Cleaning Up on CUUSOO

While some are “cleaning up” by getting a commendable 10,000+ people to pay attention to both their projects and the LEGO brand in general (many of whom aren’t dyed-in-the-wool FOLs, which I think is pretty good publicity for LEGO), it looks like The LEGO Group is quickly trying to do a little bit of “cleaning up” themselves. When the North American version of LEGO CUUSOO was launched, I was genuinely excited. I was pretty impressed by what I interpreted as The LEGO Group’s innovative experimentation with some pretty creative marketing and community relationship building strategies. The equation seemed so simple: Get 10,000 supporters and you might be seeing your project transformed into a high-quality LEGO product. Some hopefuls went to work creating unique projects to upload onto CUUSOO while others excitedly created CUUSOO accounts and handed out their support to all the fun proposed projects that they’d actually consider buying. But the reality of that all-important “might” set in, and it’s getting more and more apparent what the limitations of CUUSOO are.

Of course, we all should have known better. (Granted, many were sober about the possibilities from the beginning…just have to acknowledge you cynically cool characters out there…you know who you are.) Don’t get me wrong…I by no means fault TLG. They did their best to be set expectations early on, but it’s apparent that even they realized after the fact that they could’ve set some more explicit groundrules from the beginning. First, mojang’s Minecraft Project broke the 10,000 supporter barrier, much to the surprise of FOLs everywhere. Some of us hmmm’d and haaaa’d…but then just sort of smiled at the possibilities. If the Minecraft clique could propose a project based on a popular video game property, perhaps there’s hope for other projects proposing new (albeit limited) licenses for other video game titles or movies, comics, etc.

FBTB's brilliant Bricklandia takes on CUUSOO
[Click to read FBTB's comic jab at CUUSOO wish-fulfillment]

Then came a project based on an extremely cool British dark comedy. After yatkuu’s Shaun of the Dead – Winchester model achieved their 10,000 supporters with the help of some celebrity campaigning, many of us waited excitedly to see what would happen. Sure, we knew there was the violence factor, but Minecraft… Much to the chagrin of many an AFOL, TLG understandably said “Nope.” Who were we kidding? Did we forget the “play well” behind the “LEGO” name? Oops…guess we did for a sec. So yeah, of course TLG had to protect the brand—the values it was built on, the core audience of youngins, and the business model that’s successfully built the toy that we all know and love. So they quickly announced they’d be reviewing all CUUSOO projects through a new screening process.

Since then, it’s important to note, some amazing projects have successfully hit the 10,000 supporter barrier that, not too long ago, seemed so few and far between. There’s czar’s Eve Online Project and (my personal favorite) M1NGLES’ Legend of Zelda Project, both of which are pending review to decide on whether or not they’re production worthy. However, there was also The Firefly Project, which I was rooting for because 1) it’s a cool ship and 2) I’ve been a Whedon fan since Buffy, but similarly to the Westchester, we were given the “gotta protect the brand” smack down. Target audience. Brand values. Makes sense…but still a bummer for the alleged violence-loving nerds like me. The jury’s still out on the two aforementioned projects, but I think we’re all getting some clarity on how tough it’s going to be to actually see our CUUSOO wishes reach fruition. (By the way, it’s a bit of a bummer how you can’t find these “archived” projects too easily. As of 6:12am Pacific, if you search “Firefly” or “Winchester” and the like, you won’t find what you’re looking for. Chances are it’s an oversight or the result of the projects’ poor tagging. Hope they figure that out, especially for those who succeeded in getting 10,000+ eyeballs on the LEGO brand.)

