Disclaimer: Even more cynicism at work here than in a regular All About Bricks article.
To make clear, LEGO CUUSOO is currently in Beta form. That’s why you probably haven’t heard of it. LEGO CUUSOO has been developed by a Japanese firm working with the LEGO Group. As of October, LEGO fans could submit their own ideas and creations – with the ultimate goal that they may wind up as an officially released set.
Cuusoo as a company has been looking at user submitted content long before the partnership with LEGO. Perhaps this is why the Japanese company was chosen for the task. Cuusoo’s basis outside LEGO is that inventors can share ideas, which see production if a certain number of visitors will commit to buy the product. A similar model has been adopted by LEGO CUUSOO, with user generated suggestions having to reach a threshold of 10,000 supporters to be considered for release as an official LEGO product.
For some perspective, over 30,000 LEGO collectors utilise the unofficial but brilliant Brickset.com to keep track of their stash. If a third of those users could be mobilised to vote for an idea, it would be voted through LEGO CUUSOO to the Review phase to decide
"if the concept meets our high standards for what it takes to be a LEGO product, including playability, safety, and fit with the LEGO brand." - LEGO CUUSOO blog
This seems like a brilliant ‘get out of jail’ clause, as it mentions criteria “including” – but implicitly not limited to. Presumably if an idea is clearly not profitable on the mass market, LEGO will pull the plug on it. Years of market research go into the latest product lines, never mind the money spent on this research (prime offenders [or do I mean examples?] Ninjago, Friends). However if LEGO do cancel an idea at the Review stage because it lacks mass market appeal, what does that say for the process as a whole? What would be the point in LEGO CUUSOO?
So now let’s get specific, and identify why this blog post has been written now. The magic 10,000 figure for a contribution was reached. But not just reached – reached in 48 hours. That’s quick. The contribution that hit the holy 10,000 mark was LEGO Minecraft. My initial reaction was similar to what I imagine many readers are asking at this point. What the Frodo (not so subtle LOTR references – what could this mean?) is Minecraft?!
Well apparently if you know anything about PC games you should have heard of Minecraft, a sandbox construction game with millions of users. The game has an extreme hardcore of users who ensured that the suggestion on LEGO CUUSOO hit the 10,000 mark. But this then begs the question, will 10,000 gamers actually go out and buy LEGO Minecraft sets? Is it safe to let people vote without putting their money where their clicking finger is?
What this essentially highlights is that the problem with asking the public what they want is that the place you ask them determines the outcome and skews the result. Here, a bunch of geeks on the internet (not meant in a derogatory way) have decided that they want Minecraft LEGO. If you polled every schoolchild in the world and asked what LEGO set they want, I doubt that 0.01% would ask for Minecraft LEGO. Purely because this was done as a beta test online, which internet dwellers would pick up on, a very specific group saw this as an opportunity to get a licensed product created. Do the public - or even hardcore LEGO fans - want it? Ha. We’d rather see the X-Wing Fighter re-released.
I appreciate here that I have focused on the negative side of this story exclusively, and of course there is a huge amount to be said for fans getting a say in what becomes a LEGO product. It may seem like I am looking a gift horse in the mouth, but if the first worldwide supported LEGO set to be commissioned turns out to be Minecraft, it won’t be long before LEGO realises that asking the public what they want ends up with a vocal minority pushing their niche interest onto the mass market. Which is not good for their bottom line.
So let’s hope that the beta version of LEGO CUUSOO is improved and built upon, spotting these anomalies and ensuring that the process cannot be hijacked and is genuinely as democratic as possible. There is undoubtedly much more to LEGO CUUSOO than this bare bones beginner’s guide has identified, but of you started with no knowledge, then now hopefully you have a little.
(And yes, it is ironic that here I am voicing my irrelevant opinions in blog form when I dismiss this online user submission stuff as absolute nonsense.)
LEGO CUUSOO: http://lego.cuusoo.com/
Minecraft on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minecraft