Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

Re: [Icehouse] Marketing (was: What about Volcano?)

  • FromKristin Looney <kristin@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateMon, 27 Feb 2006 01:13:44 -0500
--On February 26, 2006 Jeff Zeitlin <icehouse@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

On Sun, 26 Feb 2006 13:03:21 -0500 (EST), Kristin Looney
<kristin@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> The fact that something is in distribution does not make it available
> in  stores.  If only it was that easy!  Right now there are very few
> stores  around the country that sell the pyramids in stash tubes, our
> largest  distributor orders a half dozen of each color on each restock.
> They simply  are not selling.

I hate to say it, but I think that part of the problem is that you're
relying too heavily on word-of-mouth advertising.  It's a good way to
advertise, and economical - but I honestly don't think it's viable as
a sole or even principal channel.

Actually, it is working incredibly well for us, at least as far as our card games are concerned. Our card games are selling really well in games stores all over. We have sold over a quarter of a million copies of Fluxx! But most of these stores, even many who sell TONS of Fluxx, either won't even try to sell the pyramids, or have tried and had no luck selling them. The current packaging isn't working from a retail perspective.

Earlier this week, I stopped in to my FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store)
in NYC.  I was looking for something unrelated to Icehouse.  I'd already
purchased Ice Towers, Zendo, PWP, and the black and orange stashes
directly from you. Something on a shelf caught my eye, and I discovered
that my FLGS had a shelf devoted to Looney Labs products - all of them.
A grand total of about two-and-one-half feet. Not really arranged to
show things off to best advantage, and certainly not calling out any of
the products. On inquiry, I found out that they'd been retailing your
products for years, and that they'd pretty much always been at that
location in the store - but there was nothing to call attention to them.
Not by placement, not by display stand/poster, not nothin'.  Had I
known, I'd have purchased some of the stuff from them - not only would
it have been instant gratification for me, it would have showed them
that there *is* a market for that stuff. More prominent advertising of
ANY Looney Labs product would have helped - and MIGHT have gotten me
into Icehouse sooner. Freebies like ICE-7 being available there would
also have been encouragement.

More prominent advertising would also cost lots of money... so it's not within our range of options. The store could be doing great business on our card games, you just never noticed them in the store before. Did they have our POP display? Did they have any pyramids?

As far as Ice7 goes - that's yet another example of something we made to try to help stores promote the pyramids that never really worked. Our distributors are overflowing with them, since we send them out when they buy stash tubes, but they are not passing them along to the stores, since the stores are not asking for them. That pass through from distributors to stores is something we are always working on improving, but we are still a rather small fish in the sea that is the hobby game industry.

Treehouse, 2House, and 3House are all excellent ideas - but I wouldn't
drop single-color stashes or PWP from the distribution channels; they're
what I would consider key items in the line. Some freebies like Mar's
Guide or Ice-7 would also be a good idea to keep in play as well.

We actually already decided this afternoon to put "Playing with Pyramids" and "The Empty City" back onto the list of products in distribution. As we continue building the literature that describes the new Treehouse approach to selling pyramids, we realized we need to continue talking about these books to explain the story, so we really need to keep them available through our distributors.

But the single-color stashes are a whole different question. Stores who have been successfully selling the pyramids will be able to get single-colored stashes for their customers who already own a few stashes and want to round out their sets. But we are asking all of these stores to switch over to the new way the pyramids are packaged.

The Icehouse system has received awards, accolades, and critical acclaim, but it has yet to become an evergreen seller. Why not? Because it's too expensive, and the games are too confusing and complex. The dizzing assortment of games to choose between, and the fact that the best ones are also real brain-burners, have made the whole system daunting for many.

With Treehouse, all that changes. Although our pyramids are still not cheap we finally have in the Treehouse set a complete Icehouse game which retails for only $9. And unlike the overwhelming menu of options you were faced with the old way, Treehouse starts you off with a single, really fun, fast and easy game that just about everyone will enjoy. It's self-contained fun, yet it also opens the door to all the other riches the world of Icehouse offers. All you need is more Treehouse sets!

With Treehouse, the focus shifts to the more basic unit of the Tree, and changes the upgrade path from "I need more colors" to "I need more pieces of the colors I already have." Treehouse is an entry-level product which can be expanded into a complete Icehouse set - but it's a completely different expansion path from the old method of single-color stashes.

