Back in the U.R.R.S.

Nicole and I are back from the GAMA Trade Show. By the time we got home we were both exhausted and Nicole was sick as well. I had slept badly for the whole show, then Thursday night I stayed up talking and drinking until nearly 5 am and had to get up three hours later. I fell asleep last night at 9 pm, unable to stay awake for the conclusion of the Iron Chef, and then slept in my clothes for 12 solid hours. I guess I was tired.

GTS went very well. The GAMA politics were a lot less bloody than I suspected they might be, so my fears of a pall hanging over the show were largely unfounded (though I have never seen so many people studiously ignoring each other at this show before either). Even more surprisingly, there was a punk rock show happening Thursday night, so I closed GTS by seeing the Dropkick Murphys. They played at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay, which is a weird ass place to see a punk show. Nonetheless, they were excellent, and watching the casino patrons gawk as the punks spilled out amongst the slot machines was pretty entertaining.

Tuesday morning we co-hosted a breakfast with several other companies. They moved the event into a bigger venue this year, so while last year I talked to 400 people or so, this year it was nearly double that. While I went a bit overtime, it went off very well and several retailers told me it was the best presentation they saw at GTS, which was nice. We had lots of interest in the Red Star and Blue Rose too. The latter was somewhat surprising, since we haven’t done a great job of marketing it, but retailers were very interested in the game and that bodes well. We got a copy of the Nocturnals book flown over from China too, so we could show that off at the booth. It looks terrific and we got many compliments, which will hopefully lead to increased pre-orders.

Despite all the great feedback we got though, it was hard to escape the feeling that the industry as a whole is in a bit of a slump. The consensus seems to be that there are two major problems. First, the economy is weak, thanks to our Fearful Leader. Second, nothing has replaced Yu-Gi-Oh as the “the big thing.” Thus retailers don’t have as much discretionary income to spend on things like RPGs. If this is true, I fear what it means for the current game industry. What if there is no next new big thing? Are we institutionally reliant on the profits generated by games like Magic, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh? That doesn’t seem like a good foundation for our industry. You can’t predict hit games like that and you certainly can’t rely on them. All indications are that 2004 is going to be a lackluster year for the industry generally (though obviously there will be individual success stories) and there are certain to be casualties, especially amongst roleplaying publishers. It’s not a coincidence that Green Ronin did a card game last year and is doing some board games this year. Other companies have had the same idea. Fiery Dragon, for instance, who started as a d20 publisher, are doing some cool-looking wargames in small tins. They were nice enough to give me their Spanish Civil War game and I look forward to checking it out.

The game I’m most excited about getting is Memoir ’44 by Days of Wonder. It’s a WW2 game by Richard Borg that uses the same system as Avalon Hill’s Battle Cry, a Civil War game that came out a few years ago. Battle Cry is one of the few boardgames I’ve played extensively over the last few years and I really like its simplicity and robustness. A WW2 version sounds great to me.

I need to scrounge up some lunch now, but I’ll get the food part of the trip later. Oh, and if you aren’t a Red Star fan, don’t let the title of today’s entry confuse you. It stands for “United Republics of the Red Star.”

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