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October Sky

One part Coal Miner's Daughter and one part The Right Stuff, this film is the coolest nerd-hero movie since Apollo 13. It's set in October 1957, when everyone in America was looking into the night sky for a glimpse of Sputnik as it passed overhead. The film tells the true story of the "Rocket Boys", four lads so inspired by Sputnik that they build and launch a bunch of small rockets of their own.

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Thursday, February 25,1999

What's New?

New Iceland cartoonthe story so far...

Last week I reported on Toy Fair, and I mentioned that there were a surprising number of little companies not unlike our own at the show. Many of the neat new products I described in last week's report were from companies like these... little mom-and-pop publishers with a solitary game (or if they'd had some success with their first such product, a small handful of games). And all of these companies are struggling with the same challenges we do: gaining exposure when you're a small fish in a big pond.

We spent a lot of time at Toy Fair talking to our fellow dreamers, and one of the main things we noticed was that most of these other companies have little or no capability for selling their games over the internet. Many do have websites, and some even accept credit card orders, but as anyone who's ever built a website knows, the trick isn't building the site, it's getting people to visit it. As a company with a successful online gift shop, we were frequently asked how were managing to get traffic. And since Toy Fair is where publishers try to get retailers to carry their products, we were also frequently asked if we'd like to carry other people's products in our online gift shop.

So after wandering the floors of Toy Fair for a couple of days, we had a moment of clarity. Readers who've been following this site for a while know that Kristin and I have quit our day jobs to try to make Looney Labs profitable, but that our sales volume needs to increase significantly in order to make us self sufficient. So it suddenly became obvious: We should expand our online gift shop!

And thus was born, a new online retailer specializing in really cool games (and other stuff), created by really small companies (like ours). We realized that we have everything we needed already in place: we've got a smoothly operating e-commerce site to which we can add any number of new products, and we've built a shipping area in our basement which will allow us to handle significantly more sales than we currently get. All we need is more traffic, and more products, and we met dozens of companies with neat new products at Toy Fair who would be delighted to have us selling their goods in our online store.

So what we've decided to do is to launch a new site which will showcase cool new products from little companies like ours. This will allow us to make money retailing other products just like a regular store, while helping our fellow small-timers get their products to market via the internet. Hopefully, many of these companies will promote as the preferred way of purchasing their products online, which will bring together the word of mouth (and link) support of the friends and families of the dreamers behind all these independent game companies and in so doing increase everyone's visibility many times over.

But wait, there's more. ContagiousDreams won't carry just any dreamer's product. In a field as crowded as this one, there are many new products that just don't measure up, and we'll need a process for weeding out the junk and only showcasing the good stuff. So we came up with the idea of getting the WTS involved. We hang out playing games all the time anyway, and everyone has different types of games and products that they prefer. So, we'll collect feedback from our friends, our in-house focus group if you will, and in this way we can be sure that there's at least someone we know who genuinely likes and recommends any product we carry. One thing we've learned from our experience with the Looney Labs site is that testimonials make a big difference in persuading people to buy a new game, and we've already got a regular gaming community that can test out new games and offer up honest opinions.

So that's this week's idea. We've already registered the new domain and have started building the structure of the site; the next step will be to start signing up manufacturers and writing reviews. (For any of my readers who may represent small companies looking to get more retailers carrying their products, please contact us for instructions on sending in review copies.) As always, tune in next week to see how we are progressing.

Don't forget to play!

Thought Residue
"When I was a little kid, maybe 5 years old in the old country, my mother used to say to me, she'd warn me, she'd say 'Don't get too close to people; you might catch their dreams.' Years later, I realized I'd misunderstood her - germs, she said, not dreams, you'll catch their germs." - Abe Karatz, "Tucker"
We're having a great week. We're really excited about the prospects for ContagiousDreams, we've become fast friends with Alison Frane (a childhood chum of Leah's, who's just moved back to the DC area after obtaining a Master's Degree in Michigan), and we're celebrating the 10th anniversary of the ski trip on which Kristin and I first fell in love. Life is good.
"The philosophy of one century is the common sense of the next." - wisdom from a recently consumed fortune cookie

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