VIVA LAS VEGAS!!!
MOSEYING ON INTO TOWN
Murph hits Las Vegas wearing his classic Midnight Riders campaign T-shirt.
The Game Manufacturers Association Trade Show (GTS), was held this year from March 14-17th at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Naturally when the idea was mentioned, Co-Author and Co-founder Mike Murphy raised his hand to “volunteer” to attend.
“A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” He said while trying to keep from breaking out in a grin.
This was Hawgleg’s first year at the convention, and the motive behind the trip was simple. With the release of Gutshot in Feb. at Owlcon, the main focus of co-authors Mike Mitchell, and Mike Murphy was to corral US distributors to get their product onto the shelves of retailers and into the hands of players.
“The GAMA trade show is the game manufacturers trade show for the year. It’s where all the major companies and distributors come to show off their products and to get buyers,” Mitchell said.
PRESSED FOR SPACE
In the past, the GTS had been held at the Orleans. But, as the trade show grew in popularity, the event quickly outgrew their capability to handle the convention. “Each year this thing gets bigger and bigger. If it keeps up, it will become one of the larger conventions in Vegas in the next five years or so,” Murphy speculated.
This year the GTS took up the majority of the convention space at the Riviera Hotel and Casino. Even with the size of Las Vegas, getting hotel rooms wasn’t a cheap and easy process.
“The GTS this year had to contend with two other major activities at the same time; the Con Am Expo, which is a convention for heavy duty Construction equipment, and the NASCAR week for the Race in Vegas. NASCAR changed their schedule at the last minute to keep the races in Vegas and California from being back to back, and these two things really put a crunch on hotel rooms. If you were going to plan to go to GAMA next year, I would say to start looking at rooms in October / November,” Murphy said.
The GTS opened bright and early on Monday morning to long lines of on site registration. The majority of the day was taken up in meetings, lectures, and seminars -- all relating to the game industry at all levels.
“If you want to learn to create, design, sell, or manufacture games, then this is the place to be. If you want to learn how to open and run a game store, or a convention, then these lectures will cover the information you need so you can do it right and you don’t lose your shirt,” Murphy said.
Throughout the week, Mike attended the convention as a “buyer.” This allowed him to deal more directly with the manufacturers, distributors, and dealers, and get more inside information on the industry.
“It also allows me to attend the dinners and breakfasts,” He added with a sneaky smile.
Tuesday brought the full day and weight of the convention down upon everyone.
The Trade Floor opened, and was filled with buyers and potential customers.
|THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
The GTS Trade Floor (Left and Right) BEFORE the doors were opened! Taken from the Skybox.
Walking the Trade Show floor took a lot of effort as the size of it finally hit home.
“This thing is growing each year,” Murphy commented. “According to GAMA officials, there are only eight hotels in Las Vegas that have the convention space -- and economically priced rooms -- to host this show, and they are looking at a 50% expansion next year. If this keeps up, it’ll be in the Las Vegas Convention Center in the next 3-5 years!”
“SMILE WHEN YUH SAY THAT, PARDNUH!”
One of the highlights of the show was the display by Kenzer and company of their new RPG “Aces and Eights.” Jolly, and the rest of the Kenzer and Co. Crew were dressed in Western Garb and had a full-fledged Whitewash City town laid out.
Despite the presence of the Kenzer and Co. Game display, Mike conferred with Jolly, and then called up Mitchell, who is a long-time KODT/Kenzer Co. fan.
“We don’t see it as competition of any sort,” Mitchell said referring to the fact that Kenzer is also promoting a Wild West game. “Kenzer is pushing the RPG aspect of this very hard, while we are pushing the miniatures version of ours very hard. Interestingly enough, they look like they could play out and compliment each other.”
Mike nodded, adding that “Jolly’s done a pretty good job, and it goes to show what a person can do when he wants a western town.” The meeting ended with a photo of Mike and Jolly, side by side.
WATCH WHERE YOU POINT THAT THING!!!
Jolly Blackburn of Kenzer and Company gets careless with a Colt Revolver next to Mike at the GTS.
