Hacking’s a snap in Legoland
By Daniel Terdiman
Staff Writer, CNET News
When Lego executives recently discovered that adult fans of the iconic plastic bricks had hacked one of the company’s new development tools for digital designers, they did a surprising thing: They cheered.
Unlike executives at so many corporations, who would be loath to let their customers anywhere near the inner workings of their software tools, the Lego honchos saw an opportunity to lean on the collective thinking of an Internet community to improve their own product while bolstering relations with committed customers.
All it took was being open-minded enough to see that their biggest fans weren’t trying to rip them off; they were trying to improve Lego’s products in a way that, just maybe, the company’s own designers hadn’t thought of.
“I was a little concerned at the beginning because I know there are companies that don’t respond favorably to this kind of thing,” said Dan Malec, a software engineer from Stow, Mass. Malec is an active member of the adult Lego community, a group of passionate Lego aficionados who build models far more elaborate and sophisticated than the kids’ versions most people are used to seeing.
To one toy-industry observer, Lego’s positive reaction to the hack is more than unusual.
“I can’t think of another instance in toys where it’s been basically ‘Do whatever you want,’” said Anita Frazier, an entertainment industry analyst at The NPD Group. “If it doesn’t ultimately hurt the intellectual property, and (the users) aren’t modifying the trademark or the core property at all, (Lego is) looking at it as it doesn’t hurt.”
Last month, Lego launched Lego Factory, a service through which users can create their own unique and customized Lego models–a cat, the Statue of Liberty, a tree or whatever else users choose.
Once the designs are created and uploaded through Lego Factory, the company manufactures the bricks necessary for the model and ships them to users so they can assemble their models. Customers can also buy the bricks necessary to build from other people’s designs, which are posted on the site.
h/t Redmond Weissenberger