The Forge Archives

General Forge Forums => Conventions => Topic started by: Jason Morningstar on August 22, 2007, 03:55:08 AM



Title: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Jason Morningstar on August 22, 2007, 03:55:08 AM
Hey, let's talk about lessons learned and what we can do to improve the experience - by all measures - next year.  Also, let's celebrate!  I think everybody had a pretty awesome show.  Here's a little video I put together (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgRBKh5m1yw) asking people to name one cool thing they saw or did. 

Here are some observations:

1.  The Forge/IPR booth was in an utterly fantastic location. 

2.  Having the Play Collective immediately across the way was cross-promotional bliss.  If there is any way to have "spin-off" booths within visual range, that'd be good.  The Ashcan Front was close by proximity but not by mental map - you could not see them.  Burning Dead seemed far away as foot traffic goes - I didn't see much of those guys, although they, too were quite close. 

3.  Regularly scheduled games are a pain in the ass and possibly not worth the trouble.  The only up-side was that it brought maybe ten people to play our games that wouldn't have known about them otherwise.  Balance that with logistical and administrative headaches, shitty time slots, poor management, and other irritating problems.

Anyway, let's debrief and strategize while our memories are fresh!


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 22, 2007, 05:29:21 AM
Hi there,

The booth itself

Upon arriving, my friends and I walked right past the booth space, then doubled back in confusion, then wandered around looking confused. We weren't the only ones to do that, at that stage. The booth space was ... blank and flat!

Now, bear in mind, all the way back since 2001, I always wanted the Forge/indie booth to be this way, the idea being more like a coffee-house table area, or even a dance floor. Until now, we hadn't been able to afford the right kind of space we wanted. But the surprise was that we hadn't realized that we'd succeeded! We'd expected it to be a peninsula, hence separated from other booths by a curtain and hence "back wall," and it was merely ... well, four strips of tape, in a sea of flat concrete.

So on the one hand, it was a success, because it was the open walk-onto-it, social-looking space of the original vision for the activity, but on the other, we'd planned on a backdrop and had posters and stuff, and setup notions, based on that plan. Brennan and I had an instant confab with pen and paper, and in a kind of me-you-me-you rapid-fire dialogue, re-designed the setup.

Great joy and wonder ensued when he remembered that he had a corner backdrop, a kind of black curvy thing, that he'd used at Origins ... and wham. The perfect, incredible, absolutely ideal Forge/IPR booth space was born. And even though I'd forgotten the Forge banner, I'd already called a friend to get it from my house and mail it quick-quick, and we had it before lunch on Thursday.

Yet more placement luck happened as well, as we were close to the back-wall refreshments and their associated tables, which were great spillover space for one-on-one, non-demo customer discussions, for post-purchase product petting, and for snack breaks. It really was the perfect spot for us.

Placement among booths

People who have not tried to organize booth placement with GenCon really have no idea what it's like. They do their best to accomodate requests, but they have a lot more people to make happy than just us, and they have to be fair using their point-system. I'm amazed GeCon LLC permitted or maybe facilitated the coordination among the booths as well as it did. Ideally, the Ashcan Front should have been facing us, and maybe the Burning/Dead booth could have been a hair closer, but really, it was great.

Jason forgot to mention that the intersection we shared with the Play Collective was also shared by Engle Matrix Games, and there was a lot of crossover-buying going on there. Their puppets drew a lot of traffic, and Chris was no slouch in pointing out the Forge; we pumped traffic his way with the promo material, and so let's not forget that booth in the story of this con.

The real hero of this story is Fred Hicks. His Indie Passport was a dream come true - people seemd to think it was fun and tons of folks participated. The best thing, genius really, was that you only had to get one other booth stamp, not all of them. So it was transformed from annoying homework to "choose your own combo," and the net effect of course was for any one person to visit at least one more booth than they might have otherwise. Granted, a device of this kind will almost certainly include a few people showing up just for their stamp, and if that doesn't float a given person's boat on principle, that's how it is. But the genius feature I mentioned kept that to a minimum, and if one accepts that particular wrinkle, and observes that pound-for-pound, the Passport did drive sales and did build a better at-large understanding of what is happening here, then I think it can be called a success.

The other heroes are Michael and Kat Miller at Games on Demand, and the various folks who GM'd there so much, like Mike Holmes. This activity hit a snag - construction at the convention center forced GenCon LLC to re-locate hundreds of activities, screwing up programming something awful. Instead of a room in the same building as the exhibit hall, hence a hop-skip-jump away, people had to go up and around hill and dale to get to the GoD area. Even with this limitation, the fusion between GoD and the Forge booth was excellent. I owe big thanks to whoever ran that Sorcerer game on Friday! Who were you? I also know that I wasn't alone in benefiting in sales from GoD play. I still think we can do a better job of funnelling people there, although we do get better at it every year.

One last thing about booth placement. If you stood in that intersection that I mentioned, on Friday, this is what you'd see.

1. The Forge banner, with its cartoony spark-throwing forge, next to the IPR banner, with its revolutionary stars and workers.

2. The bright red Play Collective banner, including the booth members with their matching red t-shirts, including Malcolm with his Castro hat.

3. The Lacuna banner at the Burning/Dead booth, with its orange-red background and spider commissar in its Soviet uniform.

(and I wish, #4, the Ashcan Front in the same visual field, but alas, it was not to be) (next year)

Anyway, my point is that for whatever reason, we all seem to be deeply committed to commie kitsch. Draw your own conclusion, but speaking only visually and iconically, it was a beautiful thing.

It's about people

I cannot say for sure what would have happened if I'd not taken it on myself, as the first thing, to settle some outstanding tensions with a few other people, or if they had not desired as badly as me to see those tensions settled. I believe that the con experience would have been much different if I hadn't. Details aren't important. The point is that when any of us have a chance to talk face-to-face, that it is literally a betrayal of ourselves as a community if we do not take the opportunity to say, "No paving over! Here is what is up my ass, and I want to see what is up yours," and to listen. It is not good enough to smile tightly and pretend that all is well.

It works all the time, given people of conscience and shared values, and it worked this time.

Teardown and loading

What a bitch!! Either Geo E. Fern (the furniture company) or the convention center, or both, instituted a new policy this year. Every booth space had to be inspected before the vehicle associated with it could enter the parking/loading area. The result: 100% horrible bottleneck, with hundreds of exhibitors sitting there waiting to be inspected. You had to get your car-guy ready and pack up, then inform the Geo E. Fern people that you were ready to be inspected, then somehow learn from them that you had been expected, then notify your car-guy, then wait for him to arrive at the dock.

Since the inspection consisted of a spot-check by a person riding one of those little forklift/snowmobile things, working off a scrap of paper, who then rode back to the Geo E. Fern booth and reported, there was a huge disconnect between "we're ready to be inspected," "go inspect number so-and-so," "I inspected number so-and-so," and "hey, you're ready, call your car-guy." Add to it the fun factor that the two (!) inspectors were not coordinated with one another, so that neither knew whether the other had inspected a given booth space. (I observed all of this, in detail, in the course of negotiations with the process.)

Anyway, none of us at our booth experienced any travel hassles due to the delays, only through good planning and sheer luck. Some of the Friday night flight people probably had to skip dinner or otherwise face inconvenience. But I know that many other exhibitors ran into serious problems due to the two or three hour kink that all of this threw into their plans. I'll be adding my voice to the no doubt shrill chorus that lets the responsible parties know how their policies worked this year.

The thing is, it's not a bad policy, in principle. But the inspection logistics themselves need serious revision.

