Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2011 JOTYA Nominees

by Crazy Ivan

It's that time of year once again; the time we set aside to recognize the contributions of all the Myachi Maniacs the world over who dedicate their time to advancing the game and keeping the movement moving.

This will mark the 5th year of the Jammer of the Year Awards and early indications are that it's going to be a big one.  We had a record number of forum members chime in on the nominations and luckily I put a stipulation in this year that someone had to get at least 2 nominations to be considered.  Otherwise we'd have about 9 or 10 people in each category.

As it turns out, we have exactly 4 in each category.  As unlikely as this was, it actually worked out normally in 3 of the 4 categories.  In the 4th, I received a lot of duplicate nominations for 2 members, and only 2 people received a single nomination so I was able to include everyone that got nominated.

So without further ado, let me present this years nominees:

 The Trixter Award: 

Past winners include: A-Train, Mantis and Dragon

This award recognizes the Myachi player who has done the most to advance the freestyle element of the game.  Winning this award is a testament to both your skills and originality, but it is more than that.  Creating new tricks is part of the award, but to compete here, one must also share that new knowledge with the world.  As you can see from the past winners, winning this award cements your legendary status within the Myachi movement.

This year's nominees are (in alphabetical order):

  • Coreyster
  • Helium
  • Katana
  • Max
 The STWAKOJ Award: 

Past winners include: Halestorm, A guy called Will, Mach 3 and DGH

This award is, in many ways, the most coveted in the ceremony.  Myachi continues to thrive and grow every year because of the efforts of Myachi Maniacs all over the world who spread the word, teach the game, encourage new members and jam everywhere they go.  This has been the lifeblood of the movement since its inception and the STWAKOJ award recognizes the person who contributed the most to this ongoing effort over the past year.

This year's nominees are (in alphabetical order):
  • Gecko
  • J-Slack
  • Katana
  • Max
 The Forum Award: 

Past winners include: Jedi, Downtown, MMFL and Champ.

Serving as the long-term lynchpin of Myachi's online community, the Myachi Forum is a place where Myachi Maniacs from the world over get together, share advice on new tricks, talk about their collections, ask questions of veteran players and make new friends.  It seems only fair to recognize the efforts of all the members who work so hard to make it a fun place to be, so the Forum award is exactly that.  It is awarded to the person determined to have made the biggest positive impact on the forum over the past year.

This year's nominees are (in alphabetical order):
  • Blue Samurai
  • J-Slack
  • MMFL
  • Omega
 The Lifetime Achievement Award: 

Past winner is: MMFL

Given only once in the five year history of the award, this is the "Grand Prize" of Myachi Mania, an award meant to encompass the lifetime contribution that a person has made in all aspects of the game.  It has been four years since the last one was given out and it will be five years before another one is given out, so in many ways, a win in this category could be considered among the highest achievements in Myachi Mania.

This year's nominees are (in alphabetical order):
  • Avion
  • Downtown
  • Mantis
  • Monki

Voting opens up today and there are two ways to get your voice heard.  Members of the forum can send me their votes in all 4 categories (or just those categories they care to vote in) through the Private Messaging system on the forum.  But if you'd like to participate and aren't a forum member, you can email your votes to me at crazyivanmyachi@yahoo.com

If you email your vote it might not count.  To keep things honest, I've got to make sure that all the votes that are emailed represent real people, so please include your name and how you got into the game when you send the vote along.  I reserve the right to dismiss emailed votes at my discretion.

Also note that to be eligible to vote on the forum, you have to have created an account before the nominating process began, so if you aren't already a member, you can't join and then vote internally on the forum (but you should still join).

Voting will close on Friday, February 3rd at midnight.  Winners will be announced on Sunday the 5th (that's Superbowl Sunday in case you weren't paying attention) and like last year, I'll be dropping the winners during halftime.

