Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Dreams Can Come True...

OK, so let's just say that you design and build a cracking LEGO model, and that by some stroke of good fortune someone with influence within the LEGO organisation sees your creation and falls in love with it. They manage to persuade the powers that be within LEGO to produce and sell your model, and they give you a share of the proceeds. Then LEGO offer you a job as a set designer, and you live happily ever after.... I suspect many young (and not so young) LEGO builders have fantasised about a scenario like this at some point. Just a pity that it won't ever happen.

Except.... Welcome to Cuusoo, where all your dreams can come true ! Maybe. According to the website, Cuusoo has apparently been "partnering with The LEGO Group to create a user innovative design system for people to create and market their own LEGO sets in the Japanese market" since 2008, although it only came to my attention sometime last year. Basically, you upload your own design to the Cuusoo site where it's then displayed for all to see. If the public like your creation they can vote for it, and if it gets sufficient votes, LEGO undertake to review the design with a view to putting their own version of it into production and giving you 1% of net sales. Nice !

Three fan-designed models have been greenlit since Cusoo's inception. Set 21100 Shinkai 6500 Submarine and Set 21101 Hayabusa are already on sale, having hit the 2,000 votes required to trigger LEGO review when Cuusoo was Japan-only. Cuusoo went global last year, at which point the number of votes needed to trigger LEGO review jumped to 10,000. Only one set has been given the thumbs up since then - Set 21102 Minecraft Micro World - and the release of this set is imminent.

Set 21100 Shinkai 6500 Submarine

Set 21101 Hayabusa

This isn't the first time that LEGO have released fan-designed sets, of course. Many of you will remember the Factory theme, which consisted of fan-designed creations released between 2005 and 2008. For me, the clear pick of these is Set 10190 Market Street, which was designed to fit with LEGO's range of modular buildings. Released at an RRP of £59.99, this sought-after set now regularly fetches more than £500 on eBay and Bricklink. In marked contrast, the other Factory releases really didn't hit the same heights, and I still shake my head in wonderment at how the likes of Set 10192 Space Skulls was ever deemed fit for release....

Set 10190 Market Street - great !
Set 10192 Space Skulls - not so great....

While I think Cuusoo has been broadly welcomed, it has come in for criticism on a few fronts. One problem is the way that viable, quality designs can quickly become lost in a sea of mediocrity, much like the "needle in a haystack" syndrome that afflicts the likes of Apple's iTunes Store. LEGO have acknowledged this, and have recently started to apply a greater degree of quality control to proceedings, which should hopefully cut down on some of the nonsense. Some folks have also complained at what they see as the potential for Cuusoo to be abused, and cite the recent success of the Minecraft Micro World project as evidence for this. The Minecraft design hit 10,000 votes in double quick time as a result of the huge global Minecraft community being skilfully mobilized to hit the Cuusoo site on masse and vote it through. Critics have however argued that the majority of these individuals would be unlikely to ever actually buy the set, although time will tell I guess. With regard to the Minecraft set (picture below), my issue is less about any possible abuse of Cuusoo and more to do with the set itself which looks pretty uninspiring to me; certainly it's hard to see many outside the Minecraft community having any interest in it.

Set 21102 Minecraft Micro World
A fourth Cuusoo project recently passed the threshold for LEGO review. The Winchester, a project by yatkuu which was modelled on the pub from the movie "Shaun of the Dead", recently hit 10,000 votes and is currently under consideration by the LEGO company. Given the obvious potential disconnect between the blood and guts subject matter of the movie and LEGOs brand standards, this one might not get the green light, however - in the words of the LEGO Cuusoo Team "due to the themes behind Shaun of the Dead there would need to be some significant internal discussion for us to agree to produce this as a product". The Cuusoo team do however go on to acknowledge that Shaun of the Dead is a comedy, that The Winchester is presented in a humorous fashion, and that even though the zombie theme puts the project "at the edge of what we produce" they recognise that LEGO do produce other products "where themes of violence and death play a significant role". So some hope, then....fingers crossed !

"The Winchester" by yatkuu
As a way of doing my bit to try and prevent some excellent designs on Cuusoo from being lost in a sea of mediocrity, I'd like to quickly highlight a few of my favourites in the hope that some of you may decide to support them and help them towards their goal.... First up is Exo Suit by Peter Reid. Better known in the online community as Legoloverman, Pete is renowned for his superb Neo-Classic Space creations (you can see his Flickr stream here) and he's submitted the cracker below. At time of writing, this gem already has more than 2,000 votes on the board after less than a month. Click here to add your vote.
Exo Suit by Pete Reid
Next is Pete Brookdale's stunning UCS AT-AT walker, which I've featured in previous blog postings here and here. Pete, better known as Cavegod (see his Flickr stream here), has finally bowed to pressure from various people including me and submitted his AT-AT design to Cuusoo a few days ago. You can vote for it here.

All hail Cavegod's UCS AT-AT !
Finally, there are a couple of creations below by marshal banana that I'd like to mention. His Modular Western Town has received wide coverage on Brickset, Eurobricks and elsewhere and has so far amassed more than 7,000 votes; you can see more pictures and add your support for it by clicking here - let's see if we can help push it over the finishing line. I'm also a huge fan of his enormous UCS Sandcrawler which you can vote for here.

marshal banana's Modular Western Town
UCS Sandcrawler

On the surface, 10,000 votes seems like a fairly modest threshold to reach in the context of an audience of millions, but in practice, anyone who wants to vote has to register with Cuusoo and provide details on how much they'd be willing to pay for the model if it went into production, how many units they'd buy, why they think the model should go into production etc. which I guess might discourage all but the genuinely interested (and the designer's mother, maybe). So best of luck to the designers of the creations above, and I hope to see your models on the shelves soon....

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous25/4/15

    I understand your interest in the awsome AT-AT, sandcrawler, modular western town, but I am definitely more on the side of small affordable projects (the exo suit was a perfect exemple).
    There is a wow factor on these big sets, where people show a lot of appreciation but I am not sure a lot of them would lay on the huge amount of $$$ needed to get the set.
    I am sorry to see ideas such as
    not get more support
    Thanks for the blog