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 shares some of his observations from GAMA Trade Show, and the trip.

Driving back from this year’s GAMA Trade Show, (the last one in Las Vegas, as shows for the foreseeable future will move to Reno, great for stores in the western part of the US, not so convenient for those in the Midwest and East, but since most of the other trade shows are in those regions, it makes sense to keep it there) gave me some time to think about what I saw and heard there:

Several noticeable absences from the exhibit hall—Though Wizards of the Coast and Steve Jackson Games both made presentations during the manufacturer track, neither had booths to meet with retailers who did not make it to one of them.  I only spend one day in the exhibit hall so may have missed them but did not see Wood Expressions or Chessex.  Nested Egg, which makes a very nice line of playmats, also didn’t have a booth, but I found out later that the hall had sold out by the time the company was able to make sure they had time in the schedule to attend.

New Companies in the exhibit hall—As mentioned above, the hall sold out, meaning lots of demand by companies to exhibit there.  Goodman Games, which publishes the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG and a line of print adventures compatible with Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, had a booth for the first time in over a decade, joining a surprisingly long list of RPG publishers attending.  Attending for the first time were Norse Foundry, which produces a surprisingly affordable line of metal and gemstone polyhedral dice, and Golden Distribution, joining the other five, by my count, distributors in attendance.

MAP—Two companies announced they were setting MAPs (Minimum Advertised Price) on their products:  Iello at 20% and Games Workshop at 15%.  A MAP is the lowest price on a product that a seller may advertise without being in violation of any agreement they have with the publisher.  For example, Amazon or any other online retailer that discounts extensively could not advertise on their website a copy of a $49.99 (MSRP) game published by Iello for less than $39.99. Along with their announcement of MAP, Games Workshop also announced the end of their ban on online sales of their products through a shopping cart. Henceforth, subject to their agreements with Games Workshop, stores will be able to sell GW products through a website, but for no less than the 15% MAP.

Programming—There were a number of good presentations on various aspects of retail operations.  The ones that stood out to me were on the café model (filled room, apparently a lot of stores are intrigued by the possibility of adding on food and/or drinks to their existing operation), making money off your game room (again, very well attended as lot of stores offer play space but would like to see a ROI from it), game rental programs, using social media more effectively, SWOT analysis and USP, and contingency planning.  This last one convinced me my operations manual needs a complete overhaul.

Speaking of contingency planning, those who have read RFI for several years know that I combine a road trip along Route 66 with the show and draw some example of marketing or business from the trip.  This year, when I passed through San Jon, New Mexico and Glenrio, Texas, the importance of contingency planning struck me.  As you can see from the pictures, taken mid-afternoon on a Friday, there are empty four lane highways through the center of each.  During the heyday of Route 66, both towns had populations of a couple of thousand people and the traffic through each was such that four lanes were needed to alleviate the congestion.

However, with the development of the Interstate Highway System, both towns were bypassed, with only one exit at each, meaning drivers exiting there would have to turn around and return to the exit to get back on the interstate.  It was now easier for drivers to pass by and head to a town further down the freeway.  Things won’t always stay the same and we need to plan now for the future.

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