The GAMA Report: What's Going On In The World Of Gaming?
For some time, I have wanted to write a few articles on what it's like to be on the other side of the counter - as the storeowner, not a player. Having recently crossed that boundary, I think I'm in a prime position to do so. There are many things that could be covered, such as etiquette and so forth... But to start, I have the opportunity to detail my attendance at the GAMA convention.
GAMA is the Game Manufacturers Association, and once a year they hold a trade show to allow the manufacturers to show off their completely new games and tell the world what future plans they have for their older games. The event has seven years of history - and while it has been held in New Orleans and Florida, it now has a home in Las Vegas, where it will probably remain at the Orleans hotel and casino.
There were some early problems with this year's show. First of all, attendance exploded, and I heard that there were three times as many attendees as at the convention last year, with a jump from around 800 to around 2,400 people showing for the event. Wiz Kids games was probably most responsible for this, luring folks to the event with an Aurora-Class Dropship giveaway to promote their MechWarrior game.
Further complicating the logistics with these numbers was the fact that almost one thousand attendees registered on site, as opposed to pre-registering. This made for many a long line, and there was quite a wait to be seated for the meal and meeting offerings. To be kind to the GAMA organization, they responded beautifully to the initial chaos by rapidly getting things in fine order and everything was run very smoothly after an initial hiccup on Day One.
Ah, Vegas. My wife and I lived the life. I had almost too many free drinks, ate well, and gambled too much. I won money at Texas Hold 'Em and lost it everywhere else. I will say that winning at Hold 'Em will make you really feel like a card player! I took my Ultra Pro case full of Magic decks, but did not ever get around to hauling it out as there was too much to do and too much to see. I did see people occasionally sitting around and playing Magic, but I believe that most folks felt much like I did and were content to see what all the manufacturers had to offer and demo new games.
Wizards of the Coast and Magic the Gathering
I guess I should tell you what we learned about the grandfather of all card games. Some of it has slipped out already.
Mirrodin is moving the setting to a new plane. There wasn't any elaboration on the subject but the game is changing location. Daniel Crane has written about this and its possibilities, and I suggest that you check it out.
Mirrodin is also supposed to"Bring back themes the players have been clamoring for." I'd really like to tell you that there was more info than this... But there wasn't. What themes have you been clamoring for? What themes have we the players been clamoring for? Feel free to tell me, because I haven't noticed what they are.
Mirrodin is also supposed to"Introduce the first new card type since Legends." Again, no details were brought forth at the event besides the stripped-down statement.
There is supposed to be a"new spin on the Magic world." Well, I'm sure we all can't wait to see what this is... But we will.
I guess I was hoping to be more of an insider, like Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar has been - but as a new retailer, I will tell you that they treat us more like players than as real insiders.
Wizards has planned a huge push with 8th Edition, which they are labeling the"Core" game. To alleviate confusion with new players, who sometimes thought that they needed to purchase every base set, design is eliminating the 8th edition logo from all of the outside packaging and replacing it with a large version of the word"Core." The 8th logo will still appear on the cards.
The"Core" game starter set will again have a starter box, boosters, and theme decks. The starter box will include a CD tutorial with a lead in to Magic Online or Magic Online. Wizards made strong claims that MODO is pulling in new players from the video game market and that around one third of those new players buy cardboard Magic.
As a small retailer, I was wondering where those sales were generated, as I would think that they may be shifted towards online purchases - most notably, direct purchases from the Wizards website. For me, this idea is further complicated by the Magic Online Worlds invite; from a retailer perspective, Magic Online was fine as long as a line was kept between the high-level tournament play and the online game. Magic Online players who wanted to really test their skills would have to commit to the cardboard and thus were more likely to buy at retail. The new"rules" have diminished this necessity, and I think are bordering on hurting the brick-and-mortar establishments.
To get back to Wizards' 8th edition plans, I can tell you that they are planning on having a huge blowout promotion for the new game, much like a prerelease. There are going to be promo items sent to the stores and the company has contacted Guinness to try and establish a record for the size of the gameplay during the festivities.
The sessions I attended were ended with question-and-answer sessions. Some folks, of course, voiced their displeasure over the new 8th edition art. Their reply is that they are committed to the design and it can not be changed. Most of the other questions were about as meaningful and I cannot remember much about them.
To end, much of what was said we already basically new. The game continues to grow with new players and more sales all of the time. Onslaught and Legions have been record setting sets and they believe the game will continue to set sales records with Mirrodin.
Both Ultra Pro and Dragon Shields were there, showing their wares. Both companies have recently upped their color selections, and I was happy to preview some purple and silver sleeves from Dragon Shield and take a look at many colors of deck boxes from Ultra Pro. Also making a splash was Rook, with their ultra-sturdy metal deck boxes and carrying cases. They showed off new artwork deck cases with artwork by Glen Angus as well as others. Khalsa Brain was there as well, and they have a new Magic playmat that is without artwork.
