Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne interviews the founder of Free RPG Day.
Given that Free Comic Book Day is winding down here, I started thinking about next month's Free RPG Day (always need to think about the next event).  Much like Joe Field and Free Comic Book Day, Aldo Ghiozzi of Impressions Advertising and Marketing is closely identified with Free RPG Day.  Actually, the relationship between Ghiozzi and FRPGD is even closer than Field and FCBD, as Ghiozzi's company handles solicitation and distribution of Free RPG Day materials.  Being a curious type, I emailed Ghiozzi with a few questions about Impressions and Free RPG Day.
Could you describe what Impressions is and what it does?  How does it differ from a company like PSI?
Impressions is definitely an odd beast.  Some call us a fulfillment company.  Some call us a distributor.  And many just pause when they try to describe us.  Long ago we were called consolidators because we consolidated the ordering and shipping for many companies under one roof.  Now, people keep saying we're a fulfillment house.  We are all of that.  I call us a "game distribution service company" because we are a service hired by game publishers to handle their distributor sales, shipping, and warehousing.  Fulfillment is part of that service, but really we only fulfill the orders we generate as sales for our clients.  In the end, if you're a game publisher and don't want to call all the hobby game distributors and retailers out there, we get that done for them.
In terms of differentiation from PSI, I could say some traditional answers about customer service and such, but I can definitely say PSI has their hands in the mass market a lot more than Impressions… and I'm OK with that.  Impressions is super focused on the hobby game market for hardcore 'geek' hobby games.  Coupled with that, I think we've become the go to place for new game publishers.
How did you get involved in the gaming industry?
In 1994, I decided to make a game with a friend of mine.  It was, of course, a part time thing and just like everyone else in the industry, we were gamers that had a passion for games.  Back then, I approached all the distributors myself on the phone during my day job and eventually I figured out I was a better sales person than game designer.  At the same time this was happening, one of the first consolidators in the industry, Wizard's Attic, was going out of business.  I made a deal with the owner to transfer folks to Impressions (a name I started for my generic ad agency) and that's that.  I have been doing Impressions fulltime since 2000.
What is Free RPG Day and why did you start it?
Free RPG Day is definitely in the same vein as the wildly successful Free Comic Book Day.  The goal is for publishers to get unique quickstart rules and/or adventures into the hands of gamers through local game stores.  I tend to say it was a day created to get gamers off their butts and into their game stores to interact with people!  The event actually started with Joseph Goodman from Goodman Games going over a list of ideas he had to market his game company.  Something like third on the list was what he called "Free Adventure Module Day."  I instantly said, "That's a horrible name.  We'll just call it Free RPG Day and I'll get it done through Impressions with our RPG clients only."  Very quickly I thought, I might as well ask other RPG publishers if they want in.  From there, we targeted 100 kits for 100 stores.  In 2007, we stretched it to 120 something kits to over 100 stores.  The next year I took a leap to budget for 500 kits and we did over 600 kits to over 400 stores worldwide.  This year, our budget is 700 kits to hopefully over 450 stores.
More next week.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of