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Thursday, August 9th, 2007

Archives Games

happy early anniversary, twice! & yo plus getting old & a bunch of animals

Haiku Reviews

Shortbus  :)

For an x-rated
yet non-pornographic film,
it's pretty kinky.

Plus: Flirting  :)

The Inner Life Of A Cell

Tirade's Choice

Flag Color Pie Charts

"My favorite place in the world to play Treehouse is a bar. Not a gamer bar, not even necessarily a gamer-friendly bar. Just any bar you happen to be at. I introduced some of my closest friends to the wonders of all things pyramidal at just such a bar (a pub in England, actually) when we stopped in for a couple of pints after a soccer match. The progression from, 'What the hell?', through, 'Oooh.... pretty', to, 'So, how does this work?,' to finally (and repeatedly!), 'Let's play again!' was priceless. And has been repeated each time I've whipped out a tube at a bar. The best thing about pyramids and bars? The beer can't damage the plastic - not always true of Fluxx cards!" -- Avri Klemer, from a discussion on the Rabbit mailing list of the ideal gaming establishment

Some new links dispite a seeming summer slowdown

  • The price of Fluxx has gone up to $14

Death of the Monochrome Stash Tube

This 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.)

A year and a half ago, I invented a simple little game called Treehouse, 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 now!

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 and IceTowers) in between, which also proved unsuccessful and have been discontinued.

Treehouse 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 product line.

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.

AndyThanks for reading, and have a great fortnight!
PS: While official monochrome stashes are about to become extinct, we'll be continuing to sell single pyramids at our webstore. While this option is meant for those who need replacements for lost pieces, you'll still be able to buy a whole stash of one color if that's what you really want. (Of course, it will be more expensive that way. Sorry.)

Thought Residue
Here's a new topic for discussions on the Icehouse list. Assuming we can only introduce one new product (since more SKUs = more hassle), which would you rather see: a new monochrome stash in a totally new color, or a new Treehouse set featuring 5 totally new colors? Given that this is a no-brainer, what colors would you choose for the new Treehouse set? (If we do this, we're planning to call this third color scheme "Loco", since it's likely to be a pretty crazy combination of hues...)

"Why are zombies so popular? Monster movies reflect the fears of the era, like the 50's horror movies with the communism and atomic power. In our culture we're subconsciously terrified of consumption. We're mindlessly consuming our planet. Zombies represent our fear of ourselves and our consumerism. We're eating our planet, we know it, and it scares us." -- Too Much Coffee Man, May 21, 2007
"Because the two other branches of the federal government have failed to protect medical-marijuana patients, their most plausible hope lies in electing a president who is less intent on snatching their medicine. At this point, the Democrats look decidedly more promising than the Republicans in this respect. According to Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, seven of the eight declared candidates for the Democratic nomination have promised to call off the DEA's medical marijuana raids if elected. The eighth, Sen. Barack Obama, has said such raids 'probably shouldn't be a high priority.' Three of the nine remaining Republican candidates - Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Tom Tancredo and Gov. Tommy Thompson - oppose the DEA raids. But the rest of the Republicans, including the leading contenders, either have taken no position ( Mitt Romney ) or have said they would continue the current policy." -- Jacob Sullum, "Slamming The Sick, Stiffing The States"

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