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Behind the Counter

The GAMA Trade Show

by Marcus King
Apr 13,2005


The GAMA Trade Show

A Retailer's Working Vacation

The GAMA trade show (GTS) is hosted by the Game Manufacturers Association each year, and for the past several years it has been hosted in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year was no exception, and the show was held at the Riviera Hotel & Casino, right on the downtown strip in Vegas.

The Riviera is celebrating its 50th birthday this April, so the hotel is not a new, sparkly casino, but it does have some cool history - and the convention facilities were first rate. There was a large exhibitors hall with all the industries top companies (Topps/Wizkids, Upper Deck, Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro, Decipher and others) and 200 exhibiting companies, and over 540 retail stores were attending from 44 states. Over 2175 total attendees were at GTS. Both of these numbers are way up over 2004, and is another (I think this is 3) consecutive record years for GTS.

There were skyboxes overlooking the exhibitors hall that several publishers, and one retailer, had rented for the week, which acted as private meeting rooms and such. This year, Titan Games had both a skybox and a vendors booth. The skybox, just cause we thought it would be FUN - and the vendors booth because we do sell wholesale direct to retailers - but also, cause I wanted access to the exhibitors hall a day early. :)

But, we are mostly a retailer, and as a retailer, I was attending again for three reasons:

  1. Education.
  2. Information.
  3. Fun

The GTS event each hear showcases dozens of "seminars" which are, quite frankly, the best way for a retailer like me to get educated on topics ranging from personnel issues (Hiring and firing of employee's), to expansion (how to open stores number 2, 3 and beyond), how to sell comics in your game store, how to negotiate your lease, how to advertise - just about every topic is covered. The GAMA Retail Division (GRD) hosts and plans the seminars, and recruits speakers for the "classroom" discussions. Retailers like Dave & Kelli Wallace (who own 9 stores) and Jim Crocker (who owns one really cool store) as well as many other notable retailers gave their time and efforts at GTS to help educate retailers. I think this is commendable, and thank all of the wonderful retailers who gave of their time to benefit their fellow retail members. You Guys, and Gals: ROCK! For a retailer, GTS is a good show if all they do is show up and attend seminars. It is well worth the time away from their shops (EVEN if they had to close their shops to attend!) Just to attend those seminars is a HUGE benefit for any retailer.

Of course, GTS is not just seminars. There is this exhibitors hall, jam-packed with over a hundred exhibitors, ranging from Alliance, ACD, Blackhawk, Brockhurst, Premier, Game Board and other distributors - to Chessex, Crystal Caste, and Koplow dice manufactures. Just about everybody who is anybody in the GAME INDUSTRY is at GTS. There were so many publishers and exhibitors that if you took 10 minutes in each booth, you could NOT talk to everyone at the show in the three days the exhibitors hall was open.

Now, I mean no disrespect to WotC or WizKids or Upperdeck - but I skipped their booths. I know I am going to carry anything those guys make. I mean every title by all of those companies will be on my shelf. Plus, those companies already market their games so well, I know about their upcoming releases already.

So, instead I went to the GPA (Game Publishers Association) cooperative booth and spoke to every exhibitor there in more depth. Guys like Bill from Cabil - who produce some cool-ass terrain making software for table top miniatures and RPG gamers. I spoke to Ann from Grey Ghost Games - makers of FUDGE. I spoke to every publisher at the GPA booth, and this resulted in my deciding to bring in 4 new lines of products, and about 12 new titles. I also spent extra time at the Guardians of Order Booth, the Mongoose Publishing booth and the Green Ronin booths. These are three companies that do really well for me, and I wanted to talk to the owners personally and discuss their products.

As far as "information" goes, GTS had it all. Wow, I literally took 27 pages of notes at GTS while talking to publishers and manufacturers, attending seminars (and giving a couple seminars) and attending meetings on topics like "How to best carry and support board games" which was hosted by a fellow retailer, Steve Ellis. Honestly, that one meeting was worth the trip to GTS - I learned so much about board games and how to market and display and sell them that upon returning from GTS I completely tore out our board game display racks, and rebuilt our look.

