Global Gaming Expo Mid-Year Primer

            One of the reasons why we see fewer and fewer independent inventors at the Global Gaming Expo is that the cost of the booths are so high.  This is not a complaint, just a reality.  Independent developers do not have thousands of dollars to spend on a booth.  Developing table games is relatively cheap.  I've worked with some inventors on developing video poker style games and you can't really do this for less than 100K given the cost of the machines themselves.  The two largest expenses for table games is for the patent work and for the math work.  Once those are done, you need a felt and a table sign and you're ready to go.


            What I've been amazed by the past several years is the independent inventors who manage to get the space, either by getting their own booth or by using their connections to get some square footage in someone else's booth.  If you manage to do this, DO NOT then get cheap on your actual demo!  I realize you're on a tight budget, but you have an opportunity to display your game to hundreds of casinos, several table game companies and multiple media outlets.  It is time to put your best foot forward.  As we are about half way through the year to the next G2E, now is the time to plan ahead.  Here are my suggestions:


1)  Make sure you have a real felt and something similar to a real table.  It is okay if you have a real table top on a fake table, but don't use a folding card table.  A couple of years ago, I saw one inventor use a small square folding table and he had multiple felts and rotated through which game he was showing.  Time is limited and if you do this, 90% of the people are going to miss most of your games.


2)  Real cards, real chips, real equipment - Don't buy 50 cent cards from the local thrift store.  Spend the few dollars per deck and get cards that are going to last for at least a few hours and make sure you have enough for the whole show.  In general, I don't recommend using non-standard equipment for any game (i.e. a 14-sided die), but if you are, make sure you go through the efforts to get a real one with each face marked as your game requires.  Using a sharpie to mark suits on a die will not impress any casino.  If YOU can't get the equipment made properly, the casino will never believe that they can!


3)  Don't focus ONLY on the casino managers.  Yes, they are your most likely customer for the three days.  But this is a VERY small industry in the grand scheme of things and it seems like everybody knows everybody.  One of my first years at the G2E I was getting a tour of games from one of the gaming companies.  One of the sales reps spent a lot of time telling me about all of their new games.  An executive came over to introduce himself and asked me what I do.  When I told him that I was a math analyst and I wrote a column for Gaming Today, he lost all interest and essentially told his sales rep to stop wasting time.   More than TEN years later, I don't bother writing much about that company's games.  My columns about the G2E and the new games amounts to free advertising for the inventor.  Why would anyone turn this down?  Ironically, several years later, the same executive called me and wanted to know my availability to analyze one of their games.  I declined.  EVERYONE at the G2E is in the industry in some way.  Someone might be responsible for picking barstools this year, but might transfer to work on table games the next year.  Or perhaps his best friend is the table games manager in the same casino.  You just never know.


4)  Make sure whoever is dealing your game knows the game.  The big boys can afford to use eye candy for dealers.  They have large sales forces to make sure the new games are put in front of the casino.  The odds are you do not have the luxury of going back after G2E and visiting all the casinos that you would like.  Both time and money will make this impossible.  Your time to market the game is while the game is being displayed.  Make sure it is accurately described.


5)  Have detailed information about the game available for people to take with them.  I don't expect the math report available to every passerby, but the basic rules of play on a glossy postcard should definitely be available.  I spend nearly 100% of my time on table games.  Guess what?  I do NOT have the rules to every game memorized.  After a while, they wind up a jumble in my head.  Make sure that the attendees have something to take away with them that will not only remind them of your game, but describe the game.  Later that night, some of the table game managers might review what he saw that day and decide what is worthy of going back to see and/or actually take for his casino.  A pretty picture of the table layout is not enough. 


My last piece of advice is for the inventors who do not have booths.  You still have an opportunity to talk your game up.  Make sure you have a larger write up about your game.  It should include a detailed description of the rules of play, potentially some sample hands.  Nowadays, you can even include a DVD with a video of game play.  Do NOT muscle in on a casino manager when he is looking over another company's game.  But it is okay to try and get his attention while he is between booths.  Also, use slow time at the show to potentially introduce your game to the bigger gaming companies if this interests you.  Most of them are interested in new games from outside inventors.  They may not be able to dedicate much time to you during the G2E, but they will frequently be willing to make time after the show.


            For the casinos to stay fresh and fun, there must be a new supply of games on a regular basis!