Good luck to all the nominees and thanks to everyone who participated in the nomination process.  Thanks for making this such a fun part of my job!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Look Alike?

by Crazy Ivan

Alright, so I just wanted to throw this out really quick.  I was at FAO the other day and I met a couple pretty cool cats that have been playing the game for a couple of months.  They'd already met Mav, Bones, Metal, Noodles, Lucky and Bamboo, so they knew the bulk of the team.  But they were having trouble keeping everybody's nicknames straight.

So as we're talking, they'll refer to "the guy with the big hair" rather than "Bones", or "the guy with the crazy foot skills" instead of "Mav".  Anyway, as we're talking, I showed them the Swordfish and they said, "yeah, we saw that one."

"So who showed you that one?" I asked.  I was assuming it would be Bones because he's one of the few people who teaches that particular move on a regular basis.  But I was wrong.

"The guy who looks like Jack Black," they answered.

I got about four words into asking "What Myachi Master looks like Jack Black?" when I stopped, laughed and said, "You mean Metal?"

I still think he looks more like Silent Bob, but the comparison cracked me up...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Myachis That Changed the World: Number 3

by Crazy Ivan

It's been a pretty long road, working our way through the 10 most influential Myachis of all time.  We started this  countdown at the end of September and still we haven't made our way to the top spot.  A few long hiatuses and a few tangents have gotten us off course here and there, but still we're creeping ever closer to the big reveal, the number one, most earth-shattering Myachi ever made.

But we're not there yet.  We're close enough that any Myachi I mention at this point has to be a game-changer.  It would have to be something that not only achieved legendary status within the Myachi community, but also something that marked the turning of a corner; a significant step forward for Myachi.  Luckily, I know just the sack...

 #3) The Sobe '02 

Known as the "Sobe Lovebus", the "Drain the Lizard" and the "Sobe '02", this sack represented the single largest production run in Myachi history.  In many ways, it could have earned the #1 spot on this list because in so many ways, this Myachi was a "proof of concept".  To understand what that means, we have to go way back to the earliest days of Myachi.

Before he had even taken the name "Myachi Man", Steven Ochs was trying to start a crazy company with a crazy idea.  Like any company, he needed start up capital.  He was hand sewing the Myachis at that point so the costs were low, but trade show space, travel, fabric, gas, web design, marketing, shipping and office overhead all added up after a while.  And that doesn't include any of the Myachi Mobile related costs.

He was able to start the company with essentially the money in his pockets, but if he wanted it to grow, he was going to have to prove that the whole idea could be made to work.  Sure, he could show people how much fun it was to play Myachi and they would buy a Myachi from him.  But could he convince an investor to help him take things to the next level?

The short answer back in the early days was "no".  Even if they saw how fun the game was and saw the little buying frenzies that Myachi Man could whip up just by teaching a few random people to play, that wasn't enough to convince anyone to put down serious dollars or give us a chance in a truly big venue.  They wanted to see dollars and cents.  They wanted to see orders and invoices.  They wanted to see profit, and that, Myachi Man could not yet show them.

And then along came the Sobe '02.  This would be the first major production run of a promotional Myachi.  This would mark the first time a company made a serious investment in Myachis as a give-away.  This would mark the first time a company gave us some serious cash to show up at events and help promote their product.  This would also mark the largest order of Myachis in the companies brief history to that point.  To that point, Myachi Man had already fulfilled a few orders in the tens of thousands and we were already getting the manufacturing done overseas.  But this would be the first time he filled an order for over a hundred thousand sacks.

So financially, this changed everything.  But there's more earning the Sobe '02 its spot than mere accounting.  The other big difference was the venue.  Up to this point, Myachi had been focused on college students and people in their early twenties as our target market.  It made sense that the demographic that was most interested in Hacky Sack would be the one to sell the "Hand Hacky Sack" to.

