Monday, March 23, 2015

Why I Went to the GTS and What I Found There



Just flew in from Vegas and boy, are my arms tired!  Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week, try the special.  Every year, when time for the GAMA Trade Show rolls around, I, along with many other retailers, ask myself if it is worth the money and the time away from the store. Making the decision this year was especially hard since, as I noted last week, with National Pi Day and the Dragons of Tarkir bracketing the event, I had to fly out instead of taking my usual road trip and I HATE to fly.
So was it worth it? A resounding “Yes”. Not for the seminars or the manufacturer presentations or even the Big Box (and I really hate to break it to GAMA but some of the stuff in there just ain’t gonna sell), though. As a friend pointed out, I can find out most of that information through the Interwebs, if I spend enough time.

 Nope, what makes it worth my time is the opportunity to hang out, talk with and (especially) listen to, the smartest people in the industry.  At meal times or just in the hall way or wandering around the exhibit hall, I will bump into someone who says something that gets me to view a game or product line differently or gives me an idea on how to improve the store. However, most people go there to look at new stuff, which is why the lines get so long outside the exhibit hall before it opens. I really didn’t see anything product wise that knocked my socks off (You may have found otherwise. Please send an email to ICV2 if you did), though I did notice the Donkey game people had moved to a less visible section of the exhibit hall and I never did spot Privateer Press. Oh, and WOTC really wants stores to up their look.  There were, however, two programs that interested me and one trend that has me a bit worried. This week, the two programs, later in the week,  the worrisome trend.

Program #1—Bits & Mortar.  Although this one has been around for a couple of years, I was glad to see publishers still supporting it. For those not familiar with B&M, it allows retailers to give their customer a free PDF of a participating RPG when the customer purchases a print copy. The customer buys the hard copy, gives the staff their email, and staff emails a link to the PDF. Pretty simple and I have lost track of the number of RPGs we have sold as a result of this program. The big drawback is that the participants are all small press publishers but it does not cost anything for stores to sign up and it can help sell RPGs from companies such as Cubicle 7, Evil Hat and Arc Dream. 

Program #2—Envoy Program. This program , on the other hand, debuted at the GTS. The program plans to provide stores with trained Heralds to demonstrate products from a large number of small press game companies.  Demonstrations are generally considered the best way to sell games but most small press companies do not have the resources to mount a viable demo program and most retailers have neither the time or staff to adequately demo the hundreds of games a store might carry.  The Envoy Program proposes to deal with these problems by providing Heralds (at no cost to retailers, I imagine there is some charge to the publishers) to visit stores to demo games from publishers participating in the program. The idea sounds great in theory but I would like more detail on the training the Heralds get, as I have seen some really good demo people over the years as well as some downright horrible demo people ( A really bad demonstration years ago is the reason I never played the Legend of the Five Rings TCG). I have high hopes for this and saw lots of signs at the GTS indicating smaller publishers had signed on with the program. On the company’s website, it shows over 40 companies have already signed up and just over 50 stores.  More information is available at www.dexposure.com/envoy.