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Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Archives Games

kory! & hspd-12 suxorz

Haiku Reviews

Performance %}

A brutal, tender,
weird, prophetic fantasy
for our modern world.

Do the Lambretta twist

Tirade's Choice

The 10 Most Magnificent Trees in the World

"Daddy, will you help me write a letter?"
"Sure, who do you want to write to?"
"I don't know."
"Let's see... We could write to Andy Looney and tell him how much you like Treehouse."
"Actually, I don't want to write a letter... Can we play Treehouse?"

"So you'll have to settle for an email from me... Seriously, she's a fanatic. As you're aware, I'm more of a Homeworlds guy; Treehouse initially struck me as a bit lightweight. But hey, my daughter is 5, and it's a lot more interesting than her previous favorite, the Cinderella-themed jewelry collection game 'Pretty Pretty Princess'. I played Treehouse with her a few times, more or less telling her what to do with each roll. Recently, she realized that tactics within her grasp would give her a reasonably good chance of beating Dad! She immediately banned strategic hints and learned to read the words on the die herself. Now we play most nights, and she's telling me I'm scheduled to teach it to her kindergarten class. I have a very hard time playing any game at less than my full ability, so any game that lets Averill compete fairly with me without feeling like a coin flip is excellent." -- email from Rob Bryan

Classes Then and Now

How Many Copies Sold Makes Something a "Hit"?

This is the back-glass image from a Twilight Zone pinball machine. I love this image... it's a beautiful homage to my favorite TV show of all time, and the back-glass alone was a selling point to me when I decided, in 1996, to purchase a used Twilight Zone pinball machine from an arcade (using bonus money I'd gotten because of Icebreaker). Obviously the theme had a lot of appeal for me, but I also chose the Twilight Zone because I'd heard from my pinball-playing buddies that this was actually an exceptionally good machine. It was designed by the same people who'd created the hugely successful Addam's Family pinball machine the year before, and it's packed with cool features.

It's been great fun having this machine in our house, and having recently gotten it tuned up and serviced, I've been playing it again recently, and learning more about it. As it turns out, I made a better choice than I'd realized: the Twilight Zone PinBall Machine (TZPBM) has become one of the most prized and highly-valued pinball machines ever made. The dude who did a bunch of maintenance work on it for us told me that if I ever wanted to sell it, he could get me 8 or 10 times what I originally paid for it! (Not that I want to sell, mind you...)

So, why is this particular machine increasing so much in value? Well, according to Wikipedia, many pinball enthusiasts consider Twilight Zone to be "the most complex pinball game ever designed." It has become a favorite of collectors because it lends itself really well to custom modifications, something I'd never even thought of before (and now find myself interested in, at the very least, a set of those fake gumballs for the otherwise mostly-empty gumball machine). And I've realized there's this very exclusive club, which I'm an automatic member of, and for which there's an actual roster online I could sign up for: Owners of TZPBMs!

And just how exclusive is that club? Well, there's a definite limit to the possible membership, since a limited number of TZPBMs were made, and thanks again to Wikipedia, it's easy to find out that the production run was for exactly 15,235 units. Wow, that's it? Only 15,000? That doesn't really seem like very many, does it? Of course, pinball machines aren't like hamburgers. (Remember when McDonald's kept updating all their signs with a running total, in billions, of the number of hamburgers they'd sold?) As it turns out, this machine's older brother, the Addam's Family, is the best selling pinball machine of all time, having sold 20,270 units.

I find these numbers especially fascinating right now, since Kristin & Robin & I have been having lots of long working sessions lately, putting together a comprehensive new Business Plan for Looney Labs. For example, obviously I'm comparing apples with oranges here, but I still find it interesting to note that we've currently sold 17 times more Fluxx decks than the all-time best-selling pinball machine ever made. And unlike that pinball machine, we're not going to stop making them!

So, how many copies of something have to be sold for it be considered a "hit"? Again, it's an apples vs. oranges situation, but consider the Gold Record. According to the current definition in the US music industry, a Gold Record is one that sells half a million copies, with a Platinum Record being a million-seller.

While there are no "gold record" standards in the Hobby Game Industry, any card game that has sold at least 20,000 units could be considered a hit, at least to some degree. By that measure, our company has several minor-grade hits: Chrononauts, Icehouse Pyramids, and Aquarius have each sold at least that many units. But our major hit is Fluxx, total sales of which are currently over 350,000 copies, and increasing every day.

But when a card game really hits the big time, these numbers can go through the roof. Consider Uno: they celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2006, after selling more than 100 million copies and still going strong. Really successful parlor games will end up selling more copies every year, for decades or longer, and I beleive Fluxx is destined to become just such a mega-hit. We've sold over a third of a million copies in 10 years... how many million decks will we have sold 25 years from now?

AndyAnyway, thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Thought Residue

Well, I haven't heard a word from the Superhero people, so I guess I didn't make the cut. I'm actually more surprised than disappointed... I thought the ideas I submitted were really very compelling and unique. I'm guessing I was rejected for a specific reason, like worry that I was just trying to promoting my games, or perhaps it was my views on the drug war, or maybe my character was just a little too crazy for their tastes. Oh well, on to the next challenge!

I like Barrack a lot more than Hillary, but I like Dennis Kucinich the most of all. I also like Bill Richardson quite a bit. (If our next Democratic President has to have the same name as the last one, I'd rather it be his first name, not his last name, at least in this case.)
"The results seem pretty self evident to me. As someone who has done his fair share of drinking and smoking marijuana, I know which one had significant negative effects if I did too much of it. In short, smoking too much pot just made me sleepy. It never made me emotionally volatile, or had me doing things I regretted the next day. It never caused me to spend hours in the bathroom vomiting. It never left me incapacitated with a terrible hangover the next day. All of my worst party-related experiences in college were the result of too much booze, not too much pot. As for gateway drugs, I did cocaine once in my life, over a decade after I smoked my first joint, and, interestingly enough, at the end of a night of heavy drinking. I never felt the urge to do stronger drugs after smoking marijuana." -- email sent to Andrew Sullivan and posted in his column, in response to news about a study which found Alcohol & Tobacco Worse Than Pot & Ecstasy

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