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"Your games are certainly games of the underground gaming movement. Fluxx is one of those games you can start a conversation with. Most people I spend any real time with, own themselves a Fluxx deck, and I carry mine with me whenever I go out to meet people. I don't always get a chance to break it out, but when I do it impresses!" -- email from Ax Death, Test Rabbit

Thursday, February 9th, 2006
by the Writer's Guild of Wunderland

What's New?

Redesigning Icehouse and our POP Display

(We decided this week's article should be from a Kristin perspective, so here she is to tell y'all about the status of the switchover from SuperFRED to Sweetie, our preparations for Toy Fair, and in particular, our vision for the new way we're going to start selling and promoting Icehouse pieces, and how we came up with it.)

This has been a crazy busy month in my world... Meg, Robin, Craig, and I are making great progress moving into our new software. The accounting department goes live first, and Meg has become an expert at finding wi-fi hookups in and around the state parks of Florida while her family plays with the manatees and Mickey Mice. Craig and his family have settled in at their new home in Madison, and he and I have been working out the mappings to translate 'company' and 'person' records from SuperFRED into 'customer' and 'contact' records in Sweetie. Vendors, Media and Industry Peers have all been moved over, and items should be moved in soon!

While all this had been keeping us busy, early January is always the month where we finalize production plans and prepare literature describing our new products to be given out at Toy Fair and the GTS show. With Family Fluxx and EcoFluxx now available, and Fluxx Español in the works, we had been planning to basically ignore the Icehouse system this year, keeping only the tubes of pyramids in print, planning to focus all our energy on building new markets for the new versions of Fluxx, so we would have more money next year to work on the pyramids again.

Then on Sunday January 8th, just one month ago, I had a brilliant idea. I figured out a way that we could simply remove the pyramids from our colorful POP display. We made this display more than three years ago, but so far, we've only gotten them into just over 200 stores. [Wait. Hang on. It's REALLY cool that I have gotten this beautiful display into over 200 stores! But... I've got another 750 of them in my warehouse... and our card games are in a LOT more than 200 stores.] Why don't more stores want the display? The #1 reason they always give for not wanting the display, is that they don't understand and don't want to sell the pyramids. So I was really excited when I figured out that I could just remove the pyramids completely and we'd have a perfect spot for our new blister-packed card games.

We created this POP display as a way to hopefully, finally, get the pyramids into stores. It gives our stores a cool, colorful way to display the tubes of pyramids, right next to our card games. The first boxed set, The Martian Chess Set, had done very poorly in stores, even though it sold like hotcakes from our website to fans of the Icehouse system. The tubes sell a little better in stores, but not well, even when showcased in our beautiful POP display. Even our largest distributor restocks them only 2 or 3 of each color at a time - so there are a handful of stores out there selling them, but not very many. We then tried the boxed sets - Zendo and IceTowers - and they didn't sell any better, and they were way way way too expensive to make (and to store, since they're so much bulkier). The pyramids are a BIG problem, from a marketing and sales perspective - yet we all know how awesome this game system is.

So anyway, I had this idea for how to retool the POP display by removing the pyramids altogether, and for about an hour and half, our display had no pyramids. That's how long it took Andy to come up with his own brilliant idea, namely redesigning the packaging of the pyramids in a way that would get them back into the display. And thus the Treehouse set was born. Almost immediately, Andy had a really cool little game to go with his new packaging concept... and Andy and I dug in, once again, to completely redesign the way we sell and promote these cool little pyramids.

Treehouse changes everything about the way we sell the pyramids. Instead of a game system, which people struggle to 'understand', it's just one game, complete in its own little pocket-sized package. It's quick and easy to demo, it's enjoyed by gamers and non-gamers alike, you can play it almost anywhere, and it sells for less that $10! Wow. Best of all, it's expandable. With Treehouse sets available in 2 color schemes, we can let EVERYTHING ELSE in the Icehouse line go out of print, and yet still provide the basic building blocks necessary to fully discover the complex but rewarding world of Icehouse.

Indeed, the Treehouse breakthrough adds yet another dimension to the richness of Icehouse. By finally breaking free of the rigid "a stash must be 15 pieces" mentality, we've allowed Icehouse game designers to develop games that focus on the multiple trees rather than whole stashes. Who knows what other exciting new games will be created as a result of this change in thinking!

The next thing that's needed to facilitate the Treehouse paradigm shift is the accompanying shift in our messages about Icehouse. Gone are the days of promoting Icehouse "by the stash"; instead we must re-design all of our literature and web content to show how you can start with one Treehouse set, then expand it gradually, gaining the ability to play more games as you get more Treehouse sets.