On a personal note, yesterday, my shot-in-the-dark project based on an original adventure-based throwback sci-fi theme called “Brick Rogers: The Galactic Girl from the 5th Century, AE” was pulled from CUUSOO. Again, I’m not faulting TLG. I totally get it. But for reporting and discussion purposes, here was the email I received:

Dear Ka-GO,

We are sorry to inform you that your LEGO CUUSOO project “Brick Rogers: The Galactic Girl from the 5th Cenury AE. < http://lego.cuusoo.com/ideas/view/6690 >” has been removed to reflect the new Project Guidelines (http://lego.cuusoo.com/guidelines), which do not allow content related to realistic or extreme violence. Please review the Project Guidelines and House Rules when posting future projects.

Thanks,

The LEGO CUUSOO Team

http://LEGO.cuusoo.com

Now I totally accept it, but have to wonder about two things. First, why pull it? I mean, for archiving purposes, why not have it there as a point of reference to “teach” us what’s violent and not to help CUUSOO get more of the types of projects they’re actually looking for. Second, I’m scratching my head about the standards that deemed that this project was depicting “realistic or extreme violence” but gives a pass to, say, LEGO Star Wars, Prince of Persia, Alien Conquest, Ninjago, or Hero Factory. Maybe I’m missing something. Little ol’ me aside, I’m especially worried what this might mean for some of my other favorite CUUSOO projects, like the venerable Space Marines by NickRoyer. I mean, TLG just officially released a space marine of their own…or rather, a Galaxy Patrolman. At the very least, I’m hoping they don’t just pull this awesome project off the site like they did Brick Rogers (or countless others). Doesn’t seem to make sense. (Full disclosure: My crappy project had like 3 supporters, while the Space Marines have about 3000+…so there’s that. Ha!)

8 Comments to "Cleaning Up on CUUSOO"

  1. Brian Heins's Gravatar Brian Heins
    May 8, 2012 - 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Did you backup the data for this project? Screenshots? Or do you have the files sorted on flickr too?

    • May 8, 2012 - 10:18 pm | Permalink

      Well, I don’t have screenshots but I have the original photos. There really wasn’t much to my CUUSOO project. It was more my attempt to understand how CUUSOO worked…to go through the process. I never really told anyone about it until I added a “Hey, this is on CUUSOO” blurb after the fact to the photos on Flickr. I joking said I had 3 supporters, but I think it was more like 30+…still pretty pathetic. Not a huge loss once it was purged…moreso just odd that they’d do that. I understand that they don’t want to dilute their brand values when reviewing a 10,000+ supported project for possible production, but if a random project that’s barely supported has a few space guns and blades, why delete it? Yeah, odd.

  2. czar's Gravatar czar
    May 9, 2012 - 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this article. It sounded professional without being preachy or negative. We all have to learn how and what to post to cuusoo. I think I was one of the 30 that supported your idea and I still think it is great. I am however left scratching my head as to why it was removed.

  3. Jacob's Gravatar Jacob
    May 9, 2012 - 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I have to agree with the confusion as to why it was removed. I don’t see anything, save for perhaps the gun held by one of the figures, that would explain how it constitutes as extreme violence. Even then, LEGO has done more realistic guns before, and it is not being used in a violent manner.. If its about “realistic” violence, its hard for me to believe they actually saw the project.

    • May 10, 2012 - 7:52 am | Permalink

      Thanks czar and Jacob. I appreciate that you took the time to read it and offer feedback. (BTW, congrats czar! Hope the review process works out well for your project.) Yes, I’m still a little confused about it, but beyond my project I just think it’s a telling example of what can happen in the process of trying to apply relatively vague or subjective standards. Again, I don’t necessarily fault TLG/CUUSOO for having standards regardless of whether or not I personally agree with these guidelines. I guess I’m expecting that they 1) thoroughly /explicitly explain what their issue is with projects who don’t live up to the guidelines because it’s not always apparent or, if that’s too labor intensive, 2) have a revision process to help get projects “in line”. And at the very least, don’t summarily delete the project. Where’s the “learning experience” in that? Seeing projects that didn’t live up to the standards, I think, would be helpful for others wanting to propose sets that want to be sure what’s okay or not. The guidelines are clearly open to interpretation and not as “obvious” as some might assume.