Anyway, this post was a start! There will be more, I'm sure.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Gregor Hutton on August 22, 2007, 06:02:34 AM
Just a few points from me for the moment as I try and get over the jet-lag.

The booth location was great.

The Indie Passport was really useful to get people hooked up with where our booths were. The stamps were also really individual and cool, and that gave people a reason to go to the other booths too. The folks at Hollow Earth Expedition made me answer a question to get a stamp (which archetype from these 5 is your favourite) and I didn't mind that all. I thought that was a cool thing for other people to think about.

IPR made retail a breeze. All of them were professional and on the ball, so I tip my hat to Brennan, Krista, Bill, Steve and Nate.

Demos were mostly shorter this year is my initial impression and while we did have some people on tables near continuously at times, they were cycling groups in and out, so I have no problem with that. Also most of the demos seemed really focused/polished -- the Committee For..., Grey Ranks and Fae Noir ones stick out as such in my hazy recollection.

I'm not at all sure about the booth fairy. Part of me thinks it was a cute way of pushing the game, but I'm not sold that it really affected sales. I can't say I saw too many of the guys getting their picture taken with her, or just taking shots of her, actually buying the book. The hook of the game and the demo probably did more to sell it. It also jarred a bit with the way we present our games -- on Wednesday I was having to defend my game and point out that it is not anti-women at all. Then I'm on a booth with a babe a couple of days later. Maybe I'm being hypersensitive about it, and it was only for a few hours.

Early attendance before opening time was also poor this year. More than once Ron's pre-speech was cut short as the doors had opened.

That's how I saw it.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: GreatWolf on August 22, 2007, 07:09:16 AM
Quote
I'm not at all sure about the booth fairy. Part of me thinks it was a cute way of pushing the game, but I'm not sold that it really affected sales. I can't say I saw too many of the guys getting their picture taken with her, or just taking shots of her, actually buying the book. The hook of the game and the demo probably did more to sell it. It also jarred a bit with the way we present our games -- on Wednesday I was having to defend my game and point out that it is not anti-women at all. Then I'm on a booth with a babe a couple of days later. Maybe I'm being hypersensitive about it, and it was only for a few hours.

I concur.  I was fairly unhappy about this development, and the only reason that I didn't say anything that evening is my understanding that she just happened to be passing by.  Serendipity.  I don't want to be rude to an enthusiastic fan, but I would have been happier if she had been politely requested to continue on.

I also found it difficult to pitch all the games to prospective customers, simply because I didn't know them all.  (This is not for lack of trying, you understand.)  The "play in others' demos" on Thursday really helped this, but if I didn't already know your game or have a demo of it, I had a hard time trying to sell it.  InTERRORgation stands out in my mind.  Someone asked me what it was, and I couldn't answer.  Moreover, since the designer wasn't in the booth, I couldn't even say, "Let me grab Annie so she can explain it to you."  I'm not sure if this is specifically a booth issue or just my personal problem, but I felt like I fell down on the job a couple of times due to lack of knowledge.  I know that I'm not the only one with this problem, so perhaps we can figure out some way to overcome it.

Lest I sound like I'm just griping, I thought that the booth was a great experience, so let me move on to positives.

The location was wonderful and the setup was fabulous.  The joke was that Brennan would kill booth staff that was standing in the "red zone" (where the red floor was), but I actually found that division of booth space to be very helpful.  The flow through the booth was really good.  I still found myself dancing around people sometimes while I tried to help customers, but I think that it's probably about the best that we could expect to get...and it was quite good.

The geography of the booth led to an area that I dubbed both "Forge backstage" and "the break room".  This was the space behind the storage table and backdrop.  I found this area to be invaluable.  If you wanted to step away from the insanity for a few minutes, grab something quick to drink, or just decompress a little in between demos, this was the place to do it.  I know that there were still people passing by on all sides, but it felt calmer.  This was also a good place to do the "chat with a designer" conversations with customers without clogging up the limited booth space.

Personally, I really enjoyed doing the demos.  I had a blast with my own demo, and I liked being able to get in on other designers' demos, too.  I felt like I connected with them as people better, plus I was better able to sell their games.

Rob Donoghue was gold in the booth.  Once he knew a game, he could give the perfect 15 second pitch to anyone.  So just a shout out to him.  Thanks, man!

Speaking of which, the roper at the "entrance" of the booth was a fairly key position.  If you were there, you did less roping per se, but you were in a good position to pitch games to people without being in the "red zone" and occupying booth space.  If we arrange for that in the future, that would be really good.

And...I can't think of anything else right now.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Justin D. Jacobson on August 22, 2007, 07:57:34 AM
In no particular order:

1) Booth space itself was amazing. If we could clone it for next year, I'd be happy. I don't think there is a single thing I'd change about it. (Second the hope that the diaspora booths can be a "hair closer; I don't think they need to be specifically adjacent, but at least easy pointing distance.)

2) As I've come to learn, not too many people no much about Passages. (There's an S-G thread on this btw.) Apparently, there are other games that people don't know too much about. While it is an admirable goal for all of the booth participants to know as much as they can about as many games as they can, I don't think it is realistic or even necessary. OTOH, I do think it is imperative for the actual IPR employees to have good solid information for every product they sell. They don't need to know the elevator pitch (though that would be good), and they don't need to be able to demo it (also nice). But they must be able to answer rudimentary questions about the product. Thus, if someone has a question about a product and the particular booth participant can't answer, at least they can point them to Brennan or Nathan or whomever. Obviously, this entails a lot more work for IPR, but that's what I pay them for, right? They can obviously facilitate this by requiring effort on the part of the member publishers. For example, Brennan could send out a standardized questionaire for designers to fill out about their games, e.g., "Describe the core mechanic for your game", "What other games are most similar to your game and why?", "What additional resources are available for the game?", "Describe the setting if any", etc.

3) Personal Plans for Next Year: Other than my charity game (which was a huge success), I am definitely jettisoning the organized games. It's just too much of a crapshoot, and I'd rather spend the time demoing at the booth. I did a much better job this year of socializing with the booth members, and I intend to step it up even more next year. I did another horrible job of getting in on after-hours play at the Embassy Suites. (I always seem to get there when all the games are in full swing.) I vow to do a better job of that next year.

4) I'm also not too keen on having "booth babes". Aside from objectivist issues (which are thorny), I just think it's the wrong vibe for the indie games. Too commercial maybe? It just rubs me the wrong way. (No bad sex jokes on that last comment, please.)

5) Passport was great. I think we can do a better job of incorporating it into the booth events. For example, maybe we could have a space on it for "bonus stamps". Since it's already a more-is-better proposition, we should figure out behavior we want to encourage and reward with a stamp. I also don't think we got the most functionality out of the well-designed menus either. I'd like to think of some way to incorporate them better. Maybe we could print up 20,000 more and stuff them in the swag bags? ;-)


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: iago on August 22, 2007, 08:10:39 AM
I also found it difficult to pitch all the games to prospective customers, simply because I didn't know them all.  (This is not for lack of trying, you understand.)  The "play in others' demos" on Thursday really helped this, but if I didn't already know your game or have a demo of it, I had a hard time trying to sell it.  InTERRORgation stands out in my mind.  Someone asked me what it was, and I couldn't answer.  Moreover, since the designer wasn't in the booth, I couldn't even say, "Let me grab Annie so she can explain it to you."  I'm not sure if this is specifically a booth issue or just my personal problem, but I felt like I fell down on the job a couple of times due to lack of knowledge.  I know that I'm not the only one with this problem, so perhaps we can figure out some way to overcome it.

