Ed Catto: GAMA – Rolling the Dice, Vegas Style!

When you think of a comic shop or a card store, you might think of the fans who shop there or the folks who run it and how they are so passionate about the things they love. Retail shops like these are always the epicenter for focused geek authenticity.

And when you think of Las Vegas, you might think of gambling, or partying, or glitzy entertainment. Vegas isn’t about deep or thoughtful enthusiasm about your passions, it’s about giving vihttp://www.comicmix.com//?p=109466&preview=truesitors a license to be enjoy the moment, and to be both indulgent and shallow without any guilt.

So it’s incongruous, in many ways, that over 400 of the nation’s card/comic shops attend the GAMA trade show this past week in Las Vegas. For more than 20 years this event has helped connect, educate and motivate hobby stores. The Expo focuses on card games (Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Cardfight!! Vanguard, etc.), board games, miniatures and all the related products and services.

Trade publication ICV2 recently reported that the hobby games business is growing at about 10%. Amazingly, this is the 8th year in a row of growth. This growth comes from many different segments. On one hand, Magic: The Gathering grows the business for established fans, and parent company Hasbro seems to be noticing more than ever.

On the younger side, the incredible resurgence of Pokemon proves to be the perfect gateway property for whole industry. The game community does a good job of onboarding and cross promotion.

GAMA estimates there are 3,200 game stores nationwide. And although last week’s GAMA trade shows focused on card games and board games, many of these retailers are hybrid stores and also carry comics.

In fact, there were a lot of the “usual suspects” from the comics world here. It didn’t take long to run across folks like Diamond’s Chris Powell, Skybound’s Shawn Kirkham, or ICV2’s Milton Griepp.

And on the show floor, familiar booths to a comic fan included:

  • Paizo – This publisher was showing off their new Starfinder property and their enthusiasm was contagious. Publisher Eric Mona was on hand, and he also spoke about his writing for Dynamite’s Pathfinder Worldfinder comic, co-starring Red Sonja, John Carter and Tarzan.
  • IDW’s games division was showing off their new board games. I was especially impressed by the gorgeous the cover art to their Planet of the Apes
  • Off World Designs is a geek-culture T-shirt design company and familiar site to many San Diego Comic-Con attendees. Each year they have two booths at that Nerd Prom, who’s formal name is still Comic-Con International, even though nobody ever calls it that.

These retailers are a strategic thoughtful bunch. Since they play strategic gamers and hang around with folks who play strategic games, that makes sense. But card shop owners are, at the heart of it, pretty much like comic shop owners. And as mentioned, they are often one and the same. They are a fun group to spend time with, and you can’t help but be pleased that they could get away for few days and rejuvenate with their peers. They are hard-working entrepreneurs whose DNA is over-stuffed with optimism and persistence.