Yesterday, LEGO announced a partnership with Chinese internet firm Tencent with the intention of creating online games, video, and social media, that will be available to children in China. The partnership suggests that LEGO has every intention of continuing to grow beyond a toy brick company. Although the Denmark-based company has already branched out into films, games and television franchises in the West, its partnership with Tencent will give LEGO the means to distribute content to the 731 million people currently estimated to be regularly using the internet in China.
“We’ve seen more and more Chinese children engage with the world digitally, and the partnership will bring them safe and imaginative Lego content,” explained Jacob Kragh, general manager of LEGO China in a recent press release.
Partnering with Tencent is huge news for LEGO. The Shenzhen-based internet company has grown at an impressive rate over the past few years to become one of the biggest internet companies in China, thanks in part to the Chinese government shutting out companies like Google or Facebook. That vacuum has allowed Tencent and other Chinese companies to gain an almost exclusive hold of China’s rapidly growing base of online users. As LEGO has seen its numbers in China grow over the last few years, the company sees the opportunity to establish an incomparably large fanbase thanks to the reach of its newest partner. The hope is that the fanbase will drive business offline too. Earlier this year, LEGO announced it would be opening its first China-based LEGOLAND in Shanghai in 2022.
While LEGO appears to have had one of its most successful years ever in 2017, the toy company has long acknowledged its need to keep up with technology in order to remain relevant for a generation more interested in being online than playing with toys. Last year, the company announced it would be firing eight percent of its workers (approximately 1,400 employees) as LEGO attempts to reorganize its company to better meet the needs of its young customers.