We need to do what we can to identify to the booth folks who the SME's (Subject Matter Experts) are in terms of being able to say something about most of the games on the shelves.  I was one such person, and I think Rob Donoghue was doing a pretty good job of this as well.  Bill Segulin and Brennan Taylor could probably pitch in on many of these as well -- Bill because he's worked the Origins booth with IPR, Brennan because he owns IPR. :)

Quote
The location was wonderful and the setup was fabulous.  The joke was that Brennan would kill booth staff that was standing in the "red zone" (where the red floor was), but I actually found that division of booth space to be very helpful.  The flow through the booth was really good.  I still found myself dancing around people sometimes while I tried to help customers, but I think that it's probably about the best that we could expect to get...and it was quite good.

Yes.  I definitely liked the color-coding, and the flow-through on the booth was excellent.

Thanks to everyone for the comments on the passport idea.  I definitely want to see if that can be refined for maximum power next year, but as a first outing, it came off strongly, I think.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: iago on August 22, 2007, 08:18:41 AM
I do think it is imperative for the actual IPR employees to have good solid information for every product they sell. They don't need to know the elevator pitch (though that would be good), and they don't need to be able to demo it (also nice). But they must be able to answer rudimentary questions about the product. Thus, if someone has a question about a product and the particular booth participant can't answer, at least they can point them to Brennan or Nathan or whomever. Obviously, this entails a lot more work for IPR, but that's what I pay them for, right? They can obviously facilitate this by requiring effort on the part of the member publishers. For example, Brennan could send out a standardized questionaire for designers to fill out about their games, e.g., "Describe the core mechanic for your game", "What other games are most similar to your game and why?", "What additional resources are available for the game?", "Describe the setting if any", etc.

I should point out (not as an excuse, but instead to shed light) there were around 200 products at the booth this year.  I know, because I built the pricelist that contained those items.  That's a lot to load into the brain (I have mostly succeeded at this thanks to the work I do on a daily basis for IPR; I'm soaking in the details more than most).  I don't think everyone on the IPR side of the booth should know about all 200; but that's what multiple staffmembers are for.  In aggregate, IPR should be able to speak on all or nearly all 200, and in most cases I think that IPR as a whole could.  Redundancies weren't always there, sure; that could be improved.

I do agree that publishers need to think carefully about how to make sure everyone at the booth responsible for driving the sales process know the "three-sentence basics" for their games.

There are other details in this comment that I could dig into, but I don't think this is the place for it. :)


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Luke on August 22, 2007, 09:20:53 AM
I felt the indie passport was very good at getting Forgies over to my booth, paper in hand, begging for a stamp and interrupting pitches and demos and otherwise distracting us. I think I can count on one hand the number of unknown faces I saw with a passport. The vast majority were familiar faces (who didn't stop to browse or purchase). I wouldn't do it again.

Scheduled games are good way to get exposure to an audience that doesn't crawl the dealer's hall. Same with panels.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: iago on August 22, 2007, 09:39:46 AM
I felt the indie passport was very good at getting Forgies over to my booth, paper in hand, begging for a stamp and interrupting pitches and demos and otherwise distracting us. I think I can count on one hand the number of unknown faces I saw with a passport. The vast majority were familiar faces (who didn't stop to browse or purchase). I wouldn't do it again.

Hmm.  Interesting... Honestly that doesn't jive with the several-hundred submissions of passports and the large lack of recognition I had for most of the names I drew from the box on Saturday -- 98% of which had a stamp from your booth.  "Vast majority" seems perceptual rather than statistical -- or at least reflects the potential for the mind to remember familiar negatives and leave unfamiliar positives unnoticed.  It's like system administration; folks only notice the 3% of the time that the machines go down, not the 97% of the time when it's all running fine.

There's no obligation to participate, though.  I just did it as an effort to keep and expand the community identity.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Luke on August 22, 2007, 09:59:03 AM
I'd be delighted to be wrong.
Care to post the number of ballot submissions?

-L


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: iago on August 22, 2007, 10:05:01 AM
I'd be delighted to be wrong.
Care to post the number of ballot submissions?

Yes!

I'll be doing so over here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=24619.0), so this thread can talk about non-passport post-mortems. :)


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Emily Care on August 22, 2007, 12:48:06 PM
Overall, I am very pleased with how this year turned out. From where I stood, things looked good at the Forge booth: the booth was attractive, open and inviting. The games were displayed to good effect and there was room enough for a long line to form and not block everything.  Though it would have been better if the line had formed on the *outside* of the booth.  I had a a couple of demos at the Booth, and they were as good as I remember them. Ron and Seth gave me short, sharp and shocked demos, both of which games I bought (IwaMD for the second time).  And somehow, everyone seemed more relaxed over there. Like having more space gave them some more freedom of mind. 

Life at the Playcollective was awesome.  Hats off to Joshua for designing the look, and Rob for being the beating heart of it by keeping us stocked, supplied and morally supported. I felt lucky and glad to be among that crew. Though, it felt dead sometimes. Saturday was hard, hard, hard to bring people in. What gave? I found myself wishing we had more demo tables--with two, we could only work with two groups at at time. Many times people would add in, but others... I should have made use of those free tables out toward the bay doors. I hear that the Ashcan Front folks did to good effect.  The passport was great, in my book. Due to Vincent's good thinking, we asked people who wanted a stamp to stay for a demo. All that I saw were glad to do so, and many bought books.  So the passport functioned for us exactly as it was meant to. It was fun to stamp them too, and many people wanted to keep theirs--the stamps were so cool. I saw many that had gone to all the stops.

The Burning Dead and Ashcan Front booths looked great.  Visually the B/D folks were stellar with their banners and displays of books.  The Ashcan Front booth looked sweet and welcoming to me. I had a couple demos there and it felt very comfortable. With a lot of people present, but all were engaged so it just felt like an active booth, and I never felt crowded.  I bought several ashcans, and sent people that way at various times during the con. Originally we had planned to do talks and seminars at our booth, so I was going to do cross-advertising with the Luke et al panels and talks, but the flow in our booth didn't really support doing talks on the floor, so that idea got jettisoned.  Next year, perhaps we will get events on the big schedule as well. Or advertise the talks in advance to get some buzz going.

best,
Emily


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Denise on August 22, 2007, 05:28:27 PM
A couple of thoughts from an outsider:
- I never saw the menu thing you'd posted here.  Granted I wasn't looking too hard, I was pimping the ENnies S'Wagon looking for submissions for next year.  But perhaps someone dressed as a maitre d' could hand them to peeps whilst offering to seat them at a table?  Someone in a tuxe or gown would certainly stand out in the hall, and be less offensive than a booth babe.
- Depending on the nominee situation, I would consider having the indie passport at the ENnies booth.  We drove a lot of traffic to the forge booth with our nominee flyers, but perhaps we could do more- perhaps a little cross-promotion?
-Definite improvement from last year- room to shop, chat with designers, and game.  Well done!


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Blankshield on August 22, 2007, 06:36:27 PM
As several folks mentioned over the weekend, this was a really nice Gencon.  They just keep getting better every year.

High points on the weekend:

-The look and feel of the booth was perfect.  I felt kinda bummed for the 6 companies that were supposed to have booths behind us by the map, but there will always be a few dropouts, and this year, the stars aligned so that we got a free upgrade.

-The passport was like printed gold.  I saw people using them, I saw them coming back with stamps, when I was up at the GoD tables, I saw people who had hunted us down because of the passport, and they sat down to play.  As far as I'm concerned, that makes them worth it a hundred times over, in terms of promoting indie gaming.  Because of the passport, people found Games on Demand, and played games, and had fun.

