Lego, Amazon Start Platform for Interactive Building-Block Game

(Bloomberg) -- Lego A/S will partner with Amazon.com Inc. for a project that couples the toymaker’s building blocks with the retail giant’s interactive voice program.

Children will be able to communicate with Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa through a storytelling program as they play with their building blocks. The product was launched in the U.K. and the U.S. on Wednesday, the Danish company said in an emailed statement.

The project is part of Lego Chief Executive Officer Niels B. Christiansen’s efforts to keep the toymaker relevant to a generation of children obsessed with screens. Lego has so far had mixed results with its digital forays. While the 2014 “The Lego Movie” and some of the company’s video games were successful, its big 2010 bet on an online multiplayer computer game, “LegoUniverse,” was a flop.

The Amazon Alexa stories, aimed at children aged two to five who play with Lego’s Duplo building blocks, include “The Plane Story” (about an aircraft going on vacation) and the “The Rabbit Story” (about a rabbit meeting its new family’s other pets).

“Children don’t differentiate between physical and digital play,” James Poulter, Lego’s head of Emerging Platforms & Partnerships, said in the statement. “Bringing audio into the equation, as with Lego Duplo Stories, is just another way for children to augment and extend their play experience.”

Europe’s biggest toymaker booked its first sales slump in 13 years in 2017, ending a decade-long streak of rapid expansion and surging profits. From 2010 to 2015 alone, sales more than doubled -- a pace the Danish company dubbed “supernatural” -- and the organization grew too big. Last year, Lego responded by cutting 1,400 jobs, or about 8 percent of its workforce.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.