The contribution of branded games for the LEGO ninjago brand narrative

Sjors Martens, Laura Cañete Sanz, T de la Hera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

78 Downloads (Pure)


This study will examine how branded games in the LEGO Ninjago franchise communicate the brand narrative through their mechanical, semiotic and referential design. Digital games as communicative tools facilitate a new paradigm of marketing focusing on experience creation through integrated marketing communication plans. The LEGO brand creates highly successful games that communicate the brand effectively. To explore the possibilities and counteract the simplistic use of branded games, this study introduces an innovative framework to formally analyze branded games and their communication of a brand narrative through mechanical, semiotic and referential layers. This framework introduces formal game design to advertising studies, while dragging game studies into branded ecosystems. Using the framework, we analyze LEGO Ninjago the Movie – The Videogame, to identify how this paid digital game expands the Ninjago universe and fulfills specific marketing purposes oriented to LEGO toy sets. Our analysis shows that on a mechanical and semiotic layer, the game presents a standalone experience catering to the universe of the Ninjago movie and the values of the Ninjago brand narrative. However, by framing the whole game as LEGO – in its materiality and interactable objects – the LEGO brand narrative of creative construction informs the act of play. The referential design in these games makes use of playful disruption of rules to instill additive comprehension in the player related to purchasable sets and content.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-176
JournalTransactions of the Digital Games Research Association
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022


  • LEGO®
  • branded game
  • game analysis
  • brand narrative
  • referential design


Dive into the research topics of 'The contribution of branded games for the LEGO ninjago brand narrative'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this