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
|"The Winchester" by yatkuu|
|Exo Suit by Pete Reid|
|All hail Cavegod's UCS AT-AT !|
|marshal banana's Modular Western Town|
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....