power (you select 3 before you start the level) you tap on the shield. NEXO powers cannot be used at the start of the battle: they take a moment to charge up. Only one NEXO power can be used at a time.
As you progress, you initially gather the NEXO knights, and then need to face an increasingly challenging collection of villains. I have located around 15 shields: less than 10% of them (There are more than 170 to gather at present, with more being released on a regular basis). There are additional bonus points for gathering collections of NEXO powers (listed under quests).It has not taken too long for the challenges to be greater than the powers afforded by the initial shields I collected. Armour and weapon upgrades I have already mentioned. I don’t yet know if these will eventually lead to having the same figures featured in the ‘Ultimate <insert name of character here>’ sets.
This is another game where the gameplay does not vary significantly. Unless you are engaged in the whole ‘NEXO’ package, you will be limited in the number of NEXO powers you can obtain. To gather a full complement of powers, you will need to gather many sets, share with your friends, and pay attention to merchandising, lego club newsletters as well as the animated series.
Personally I am enjoying the sets, with their new range of pieces – discussed previously, as well as other blogs such as New Elementary and Brickset. The cartoon I have not been engaged with, and the game held me entertained for a few hours, but not long enough to make a significant dent in the work to be carried out in the game. I will come back to it, I suspect as I obtain new NEXO Powers through sets – I think this is the way the game will maintain relevance: not for its originality, but for interest in seeing what these powers do.
I came back to the game after watching some more online videos, and therefore exposure to new NEXO Powers: Broom of Doom; Cyclonic Strike; Royal Brawl. These powers provided a significant upgrade in battle compared to some others I had used: and the battles I was struggling with became winnable. So perhaps this is a thing- if you are feeling despondent with the game, find some new powers (potentially for free by watching some online videos) and become more engaged. What a cunning marketing ploy.
It also allows for significant boost
ing of abilities if there appears to be a problem area in the game. Making NEXO powers available through the videos on the website allows consumers to buy into the brand for little capital outlay. Some of the most useful NEXO powers I have found to date are from watching videos, with a couple only becoming available recently. So, so long as you engage in the brand – whether at a price premium through purchasing sets, at a subscription level (by watching the programs on cartoon network) of for free (by browsing LEGO.com and its associated marketing materials, as well as trading with friends – you can increase you powers available in the game.
So, in summary
NEXO knights provides a number of ways for consumers to engage with the subject matter: the LEGO sets, the Merlock 2.0 App and the Cartoon network series all complement each other nicely. The positioning of NEXO Powers, in the form of shield designs, throughout the NEXO nights website, other merchandise and point of sale marketing materials (e.g. at trade shows, LEGOland etc) provides an opportunity for catching the eye of the consumer, and to maintain the interest of the game player in the physical product – as well as providing interest in the series above and beyond the stories.
It will be interesting to see how the long term strategy works for the brand.
Oh.. I initially gave the game 3/5 arbitrary praise units. After downloading some new powers via the videos on LEGO.com/NEXOknights I am happy to increase this to 3.5.
I enjoy the challenge of working out the best way to use the powers, and the casual collecting of them. Powers can be boosted by rescanning them with time (but rescanning requires more ‘NEXO Charge’ to proceed – read that as “Please wait longer before you scan in more powers.”
There is a degree of repetitively to the game: find location for level, select knights, select NEXO powers to use, fight level, fail level, change powers, repeat, and then upgrade your knights using the reward points.
The Rambling Brick Survey
So, how do YOU interact with the NEXO Knights? The Rambling brick is currently running a survey to look at this. No identifying information will be collected. Click here to take the survey: I will post a summary in a few weeks. (Mid july 2016)
In the mean time…