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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 75 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Gen Con post-mortem  (Read 23388 times)
Brennan Taylor
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« Reply #15 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.
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Matt-M-McElroy
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« Reply #16 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
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 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
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GregStolze
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« Reply #18 on: August 23, 2007, 06:38:08 AM »

My main problems with GenCon had nothing to do with booth or business,  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.
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GregStolze
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« Reply #19 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.
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Jason Morningstar
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« Reply #20 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.
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Rob Donoghue
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« Reply #21 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.
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Rob Donoghue
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btrc
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« Reply #22 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...Wink.

Greg Porter
BTRC
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #23 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
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JustinB
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« Reply #24 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.
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Blankshield
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« Reply #25 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
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Gregor Hutton
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« Reply #26 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.
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Valamir
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« Reply #27 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.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #28 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.
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #29 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.
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