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.  Columnist Scott Thorne, who shared his initial impressions from GAMA Trade Show last week (see "Rolling for Initiative--Three and a Half Questions Answered"), shares four macro observations on the show this week.

I wanted to make a few more comments on this year's GAMA Trade show while my thoughts still remain fresh (for those of you waiting on marketing on Route 66, I promise next week). Four things especially caught my attention:

GAMA -- Very well organized show.  The GAMA Retailer Division lined up a number of superb seminars aimed at new and existing stores and in several cases, the manufacturer presentations were standing room only, especially Steve Jackson Games and WizKids.  Moving three publisher presentations to the much larger ballroom was a good idea.  The GRD annual meeting ran smoothly and comparatively quickly, with most retailers remaining for the Power Retailer Awards (though I still wish they would find another name for them) and elections while Executive Director John Ward gave the most rousing keynote address I have heard at GTS.  Kudos to all.

1.  Absences -- As noted last week, Wizards of the Coast was striking in its absence from the exhibit hall.  Also notable for its absence was Chessex Manufacturing which has had a table at the front of the room for years.  Although I heard they had representatives at the show, I did not see any presence from either Geek & Sundry/TableTop or Double Exposure.

2.  Organized Play -- This year had even more Organized Play Programs than ever.  WizKids emphasized the change of its WizKids Event System to the WizKids Info Network, which will provide a one-stop source for WK information.  Asmodee announced a second year of Asmoplay programs, while Slugfest Games and White Wizard Games promoted OP for Red Dragon Inn and Star Realms respectively.  Even Publisher Services Inc. (PSI), best known in the industry for handling representation for several game companies to the mass market, announced an OP and marketing program targeted at the hobby game retailer.  The most surprising OP announcement had to be that of Games Workshop, which had ended its OP programs several years ago, but came back in a big way, announcing the Tank Shock OP series of events, the first in a quarterly OP program.  First offered to retailers attending the GTS, the Tank Shock kits had sold out by the end of the weekend.

3.  Distributors and Support Products -- Besides PSI and Impressions (which focuses on fulfillment and marketing), I counted at least seven other distributors with booths set up. What truly struck me was the number of companies offering support and supplementary product lines and services.  There were industry stalwarts such as Witten Financial, Cynergy Data, Off World Designs, TCGplayer and Crystal Commerce, but there were also a lot of companies offering ancillary products for stores such as Dapper Devil, Inked Playmats, GamerMats, Nested Egg Gaming, Gamer Chic and Foam Brain Games. Oomba tournament software, which promises to facilitate running tournaments for dozens of game systems, attracted lots of attention as did Grex Airbrush.  Adventure Scents offered a really unusual product, appropriate scents for gaming sessions such as Moldy Tomb and Smoky Campfire.  Another stand-out product was  Gamergy energy drinks, which didn't have a booth but offered free samples of their caffeine and sugar free drinks during Wednesday’s open gaming.

All in all, a very good show and well worth the time.  Already looking forward to next year.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of