MLB Showdown is growing at a phenomenal rate, which should continue. There were three times as many tourneys in 2002 as there were the year before and sales of the new product are above production. I believe the initial printing has sold out and the 2003 product debut is selling out with distributors. Again, Wizards has a focus on bringing new players into card games, and this game is doing that. I was told that the company has a deal with a major hitting trainer manufacturer to demo the game along with their product, and that at a recent one-day demo session the company sold three hundred-plus starter decks.
I personally asked about NFL Showdown, which has had a rocky run. Many of you will know that the game's original card scanner was downright awful. Further complicating things was the fact that the second version was improved, which made for a really good game, but very few people knew about this. I only stumbled on the upgrade info in some obscure way, on an out of the way website. At the convention, I was told that the company is still looking at the game, but is concerned about the high starting price point that the card reader requires. I was told that they are perhaps looking at doing a version that would do away with the reader and, I would guess, use dice and charts for outcomes much like MLB. I hope not, as the 2003 version was generating some interest in my store and I was planning on trying to run a league this fall.
Before I left for Vegas I had begun to notice that even my hardcore Magic players had taken to pulling down the chessboards and looking at other diversions in between rounds and before and after tournaments. After all, one can't play Magic all the time right?
Okay, okay - I know some of you can, but many others like a small diversion here or there, and so I'll detail some of the things I saw or played that I liked. As I say, because of the happenings in my shop I was generally looking for small quick games that offered a break from the usual fare.
At the top of the list is the CCG Don: Continuing Criminal Enterprise by MythIntentions. This card game is based on replicating the bloody Mafioso underworld of gang warfare, and does so with flair and solid game mechanics. The cards are printed in simple black and white, but the fine photographic work and color scheme evoke an excellent film noir feeling. Of note is that the game lets you spend money to draw cards, so that its function feels often like playing Necro decks of old. I immediately picked up on this idea and drew cards aggressively. The games designers said that I was somewhat out of the norm of playtesters in my early aggressive play. Being that this"Necro" like action functions for both players all the time makes for some interesting strategy and decisions based on resource management.
The game obviously contains adult themes, with vices that produce money and a long list of"heavies" from pimps and prostitutes to wise guys and hit men. The game is currently scheduled for a May release.
Crypt: The Pharaoh's Curse by Line of Sight games is a fun little game where you take on the role of an explorer trapped in an ancient tomb. The gameplay is solid, with many action cards for one of the six available characters and the game offers a high amount of interesting replay based on the fact that the gameboard is created from hexagonal shaped pieces that you draw and place from a stack. The object is to find both a Key from your action stack and the exit hex from the board stack, and then roll doubles on two six-sided dice to escape. Along the way the adventurers can fight both each other and also the random monsters created by the game. A further description of this game appeared in Scrye #55 on page 18.
Battle of the Bands, by Smif Ink and Third World games, is somewhat of a rummy-style game where players take on the persona of band leader and via for record contracts and attempt to win"Gigs" where they go head-to-head to win over both the crowd and record execs. The game mixes some adult themes with humor, and pulls it off fairly well. In our first game we witnessed our robot drummer come down with a disease usually reserved for more mortal and sexy folk. Again, this could be a nice little diversion for after you've gone 0-2 drop.
I didn't pay a lot of attention to the many roleplaying game products, because I currently have very little business in that area. If I had, however, I would have picked up a copy of Starchildren: Velvet Generation by XIG Games. The game's theme of rock-and-roll aliens that have come to a future earth where rock is outlawed seems very appealing. I did take a peek at the books, and the production and artwork was of high quality. Hey, who wouldn't like to be a rock and roll alien sometimes?
The following game won't be out for a year or so, and it seems rather family-oriented - but"Seasons," Dust Bunny Games' rummy-like multideck card game, was another big winner in my book. The game has fantastic colorful artwork, and adds a layer onto the rummy theme that makes for some very deep and strategic gameplay. Basically, there are added points for creating sets and runs that are"in season," and Seasons uses things like"Holidays" and Wild Cards to add bonus points and deeper strategy. Furthermore, you one can"capture" cards from an opponent's deck, which you keep until the game ends. In playing in the demo, I found myself actually quite astounded that such a simple-looking game really held a mind boggling array of possible plays and strategies. It will be awhile, but see if you can't remember it when it comes out.
Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, ???
I'm here to tell you that the game that generated the biggest was Wiz Kids' forthcoming Creepy Freaks. The game is another in the line of click-based figurine games by the company, but this one is marketed for kids - and the company is planning a cartoon to air on television to go with the game. A demo of the 'toon at the show had those in attendance in an uproar, and had to have an encore be played. The basis of the game is that your gross character figs - with the likes of"Frosty the Snotman" and"Monster Under the Bed" - have to outgross those of your opponent. The game takes toilet humor for kids to a whole new level. It will be huge - huge, I tell you!
Speculate. Invest. Play. Have Fun.
Green Dragon Games
1691C Rock Road
DeSoto MO 63020