-Games on Demand.  Despite being in the ass end of beyond (I should know, I was upstairs in the Hyatt), I never went by during con hours without seeing at least two tables in use.  I never saw them all in use, but I often saw 4 or 5.  I also saw a bunch of faces that were just there, pretty much all day, every day, playing games.  Lxndr, Mike Holmes, Chris Weeks, I'm lookin' at you!  Next year I'm more than half tempted to join you, because you looked like you were having an awesome time.

Low points on the weekend:

-Volume of games.  Yeah, I know, I know.  I felt pretty good with my knowledge (or ability to hand off) with most of the games we had featured on the yellow menu, but overwhelmed by a lot of the other stuff on the shelf.  This is almost purely a personal thing, but I felt like I let down the booth as one of the major sponsors.  There was a lot of stuff on the shelf I couldn't pitch well, and I was only comfortable dropping down with a demo on a bare handful of games not-my-own. 

-Position and bringing customers in.  While the booth layout was great, our position I think hurt us a bit, and possibly Play Collective as well.  Essentially what happened is, from a ways back in either major traffic direction, you could see, clearly, that there was nothing behind us.  This meant by the time a lot of folks were at the booth, mentally, they were already turning around "back to the hall".  It made catching people's attention, and conversely, having a conversation or offering a demo, hella difficult this year.  The demo tables were almost always hopping, and we moved traffic well, but it would have been a lot less work if people weren't getting to our booth just as their brains were saying "interesting stuff gone".

-Saturday slump.  Like Play Collective, we found Saturday to be oddly slow and just never seemed to get up to speed.  I don't know if this is tied into the booth position as mentioned above, or if it was some big thing external to the dealer's hall, or just one of those inexplicable GenCon hiccups, but man.  Saturday was weird. 

James


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Jasper the Mimbo on August 22, 2007, 09:00:56 PM

4) I'm also not too keen on having "booth babes". Aside from objectivist issues (which are thorny), I just think it's the wrong vibe for the indie games. Too commercial maybe? It just rubs me the wrong way. (No bad sex jokes on that last comment, please.)


There goes my comeback plans. Crap...


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Brennan Taylor on August 23, 2007, 03:16:34 AM
From the IPR perspective, this was an excellent year. We fell short of last year's receipts by about $5000, but if you add in Play Collective and the Burning Dead booth, indie games did better than last year. I am very pleased by the performance of my staff: thanks, Bill, Steve, Krista, and Nathan. The demo area was hopping most of the time, and the behind-the-rack "roper" was really a sales position. Julie and Rob Donoghue did a great job in that position, I think 80% of the time I looked over there one or the other of them was there, talking to a customer.

The division of the booth into the "red zone" and "black zone" also worked great. The aisle for the store was kept clear, and the only issue with restocking was squeezing past the customers. Julie moved some tiles to create an entry corridor on Friday, which was awesome.

The only sour notes for me were the booth babe and packout. The packout problems were all of George Fern's and none of our own, though. As Ron mentioned, planning for that should have been better on their part. I'm all behind not letting vans and trucks tie up the parking lot for hours if the booth isn't ready for packout, but they need to coordinate the inspections much more efficiently.

Regarding the booth babe, I'm not mad at Justin for doing it, but I wouldn't want a repeat. I don't think booth babes fit the Forge booth philosophy on a couple of levels. First off, I don't like them in general principle. Sure, sex sells, but I think it's exploitative to have someone dress in skimpy clothes to market your stuff. Beyond this general objection, I think the Forge booth should avoid them. The Forge is about two things: the games, and mutualism between the designers attending. The green fairy was there to promote one game, which goes against mutualism. Also, T&A don't have anything to do with game play, which is what we market our games on.

Also, I agree that GOD was too far out, but there isn't much we can do about that except plead with the con organizers for next time.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Matt-M-McElroy on August 23, 2007, 04:22:04 AM
I've been stopping by the Forge booth for several years and this was the only time I felt somewhat unwelcome. The only time I was offered to join a demo was when I was shopping (i.e. picking a book up from the display to read the back cover), other times when I tried to engage someone in a conversation about a game or ask "What is new this year?" the response ranged from a name or two of new games with no description or an outright request to buy something (again with no pitch or description).

This does not include the friendly conversations I had with folks like Fred, Greg, Ron and Brennan. They were great answering questions that I was firing at them from a media pov (I was "press" at the con again this year). Although I did get the impression that folks wanted to be doing other things, so perhaps next year we can schedule an interview or two so I won't take time away from the booth. I even got to show off Colonial Gothic a bit and had some compliments, which was cool, thanks for the kind words.

I thought the Fae Noir fairy costume was an awesome thing for the booth. She was only there for a short time, got a lot of people to check out the area (not to mention how many photos with the Forge logo in the background will be on the web this week). She had fun, handed out plenty of promo-cards and moved on shortly thereafter. I seem to be in the minority on this opinion though, so take it for what it is worth.

The booth set-up was great, it was a lot easier to shop the display of titles this year, everything was easy to find and I could actually look at a book before deciding whether or not to buy it. Check out was fast and I didn't feel like I was in anyone's way. I also liked the little table of promotional materials off to the side, easy to raid for interesting material, plus it got me to look at games I knew nothing about, so that's cool.

My overall impression was: it was very easy for me to find the stuff I already knew I wanted to buy, it was not so easy for me to learn about new games or even get in on a demo. This may be a specific case and not reflective of the overall booth experience.

Regards,

Matt


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 23, 2007, 06:22:11 AM
Here are my thoughts on the Green Fairy. My conclusions are saved for the end. Bear in mind, too, that the Forge booth is not a democracy, and although everyone's views are certainly welcome here, they will not form a consensus and this is not a policy discussion.

First, some clarity

Apparently some folks are not quite clear on the details. Justin's friend dressed as a Green Fairy in a well-designed sexy costume on Saturday afternoon, stopping by the booth for two hours. She was mainly mobbed by photographers, especially when a non-scheduled, non-booth Black Fairy woman joined her, but also participated in some demos. She was cheerful and friendly. As I understand it, this was a pre-arranged event.

Justin, if I have any bit of that wrong, let me know. Anyone else, don't chime in with what you believe or heard.

Objectifying: Forge booth culture has no high moral ground

Jasper has beaten me to the punch on this point: the booth has exploited a highly sexualized, highly objectified person as a marketing device for years, Jasper himself. Details differ slightly: Jasper is a fellow publisher (a member of TAO Games), he was a demo-er for the booth as well as roper (as with anyone else), he brought people for demos for all the games, and so on. But the raw fact is undeniable that we wave humorous but genuine beefcake in people's faces and attract a horde of intrigued female GenCon attendees to the booth.

Let's also keep in mind that the fairy was a friend of a publisher and enjoyed herself. She was not a bored model surreptitiously freeing her leotard from where it rides up; she was having fun in exactly the same way Jasper has fun.

Full disclosure: more than once, I've considered having one or more of my more appropriately-physiqued female friends show up at the booth in full Trollbabe regalia. The main reasons I haven't are that Trollbabe isn't available in a really great book form (hence I can't back up spectacle with product) and that I'm a disorganized forgetful professor person.

[Initiative and publishers rights

Justin broke no booth rules by running a solo promotional event at the booth. For one thing, neither Brennan nor I nor any of the other primary sponsors is inclined to say, "whatever isn't dictated is forbidden" - it's just not us. Initiative is primary to our whole way of doing things, with the only constraints being GenCon's rules.

