My experience with the GAMA Trade Show

March 28, 2016

las-veagas Las Vegas is not my town. Despite me running a small business whose purpose should probably be to get as many people as possible to buy my product, the whole consumer culture of America gets to me sometimes. And in no other place is it more on display than in Las Vegas. Everyone is trying to sell you something. You walk down the Strip and get handed flyers for all kinds of garbage. Sex, happiness, beauty - it's all for sale. You are even sold the very idea of getting rich. Put your money in that slot machine and maybe, just maybe, you'll walk away with more money than you started. I suppose consumerism is everywhere, but there is just something about the raw, in-your-face nature to it in Las Vegas. There's just one shiny coat of paint between you and the raging id of capitalism. It just makes me uncomfortable. Plus everything is super-expensive. And I guess that idea of expenses is what gets me to question whether it was actually worth it to attend GAMA a couple weeks ago. Set in a town trying to squeeze as much money out of me as possible, did the benefits of going to the trade show outweigh the costs? It's a difficult question to answer. First let's look at the benefits. They're hard to gauge mainly because you are not dealing with direct customer sales. I had a booth, but the purpose was not to sell attendees games. The attendees were mostly retail store owners, so it was more about selling them on the idea of selling the game to their customers. Two days of sitting at a convention booth with no real feedback on how well I'm doing can be a little rough. Plus, if it wasn't obvious from the opening paragraphs, I'm not very skilled at hawking my wares in the first place. I mostly just stood there, smiling and saying "Hi" to people, waiting for them to approach me. The one time I tried to actively engage someone as they were walking by, it was incredibly awkward and probably not very productive. It's a problem that is totally on me. I love talking about my games, but I'm just not good at spontaneously getting people actually interested in talking to me about them. I'm much better at winning over a captive audience. For the future, now I know that I need to bring someone along to complement my lack of skills in this area. There were some captive audiences, though, and I feel those went well. I got to give two 10-minute presentations about Forge War and Gloomhaven to an audience of about 30 retailers each. I think I dropped some jaws regarding the size and scale of Gloomhaven. When you say "$120 MSRP," you gotta be prepared to back it up. Kickstarter Box v2 - No Background That sort of gets into another issue, though, with the question of whether I even need to try and sell Gloomhaven at all. Forge War definitely. I've got 1500 copies of that in a warehouse and selling more of them is always a good thing. With Gloomhaven, though, I am going to print as many of those suckers as I can, and I'm pretty sure that whatever reasonable amount I am able to print, they will all sell rather quickly no matter what I do. Maybe they won't, though. Maybe $120 will scare off a lot of retailers and me justifying the price to them was time well spent. I think the larger benefit of the show, however, was just the experience I received and connections I made. Again, I'm not a super-social person, but I felt like talked to a lot of cool people - most of them fellow publishers with a lot more knowledge than me. And just being in the belly of the beast, observing the cogs turn, I feel like I gained a lot of insight into the business as a whole. It's hard to exactly put that insight into words - it could probably be an entirely separate blog post - but there is a lot more to this industry than just Kickstarter campaigns (in fact, "KIckstarter" was kind of a dirty word at the show). Of course, you may be able to make a living just running Kickstarter campaigns, but it's helpful to see the other side of the business in order to figure out how much effort you are willing to put towards getting into the thick of it. Right now I go through a distribution broker and it makes everything pretty easy, but there are always other avenues to take. As for the costs? Well, aside from the monetary costs of hotels, booth space, food, airfare, and other transportation, the bigger issue ended up being losing an entire week of development on Gloomhaven. The project rages on and demands every scrap of time I have in order to get it done in a timely manner, and losing a whole week to the GAMA Trade Show just made me feel terrible. I tried to get some scenarios written in the evenings, but it proved a little difficult. Considering this game has been in non-stop development for over a year, maybe a single week isn't that big a deal, but it's still hard, and it still contributed toward the delays we've experienced. I just want to get this game made and get it out there into the world. So was going to the GAMA Trade Show worth it? I think it was, but I don't know if I'll go back next year. I guess Las Vegas helped me realize that making games is what I am passionate about. Getting down into the heart of capitalism and actually selling them, however - that comes at a distant second.

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