GTS for me is a working vacation. My wife and I stay at her parents house, we cal it "The Davis Inn" and we "reserve" the room a year in advance. We get to play board games and cards with her parents in the evenings, and we actually stayed in Vegas for 10 days, so we could have extra time to hang out and party (of course, partying for the Kings is kinda like 2 doctor peppers, one beer, and staying up till 11 - we are kinda lame). But, we did walk the strip, see a couple shows, eat at some really cool restaurants, and did a "little" gambling - I think we lost $30 on slots the whole weekend.

We also got to have dinner with some dear friends (Mark and Doug), my wife got elected as Vice Chair of the GRD, we worked some really cool deals with some publishers (you will see more cool stuff on our website very soon) and had time to chit chat with several of our industry buddies.

Other highlights for us were: Greg, the IT guy for GAMA had the wireless internet working at GTS which really helped me stay in touch. Trey ran the seminar schedule like a champ - best seminar schedule and best attendance ever thanks to the work of the GRD guys and Trey, as well as the wonderful presenters. Mark Santillo and Paul Burdick (two more tireless GAMA folks) were available nearly 24 hours a day, and responsive to every need. Anthony Galella, the Executive Director (read: Main guy in charge) of GAMA runs a great crew. I just can't say enough positive about Anthony. He works really hard. He recruits and retains a tremendously talented staff, and he runs the show like nothing I have ever seen - and I have been to trade shows in 4 other industries, so I am not that easily impressed.

GAMA and GTS were really great this year, I can't wait to go to GTS 2006 - only 11 months away. We've already booked our rooms at the Davis Inn, but if you want to find out more about GTS, then visit the GAMA website at: http://www.gama.org

Marcus King
Titan Games

In early March, Marcus King was appointed as the Vice President of GAMA, replacing Doug Ferguson who resigned due to a promotion at his company. GAMA Elections are held at ORIGINS GAME CONVENTION each year, and the VP position is a 1-year term. Marcus is a voting member of GAMA as a publisher - he and his wife Laurel publish the industry Magazine: CONTEMPORAL MAG - which is a convention listing publication.

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What do you think?

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All Counter Talk columns by Marcus King

  • On Discounting by Marcus King, 15dec05
  • Think Different by Marcus King, 11oct05
  • GENCON, August, and TitanGames by Marcus King, 29aug05
  • Another Month at Titan Games by Marcus King, 06jul05
  • The Past Week at TitanGames by Marcus King, 10may05
  • The GAMA Trade Show by Marcus King, 13apr05
  • Con Jobs by Marcus King, 08mar05
  • Don't Skip The Retailer by Marcus King, 11feb05
  • How To Open Your Own Game Store by Marcus King, 14jan05
  • The Christmas Crunch by Marcus King, 22dec04
  • Light at the End of the Convention Tunnel by Marcus King, 15nov04
  • What It Takes To Open a Game Store by Marcus King, 15oct04
  • The Big 3 by Marcus King, 13sep04
  • Discoveries by Marcus King, 11aug04
  • Con-Man by Marcus King, 19jul04
  • Turmoil by Marcus King, 16jun04
  • Business is Business by Marcus King, 12may04
  • GAMA On! by Marcus King, 09mar04
  • On A Serious Note by Marcus King, 10feb04
  • Predictions for 2004 by Marcus King, 20jan04
  • Game Retailer or Game Club? by Marcus King, 11dec03
  • The Weather Changes... by Marcus King, 11nov03
  • The Deluge of Dead Products by Marcus King, 14oct03
  • The Conventional by Marcus King, 11sep03
  • Solutions to Problems and Good Feelings by Marcus King, 11aug03
  • Two weeks in the life of a retailer by Marcus King, 16jul03
  • In Store Gaming, and our love-hate relationship with it by Marcus King, 12jun03
  • Raising a Good Retailer by Marcus King, 28apr03
  • The customer is always right (right?) by Marcus King, 02apr03
  • Introductions by Marcus King, 24mar03
  • Jumping the Grand Canyon with Pikachu and Friends December 20, 1999
  • GTS'99 April 20, 1999

    Other columns at RPGnet

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