Granted, he didn't tell us about her arrival, but there's no existing rule to say that he should. Should there be? That's a rhetorical question; I and whoever else is a primary sponsor will decide about that for next year. If we do set up some kind of rules, you can bet they'll be awfully light. Again with the full disclosure, it hasn't occurred to me, in the past, that I'd have to say "boo" to anyone before bringing on any trollbabes.

Finally, as someone has mentioned, the Fairy was there for two hours, not the whole day or (for instance) all four days. Two hours is an extremely reasonable period for a given publisher to run a special of some kind. Consider that in 2004, The Riddle of Steel was being represented by its new, non-independent owners who had zero concept of sales, demos, or even basic friendliness to customers. We spent all of Saturday, with Ben in charge, saving their bacon from total financial disaster, with a dedicated series of 10-customer demos using a human model (Calder). This lost sales, guys. It hurt every other publisher, me especially (Saturday is always a big Sorcerer day). I still wonder whether it wouldn't have been better just to evict them from the booth (yes, totally) after their presence on Thursday and Friday demonstrated that they didn't want to be there and didn't know or even really like their product. By comparison, the Fairy did in fact promote an independent publisher's game, and if there was any direct interference with any one else's promotion or sales, I have seen no evidence for it.

But since we did what we did then, there's not much ground for saying that non-mutual promotion is automatically not permitted. I suppose if new rules are added next year, they might address that.

Conclusion

As a whole, through no single variable, the Green Fairy Incident led me to say "there is some lack of clarity here," regarding booth culture as a whole. The specific event was a "no blood no foul" situation, and I cannot help but be proud of Justin for organizing promotion for his game. I think that individual reactions to using a tight leotard to promote games will have to be what they are - individual. It's definitely made me realize that we might need some clear rules for the booth, even if the rules merely say "do as thou wilt just don't break GenCon rules," or "if an event interferes with others' success we will cancel it," or something like that. (To be clear, the Green Fairy violated neither of those principles.) Or whatever rules might arise, as Brennan and I and others scratch our heads a little. My point is that I've now realized that a little head-scratching over such things is necessary.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: GregStolze on August 23, 2007, 06:38:08 AM
My main problems with GenCon had nothing to do with booth or business (http://www.flickr.com/photos/8735355@N08/941945245/),  Click the link if you wonder why I may have been distracted, tired or off my game.  Anyhow...

I agree that Red Zone/Black Zone was highly functional, and I also agree that the IPR people were clearly troopers working like German bees.  I have no opinion on the Green Fairy controversy.  Everyone was way cool.

My bigest hurdle was probably my own high expectations.  Didn't sell as much as I'd wanted -- probably should have taken a larger sample on "what to expect of a book that's got buzz but isn't a new release".  Similarly, my initial demo idea was WAAAAAY too involved.  PLUS, there was no way I could manage as much GoD as I'd wanted to, and I feel like crap for bailing out on that.  Next time I go, it's obviously essential to get an attached hotel room so that I'm not wasting 15-30+ minutes a day walking up to the Hilton.

I also don't feel like I learned enough about other people's games, which is probably part on me and partly a function of there being too many to learn.  Is it possible, before next year, to have pre-GenCon regional training sessions?  I know a buncha you are in "the triangle" somewhere, Chicago's central... would it be possible to have a Saturday a month before GenCon to just do a game trade around and get the essentials before we're down in the middle of the crunch?

The sandwich board was torture.  I don't know if it did much good or not.  Opinions?  Data?

The thought that occurs (and I don't know the logistics) is that if you really want to maximize Indie exposure, perhaps the next step is for the Forge, Ashcan Front, Play Collective and any other separate-but-connected Indie booths to pool funds and get a big block together.  We could still have individual booths, but that way they'd be certain to be connected.

It seems like every booth has some needs -- storage, checkout, demo, promotion.  If we collectively big blocked -- and maybe even had a single place to check out -- we might be able to address storage, demo and promotion more efficiently.  For instance, having the demo space in the center of the block so that there's a buffer between it and other, perhaps noisier booths.  But I'm just talking off the top of my head.

-G.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: GregStolze on August 23, 2007, 06:42:45 AM
As an addendum...

Quote
Granted, he didn't tell us about her arrival, but there's no existing rule to say that he should. Should there be?

Speaking as a guy who didn't know posters were verboten until he'd paid for them, I'm in favor of some kind of clear statement of what is and isn't accepted.

-G.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Jason Morningstar on August 23, 2007, 07:00:25 AM
The thought of getting a gigantic block and parceling it out like feudal lords occurred to me, too - like the Forge booth writ large.  As a publisher looking at getting kicked out of the nest, that's very appealing.  In terms of logistics, cross-promoting, and actually seeing friends, it also seems like an effective strategy.  However, if removing apron strings is part of the objective, that won't do it.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Rob Donoghue on August 23, 2007, 07:17:08 AM
On a purely gut level I ended up feeling cut off from the Burning Dead guys, and that pretty well sucked.

-Rob D.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: btrc on August 23, 2007, 07:23:23 AM
Not much for me to add that hasn't been said, but:

1) I will second the notion that the passports were gold. People might -look- at everything else on the table, but mention the passport and prize drawing and you -definitely- get their attention and they -pick it up-. From where I was sitting the literature table was a hot spot. People would stop or slow down and then I could drag them into the booth to look around or steer them to a demo.

2) The IPR backdrop is a necessity for that location, otherwise people would consider us as part of the concession area tables.

3) I was wondering if some sort of vertical literature/poster display for the corners might get people's attention, or whether it would act like a visual "border" and keep people from just wandering in. More places to get people to slow down and look is good, but setting a subconscious boundary between us and them is bad.

4) The lesser quality chairs are an accident waiting to happen, especially with endomorphic gamers plopping themselves down in them, on a padded floor that causes them to tilt and wobble.

I had a great time, despite going into it as "walking wounded" from a week at Pennsic War. Simply being there is inspirational and gets new ideas flowing (even if I am a simulationist in a sea of narrativists...;).

Greg Porter
BTRC


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 23, 2007, 07:35:19 AM
Hey, that's right - the chairs.

The metal chairs are fantastic. The Geo E. Fern chairs are suckage. The bad thing is, the metal ones are starting to show their age. Both Jared Sorensen and John Marron bit the dust this year, and a lot of them are losing their little rubber feet at the top of the rods, right about elbow position and a little bit down from there. The problem with that is that those particular feet both protect people's clothes from the metal edges and help hold the whole chair together (no lie).

But we can't go back to the black chairs. Not only are they uncomfortable and flatly dangerous, they're also expensive as hell to rent.

So!! Food for thought - we could run another chair sponsorship, to create a round of new chairs (six to ten would be great), giving new people a chance to have gamers sit on them for four days. Or we could do any number of other things. I'm open to ideas about this.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: JustinB on August 23, 2007, 07:45:19 AM

First, some clarity

Apparently some folks are not quite clear on the details. Justin's friend dressed as a Green Fairy in a well-designed sexy costume on Saturday afternoon, stopping by the booth for two hours. She was mainly mobbed by photographers, especially when a non-scheduled, non-booth Black Fairy woman joined her, but also participated in some demos. She was cheerful and friendly. As I understand it, this was a pre-arranged event.

Justin, if I have any bit of that wrong, let me know. Anyone else, don't chime in with what you believe or heard.



That is correct, Ron. I would like to add, also, that she designed the costume with no input, so what she wore was entirely her choice.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Blankshield on August 23, 2007, 07:55:28 AM
Also, regarding the single publisher special events, we had one just last year, as well - Luke had a book signing event with the dude behind the Iron Empire comics.