Another idea that comes to mind is - assuming you can get permission
from the game authors - pick some of the simpler games from the SLICK
list and/or the wiki and/or other sources, print out the rules, and
stick the rules for one game selected at random into each solid-color
stash sold.

Which would again bring the message back to "it's a game system" and trying to get people to understand that.... which is what Treehouse takes us away from - giving stores a chance to sell a cool little $9 game independent of any of these concepts.

We need and want pyramid fans to promote the concepts of the game system, and teach all sorts of different games - but we want to give the stores a product to sell that requires no understanding of the game system.

> but first we need to
> build up the demand for the pyramids - and simplifying the message,
> with this change in the way the pyramids are purchased in stores, is
> an excellent path towards this goal.

I'm not necessarily convinced that it is. A brief scan of the SLICK list
(comments on this below) and the Icehousegames.Org wiki suggests that
the majority of the games out there for Icehouse pieces are somewhat 'in
the box' as they assume a single stash of uniform color per player.

Of course, since this is the way we have defined the pyramids for two decades!

This new way of packaging the pyramids is brand new - so we have not had a chance to update the web pages that describe them yet... but any game that was designed for the traditional 15 piece stashes can be played with 5 Treehouse sets. We just need to change the language we use to describe them... and now we can all begin designing games that use less pieces...

This change could be viewed as LL 'kicking them in the teeth' - "They
don't care about the time we've invested in the single-color-stash
model; why should we stay on?"

Do you really think we sound like we don't care about our fans?

There's also the issue of those of us
(I'm a Blab Rabbit) who, knowing of a local retailer that sells your
products, will direct our friends to THEM, rather than directly to your
website, even though it may cost us carrots - because we want to support
our local game retailers, many of whom are operating on VERY thin
margins, to keep their prices at a level that their customer base will
accept, while still paying for their retail space and their stock.  This
change basically kicks those retailers in the teeth as well - since I
now have to direct my friends to your website to get single-color
stashes, that cuts into my retailer's sales of your products, and feeds
the negative loop that leads to ever-lower sales of your products
through the distribution channel.

Huh? Why do you think we are not supporting retailers with this change? All over our web site we encourage our fans to buy our games from their local retailer - and we encourage our Rabbits to encourage the people they demo our games to towards games stores in their area.

When you introduce a new person to the pyramids, you can send them to your favorite local game store to buy pyramids in Treehouse sets. There is no reason to send them to our web site. If they want the pyramids the old way, the store will be able to get them - but we want to encourage the stores to sell new pyramid fans Treehouse sets instead of single color stashes, because the two ways of buying them don't mix well together.

If your ultimate intent is to go
completely on-line, that may be OK - but if so, it's probably better to
bite the bullet, say so, and do so in one swell foop, instead of this
slow 'death of a thousand cuts' method.

We are NOT trying to ask you to send people to buy games at our web site. We sell tons of our card games in stores all over the country... and we are now working to make a packaging/marketing switch that will make the pyramids sell better for our retailers. We are making a new push to try to get these amazing little pyramid of ours to sit side by side with our card games in stores everywhere.

but there's also the Icehouse wiki at http://icehousegames.org with many
games listed - and no mention of it anywhere on the official Icehouse
site. Wouldn't it make sense to at least provide links to as many
third-party Icehouse resources as possible, to show just how extensive
the Icehouse community is?

Is there really no link from our main icehouse page over to the Icehouse wiki? Wow. Sorry. I'll make sure that gets fixed. We have a lot of pages about the pyramids all over our site, and we need to revamp all of our pyramid related pages based on these new changes. We LOVE the fan run Icehouse wiki.

I think that I can sum things up by saying that I think it would be
better to work WITH the existing Icehouse community, rather than doing
things that look good superficially, but may have the effect of
alienating (some of) them. You already have recognized them as a
resource; why throw that resource away?

Were you on this list over this last month? The playtesting development cycle on the Treehouse rules stickers was awesome! We love our fans and involve them in our plans and thought processes in ways that are pretty much unheard of.

I hope this message helped you feel better about our plans!

-Kristin (of the Looney variety)