  4. Morgan19's Gravatar Morgan19
    May 10, 2012 - 6:13 am | Permalink

    “For all we know, there could be Shaun of the Dead, Simon Pegg, or Conan O’Brien fans out there who were big LEGO fans as kids who haven’t thought about the brand at all in years/decades. Maybe this was a way to reintroduce them to the possibility of buying LEGO again because it was being coupled with something else they love as an adult. Who knows? If we cut them out of the equation or treat them like second-class folks who aren’t allowed to our LEGO party, that’s a loss of potential business for LEGO.“

    To repost what I briefly commented about on Brickset… I absolutely and whole-heartedly agree with the above statement; it’s a fantastically open-minded sentiment that echoes my feelings exactly. In one paragraph you nailed why Brickset’s recent editorialization of Cuusoo “news” has been bothering me so much.

    • May 10, 2012 - 8:06 am | Permalink

      Thanks Morgan. Great to hear from you and good to know you remember this little site! (BTW sorry for not keeping up with your Halloween calendar…more than I could chew. Awesome work though. As you know, I’m a fan.) It’s funny that there’s this ongoing discussion about CUUSOO across several forums and sites. Speaks to 1) the passion of the fans and 2) the ongoing development process that CUUSOO needs before it gets into a working groove. Seems like TLG’s been trying to figure out their “new media” strategy/presence for a while. In a way I think they’re tailing behind AFOLs who’ve been building online communities around the LEGO brand for years. Lego.com is there, but based on surveys, they seem to be impressively engaged in an ongoing quest to get folks to interact with it. I think with the minisites and games and such, lego.com’s focused on the KFOL, and I think that’s a good thing. TLG tried to extend that but didn’t quite hit it with LEGO Universe. So from the outside it seems like CUUSOO and ReBrick are their latest efforts in an ongoing experiment, this time focused on TFOLs and AFOLs. (Again…pure conjecture from an outside observer.) I commend the LEGO CUUSOO team for this undertaking…it’s a great way to interact with the fans and, whether or not this is what they intended, they’re definitely getting people interact!!! Ha. But yeah, now they seem to be adjusting…almost backpeddling a bit. I just hope they keep what you responded to above in mind…that CUUSOO is a great way to expand the AFOL community as well as deeply engage with existing fans. My take:

      lego.com

      –> fun and games (and marketing) for the target kid audience

      rebrick.lego.com

      –> a means to link and give TLG *some* semblance of oversight of the TFOL/AFOL online community / experience

      lego.cuusoo.com

      –> keep AFOLs “contributing” to LEGO by proposing sets that they’d like to see…great for market research as well as “building community”

      –> explore the possibility of expanding to new, untapped audiences/markets

      –> a great source for LEGO set designers to get some inspiration…they essentially get AFOL’s ideas handed to them on a silver platter saying, “If you build something like this, we might buy it.” Score!

  5. Shmails's Gravatar Shmails
    May 10, 2012 - 12:19 pm | Permalink

    As others have said, this is a very well written and insightful article, thank you!

    I think the lesson learned from the recent events is to create something that resembles the movie, game, or what have you but do not name it as such. If Shaun of the Dead had been named “Zombie Hotel”, it had a much better chance of being approved. Considering that the new Monsters sets are full of flesh eating monsters including zombies, vampires, and wearwolves, it is not the zombies that was the issue, but the gore and language that the movie had in it. If the Firefly ship had been called “cool spaceship” or some other generic name, it had a chance.

    One could agrue that the western theme sets references a true to life time of severe violence, gore, and foul behaviour, however none of them are being named “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, a name that would almost certainly disqualify the design.

    It would be great if every idea was based on the merits of the design alone, unfortunately we chose to have a hobby involving a child’s toy, and thus we must play by the rules of the playground, not the battlefield. Oh well!

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