So there's plenty of precident all the way around.

James


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Gregor Hutton on August 23, 2007, 08:08:28 AM
I'd be happy to sponsor a chair and I like to think a few others would too.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Valamir on August 23, 2007, 08:17:45 AM
The bad thing is, the metal ones are starting to show their age. Both Jared Sorensen and John Marron bit the dust this year, and a lot of them are losing their little rubber feet at the top of the rods, right about elbow position and a little bit down from there. The problem with that is that those particular feet both protect people's clothes from the metal edges and help hold the whole chair together (no lie).

Matt Wilson is an adventure in gravity waiting to happen as well.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: TonyLB on August 23, 2007, 08:18:42 AM
In terms of logistics, cross-promoting, and actually seeing friends, it also seems like an effective strategy.  However, if removing apron strings is part of the objective, that won't do it.
Exactly.  I'd put the issue of separate booths (and separate accumulations of GenCon points!) in a little bit less freighted a manner, though.  This isn't (just) about removing apron strings.  Having several independently workable booths is like genetic diversity ... it's just flat out a better way for a population to be survivable and adaptable.

Absolutely my favorite thing from GenCon was seeing the spin-off booths run professionally, successfully and without (to the best of my ability to see) sudden spikes of self-made disaster.  If anybody forgot anything obvious-in-hindsight ("My God!  SHELVES!  A booth needs shelves!  What will we do?  Oh noes!") then they covered it so well that it was completely invisible from the outside.

Two weeks ago we suspected that people could run spin-off booths.  Now we know.  I'm frackin' thrilled by that.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Michael S. Miller on August 23, 2007, 08:42:40 AM
For myself, being unconnected to any booth paid off greatly this year. Since GenCon is a show driven by the New Thing (not just for indies, but for everybody) I suggest publishers that don't have any new products seriously consider whether the cost of buying into a booth (in both time and money) is worth the potential benefit. There are other facets of GenCon beyond the exhibit hall.

One of them that I was very pleased with this year was the Games On Demand area. We collected over 220 generic tickets over the 28 hours that the GoD area was running. The area was always hopping with pick-up games, longer demos, playtests, and the like. Kat and I were very happy with the performance of the GoD area this year.

Many thanks to all our Table Custodians, GMs, and players for making Games on Demand such a success! I only wish there had been more hours in the con so I could have played more!

There were a few hiccups that will need to be addressed. If anyone knows of more (besides location, which we have no control over) please let us know. The main things we're focusing on:

1) GoD is not for out-reach. Lots of people stopped me with suggestions of ways to bring more people to the GoD area. All of them were very clever and would probably work well. But we do not have enough staff to do outreach properly. Having the occasional new person show up and get his mind blown by an indie game is a nice side-effect, but that cannot be a primary goal of the GoD area.

2) The "Games on Demand" name needs to change I had more than a few passers-by who, when I explained what the area was all about, promptly thrust a generic ticket at me and said "Cool. I demand you run a game of X right now for my buddies." Game X was usually D&D, Shadowrun, or the like. I had to then explain that no games were starting right that moment, and the gamer would usually storm off in a huff.

I also picked up that a number of the table custodians were concerned about folks demanding games they weren't prepared to run. Since the "Games on Demand" title doesn't seem to be communicating the right idea of what is actually going on, (despite the cool acronym) the name needs to change. Kat and I are thinking of Spontaneous Indie Gaming Now!, or S.I.G.N. as a more descriptive title. Suggestions are welcome via e-mail to stalwartIP aat gmail

Jason & Justin: Could you tell me more of what was lacking in organization in the scheduled events? The event location problems affected thousands of events, and were quite beyond anyone's control. Kat and I tried to act as liasons between the Indie Games Explosion GMs and the GenCon staff as much as possible. If there's more we can do, we want to know.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: iago on August 23, 2007, 09:09:48 AM
Speaking as a guy who didn't know posters were verboten until he'd paid for them, I'm in favor of some kind of clear statement of what is and isn't accepted.

Yep, this is right at the crux of things.  I had absolutely zero problem with the booth babe -- so long as I understood her to be spontaneous rather than arranged. 

Once she moves into the arranged space, she's there serving a directed promotional purpose, which I understand to be verboten under the "no, you can't have posters" clause.  (I'd have brought in posters as well.)

Some folks may be quick to point out that she was only there for a couple hours, rendering it non-verboten.  If that's the case, then surely posters can be afforded the same luxury -- put them up, but you only get two or four hours of time in which to have them up, so choose wisely.

Then again I think the most even-handed solution is "if you want to promote your product identity over and above the others at the Forge booth, the way to do this is to be a primary sponsor, or to get your own booth". 

(I recognize this isn't a policy discussion. By making this post, I'm not suggesting that I think it is.  I am however stating clearly how fairness will be achieved in my eyes, and I suspect in the eyes of others.)

My bigest hurdle was probably my own high expectations.  Didn't sell as much as I'd wanted -- probably should have taken a larger sample on "what to expect of a book that's got buzz but isn't a new release".

For what it's worth, Reign was the #2 seller at the booth.  I believe last year, Burning Empires had its release at GenCon, and sold slightly over 100 copies.  So there's your datapoint for the future.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Gregor Hutton on August 23, 2007, 09:21:46 AM
For what it's worth Greg I think the sandwich board looked a bit cheap and desperate. I don't have a thousandth (if that) the name value that you have Greg, but I kinda felt that you didn't have to push so much for sales.

You have a hell of a product and a known presence. If people don't want to pick up the game at the booth? That's cool. They've seen it or been given the pitch, or perhaps been in a demo -- they can pick it up later if they want. I think sometimes you were trying too hard to convince one or two people that they really need to pick it up right now.

I think you could have been moving on to the next group or just giving them space, and the impression that you are, indeed, a designer that doesn't need to grapple for every sale.

I don't know if that helps any?


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Jasper the Mimbo on August 23, 2007, 11:33:55 AM
I've been thinking about the splintering-off of some of the forges products. Mostely it seems to be a good idea. The math of it makes sense. The more products there are in a given space the less likely any one of them is going to be picked by a browsing Con-goer. I have been thinking for the last two years that the sheer number of games was becomeing counter productive to the purpose of the booth. Having a few splinter booths seemed to work pretty well, except for two signifigant issues.

1) Less people seemed drawn to the main booth where the new games were. With record numbers of attendees, (an estimated 41,000 people) I expected to booth to be even more crowded and exciting, not less. The only conclusion I could come up with is that a couple of the big draw games (Burning Wheel for example) were drawing people elsewhere. In addition, a couple of the demo-ers that draw in passers-by through sheer personality and exited arm waving (Luke and Malcom, for example) were also elsewhere. I feel that, even if it is sometimes hard to deal with, having an excited mob at the booth draws more people in who are wondering what's going on. From what I saw, that excitement was the main difference between this year and previous years.

2) I missed seeing everyone. (Admittedly I was one of the people who was away this year. My mistake. Won't happen again.) Half the reason I come is because I love the Forge group so much. It's like belonging to the coolest social club I can imagine. This year the club was all broken up. The baby Jesus cried about that. In the future, I'd like to see a situation that doesn't spread everyone out. We all feed off of each other's energy, and it's a whole lot more difficult to do when we're spread all over the hall.

