The GAMA Trade Show was always at least partly about the free swag retailers could load up on. For many game store owners, those products, brought back and plopped on the store shelves, paid for the trip. But with the big giveaway figures WizKids is using as a draw at the show, like the HeroClix Galactus and last year’s MechWarrior Dropship, many retailers are only showing up for the day the figure is given out, then splitting town. Inflated preregistration numbers are relayed to potential exhibitors, numbers that don’t fully convert to buyers on the exhibit hall floor.
With many game companies scaling back the number of handouts they dispense, retailers with tight budgets end up sending more employees to the show, splitting a hotel room four or six ways to get extra copies of giveaway products. As soon as you let folks know free handouts will be available, gamers will find a way to take better advantage of it (after all, gamers are good at strategic planning). But in the past, retailers that were only interested in mooching free stuff had to work at it most of the show in order to pay for the trip, and would have to sit through the pitch from each company before getting a copy. Now all they need is to get the yearly WizKids figure to be more than halfway paid-off, and a few more easy comp products makes the rest gravy.
The problem is only going to get worse. This report of last weekend’s Wizard World LA tells of a Galactus supply that didn’t even come close to meeting the demand, resulting in all-night lines, stampedes through the exhibit hall, and reselling the $75 figure at the same show for $300 or more. It doesn’t help matters that WizKids advertised the availability of Galactus at the show beforehand, and then after only bringing 300 for the entire show, let retailers in the exhibit hall get in line before regular convention goers were even allowed to enter. When gamers fly in from other continents only to go away disappointed, when they break into cars and hotel rooms, and when accusations of a bait-and-switch start getting bandied around, WizKids should be seriously considering making a few changes (and perhaps they already are, starting with the apologetic press release sent out today, below).
Conventions, whether the GAMA Trade Show, Wizard World, or Gen Con, shouldn’t be promoted on the strength of a single product being available there, not unless there’s more than enough of it to go around. I’d hate to see GTS collapse simply because WizKids choses not to dole out a huge freebie that year. Even with the figure giveaway at last week’s show, one fellow was seen carrying ten beer steins from the WotC D&D banquet, some of which were stolen from under the noses of other retailers. But at least that sort of swag-hording thief is the exception these days, not the rule. Train everyone for a few more years to expect a big handout or exclusive, undersupplied release at conventions, and we’ll not only have more swag-hogs, but legions of disgruntled gamers that couldn’t get their Cool Thingy X for less than $350 on ebay.
WizKids press release follows:
Wizard World LA Wrap Up
The convention season is one of the most exciting times of the year both for WizKids staff and our customers. While we have been fortunate to have crowds at our convention booths in the past, the rush of people and the demand for the Galactus exclusive was unprecedented to say the least. The WizKids staff was deeply sorry to see so many convention attendees leave the Wizard World Los Angeles convention disappointed.
We are in the process of working with the Wizard Convention staff, as well as the staffs of GenCon, Origins, and the San Diego ComicCon, to ensure that crowd control is thoroughly addressed at our future shows.
Because Galactus is a limited edition figure, not every convention-goer will be able to obtain one. However, we are increasing the number of Galactus figures available at each convention so that many more of you will have an opportunity to purchase him.
We will also take more precautions to allow consumers to be able to purchase Galactus before retailers. At the Wizard World Los Angeles show, a very small number of Galactus figures (approximately 15) were sold to retailers on Friday night. WizKids did not sell multiple figures to the same retailer, although some retailers purchased them from consumers or bought consumer badges for their staff members so those staff members could stand in the consumer line to obtain another one. This will be addressed at future shows as well.
The Mage Knight “stick horse and coconut” Relic Cards were absent from the show. This was, in fact, due to a shipping problem, and these Relic Cards will be available at future shows. Please remember that all giveaway Limited Edition figures and convention prizes are subject to change.
While WizKids understands that many people traveled a long way to get a Galactus figure in Los Angeles, there will be future chances to buy this figure at all WizKids-attended conventions, including the San Diego ComicCon for those in the Southern California area. For more information on WizKids-attended conventions, visit http://www.wizkidsgames.com/wk_article.asp?cid=36215&frame=events.
Additionally, some distributors outside of the United States and Canada who are attending conventions within their respective countries may have Galactus figures to sell at those conventions. Contact your country’s WizKids distributor if you are outside of the United States and Canada for details.
Again, we apologize that some attendees at Wizard World Los Angeles left disappointed, and we have taken steps to ensure that many more people will have a chance to buy Galactus at future conventions. We cannot guarantee a Galactus for each convention attendee, but we will try to make as many available as possible to our fans and collectors.
Dorcas Bean, Convention and Event Manager
Jason Mical, Advertising and Public Relations Coordinator
Sean Coomes, Retail Lead
I think the distinction to make here is that GTS is a Trade Show, and not a convention. May seem like semantics, but a trade show is a typically a Business to Business type gathering, where in this case Manufacturers should be getting together to discuss business/upcoming releases with retailers…and well, doing business.
I was at GAMA, and having come from a high tech background in marketing, I was a little underwhelmed at the business approach many of the companies were taking to this show. What’s important to me as a retailer? For you to give me some information on your products that isn’t just “how to play.” WoTC did a GREAT job of that at their dinner. They gave me demographics of who was buying what, and how they would be promoting and advertising their product lines through 2004. Wizkids on the other hand spent almost an hour and a half telling me what mechanics they were adding to their game systems (hello, I own at a gamestore! I can manage reading a rule book on my own!)…not to mention the original portion of this article about how they attracted hundreds of tweakers to the show who just wanted Schwag. So, in any case…to sum up, I personally think the title of this article states it all. GTS, which should be a Trade Show is nothing more than a convention now a days, and a far less useful tool to retailers than it should be.
To some extent, I agree: GTS has become less focused over the past few years. I also agree that WotC did an excellent job of providing retailers with information that mattered without wasting their time. However, the reason I titled the story “Big exclusives hurting conventions” was I was lumping Wizard World LA in with GTS. Two very different events, both recently affected by the Galactus giveaway, and not both “conventions” exactly, but for a quick news title, it seemed to get the point across.
I am totally with you Allan, I just deiced to get on my soapbox using your article as a vehicle 🙂
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