But Sobe took us to a different demographic altogether.  They took us to the extreme sports crowd and while plenty of them were college aged, the majority were between 10 and 15.  We had, of course, sold to plenty of 10 to 15 year olds by then, but we'd never really focused on them as a target market before.  So at these Sobe events (which included the X-Games and Gravity Games), we saw something for the first time, and it was something that really did change the world.

We saw Myachi Mania.

This would be the birthplace of the Myachi collector.  This would be the birthplace of the Myachi cartoon character concept.  This would be the birth of virtually every marketing decision we made over the next 10 years.  This would mark the first time that Myachi figured out where it belonged.

That was the real legacy of the Sobe '02.  Sure, it proved to the pencil-pushers that Myachi could make money and it allowed us to have our first truly profitable year, but that seems like a footnote compared to introducing Myachi to the Myachi Maniacs.  We transformed as a company in light of what happened there and in a sense, we matured by getting younger.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have the sudden craving for a Sobe...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

This Year in Myachi

by Crazy Ivan

So the whole New Year's celebration is in the rear view mirror.  I'm starting to get used to putting the "12" at the end of the date and they're almost done cleaning all the confetti up in Time Square.  That means it's time to start reflecting on all the things the previous year brought us and all the things that we hope to see in the 2012.

This has been a huge year for Myachi, obviously, and I thought it would be fun to revisit the year with a brief chronological list of some of the major changes and breakthroughs that have taken place in the last trip around the sun.

It should be said in advance that I'm probably going to leave out some pretty big stuff here.  Some stuff will be omitted because there just isn't room for everything, but some will quite simply be forgotten.  I invite you to help us continue the conversation on this, though.  If you think there's some Myachi moment that I should have mentioned, feel free to bring it up in the comments section below.

Also note that I'm trying (by faulty human memory) to keep these in order of when they happened, so while this will serve as a "top 10" Myachi events of the year, it's not listed by least important to most important, but rather in the order that they happened (as near as I can recall).

 1) Myachi Starts a Blog 

It's entirely possible that to most of the Myachi world, this is a pretty minor thing, but I think it's safe to say that it was at least worth a mention to anybody who happens to be reading this.  The Myachi Blog is about to celebrate it's first anniversary next month (it was introduced to the world at halftime of last years Super Bowl), and while it has been slow of late, I'd say we've built up a pretty solid archive of material in the past almost year.

 2) Myachi Goes to Australia 

It's always a big deal when Myachi goes to a new country and that has happened several times this year.  New markets are opening up for us all the time, but most of the time we don't have any personal interaction with the new market.  We just send Myachis and video chat with the people promoting the game.  We're huge in Chile, but no Myachi Master has ever visited the nation to teach people the game.

Australia was different.  3 of the best Myachi Masters in the world visited the continent over 2011; Kid Myach started things off and Animal and Maverick followed up for an extended tour.  Nice to know that whatever hemisphere you're in, Myachi's been there.

 3) Myachi Releases It's Second Commercial 

To be perfectly honest, this is nowhere near as big a story as we were hoping it would be when it happened.  We had a blast filming it and it came out really well, but alas it failed to have the earth-shattering impact it was supposed to and the production company was unable to continue to run it after it's test market.  That being said, it was still a huge boon to Myachi and for the short period that the ad was running we got in front of a lot of eyeballs.

 4) $5 Blister Card Introduced 

When the company first started, Myachi Man sold them for $5.  There was no packaging to speak of, there were just Myachis with little instruction booklets attached to them and they sat in boxes next to cash registers with a sign next to them that said "$5".  When we introduced the freestanding blister packaging with the finger knugz, we had to up the retail price to $7 to make it work.  But we always wanted to get the price back down to the place where we felt like it belonged.

Some manufacturing wizardry and Myachi Man's tireless effort finally made that happen this year with the introduction of the new $5 Blister Pack.  This is a very unusual move for a company... going back to the lower price it had a decade earlier.  This would be like the gas stations suddenly going back to charging $1.19 a gallon.  But we made it happen and it's been a huge boost for the company.  The better value for the customer has meant a lot more people buying so even charging less, we made more money.  I wish that all companies would follow our lead here...