The idea of getting a big block is a good one, IMO. The trick would be dividing up product into smaller sections that wouldn't be quite so overwhelming. Could be as simple as putting some space between the shelves so it's not just a giant wall of books. Maybe something that combines the two ideas, like putting the various booth sections as corners around a play space in the middle of the square, or a circular table with a hole in the middle that we can put the cashiers in, so they sit in the center of an island surrounded by product. Something to think about.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Michael S. Miller on August 23, 2007, 11:53:52 AM
Jasper, about the less-booth-density, I also like the think that Games On Demand absorbed a number of folks who might otherwise be hanging around, chatting, sitting in demo-after-demo. Instead, they got to play and have fun far from the noisy booth-land! (in the noisy construction-land, as luck would have it)


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 23, 2007, 12:21:51 PM
Hello,

I think a little clarity has been lost regarding the posters issue. The key point, established over six years, is that there simply is not enough poster space for everyone. This causes discord.

No structural solution seems possible. If we give size standards, people tend not to obey them; if we establish a poster schedule for hanging them, people either need to be policed and/or resent it; if we permit $200 but not $100 people to use posters, people create a two-tier status thing out of it; and more. And then the posters themselves: they fall, they rip (to the aggrievance of the owner), they pull the curtain askew, and they get in the way fiendishly when not hanging.

Trust me on this. If you've only been at the booth for a couple of years, then you haven't seen the truth that posters are the devil's toilet paper at a communal booth, and he gives them to us after he's used them. I have a massive and phenomenally crowd-affecting poster of the Sorcerer cover which gives Significant Others whiplash as they walk past the booth, then drags them, trailing their nervous-looking boyfriend, straight toward the book. I'd love to have it at the booth. I could be an asshole and simply mandate that it has to be there, because I Am Ron and this is My Booth. But I don't, because posters are the devil's TP.

Anything I ever wrote about the posters concerned the posters, as objects relative to the available poster space. It's not an expression of a larger "no individual promotion" rule. I hunted up and down anything I wrote about it, and that's not there.

I do understand that there's an unresolved fairness issue regarding individual promotions, and it's something to attend to for next year. If for no other reason that many people are self-imposing constraints that are maybe too stringent. But the posters ain't part of that, and whatever the rules will be, the posters rule is separate and will remain the way it is for good empirical reasons.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: JustinB on August 23, 2007, 12:26:32 PM
Jasper, about the less-booth-density, I also like the think that Games On Demand absorbed a number of folks who might otherwise be hanging around, chatting, sitting in demo-after-demo. Instead, they got to play and have fun far from the noisy booth-land! (in the noisy construction-land, as luck would have it)

Kids love watching the dumptrucks and such.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: GregStolze on August 23, 2007, 12:36:08 PM
On further consideration of my big-booth concept -- if it was an enclosure, might it be possible to put posters on the exterior walls? 

The other suggestion I'd make (and it has nothing to do with posters) concerns the games that are there without representation.  If every publisher could write up a short, 1-2 paragraph description -- not even a demo -- they could be kept in a file folder, in alphabetical order ideally, and when someone asks about "This here 'Devil's Terlit Paper' game" you can look up 'D' and read him a spiel.  Is it ideal?  Hell no.  Is it more manageable than having a grasp of all the games there?  Oh yeah.

-G.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: JasonWalters on August 23, 2007, 10:21:13 PM
Just a quick observation from a semi-outsider on convention events: I noticed that a few of the folks posting on this thread weren't pleased with the way their scheduled GenCon games went. I think the commonly repeated phrase was "waste of my time." I agree - running more than a single, after-hours event is a waste of time for any exhibitor working a convention. Given those parameters, the "one roll" demo method you folks have worked out is a vastly superior use of a designer/exhibitor's time. However, I cannot agree that running games at a convention is a waste of someone else's time.

Allow me to explain. It's going to sound like bragging, but hang with me. Counting various games played using the 3rd and 4th editions of our rules, there were 123 Hero System events scheduled at GenCon this year. This means we came in second only to D&D for most RPG events. I was tasked with individually gifting the 99 games being run in 5th edition with either 25% off discount certificates or books, depending on event's scheduling. (Which is one reason why I couldn't devote more time to the Ashcan Front booth). Of those 99 events, I successfully located and gifted 85 games over a four-day period. I would guess that I knew somewhere around 75% of the game masters I encountered during that time on a first name basis. Also, from what I understand, something like 50 of those discount certificates made their way back to our booth. Needless to say, we had extremely strong sales this GenCon. 

Not a single one of these games was run by a Hero Games employee. Darren, Steve, and Tina have worked hard at constructing a grass roots network of game masters who not only run our games at conventions, but push our products to their players as well. They do this mainly out of their love of one of world's great old-school game systems, but also because we're organized and nice to them. They're not only our friends, but also an important part of the company. There are Hero Games GM dinners, discounts, support, and - perhaps most importantly - we respect and admire our GMs. They're not outside looking in, but inside looking out.

Maybe - being that you are a very smart bunch of boys and girls, let me change that to probably - IPR has its own equivalent of our Legion of Heroes program. If not, there is no reason that IPR couldn't have one. Everybody knows that Forge games are the coolest games in town. You guys are so bleeding edge you risk falling off the knife entirely. With a bit of effort it shouldn't be very hard to enlist a small cadre of talented GMs to exclusively push IPR games at every convention it attends. Using similar methods, you could also drive a lot more paying customers into your booth without having to run any games yourselves. When the con is over with, take them out to dinner so that they can regale you with tales of how much fun they had running your games. Believe me, you can't put a price on that sort of thing.       


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Sydsquicious on August 23, 2007, 10:26:37 PM
First; out I come from lurker land, but now is as good of a time as any.

On Jasper's big come-back idea:  I think Jasper dressed up as a green fairy booth babe is an outstanding idea.  Where do we vote?

Overall, sans Jake the selling-machine, Matt and I both had a great deal of fun and loved the experience we had at the Forge booth.  It's had us in game design heaven (hell?) ever since we left, and we feel like not only do we have great ideas for our current project(s), but we also have some new ideas ready to be hatched.  This we credit to the warm, social and inviting atmosphere that the Forge booth offers.

The excitement generated by the labors of love that adorn all of the racks seriously seems to create an atmosphere that is a sure win for both designers and fans, and I'd personally suggest trying to maintain the inviting and inclusive feeling that it inspires.  The idea of more space for more collectivity seems like a decent idea to follow up on.

The only frustration that we had (and it wasn't a huge one, just a minor 'darnit') was the placement of books on the shelves.  Since most westerners read top to bottom - left to right, the prime spots are obviously going to be towards the top left center.  Many of those spots seemed to be used for people that weren't present.  Classroom Deathmatch (first year at Gencon) was in the bottom left along with Panty Explosion.  People often times would only make it half way through the top portions before moving on to the next rack -  it lead me to think that perhaps shifting the games around some might give some 'spot lighting', or having racks that maybe were designated to catagories for exampleForge Best Sellers - vetted books that people know and love and are coming in specifically to look for &/or Forge New Releases - non-vetted book introductions that people will be 'meeting' for the first time.  Or perhaps having it seperated into racks that are at the con designers and not.  That said, if this is all old news that has been hashed out and answered before, forgive my faux paus.

On another note:  Brennan and Ron did a fantastic job organizing and helping newbies this year.  Matt and I were discussing how we couldn't have felt more welcomed or comfortable.  Everyone else just reinforced this feeling.  It was like Warm Fuzzy in a can.

And a final thought - it might help to have some laminated place cards for the different demo games to put on the table.  Often times people seemed to be inclined to walk up with an interested but somewhat confused look, doing what almost seemed to be the shy-person play test (one where you don't have to participate but can get a feel just by watching).  Rather than having to interrupt the playtest, this might offer a quiet 'invitation' to those sorts who are buyers as well.

