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Interview with Aldo Ghiozzi, organizer of Free RPG Day, head of Impressions

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I've had the pleasure to talk with Aldo Ghiozzi about Free RPG Day. For details about the upcoming FRD (Saturday 15, 2013), see the news post next door. There's a lot of gaming goodness coming to your FLGS, and it's free - go check it out!

First off, could you please introduce yourself to our readers who don't know you? What is your company, what exactly do you do?
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I am Aldo Ghiozzi and I'm the owner of Impressions Game Distribution Services (www.impressionsadv.net). Most gamers would not be familiar with what Impressions is all about as our main focus is handling the distributor and retailer sales, shipping and warehousing for over 60 game companies. We're not a distributor, but a service hired by game companies to handle these things.


Everybody seems to be talking about crowdfunding. What's your opinion (personal or professional) about kickstarter and the like?

We've had our nose in crowd funding since Kickstarter first started. It's been great for the game industry definitely. I honestly love it because it has definitely increased business for us. The bad side though is that the game market is getting super crowded and super saturated with game releases. Again, crowd funding has been great for business, but I hope it settles just a little bit in our market.

What's the history behind the Free RPG Day? How did the first „FRD“ come about, and how hard was it to make it a reality?

Everyone asks this story and I wish it was more entertaining...So, Joseph Goodman from Goodman Games has been a client for 10+ years, and obviously, we've become good friends. He was actually in town (I live in the San Francisco Bay Area) for something family related and we setup to have lunch. He pulls out his notebook and says, "I actually have a list of ideas I want to talk for Goodman Games." His first was, "Impressions should copy Free Comic Book Day and call it Free Adventure Module Day." My response was simply, "That is such a lame name. We'll call it Free RPG Day. OK. Got it. Next?" And that was it. Again, it was quite simple to emulate Free Comic Book Day and all I really needed was to get publishers on board. That was actually the easy part. I figured if I got 3 publishers to participate, that would be a good start. Year 1 we got 17 participating publishers and 301 stores. Our goal was 80 to 100 stores!

How has the event changed over the years?

Well, I definitely think we have the process down pat. Getting it done logistically has become easy. Probably the biggest change this year was adding what we call "Uber Kits". This was mainly for the U.S. retailers because we ship direct to them ourselves vs. stores outside the U.S. go through our distributor partners in the participating countries. An Uber kit is a regular kit of the freebies, but then we put in actual core product from 4 of the participating publishers so retailers would be guaranteed to have items to sell on the day of the event. Unfortunately, we've found that stores either forgot to order product for their shelves or because of FRD, distributors didn't have product for the stores to buy as the event came up...this meant that stores were not able to use FRD for exactly what it was meant for --- to increase sales of RPGs!

What do you like most about Free RPG Day?

The excitement and support from both the consumers and the retailers. It's crazy cool. I get emails from consumers being so formal and professional asking or complaining or complementing things, and they all have a passion to them...and they all act like we're some giant company who they'll never get a response from. We're tiny. It's mostly just me.

How many stores in the US participate, and how many from the rest of the world? Are any of the states particularly active? Same for foreign countries: Do some stand out?

This year we had 391 stores participate worldwide, but this is down from our usual ~420...BUT the event sells out every year, and this year, participating stores bought more kits because we only have 600 every year...That is the maximum we're able to offer each year...and the event sells out every year. 276 U.S. stores and 145 stores outside the U.S. Our biggest concentration outside the U.S. is Canada and then the U.K. but that is mostly because we have large distributor partners in those countries.

What's the strangest (or farthest) address you ever shipped a FRD parcel to?

Strangest? I don't think we've had a strange country! Har har. I would say for this year, Thailand and the Czech Republic would be our smallest/ farthest places.

What do you think is the most compelling argument for stores to participate in the event?


Well, I can tell you that the biggest argument AGAINST participating from stores is because RPG sales are quite small compared to all other games out there. But I go back to what I said above, the retailers are passionate about the event. For those that still play traditional pen and paper RPGs, there is an intense passion for them, so stores that have a great RPG following make a great day out of the event. As a business answer, the event is only $85US this year, and I would argue that stores need to give reasons for consumers to get off the couch and get into their store, and FRD is a reason if the store makes a real event out of the day. Plan games, get GMs, buy lunch for participants, have a sale, get balloons, whatever. If you build it, they will come!

You've mentioned in an interview some years ago that you don't see much growth potential for the FRD, and probably, for the RPG market as a whole. Could you please explain?

As I mentioned above, FRD sells out every year. Most ask, "how can it sell out?" Well, that is because the publishers supporting it can only make so much product to be given away for free. There is a limit. These publishers may mark this as a marketing expense, but its pricey to make even the smallest RPG product these days. I continue to try and think of ways to grow the event, but the RPG market is by no means the size of say, the comic book industry. In terms of the RPG market as a whole not growing, I see numbers daily since we handle distribution for RPG companies and they are small. RPG players tend to just play an old system or some variation of systems from years past, so new RPGs have a tough time on the retailer shelf.

What will you do on Saturday 15, 2013?

Every year, I go to my FLGS, Black Diamond Games in Concord, California, and every year I run some games and buy pizza all day for those participating. We probably have 6 tables running 3 games with 4-8 people every 3 hours, all day. For Black Diamond, this is a very large event.

Bonus question: What are you drinking right now?

Well, I'm on California time so your email hit me right in the morning where I have my coffee in hand (1 sugar, lots of milk)...but now its cold because I responded to your email...off for another cup! Thanks for the time!

Thanks for your time, Aldo - and sorry about the coffee! Cheers!

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