GAMA Fall Meeting Report
Day 1, September 20, 2004
The Riviera Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas
I would like to thank the GAMA board for welcoming me to the meeting and making a special effort to include me and to bring me up to date on items that had been discussed prior to my arrival.
I had originally planned to arrive shortly after noon on Monday, but my flight from Seattle was delayed due to fog and then for mechanical problems. Once I arrived at the Riviera, I did not have the time or location and had to search out the meeting, so I did not join the Monday session until about 3:45 pm.
In attendance when I arrived Monday were: GAMA President Don Perrin, Treasurer Mark Mackinnon, Secretary Brian Dalrymple, Wholesale Division representative Stan Sord, Retail Division representative Gabriel Vega, at-large board members Will Niebling, Martin Stever, Phil Lacefield, GAMA Ambassador Rick Loomis and the GAMA staff (Exhibitor Sales and Services Associate Paul Burdick, Operations Director Anthony Gallela, Program Manager Mark Santillo, Marketing Manager Christine Brucker, Bookkeeper Sue Sherwood, Operations Assistant Jodie Panzeri, and IT Engineer Greg Hacke).
Documents I received over the course of the meeting include: the GAMA 2005 Marketing Outline and the GAMA 2005 Advertising Strategy Plan, originally put together by John Phythyon and amended by Christine Brucker; the Origins 2005 Planning Document prepared by Mark Santillo; the GAMA Secretarys Report, which included the motions passed by the GAMA Board of Directors since Origins; a proposal for replacing the GAMA office server, prepared by Greg Hacke; the minutes of the June 27th Board meeting, the GTS 2005 tentative schedule; a proposal for a GAMA Artwork Program and GAMA Game Training Manuals from the GRD.
The topic of discussion upon my arrival was Origins and Events planning. The staff feels the Program Manager needs an Events Assistant. Options such as bringing in temporary labor for "season spikes" or converting knowledgeable volunteers were brought up, but the staff feels strongly that another full-time, permanent body is ultimately going to be needed in order to increase efficiency in the office and make convention exhibitors and attendees happy by increasing accuracy in events listings and reducing snafus. Currently one person manages all 3800+ events. Poorly performing technology also contributes to inefficiency, and the IT engineer is addressing that side of things.
During this discussion, Martin Stever argued strongly several times that services and events, especially related to Origins, be "tossed overboard" in an effort to save both money and staff time and the staff argued that there are very few such "extras" that can be dropped that would provide any significant time or money savings. The Exhibitor Sales and Services Associate felt that there was growth to be had and argued against measures such as cutting the Origins pre-reg book or converting it to a PDF and requested that he be given a clear sales goal to work toward.
The idea of having people write their own names on their Origins badges rather than printing badges was brought up as another potentially "big time saver" but the IT engineer reported that GenCons move to do that seems to have cost them somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 badges that were unaccounted for.
Will Niebling asked about the fees to attend seminars and was told that seminars are open to attendees at no additional fee, except the War College which costs $3. The staff reported no significant costs for running seminars, outside of the volunteer coordinator. Will then asked if seminars were monitored to be sure that seminar attendees were paid badge-holding attendees, and wants to look closely to be sure Origins seminars are generating revenue.
Santillo reported the art show was successfully launched this year and was expected to generate a significant return of participants form the professional community. Don Perrin expressed concern that the consulting coordinator, Ed Beard, might not be able to bring in names like Larry Elmore to the art show, and it was agreed that Ken Whitman (Elmores representative) would be invited to participate as a consultant alongside Ed Beard.
The Origins auction generated $4,000 in revenue, but still needs to be adjusted. The team are dropping the auction store and are focusing on both onsite credit card processing and getting an online interface in place to encourage people to submit items to the auction in advance. In 2004 the auction had between 80 and 90 sellers and about 200 registered buyers. Martin Stever expressed concerns about staff time spent on programs like the Origins auction.
The lack of Games Workshops presence for table top games was felt this year, and the staff are working to get Games Workshop to attend and hold some championship games at Origins 2005, as well as expanding painting contests and events.