One of the main surprises (and a pleasant one at that) was when Mike met with Alexander Fennell and Dave Young of Mongoose Publishing. The topic of the discussion was UK distributors, when suddenly Alex looked at Murphy’s badge and exclaimed, “HEY! You guys make GUTSHOT!!!”
Mike nodded his head slowly and looked for a quick exit (wondering if, yet again, his tumultuous past was finally catching up with him).
“Yessss…” He replied quietly.
“My Studio Lead, Ian Barstow LOVES western games, and told us that if we were to see you, to see if we could get him a copy!”
Relieved that this wasn’t one of his ex-girlfriends’ brothers, Murphy happily engaged in conversation and even personalized a copy of the book that was signed by himself and Mike Mitchell. Alex was pleased and said that Ian would be thrilled.
Even though it had only been out a month, it seemed that Gutshot was becoming known.
“I called Mike and told him about it, and even he seemed very amazed
at this event,” Murphy said.
SWAG, CELL PHONE REPORTS, AND PRESSING
As the convention progressed, it was also necessary to remind oneself that the game industry ISN’T all fun and games, (no pun intended). Murphy’s main job was to get in touch with US distributors. By the end of the second day things were looking well.
“We’ve got one that is ready to deal with us, and a couple of more maybes. The one that is ready is going to probably be our main distributor for right now. They’ve been highly recommended.”
Additionally, Mongoose Press gave Murphy and Mitchell the references they were looking for regarding a certain UK distributor.
“While GTS was in full swing, we were contacted by a distributor in the United Kingdom about carrying Gutshot. When we asked for references, they mentioned Mongoose Publishing, who had nothing but raves for the people in the UK,” Mitchell said. “We will be making an announcement very soon about this deal!”
Each day, and evening Mike made at least two phone calls to Mike Mitchell who was manning the fort back in Houston. As important information was received, Mike passed it on back to the home base.
Strangely enough, the message system went both ways.
“When Mike told me that we were having talks with a UK distributor, I was blown away. I couldn’t believe it. I was afraid that it was going to be hard to walk into here and find the first US distributor, but with a UK one backing us, it gives us a little more wind in our sails,” Murphy said.
“I hadn’t even expected this to happen this quickly. Mitchell
is doing a fantastic job of getting this going!” he added.
Realizing that meeting distributors didn’t mean instant deals, Murphy kept up the job of networking with buyers and service reps.
“The main job here is to get in their face, shake their hand, tell them that you want THEM to be your distributor, and then to follow up the next week to get the account running. That’s the main reason I am here. See the guy eye to eye, and know who we are dealing with. So far it’s been a fantastic experience.”
As with most conventions, there were copious amounts of Free Samples being handed out – or in other words, “CONVENTION SWAG. Needless to say, the “Murph Man” loaded up on his share.
“This was a great year. I got so much this year that I just quit taking it. I had no room left to pack it!”
As the convention began to close on its last day, feedback was accepted in a session with the GTS staff. Most of the feedback was complimentary with only a few suggestions/complaints.
“The main complaint was the lack of rooms, and the prices charged. Once again this went back to the schedule conflict with NASCAR and the ConAm Expo. My suggestion was to put on their page to book early.” Mike said.
As the convention ended with “lessons learned,” Murphy sent word to Mitchell that, “judging by the look of it, and the lectures/seminars, and dealings, Hawgleg was looking like it was doing everything right. Specifically, we were following their advice about getting the word out, using our Website effectively, and maintaining a visible, active presence in the gaming community.”
Mitchell said that news, in particular, is very gratifying.
“I’m really pleased to hear that from an outside source,” he said, adding that, “I think that next year we will be at the GTS in full force. “
Murphy agreed. “It’s something that we both need to be here
for, and I encourage anyone in the gaming industry to attend.”
APOLOGY FROM MIKE MITCHELL: I’m very sorry it took me so long
for me to get Murphy's GAMA Report posted. The usual culprits (work, family,
stampedes, etc.) delayed me getting this story online. It's definitely
not Murphy's fault. He had this done right after he got back. As I humbly
hold my Stetson in hand, I implore ya’ll to forgive me.. and please,
put away that rope!
-- Mike Mitchell, May 11, 2005