Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

Re: [Icehouse] Re: Marketing

  • From"Carlton Noles" <carlton.noles@xxxxxxxxx>
  • DateThu, 2 Mar 2006 13:26:31 -0500
I have to agree with many of Jeff's points and the general thrust that you don't have to remove what is already in place to market things a new way.   Also Two things that seem a bit incongruous. I read in this thread somewhere (from Andy I believe) that LL wanted to get away from emphasizing the 'Game System' -ness of Icehouse pieces and specifically TreeHouse. Yet there will be a 3House booklet and a 2House booklet ( I still think a 1House booklet or Call it HouseRules is a good Idea) available. Thes emphasize the 'Game System' -ness. Either I misunderstood or this is contradictory. Whichever I think the 'Game System' -ness is a MAJOR selling point. It was a big factor in my decision to purchase Zendo. Not only do I get Zendo but all these other cool games too!  I agree with Jeff as well that it would be a spectacular Idea to release Mono stashes in tubes with single stash color independant games (icesicle, Tic Tac Doh! come quicklyto mind) on them. Not right away perhaps but maybe after the TreeHouses are going a bit  Let folks see another way to buy these Pyramids.

Oh and how soon will Tree House be available. I have a plan in my are to invade a few "game nights" with my Looney stuff and try to build up some demand and approach a local game store that I think would be perfect for Looney Products (the nearest dealer to me is about an hour north or south of here). But I want to have a copy of TreeHouse and have the retailer be able to get them. I am also going to offer to demo LL games at the store for a few weekends or so. (actually I'd do it nearly every weekend just to get to play an meet new people.

Carlton "Kermit" Noles
"Games Lubricate the body and the mind" - Benjamin Franklin
Want your own GMail Account?
Ask Me for an invite.

On 2/28/06, Jeff Zeitlin <icehouse@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
On Mon, 27 Feb 2006 10:27:53 -0500 (EST), Kristin Looney
< kristin@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

[Expressed concern about word-of-mouth marketing]

>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.

But *why* is the current packaging not working?  Your decision to go
with Treehouse stashes - a complete Game In A Single Tube (GIAST) -
suggests that it's because the single-color stashes have historically
been part of a system, rather than a game in themselves.  One of the
suggestions I tossed out was to GIAST *them*, too - a quick BOTE
calculation says that labeling a tube on all four sides would be four
panels, each roughly six inches long by an inch wide, meaning that tubes
could be labeled with "random" games that require only single monochrome
stashes, whose rules fit comfortably on a 4x6 index card (Get it down to
3x5, and the fourth panel becomes a common one for all tubes, with the
Icehouse name and the URI to the Icehouse main page). Ideally, they
require nothing more; alternatively, commonly available add-ons - a
six-sided die, a standard deck of playing cards, etc., can be allowed
for GIAST labels. Yes, I said 'pamphlet' in my previous posting, but
it's still the GIAST concept.

(Hmmm... Make that "Game In A Nifty Tube", and you have a potential
marketing slogan - "Little pyramids - GIANT games" - and probably other,
better ones.)

Certainly, the multi-colored Treehouse stashes will be more eye-catching
than single-color stashes, and you could probably expect to see more
Treehouse stashes sold on that basis, but by GIAST/GIANT-ing the
single-color stashes, you potentially increase THEIR sales, too -
because each of THEM is a single game (and a different one every tube -
or every color, at least), for the same less-than-$10 price point - and
suddenly, they discover "Hey! I actually got MORE than two games for my
$20; not only can I play <GIANT1> and <GIANT2>, I can play Pentamid and
Pach-Ice-i and Breakthrough and Chivalry and... Holy cow, look at all
you can do with these things!"

And yes, you could do the different-game-every-tube thing with games
designed for the Treehouse stashes, too.  Do both - it gives the player
more potential entry point and more potential upgrade paths.

[Lack of visibility in the FLGS]

>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?

The POP display, no.  Pyramids, yes - I think about six stashes, tucked
sort of behind expansion packs for some of the card games.  Not totally
invisible, but not prominent. This FLGS, though, is NOT the kind of
store that you want to photograph - they're densely packed, little
flash, lots of stock.

>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.

This sounds like an error that the distributors are making - since they
cost the distributor nothing, they should give the retailers a bunch of
them when they sell the retailers the stashes, just like they get them
unasked when they buy them.

>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.

Which is where the GIAST/GIANT concept comes in - I don't disagree with
the Treehouse concept; I simply think that it shouldn't be the ONLY
avenue.  I think that in my previous message I intuited some of what
you've so clearly set out in your response, and that's where the idea
for a pamphlet in a stash came from.  The above is merely a development
of that, in line with the actual Treehouse model.  Specifically, I agree
with the rationale behind the release of the Treehouse stashes - and
applied the idea to the existing monochrome stashes, by limiting the
games that come with them to those that can be played with a single

>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!

