Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

[Icehouse] the marketing / production perspective

  • FromKristin Looney <kristin@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateThu, 26 Jan 2006 12:02:08 -0500
was:  Re: [Icehouse] Multiple Colors vs. Monochrome Treehouse

Thanks Brian for all these detailed thoughts and ideas... Andy let you guys in on a lot of our inner plotting and scheming in this message you replied to, and it's really helpful to be able to get a glimpse inside the thoughts of a pyramid fan to see what you are thinking.

Here is some feedback from a Kristin perspective...

--On January 25, 2006 Brian Campbell <lambda@xxxxxxx> wrote:

Is it at all possible  to find a cheaper way to manufacture the
pyramids without sacrificing your conscience?

Yes it is! I can make the pyramids in the USA - it can be done... I've priced it out, and I can do it... but to do it, we need to make a very expensive high capacity mold... and if we do this, we NEED to be sure we are using said mold to make lots and lots and lots of pyramids - or the whole thing makes no sense at all.

So before we make the mold, we need to build up more demand...

It's really sounding to me like the price is a large part of what
makes it hard for Icehouse to sell. I think that if the price were
significantly lower, say $25 or less for Zendo/IceTowers, people  would
be a lot more willing to try out a new game or a new concept  like a game
system. I don't know if it would be possible to lower the  price that
much, but if it's at all possible, I think it would make a  huge
difference in sales.

Even with much cheaper pyramid prices (either here in the states with a high capacity mold, OR if we made them in China) it would be REALLY hard to get the boxed set price down to $25. That would require a HUGE print run - since volume is what brings price down - and once again, we can't do a giant print run, unless we have a market that is ready to buy them.

A big big problem with a giant run of one of the boxed sets - is space. Warehouse space. Standard rates on warehouse space run at least $30 per skid, per month. I'm not sure exactly how many boxed pyramid games fit on a skid - but let's say 12 boxes of 6 sets fit in each layer, six layers tall - that's 72 cases - if you go seven layers, that's 84 - so let's say 500 Zendo or Icetowers sets fit on a skid.

So yes, doing a much bigger run, would bring the manufacturing price down. The print runs we did of Zendo and Icetowers were 2000 boxed sets. (A tiny run for a board game, yet still a cost to us of over $20,000. Don't get me started on questions of cashflow.) If we had done another 3000 sets, to bring the price down a little bit, just storing those 3000 boxed sets for a year would cost $2160. And it took us almost 3 years to sell the first 2000 Zendo sets. SO - we MUST build the market for them first. We can't just do a really big run to get the price down and hope we can sell them - since boxed pyramid games take up a lot of space. Even going to China for the pyramids would not fix the problems with the boxed sets. Even if the price was $25, we would not suddenly be able to sell tons of them. Trust me, it doesn't work that way.

So this is one reason Kristin is so very very excited about Treehouse... something like 6000 Treehouse sets will fit on a skid! A big big difference from 500 boxed sets.

Treehouse gives us a product that we can use to build the market. A $9 pyramid game that I can tell my sales department to try to push into any market they can try to get it into - all those markets that are already buying our card games - and all the new markets we are working to get our card games into... because I can make them much more affordably, store them much more affordably, and the game is quick and easy to learn and play and it retails for only $9. Wow.

> saying things like "These pyramids are the #1 reason stores give
> for NOT wanting to use our store displays."

Wow, that's one of the saddest things I've heard in a while. I really
wish it would be possible to get Icehouse to be more well accepted by
the stores. Of course, they need to sell well for the stores to want  to
carry them, and they probably need fresh ideas and lower prices to sell
well, but I would really hope that it will be possible, at some point,
to have pyramid stashes widely available in stores everywhere.

Me too! And Treehouse can do this for us. It's a fresh idea, and a lower price. It gets the pyramids back into our POP display in a way that is much more accessible to our stores. This new little pyramid product is going to help me to much more easily get the pyramids and our POP display into TONS of hobby games stores who sell lots of our card games, but have been unsure about the pyramids... (Just wait till you see the exciting plans we have for promoting this new pyramid game at the GTS show in March.)

This is a problem for the casual shopper who just sees it on the  shelf,
but I think that given the growing network of Rabbits, it's  becoming a
lot easier to explain the concept to people.

Our rabbits can help.  They do help all the time.  Thank You!  Thank You!

Word of mouth is an incredible way to spread the meme of pyramid games, it is a big part of what has gotten us as far as we have already gotten -- we are running the 17th international Icehouse tournament at Origins this summer! We have been promoting these pyramids for a LONG LONG time - and the word of mouth promotion of our pyramid fans has helped to get us as far as we have gotten.

And don't get me wrong - the pyramids are selling in stores. We have succeeded in getting the concept of the Icehouse Game System into the consciousness of the hobby game market. Treehouse will help us get a much larger percentage of these hobby stores stocking pyramids, AND it gives us a product we can try to push into the larger non-hobby markets that we are starting to sell Fluxx to. It gives us a chance to build the market to the level we need to build it to for it to then make sense to make the larger mold.

> As for Zendo and IceTowers, well, those are going out of print for
> now, and the other 3 boxed sets we've talked about are staying on
> the back burner.

Man, this is making it sound like the Icehouse system is dying. Is there
really no way to keep Zendo and IceTowers in print, or release  the other
boxed sets that are planned?

We will bring the boxed sets back, just as soon as we make the larger mold. And we will make the larger mold, just as soon as we build up enough demand for Treehouse that it makes sense to make the larger mold. Treehouse gives me a path towards the boxed sets that can really work... another reason that Kristin is so very very excited about Treehouse. The back burner does not mean something is dead or even dying - it just means it isn't happening yet.

We will keep the various colored stash tubes in stock along with Treehouse - and we will switch our marketing for the pyramids to talk about things like how many Treehouse sets it takes to play other games... etc.

I guess the main concern here is what message are you trying to get
across? The real appeal of Icehouse pieces, to me, is the fact that they
are a game system.  ...  I just don't want the idea of Icehouse
 as a game system  to be forgotten.

We promise not to lose sight of this. We have been working for almost two decades now to get the world to understand the concept of these little pyramids... we are not going to suddenly forget this goal.

Anyway - I hope this message has given you some insight on the complexity of our pyramids problems from a marketing/production perspective!


What can you, the pyramid fan do to help the pyramids?

1) When today's web site goes up (probably tomorrow) - take a close look at Andy's new version of the Treehouse rules. Show it to your dad or your sister or a friend who doesn't play games much, and see if they can figure out the game from the rules. We want these rules to be as accessible as possible to a much larger market than the pyramid fans on this list - and we don't have a lot of time.

2) Sign up as a rabbit if you have not already, and look for places near you that you might help promote the pyramids. Go play Treehouse at your local game store when it comes out - and help make sure that your stores owner and customers learn about all the other great stuff they can play with these wonderful little pyramids.

3) Get involved with the Icehouse Wiki - and help us promote the new way that pyramids are sold. When a new fan comes to the web looking for more info about this Treehouse set they just picked up, what will they find? Help them discover the amazing world the pyramids have to offer them...

4) Promote Fluxx too. As much as we need to build the market for the pyramids before we can make the new mold, it will still be Fluxx sales that give us the cash we need to make that mold. Promoting Fluxx will actually help the pyramids more in the long run, odd as that might sound.

Thanks to everyone for all the feedback on the rules!

-Kristin (of the Looney variety)

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