Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

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

  • From"Jeremy Lewis (home)" <paxdraxus@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateMon, 27 Feb 2006 08:52:51 -0600
This replies is a bit disorganized and all over the road, but here goes:

I completely agree with the Looney's about the single color stashes.
Even though I prefer the single colored stashes, it looks like too much
of an investment.  I've introduced fifteen people to Volcano and they
all really enjoyed it, but only two people ordered enough stashes to
play.  Of the remaining thirteen: three said they would buy it if it was
done as a boxed set, but did not want to build a set themselves, nine
felt that it was too expensive to bother having their own set, one gave
up after the FLGS failed to order it for them two weeks in a row, and
the final one (much younger than the rest) said that he asked for it for
Christmas, but his Mom thought it had something to do with beer and


I think it is those nine people that the Treehouse Model might reach.
It puts the system back into the impulse by category.  A diehard fan
will be willing to order nine more tube to assemble their set, but the
casual enthusiast can drop ten bucks to try it out.  It places the
pyramids in the same price point range as the card games and it also
makes it playable out of the box with minimal effort on the part of the

I worked in my FLGS for eight years and I can tell you from experience
that it is much easier to get some one to spend ten bucks on something
than it is to get them to spend one hundred.  It is also much easier to
get the owner to take a risk on a product if it hits that impulse buy
price point, doesn't take up much space, and carrying two them is all it
takes for him to say that he carries that full line of products.

Even then, some one in the store has to be excited about the game in
order to actively sell it and no amount of advertising is going to make
gamers go bananas for something like this.  TV ads (unless they were
done very well) would just inspire scorn.  It would also increase the
price point to something like fifteen dollars a stash (or more).  Ads in
Dragon and some of the CCG magazines might be helpful, but still might
not justify the cost... yet.

Word of mouth is how Magic: The Gathering got to be the next big thing
in games and it created the monster that is the CCG market.  I think
that we, as fans of Looney Labs, need to make sure that we get the word
out.  I only spread the game to fifteen people or so (too bad I went and
got a "real" job, eh?).  I'm sure that some of you have spread the game
to hundreds.  That's awesome, but it isn't enough.  I think a good
method might be to try and hook your FLGS employee on the game.  I can
assure you that CJ at our FLGS has more opportunities in a day to get
people to play Icehouse than I do, but I haven't gotten him to play it
yet.  He carries the complete line of Looney Labs card games now, but
Icehouse "looks too expensive" to him even though he admits the pyramids
are cool.  He's promised that he will give Treehouse a try.  

-----Original Message-----
From: icehouse-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:icehouse-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Kristin
Sent: Monday, February 27, 2006 12:14 AM
To: Icehouse Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Icehouse] Marketing (was: What about Volcano?)

--On February 26, 2006 Jeff Zeitlin <icehouse@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

> 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
> > 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,
> > largest  distributor orders a half dozen of each color on each
> > 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
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
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
The current packaging isn't working from a retail perspective.

> Earlier this week, I stopped in to my FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming
> in NYC.  I was looking for something unrelated to Icehouse.  I'd
> purchased Ice Towers, Zendo, PWP, and the black and orange stashes
> directly from you. Something on a shelf caught my eye, and I
> that my FLGS had a shelf devoted to Looney Labs products - all of
> 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
> 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
> 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
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,
the stores are not asking for them. That pass through from distributors
stores is something we are always working on improving, but we are still
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;
> 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
and "The Empty City" back onto the list of products in distribution.  As
continue building the literature that describes the new Treehouse
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
switch over to the new way the pyramids are packaged.

The Icehouse system has received awards, accolades, and critical
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
also real brain-burners, have made the whole system daunting for many.

With Treehouse, all that changes. Although our pyramids are still not
we finally have in the Treehouse set a complete Icehouse game which
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,
and easy game that just about everyone will enjoy. It's self-contained
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
of the colors I already have."  Treehouse is an entry-level product
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
to get people to understand that....  which is what Treehouse takes us
from - giving stores a chance to sell a cool little $9 game independent
any of these concepts.

We need and want pyramid fans to promote the concepts of the game
and teach all sorts of different games - but we want to give the stores
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
> (comments on this below) and the Icehousegames.Org wiki suggests that
> the majority of the games out there for Icehouse pieces are somewhat
> 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 

This new way of packaging the pyramids is brand new - so we have not had
chance to update the web pages that describe them yet...  but any game
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

> 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
> website, even though it may cost us carrots - because we want to
> 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.
> 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
> 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
demo our games to towards games stores in their area.

When you introduce a new person to the pyramids, you can send them to
favorite local game store to buy pyramids in Treehouse sets.  There is
reason to send them to our web site. If they want the pyramids the old
the store will be able to get them - but we want to encourage the stores
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
> 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
We sell tons of our card games in stores all over the country... and we
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
get these amazing little pyramid of ours to sit side by side with our
games in stores everywhere.

> but there's also the Icehouse wiki at http://icehousegames.org with
> 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
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)

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