Scott and I had the pleasure of joining a handful of other members of the game media as hosted guests at GAMA Expo a couple of weeks ago. You may be asking, “What is GAMA, Nicole, and why should I care?” I’m so glad you asked!
GAMA (The Game Manufacturers Association) is a non-profit trade organization representing the hobby game industry. On the surface, it sounds like something only people who manufacture games would be interested in, but it’s far (really, FAR) more than that. It’s comprised of individuals and corporations across the entire spectrum of the industry: from the designers of the games through to the retailers where you shop for games locally. Each year GAMA offers a variety of initiatives designed to support the people and companies behind those games that (hopefully) find their way to your game table. In addition to Origins Game Fair that we’ve mentioned numerous times on this site, GAMA also provides a plethora of resources not just for its membership, but the community as a whole.
One of the premiere events of GAMA is their annual Expo held each spring. If you’ve ever bought a game off the shelves of a local store, it’s events like this that have helped guide the selection. Publishers showcase prototypes to prospective retailers and then orders are placed, oftentimes to fulfill retailers needs through the holiday season. Yes, holiday purchases are made during events such as New York Toy Fair and GAMA Expo in essentially the same timeframe that people are taking down holiday decorations and getting ready for spring break.
What I found amazing about GAMA Expo was the amount of community support between retailers. As an example, I was looking at an assortment of blind bags from Foam Brain Games when a couple of retailers walked up behind me and started telling me how much their customers loved these. They said they always keep one pack on display and if a customer purchases a pack and opens it in front of them, they can opt to swap it out for the contents on display. These types of customer services tips are commonplace as everyone wants to promote the industry and see one another experience success.
During GAMA Expo, a variety of educational sessions are offered that cover subjects such as marketing, diversity/inclusiveness, merchandising, loyalty programs, green initiatives and so much more. This year included one track geared toward retailers and another primarily for industry.
Premier presentations are conducted by suppliers and game publishers. These events showcase each company’s product release calendar, a lot of which is embargoed information, so retailers can create inventory plans. These presentations, coupled with what they see in the exhibit hall, create the basis for the items you’ll be able to purchase throughout the year.
Each night, the ballroom is filled with opportunities for retailers to try out the new games. Some were short demos while others were complete playthroughs. Not only did these presentations offer retailers the chance to try the games first-hand, but also to get a feel for what others thought of it. If a game stopped people in their tracks, chances are you need to give it a second look yourself.
As the organization strives to welcome more people to the game industry, it continues to offer initiatives that focus on those in underrepresented groups. This year, GAMA launched the Horizon Fellowship program that provided education, business development tips, mentorship and grants to a handful of those retailers and publishers who were selected from a pool of applicants. During GAMA Expo, one retailer and one designer/publisher from the Fellowship program were selected to receive additional grant money to help further their business endeavors.
There was so much to see and do, we can only skim the surface in one article. Keep watch of our social channels (Facebook, Instagram Reels, SahmReviews’ TikTok, our game-specific TikTok and YouTube Shorts) as we share a variety of items we were able to preview while at GAMA Expo. Find out more about the organization by visiting the GAMA website or visit them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. So now you should realize what GAMA is and hopefully you also understand that it’s integral to the industry and ultimately what shows up on the shelves at your local game store… with a final destination of your game table.
What do you love most about your local game store?