article is kind of about death and rebirth, so here's another
sample of the art for Zombie
Fluxx, which goes to the printer in just a few days. (This
is Larry, our cover zombie.)
year and a half ago, I invented a simple little game called
which we used as the centerpiece for a major paradigm shift in
the way we package and promote the Icehouse game system. This
was not the first time we'd reinvented the Icehouse system, but
unlike all our previous efforts, the Treehouse Revolution has
been wildly successful. People love playing Treehouse (did you
hear it just won the Origins Award for Best
Board Game of 2006?) and the pyramids are selling like they
never have before. Yay!
Unfortunately for traditionalists, this change of focus has
killed the market for the old way of selling pyramids, namely
in monochrome stash tubes containing 15 pyramids of one color.
Therefore, the time has come for us to discontinue the old style.
As of next week, we will no longer be selling the product
known as Icehouse Pieces, except for in the color Gray. So if
you've been putting off a purchase, you should place your order
I support this decision for many reasons, ranging from financial
to emotional. This is not a decision made by bean-counters concerned
only with the bottom line. As the creator of the pyramids and
a once-strong supporter of the stash tube approach, I'm in favor
of this paradigm shift.
During the last 20 years, I've spent a great deal of time
telling people about the pyramids: how you play with them, what
you must do to get a set, how it's like a deck of playing cards,
etc. We've re-invented the system at least six times, always
seeking that best way of hooking people. The stash tube approach
is actually two evolutionary steps behind Treehouse, since we
tried making single-game boxed sets (Zendo
in between, which also proved unsuccessful and have been discontinued.
succeeds where our previous attempts haven't because it overcomes
three problems which I call the 3 Cs: Cost, Complexity, and Confusion.
In the old days, the sticker shock on an Icehouse set was
always a major problem... even with the stash tube approach,
the consumer sees the price skyrocket as they realize you can't
play much of anything without 3 or 4 tubes. But with Treehouse,
you get a complete game - including rules! -- for one low price.
Secondly, Treehouse is wonderfully easy... the previous killer
aps for the pyramids have always been much more complicated brain-burners
which many people can't handle or simply aren't interested in.
But Treehouse draws 'em in like no game ever has before. But
the biggest problem has always been confusion. What do you say
when someone asks, "What game is that?" In today's
hectic world, people don't have time to listen to a big explanation
about all the games you can play if you assemble a set from this
random supply of parts and oh yeah you'll also need rules which
you can get on the internet if you don't want to buy the rulebook.
I know it seems like this shouldn't be a big deal, but it is.
Remember, I'm the guy who came up with the stash tube system,
and I used to really believe in it... but the results are in
and it just doesn't work. It's too confusing.
Treehouse succeeds because it's easy to buy, easy to play,
and easy to understand. And now, after a year and a half of transition
time, and with sales of the old style reduced to a trickle, it's
time to drop the other shoe.
When we announced this news to the Icehouse community last
week, we got an earful about it on the Icehouse mailing list.
Certain old-timers felt this decision was a betrayal and that
we ought to continue to support the old-school approach by keeping
monochrome stashes available for people who might want to keep
getting them that way. Unfortunately, it doesn't make sense for
us to do that.
Firstly, stores don't want to offer both options. More unique
SKUs = more hassle for store owners, and keeping the full spectrum
of old-style stash tubes in stock was just too much trouble for
too many retailers. The whole reason the Treehouse Revolution
got started was because we had store owners refusing to sell
the pyramids, because they were just too much trouble for too
few sales. The trigger point came when we had retailers refusing
to accept our Looney Games store display package because of those
confusing monochrome stash tubes. The reason Treehouse happened
was because Icehouse was actually holding back the rest of our
Secondly, I don't want to offer both options anymore. When
someone new approaches the system, they currently face a choice:
start with Treehouse, or start with some number of monochrome
stashes. Whichever choice you make, you are then locked into
a particular path for future purchases, since you can only expand
your first purchase by getting more of the same. Even if both
options are widely available, this still makes for a complicated
upgrade path with plenty of room for confusion.
Both paths lead to the same place -- a full classic Icehouse
set and the ability to play everything in Playing
with Pyramids. But the games you can play as you expand
your set differ depending on which path you take, and at the
end of the day, from both a business standpoint and design perspective,
I'd rather people be taking the Treehouse path.
It's a sad truth of the world that you sometimes have to discontinue
the old way of doing something in order to get people to make
the switch to the new way. For example, there'll be a huge outcry
if the Treasury Department ever decides to abolish the paper
dollar, but that's what it will take to get the public to switch
to using dollar coins.
We've given everyone plenty of time to complete their sets
the old way, and we're making one more last call right now for
anyone who still needs a few more days. But the time has come
to complete the transition. The dinosaurs have to die off to
make way for mammals.