25% of Origins events are roleplaying events, and the staff are making an effort to highlight that . The Retail representative noted that RPG sales are flat at the retail level and trimming focus on RPGs might be a place to cut (in relation to Martin Stevers concerns). Mark Mackinnon noted that the percentage of roleplaying game sales in the industry may be low but that roleplaying game manufacturers are 50% of exhibitors and focusing more time on that segment will make more attendees feel theyre being served. The Operations Director sees the challenge being one of making Origins a place where people come to BUY roleplaying stuff rather than just play; GenCon has a history and attendees come to GenCon intent to buy new stuff, not just play.
The Historical programs at Origins have grown. The War Room has outgrown the room theyre in. The Panzeris have done a great job of reinvigorating this segment of the convention.
LAN gaming was a big money maker for the show and computer companies are hugely interested in attending. Last years attendees are very happy with the numbers of people playing and testing their games at Origins.
The Program Manager reported that there were over 300 people in the Newcomers track at Origins 2004 and 30 teachers in the Teachers Hall Pass program, which was considered a success as the co-chair of that program resigned the month before the show without passing on any programming information. The teachers unions continue to be very supportive of the Teachers Hall Pass program. The Kids Track kept no numbers of participants but the coordinator felt it was a successful year again in 2004. For the Spouse Track, classes had 12-15 participants per class and filled a mini-bus for the off-site field trips to COSI and the winery.
Martin Stever argued passionately that these programs need to be cut because they dont bring in "real" attendees and ultimately contribute "$30 to the bottom line." He argued that the guys he knew who went to game at GenCon went to get away from their wives and kids, and that programs like the Kids Track and the Spouse Track cater to what people want to believe gamers are like rather than what gamers are actually like. The staff argued strenuously against cutting these programs. The issue was tabled for later discussion, with the staff asking that no cuts be made ad hoc at the meeting during the presentation of the planning document, as the planning document was not put together with the correct information for justifying each program or potential program, but was merely a planning document.
Greg Hacke reported on the new systems in place for Origins. The server "eCommerce" is now hosting GAMAs web services. They host 40% of ecommerce worldwide. WebGUI is the interface being used and is a free application that includes everything that GAMA needs. The IT Engineer reported that he may be able to significantly lower the costs of the Origins system, perhaps as low as $10,000 total (including a three-year service contract) which is considerable savings compared to the $20,000 to $30,000 per year GAMA had been spending previously. The system also features granular security which puts lots of control in the hands of individual exhibitors, event sponsors and attendees. Exportable data can be used to make the pre-reg book. He also reported that GAMA desperately needs a new server (the current server is unstable and they are "in crisis mode" keeping it running) and made a presentation to request the resources for a new server that was ultimately approved.
The Membership committee has qualified two new Full Voting Member companies (Matrix Games and Final Sword Productions) in the last 30 days. They have no specifics yet, but general plans to reach out to get renewals and new members. The board agreed that all should be individually reaching out to potential member companies to encourage renewals.
Mark Mackinnon reported on the recommendations of the Origins Awards Task Force. Matt Forbeck made his reports directly to Mark, and it was noted that the board had not actually decided what they were going to do with the recommendations or how things were going to be decided. Mark expressed his disappointment with the results and did not feel any of the three proposals forwarded to the board were cohesive enough to be adopted or forwarded to the Full Voting Members for approval as written. A fourth proposal (to handle the awards as they were handled in 2004) was not considered to be a viable option. "Obviously weve committed to do something, that was part of our platform," but they agreed that they did not give the OATF enough oversight or clear enough directives to end up with the sort of proposal they were ultimately hoping to see. It was felt that the proposals do not solve the various perceived problems with the Origins Awards, and Mark expressed surprised that the process seemed "driven by freelancers." He strongly feels there are options the task force did not consider and feels the board would not be "doing right by the full voting members" offering up these options. He strongly wants the board to consider allowing him to make a different proposal than whats been presented so far. He does not feel that any of the OATF options are "FVM friendly" and that ultimately GAMA is the Game MANUFACTURERS association and the manufacturers should decide. Martin Stever disagreed and expressed concern that having the FVMs happy at the expense of the Academy members, freelancers, or consumers would leave the awards without "resonance." The discussion was tabled so the board members could look over the proposals and give it further discussion by e-mail.
There was no bylaws committee report, but it was noted that the deadline is fast approaching for the bylaws vote.
The meeting adjourned until the following morning.