Anyways, those are my initial thoughts after reading through the thread and forcing myself into de-lurk mode.

Warmest Regards,

Kim Baker-Schlotte


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Brennan Taylor on August 24, 2007, 03:54:36 AM
Jason - IPR is working on just what you said, and we should have some organized GMs by next year.

Kim - My apologies for placement, but one of the main reasons I put Panty Explosion, Dogs in the Vineyard, and Primetime Adventures and their ilk low on the rack is that these games sell well without a lot of promo, and I wanted people to search the racks and see a lot of the other titles that may not get a lot of love. Rack arranging is an art, and I know I will always disappoint someone. Your games are hot titles that people look for.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: TomTancredi on August 24, 2007, 05:44:42 AM


Maybe - being that you are a very smart bunch of boys and girls, let me change that to probably - IPR has its own equivalent of our Legion of Heroes program. If not, there is no reason that IPR couldn't have one. Everybody knows that Forge games are the coolest games in town. You guys are so bleeding edge you risk falling off the knife entirely. With a bit of effort it shouldn't be very hard to enlist a small cadre of talented GMs to exclusively push IPR games at every convention it attends. Using similar methods, you could also drive a lot more paying customers into your booth without having to run any games yourselves. When the con is over with, take them out to dinner so that they can regale you with tales of how much fun they had running your games. Believe me, you can't put a price on that sort of thing.       


Jason, I agree 100%. Speaking from my initial experiences, the games I GMed at GenCon for Fae Noir sold about 2 books per 6-player session on average. Overall, about 33% of the sales were netted from customers excited with the sit-down sessions. I think the demos are a crucial part to getting the game exposure and getting a "taste" of what the game is all about, but actually playing 4 hours of the game gives the customer a memorial experience that they leave with. Probably the most-talked about topic when people go back home from gencon is what games they played.

Brennan, if there's a list for GMs IPR is organizing, I'd like to throw my hat in the ring. I'm up for learning whatever games Game Publishers are interested in teaching me. I think there would be minimal allocation of resources for something that has a potentially huge return - a Game Publisher donates a copy of the source manual to the GM for him/her to run the sessions, in exchange for 2-3 sessions to be run; a special night for regaling and dinner; awards to the GM whose sessions sells the most. that's off the top of my head. Basically, having GMs act as an incentivized and energized sales team that works for peanuts (or for the pure joy of GMing. Or A couple of Cokes. Or all three).


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Jasper the Mimbo on August 24, 2007, 09:17:59 AM

On Jasper's big come-back idea:  I think Jasper dressed up as a green fairy booth babe is an outstanding idea.  Where do we vote?


I suppose it wouldn't be that different from my Rocky Horror costume. Just add wings and paint. Now where'd I put my man-thong...


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Steve Segedy on August 24, 2007, 09:23:20 AM
With a bit of effort it shouldn't be very hard to enlist a small cadre of talented GMs to exclusively push IPR games at every convention it attends. Using similar methods, you could also drive a lot more paying customers into your booth without having to run any games yourselves. When the con is over with, take them out to dinner so that they can regale you with tales of how much fun they had running your games. Believe me, you can't put a price on that sort of thing.       

Thanks, Jason- this is a good insight, and one that we (Bully Pulpit Games, that is) have been mulling over already, since we ran ourselves ragged trying to both run sessions of our games and work at the booth at the same time.   Thanks for bringing this up.

Brennan, if there's a list for GMs IPR is organizing, I'd like to throw my hat in the ring. I'm up for learning whatever games Game Publishers are interested in teaching me. I think there would be minimal allocation of resources for something that has a potentially huge return - a Game Publisher donates a copy of the source manual to the GM for him/her to run the sessions, in exchange for 2-3 sessions to be run; a special night for regaling and dinner; awards to the GM whose sessions sells the most. that's off the top of my head. Basically, having GMs act as an incentivized and energized sales team that works for peanuts (or for the pure joy of GMing. Or A couple of Cokes. Or all three).

Tom, we'd love to encourage folks to GM our games at cons, so if you're interested, drop us a line.  Whether it's as part of an IPR group or separately, we'd be happy to do right by anybody that champions our games.  We had a lot of success last year with Eric and Lisa Provost running the Roach, and this year with Hans Messersmith on Grey Ranks, so we'd like to keep on in that tradition.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: GregStolze on August 25, 2007, 06:02:33 AM
Quote
For what it's worth Greg I think the sandwich board looked a bit cheap and desperate.

Gregor, you appear to have been correct.  I'm pitied as far away as France. (http://hu-mu.blogspot.com/2007/08/aidons-greg-stolze-sen-sortir.html)  If you want the hilarious translation, I've put it on my forums (http://forgreatjustice.net/bbs/viewtopic.php?p=1920#1920).

-G.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Rob Donoghue on August 28, 2007, 07:46:21 AM
I'm thinking about what worked, promotion-wise, and I think I need to plug the power of bookmarks.  Even setting aside how well they work for us with SOTC, there were a handful of other booths handing them out, and they're much easier to accept than a postcard or flier but allow for a bit more promotion than a business card.  And heck, I'm already buying books - a few bookmarks certainly can't hurt.  Notably, in the cases of Pinnacle's Solomon Kane book and Dragons of Kir, both made a positive impression on me (and entered my awareness) through their very nice looking bookmarks.  This particularly stuck in my mind as I was cracking open one of my gencon books and discovered a bookmark I'd put in it at the time -  what other promotion lingers like this?

Now, if you can also have some game utility out of your promotional material, then that's extra awesome, but that's also another discussion.

Anyway, I also recall that they're pretty darn cheap, relatively speaking. Fred can probably suggest the name of the company we used, and I suspect there are others.

Anything to keep Greg out of a sign. :)

-Rob D.

PS - Though I'm all for the Reign bookmarks which say on the back: "Buy it. This guy wrote Unknown Fucking Armies." - Leonard Balsera


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Robert Bohl on August 28, 2007, 09:01:07 PM
Michael, what about adapting some version of "Go Play" for the new GoD name? I happen to be down on acronyms right now, so I think something like The Go Play Center (but less sucky) would be good.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: jrs on August 30, 2007, 06:21:00 AM
Here's a celebratory post from GenCon--my favorite eavesdropping moment at the Forge booth.

I'm standing at the side of the booth at one of the game racks doing my usual spiel of asking attendees if they need help or have questions, etc. There is one guy in the "store" area. He's already told me he just wants to browse. So I'm standing there quietly, scanning for other potential customers, and Robin Laws comes by and starts talking to this guy. They obviously know each other and they talk a bit about the booth. At some point the other guy makes this comment, "This game, Perfect, makes me want to write again.".  I thought that was pretty cool.

Julie

p.s. I don't know the mystery guy. His badge was turned around the whole time.


Title: Re: Gen Con post-mortem
Post by: Steve Segedy on August 30, 2007, 08:46:15 AM
In the same spirit as Julie's post, I recall having a particularly cool interaction with a customer (I was working the cash register when he was checking out with some games).  He mentioned that he was from Canada, and so it was a special effort for him to come to Gen Con and look for indie games.  That said, he was particularly impressed with the Forge booth this year, as everyone he met- ropers, demo-runners, retailers, and other booth folks- was super nice and welcoming to him. 

I think everything really clicked this year, starting with the booth layout and extending out to the attitude of everyone working there.  Folks were inviting, and engaged the attendees with enthusiasm but stopped short of the irritating hard-sell.  It may not have been the best sales year for everyone involved, but I think we should all consider it a success.