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I figure they probably found kids responded better to the dollhouse style or something like that. It wouldn't surprise me, since open-backed buildings tend to be the norm in most other themes from Friends and City all the way back to classic Town. While I'm sort of ambivalent about the new open-backed style (I might've preferred if they could at least fold closed like some of the other recent Creator buildings), I do like the modularity of the new buildings, and how they allow you to mix-and-match rooms from different models.
Arguably they're even more modular in this respect than the Creator Expert modular buildings, which generally only let you expand the individual buildings vertically or horizontally with multiples of the same set rather than, say, putting floors from the Parisian Restaurant onto the Green Grocer. It adds an element of creative play that I quite like, and also is a great way to kick-start original builds since instead of having to either follow the instructions or create freeform models, kids can easily create new modules to expand the existing buildings.
Plus, of course, as Creator sets they're built in a basic enough style that you could probably rebuild them to be fully enclosed without too much difficulty.
Take for example the Friends sets like Olivia's House or Emma's House, if they were to be a complete 4 walled house it would look only half as big in the box picture which gave a perception of being a small model at a high cost (a combination that is bad for selling a product).
They would want to maximize the image of the set to be as big as possible and disregard the back areas of the model that are hidden from the photo shoot.
Another very good example is the Kingdom Joust Castle set, which is basically a building being sliced in half. TLG even recommends buying another set just to fill up the other half of the build, i.e. double the price to get a proper castle.
The small Creator sets are indeed great, but buying two and combining them defeats the purpose of a full-fledged 16x32.
When the Creator houses started, they were intended to be display models. They have bare interiors. They are not even minifig-scaled (though close).
The 2017 houses are almost indistinguishable from traditional non-Creator City houses at first glance. From TLG's POV, it kills two birds with one stone: Creator houses and houses for the City line -- which there was a drought of.
Modularity is a wonderful concept. I first saw it in Minecraft sets and thought it was nice, but I never expected TLG to pull it off for regular sets!
I'm sort of a 'orthodox' AFOL in most cases; although I like to try MOCs and stuff, I will always choose the original/intended build for any set (again, most of the times).
I agree that the newer sets are very nice and if I had enough disposable income, I would build a whole suburb with a whole bunch of Creator houses, but to combine two sets to make a '16x32' modular is not what I want (but need).
I do not see why TLG can't give us a proper 16x32 set along with the 'full modular' each year; if Marvel can give us two or three movies a year with a product that's proven to be successful, I do not see why we can't get the half-modular and a full-modular every year.
On other news (and to somewhat contradict what I just wrote), yesterday I was trying to figure out what the best course of action to split this set and still make it look good and not off.