 5) $10 Double Pack Introduced 

It happened shortly after the $5 single was unleashed on the Myachi buying public, but offering two Myachis and a DVD might well have been the single biggest thing that happened to us over the year from a purely financial perspective.  In every location where we offer both packs, the double outsells the single.  No surprise there, as customers recognize a great value when they see it.  The series was called 5.1X because it was an experimental series, but I think it's safe to say that the experiment was a success.

 6) Myachi Returns to Dollywood 

Okay, so I'm not keeping to my chronology here, as the $10 Double was introduced while we were at Dollywood, but I still thought it was worth a mention.  It probably isn't, but my personal connection to the amusement park (it was my first assignment with Myachi) and all the excitement and nostalgia of going back has been echoing throughout the year so I felt like it would be a mistake to leave it out.

 7) Metal and Lucky Join the Team 

Again, this isn't something I can neatly fit into the chronology because Metal joined the team earlier in the year and Lucky came later in the summer, but the addition of their energy to the Myachi team is definitely one of the most important things that has happened to us over this or any other year.  Lucky's flamboyant style and dedication mix with Metal's broad skills and self-deprecating sense of humor have definitely added a distinct spice to the team and made the biweekly meetings a lot more entertaining.

 8) Myachi Ramps Up It's School Program 

This is something you'll be hearing more and more about over the next year, but thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Monk and Kid Myach, we've been doing a lot more school outreach over this past year than we ever have before.  In fact, in the past 3 months, we've done more school shows than we had in the entire history of Myachi up to that point.  That's more school shows in 3 months than we managed in 13 years!

Thanks to the state of New York recognizing what an awesome program we have to offer and helping us get it into ever more schools, we should be able to quadruple the number of school shows we do this year at least.  It's one of the most effective (and most fun) ways to promote the game that we've ever found so we're all pretty fired up about this turn of events.

 9) Animal's Departure 

You didn't think this was all going to be good news, did you?

So if this is the first you're hearing about it, you can blame me.  I started writing a long blog entry about it when it happened, but I got so sentimental about the whole thing that I couldn't finish it.  While Animal is still a part of the Myachi movement and always will be, he is no longer a part of the Myachi Company.  He left us after a long period of reflection and he left us for the only reason that would have made any sense; he fell in love.

Animal had been dating this gal for a several months and we all saw that something was different about him.  He had dated a number of women sense he moved to NYC, but he was clearly serious about this one.  I think we'd all figured out that he was in love before he did.

A few months ago she moved to Jersey to take a new job and Animal couldn't stand only seeing her a couple of times a week (when he could go to Jersey or she could come to the city), so he moved there.  We were all really sad to see him go, but we understood given the circumstances.  Hopefully he will continue to play a large role in the movement going forward, but it's still way too quiet at the House of Skills.

 10) Paddles Are Introduced 

This happened late in the year and I really haven't had the chance yet to treat this with the detail it needs to be treated on the blog, so look for a longer Paddle Review entry coming in the near future.  But for the purposes of this countdown, let me just say that the Paddles hit stores in late November and sold out in early December.  We still have a few stores here and there with a couple of Paddle sets and there are still a couple at HQ, but most of our retailers sold out within a few days.  For weeks now our phones have been ringing off the hook with store owners trying to reorder.  In one of our locations we were selling upwards of a hundred paddle sets a day.

All these things combined spell out a spectacular year on the horizon.  With some new energy, better prices, new products and one more year of experience for every Myachi Master in the company, I'll go out on a limb and say that in 2012 we're going to smash every sales record we've ever set.

Okay, so maybe that isn't all that "out on a limb".  After all, we smashed every previous record this year and those were the records we'd set the year before when we smashed all the records prior to that.  We've been growing for a long time... but now I think it's about time for us to explode.