Wrapping up a Magic Game Day weekend while grading final exams makes for a very busy weekend but I still had some thoughts about last week’s Gencon:
1. Attendance. Reported attendance topped 61,000 people. That’s over double 2010’s attendance of just over 30,000 through the door and, while still just under half the attendance of the pre-eminent pop-culture convention, San Diego Comic Con, the numbers GenCon posts far eclipse that of the second largest gaming convention, Origins, which posted n numbers of just under 16,000 this year. Whatever else one might say about Gencon, and lots of people have lots of things to say, the people running it are certainly doing something right to generate those kinds of numbers.
2. Dealer’s/Exhibit Hall. With the kind of attendance numbers GenCon has generated the past decade, the convention has become THE place to be if you are a game company, especially if you are a smaller game company or a seller of gaming related paraphernalia, such as t-shirts, bags, etc. As I mentioned last week, a number of companies reported selling out of their con stock of a production run on day one (Looney Labs and Green Ronin come to mind) and had to get a rush delivery to restock for the rest of the con. However , the huge demand for space in the hall has caused GenCon to move to a priority points based system for allocation of space, with vendors needing to accumulate so many points in order to get a booth. Factors determining the number of priority points a vendor gets include number of years displaying at Gencon, size of the booth, sponsorship level and other factors that I wasn’t able to find with a quick search. This means that smaller vendors with low priority point levels get relegated to less desirable spots in the hall. Couple that with a booth fee in excess of $1500 for a 10’ x 10’ booth and smaller vendors can feel quite squeezed, to the point where they may find it financially infeasible to return to the show.
3. GenCon Releases. Still quite a bit of a problem with small publishers even after all these years. Wanting to make a splash and draw attention to their booths, publishers hold or target new releases for GenCon (see the aforementioned Looney Labs and Green Ronin. Batman Fluxx released the week after Gencon and we still have not seen Fantasy Age or Titansgrave in store yet). This doesn’t hurt stores that are a good distance away from Indianapolis. However, one of the selling points for Indianapolis as a location for GenCon is that 70% of the US’s population lies within about a day’s drive of the city, meaning that a good number of stores lose sales to Gencon. It’s also possible to look at this problem in another way. True, the store lost sales to Gencon, but the store can also look at this as a demo opportunity. I know of stores that have customers come back with Gencon purchases and want to play them in the store. Instead of getting angry, the store manager looks at this as a promotional opportunity, taking advantage to show the game off to those customers that did not get to go to Gencon, and there are a lot of them out there.
And with that, Gencon 2015 is on the books.