To this end, Andy has cooked up a new publication which we will be releasing along with the new Treehouse sets. It will be called 3HOUSE and it will be a small, thin booklet containing rules for 3 more games you can play if you've got 3 Treehouse sets, these being Martian Chess, Binary Homeworlds, and IceTowers (it's a shorter game but it works just fine with 9 pieces of each color instead of 15).

The 3HOUSE Rule Booklet will be small: 3.25" x 6.5", which just happens to be the size of 3 stash tubes lined up side by side. It will be saddle stitched like the Looney Labs booklet catalog, with similar stock and a color cover, but a few more pages. Retail price: $2.

3HOUSE will also include a more verbose version of the rules to Treehouse (since the one on the tubes is pretty spartan), teaser info on games you can play when you get even more Treehouse sets, a couple of Nanofictions, and other general info about the world of Icehouse.

Hopefully, 3HOUSE will succeed where Playing with Pyramids failed. While a whole book of games for the pyramids seemed like a great idea (and I'm not saying it isn't a great book, it just didn't sell) it seems in the end it just aggravated the problem people have with Icehouse, of not understanding it and being daunted by it, not to mention sticker shock. ("Huh? You mean I have to read a whole book to understand what these triangle-doohickys are for? And it costs $12? Never mind!")

So, we're switching to Treehouse and dumping everything else: Mar's Guide, ICE-7, the boxed sets, the solid color tubes, the Icehouse books and yes, even the Free Catalogs, it's all being pulled from distribution. We'll keep selling the single color stash tubes via our website while supplies last, for fans who got started in the system with this format and want to complete their collection of colors... but at Toy Fair and GTS, we'll be telling store owners, "Forget everything you know about how we sell Icehouse pyramids. Introducing: Treehouse, the new way to Icehouse!"

So many changes... not only have we revamped our POP Display again, and figured out a whole new plan on how to sell and promote the pyramids, but we also have a new plan to revamp our literature as well. We decided a while ago that we needed to put a small price on our literature, in order for it to move through distribution, and in order to not lose so much money printing it... and it's time to print new literature with all this in mind. And we need to make sure we put enough content in our literature to make it feel like it's worth paying a small price for. Time will tell, but we have plans for more booklets like the 3HOUSE booklet, each selling for $2. (For example, after the Icehouse community has time to develop a few good games for two Treehouse sets, we can publish a booklet called 2HOUSE.)

To Sum Up:

  • New products going into Distribution: Fluxx Espanol, Treehouse Rainbow, Treehouse Xeno, 3HOUSE Rule Booklet (all coming soon... Spring 2006)
  • Dropped from Distribution: Icehouse Pieces (in 9 colors), Playing with Pyramids, The Empty City, Chessboard Bandana, IceTowers, Ice-7, Flowers & Fluxx, and Proton
  • Out of Print: Zendo, Stoner Fluxx, Q-Turn, Mar's Guide to Icehouse, Booklet Catalog

Thanks for Playing Our Games! Have a great week!

PS: No update next week: We'll be at Toy Fair then GenghisCon!

Thought Residue
"When the President does it, that means it is not illegal." -- Then-President Richard Nixon, heard quoted in the new MoveOn.org TV ad, which assert that "George W. Bush is Breaking the Law"

When I designed Chrononauts back in 2000, I thought the Crown of Thorns was an artifact a time traveler could swipe without rippling any timelines. Obviously, no one had saved it, right? Well, I recently learned (from the History Channel -- gosh I love the History Channel!) that a relic purporting to be the real Crown of Thorns is at the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris! Apparently it was a prize passed along from one King to the another, ever since it first turned up, in 570 AD. It was even used as collateral, in 1238, and the thorns were all removed and incorporated into other cherished relics! Oh well, it's one more thing to see when I eventually visit Paris...
"But everything that was great about the first [Star Wars] trilogy -- reasonably decent acting, an engaging storyline and cool model-based special effects -- is gone, replaced by detestably unsympathetic characters reciting torturously bad dialogue in a manner so wooden that coaching from Keanu Reeves would have helped, and CGI effects that, while painstakingly crafted down to the nanopixel, somehow looked less real than plastic spaceships and Muppets." -- The Beast's 2005 List of the 50 Most Loathsome People in America, #44: George Lucas (don't miss the top 5)

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Dates (2006) Event Location
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March 3-5 Non Con VI Poughkeepsie, NY
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