BUT since you don't end up with 'traditional' stashes until you have
five Treehouse stashes, you marginalize the 'traditional' games that
require fewer stashes, because it raises the price to get in for them.
The high-end traditional games are still there - like Icehouse itself,
Ice Towers, and Zendo - because you're getting the high stash count for
about the same amount - just along a different path.  But that path
bypasses Martian Backgammon, Martian Mud Wrestling, and a bunch of
others. If you keep the monochrome stashes, but treat them the same way
you're treating the new Treehouse stashes, you avoid that problem.
You're not emphasizing that Icehouse is a System (ooo, scary word),
you're selling about a dozen different fun games that are played with
these pyramid thingies, each for a reasonable price - and oh yes, you
CAN mix multiple sets together and have even more fun; go visit the
links on the tubes.

>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.

I think this is where we have a disagreement in perception, as is
probably clear by now. I understand what you're saying about the System
idea being problematical; I don't think that it's a problem that's tied
to the way the pyramids were being SOLD (i.e., as monochrome stashes),
but rather to the way they were being MARKETED (i.e., part of the
Icehouse Game System).  Change the image, without really changing the
product, and you can give your sales a kick - HasbroParker has been
doing it for years with their flagship product, Monopoly - change the
wrapper and the names, and re-release it - Monopoly Golf Edition,
Monopoly NASCAR edition, the various foreign sets, Monopoly <insert pro
sports team here> Edition, and so on.  It worked for them; it should
work for you: No, that's not a Blue stash for the Icehouse System, it's
a GIANT game of IceSickle. "Green stash for Icehouse system?  No, a
GIANT game of Rotationary." Or Tic Tac Doh!. Or whatever.  You're going
Monopoly one better, because each color is a different game. "Gee, I
have IceSickle and Rotationary and Tic Tac Doh! and... Y'know, I should
look at their website... Hey, you can do that? COOL!"

>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

>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...

...which I'm all in favor of; _four_ Treehouse stashes will get you
two(-and-a-half) Pentamid sets, for example - but to get ONE set,
Treehouse stashes are extraneous, and _two_ monochrome stashes would
work out cheaper. On the other hand, if monochrome stashes - sold as
single self-contained games - are still possible, I get the benefits of
the Treehouse/GIANT/GIAST concept, without the disadvantages.  IOW, I'm
asserting that a MARKETING change on the monochrome stashes, PLUS the
new Treehouse stashes, may be a better way to go than just pushing the
Treehouse stashes.  Don't emphasize the Systemness of Icehouse, just put
out those GIANT games.

>> 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?

Not at all - if I honestly thought that was the LL attitude, I wouldn't
have bothered speaking up.  But I can see where some people might think
that way.

>> 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.

No, they don't mix well for the end-user - but for the retailer, a sale
of a stash of pyramids ought to be a sale of a stash of pyramids -
except if the retailer has to special-order them. Some retailers won't -
for example, while my FLGS - the low-margin one just around the corner
from the Empire State Building - will happily order just about anything
on request, yours - the razor-thin-margin one that rents an overpriced
booth on a side corridor of Local Eyesore Mall - may not.  So you're
gonna have to send your friends to the website for single-color stashes.
In either case, though, there's the whole instant-gratification thing -
both your friend and mine are going to have to wait for their monochrome
stashes, but not for Treehouse stashes.  That's gonna further
marginalize the games that have already been created that use less than
five monochrome stashes.

>> 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.

A very worthwhile goal, and one which I will back.  If you decide to
make this switch, irrevocable, I will start trying to design games for
Treehouse stashes.  But I still have plenty of ideas kicking around for
monochrome-stash games, and I'll be a little disappointed if those kinds
of games are marginalized.  I'm not saying 'Don't do the Treehouse
thing.'; I'm trying to apply your reasoning to the extant product line,
and saying "here's a way that I think you can accomplish your goals,
*without* marginalizing ... twenty?! ... years of development.".

>> 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.

If you asked nicely, I bet there'd be more than a few fans who'd be
willing to help you...

>> 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'll admit that I'm new to the list; I only recently subscribed (Digest
V9#22 was my first one), even though I got a quick response to the email
I sent on your instructions after I got you on the phone one day.  So,
no, I didn't see the development cycle.

Just once more to clarify: I'm not against Treehouse or the emphasis on
selling the pyramids as self-contained games rather than components in a
game-design system. I'm simply suggesting that pulling the monochrome
stashes isn't necessary (or desirable, from my point of view), and that
there's a place for them even in the new model. I hope I've outlined it
clearly; another admission I need to make is that I often have
difficulty communicating clearly, partly because I have a tendency to
assume that everyone thinks like I do - in spite of such an assumption
being patently false.
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