Do's and Don'ts

            A colleague of mine writes a gaming column for another publication.  It's not a strategy column.  It mostly talks about what goes into inventing a table game.  The author should know as his name is Roger Snow and he's a Vice President for Scientific Games and heads up their table games division.  I've worked with Roger for more than a decade and together we've invented countless successful table games and sidebets.  Together, we've also seen hundreds of game ideas submitted from inventors.  There have been a lot that had merit.  There have been even more that have been absolutely awful.  But that's okay.  Personally, I find a bad game much more desirable than a bad attitude.


            The particular column he wrote a couple of months ago was about some of the e-mails he had received from inventors after rejecting their games.  I know Roger wasn't making any of this up as I've seen some of these e-mails firsthand.  I won't state what they said specifically, but let's just say they went from bizarre to offensive.  Now, obviously, this is not how most inventors react to rejection.  But, I have to wonder how ANY inventor reacts this way to it.


            I asked Roger if he had ever been in the situation where he saw a game and rejected it.  He then got a nasty e-mail from the inventor and then called up the inventor saying he changed his mind, he wants to cut a deal.  Not surprisingly, this has never happened.  Why would anyone believe that sending an obnoxious e-mail to one of the top guys in the table gaming industry would somehow work to your benefit?


            As we are almost right at the midpoint between last year's Global Gaming Expo (G2E) and next year's, I think it is a good time to remind inventors of some of the do's and don'ts of table game inventing.  This time, I'm not going to focus on the elements of the game.  I'm going to focus on what I guess, one would call professionalism.  The first item on my list is don't send obnoxious, hateful e-mails to ANYONE (okay, maybe an ex-spouse).  So, someone didn't like your game.  Why burn bridges.  In two years, you might have another idea.  Why take even the slightest risk that this time, your submission will be completely ignored because you called someone a &%$!  Rejection goes hand in hand with trying to invent anything like a table game.  You've got to learn how to accept it. 


            The G2E is a great opportunity for inventors to get access to many industry people with a single trip to Las Vegas.  Make the most of it.  But don't make a pain of yourself either.  You have two potential targets for your game idea, depending on that status of your game.  If your game is fully developed, with math and patents taken care of, you can reach out directly to casinos.  Of course, casinos don't have booths at the G2E.  Table Games Managers are roaming the floors checking out the offerings from the table game companies that have booths. 


            So, a good place to hang out is at the table games booth.  But, keep in mind that those guys have paid big money for those booths and the likelihood is that the casino personnel are more interested in their offerings than yours.  This doesn't mean you can't make 'first contact'.  When there is a break (perhaps while the casino guys are leaving the booth or done looking over the offerings), present yourself and your game.  This means having a business card and a folder that describes everything about your game.  Please don't dress like you're a walking billboard for your game.  This is Las Vegas, so things are casual, but be dressed in at least business casual.  Don't expect a Table Games Manager to drop everything he is doing to review your game right there.  Your best bet is to try to set up a specific time for a meeting.  If you don't live in Las Vegas, this might mean making sure you're in town for a few extra days.  There is a lot of stuff going on during the three days, and most of their calendars are likely to be full. 


            Getting a game into a casino as an unknown and without any contacts is a definite longshot.  If you don't know anybody in the casino, I strongly recommend you consider targeting the table games companies and partnering with them.  Yes, you won't get as much per table by splitting the pot, but your odds of getting placements will go way up.  So, would you rather get 100% of NOTHING, or 25% of a very large number?  The costs of marketing will be born by the company instead of you. 


            If your game is only an idea with fuzzy math and unfinished patents, this is likely your only possibility.  The G2E is a terrific opportunity for you.  But, these three days are for the gaming companies to show the wares to all the casinos.  The focus is on sales and marketing, not reviewing new game ideas.  But, this doesn't mean they are unapproachable.  It just means you have to remember that you are not their top priority.  As I suggested earlier, be ready with a business card and a folder that explains your game to give to the company.  Might your game be brushed aside?  Sure, it's possible.  But, if you think being pushy is going to give your game a fair look, you're kidding yourself. 


            Your goal, again, should be a meeting at a set time when no one is distracted.  If the gaming company gives you a business card and tells you to call next week, don't take this as a brush off.  Call them!  It can't hurt.  I know that Scientific Games (formerly Shuffle Entertainment) reviews dozens if not hundreds of games from the outside every year.    They want game submissions.  I have no doubt that the other companies do too.  It is just about the right time and place.  Making the right impression can help too.  Nobody wants to strike a deal with someone who seems irrational.


            For some of you, this advice might seem obvious.  But, in my nearly 15 years in the indsutry, I've seen and heard of too many cases where the obvious is just not done.  I've yet to see anyone benefit from doing business that way.