[Selling via Booths] Selling Your Game at GenCon

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  • I've never been to gen con, and I still want to go, but between the new-to-me fact that it costs one thousand sixteen fucking hundred dollars to get a booth and the fact that you have to pay to play games (apparently? This is what tickets are?), man, I don't know what, but those things just suck.
  • Posted By: Andy
    You can guess where I'll be selling my game (hint: Not at GenCon).
    Andy: This is awesome, but sadly not all of us have games like Misery Bubblegum or Maid that would do equally well at an anime convention as a gaming convention. :) Seriously, though, good luck with that. If you do pursue it, let us know how it goes!
  • I like the backpack idea. I'm going to post and addition and then scurry us to another thread.

    If it was at GenCon, we could reach out to GC and ask them what's the simplest way to do this for a group of marginal-profit pamphleteers. Maybe it's an event, rather than a booth? 1 hour, various sellers standing up and talking up their $1/$5 game and trading/selling amongst the backpackers. GenCon might be okay with lo-fi commerce within the course of an event.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: Keith Sears
    Since I am on the GPA Board of Directors, I can answer this question.

    A full membership for a year is $75. This past Gen Con, a half booth was $375...
    Good lord that's a cost savings. Is there a full booth price option?

    Paul
  • Posted By: Seth Drebitko
    image
    Sorry to derail, but I could not let this stand. The guy in red should be murdered for those flipflops. He is not worthy of that suit. Hell, anything short of snakeskin roach-killers would be an insult to that suit.
  • I'd just like to reiterate how awesome PAX East was, and how enthusiastically I'll be to sell there again.

  • A couple of things (all with the caveat of "perhaps they could be negotiated away by talking to Gen Con about your specific idea")

    *handing out flyers outside of your booth space is an express Gen Con no-no.

    *Gen Con is crowded and there a ton of people there in costume. The chances of your lime-green suit guy actually catching anyone's eye seems low to me.

    *Getting a dedicated room seems like a better route to me - like Games on Demand, but like "indie low-fi a go-go" where you can have people sit down and play, give them the purchase info, and sell to them later (like, in your hotel room).

    Let's be clear - Gen Con is NOT the place for scrappy, no-cost indie bootstrapping. It's too big, too expensive and too conservative. PAX, STAPLE!, and your local convention are less expensive and probably more amenable to new weird sales avenues.

    I am a crotchety old man.

    ---

    Honestly, if you can attend both, I think it's better to debut a game at Origins or DexCon, and then just run registered events at Gen Con with a clear and easy sale path (flyer with paypal info, booth carrying the game in the hall, handshake and buy-it-offsite, whatever).
  • edited August 2010
    I will second debuting at Origins.

    Because of the lower traffic and whatnot, I was actually able to step away from the booth to run three games of Dresden Files. (Of course, it helped that we were overstaffed, though we were also a bit overstaffed at GenCon.) Because of busyness around GenCon[1], I had to turn down people who asked if I could step away and run games. That added to the awesome that was the Origins release.

    - Ryan

    [1] I might be somewhat skewed in that I was also working as press again this year, but I don't think it's that skewed. Unless you're *planning* to run pick-up games during the day, it's hard to suddenly do.
  • edited August 2010
    Well, release your game when it is done, but if it is done in time for Origins that is a very, very good place to release it. Origins alpha gamers are even more alpha than Gen Con alpha gamers. Your thing will build interest through play before Gen Con.

    PAX may change the logic of this.
  • edited August 2010
    I should also point out that there's no inherently strong reason to debut your game at one of the big summer cons, beyond "That's what everyone does."

    Spirit of the Century released in November, uh, 2006? Whatever year that was. Got accolades, won awards, sold a lot the following GenCon.

    Fiasco released in, what January this year? Got accolades, won awards, sold out at GenCon.

    It helps that these seasons have less competition for gamer mindshare, because people aren't rushing to release then. I have been telling some people lately that I see late October/early November as a bit of a sweet spot, because of the low number of releases in our community. January/February is clearly a great time as well.

    - Ryan
  • I know a guy who wanted to sell his games out of his backpack at Gen Con. It was hard for him to do so, and he didn't sell very many this way. He instead walked up to the IPR booth, slapped his books down, and paid for booth space by working every day of the con, selling everyone's games. He was very happy, but probably didn't come out in the black in the end. Then again, he never expected to make money out of Gen Con. At best, he hoped to break even on the trip. He goes to Gen Con to get the game in front of eyeballs, presented by him and his enthusiasm. Eyeballs that come to the center of the United States, then go all over the world with a seed.

    I think he really enjoyed Gen Con a lot.
  • Posted By: Gregor HuttonIn 2008 3:16 was on IPR and DM (where it got even sales between the two booths), in 2009 it was on three booths (DM, IPR and Cubicle 7) and this year it was on just two (IPR, C7). It seemed to increase sales rather than split a fixed number of achievable sales across two/three vendors. So maybe finding more than one outlet for your game is a good idea? Or maybe having "exclusivity" is worth it in certain cases?
    For the kind of small press stuff most of you guys are doing, more chances for people to see it is an absolute win.

    Also, everyone please remember that selling to IPR doesn't mean you "lose money". It means you make less on that qty of copies you sell that you otherwise would not have sold, and if you sell enough through that channel to offset a larger (read:cheaper) print run, you do BETTER on those copies you sell direct. Gregor has the right idea, for sure: have the product in several places, where it can get seen by people besides those inclined to stop in at DM... the presence of 3:16 n the C7 booth meant that a whole army of Dr Who fans walked past it who may never even have gotten to the 'Indie' side of the hall.

    -Jim C.
  • Posted By: hans ottersonI've never been to gen con, and I still want to go, but between the new-to-me fact that it costsone thousand sixteen fucking hundred dollarsto get a booth and the fact that you have topay to play games(apparently? This is what tickets are?), man, I don't know what, but those things just suck.
    Hans-

    No, they don't, or at least, they don't suck because they're unusual or unexpected or a rip-off in comparison to the rest of the hobby. Your cost per attendee at GenCon is totally in line with the industry given the attendance, and probably on the cheap side. (A $1600 booth at GenCon when they get 30K unique attendees is about the same as a $50 booth at a con that draws a thousands attendees, and any con that size will have booths in the several hundred dollar range)

    Every regional gamer Con I attend all charge separate fees for individual events. It's hardly a unique-to-GenCon phenomenon. Your admission gets you into the show, seminars, dealer hall, etc. Specific events require an extra payment, which is fine. It's been that way for years, and it's not like they don't explain exactly how it all breaks out in advance. Most of these shows simply wouldn't happen if they had to make their entire nut just on admissions and vendor sales.

    -Jim C.
  • Jim - there are different cultural standards for this sort of thing. Here in Finland you could basically buy the entire dealer's hall for yourself in the largest convention of the country for the cost of a small Gencon booth, if the exhibitor fees were real and not just token payments. Any other convention, and I'll walk in there without paying a cent. Getting visitors to pay for events would be sheer fantasy. Conventions are routinely financed by utilizing rent-free or heavily subvented public locations. It's a totally different paradigm that is in my understanding pretty common in some other countries as well, so I'm not surprised a bit that some would find the terms Gencon gives you sucky.
  • edited August 2010
    Posted By: Jim CrockerPosted By: hans ottersonI've never been to gen con, and I still want to go, but between the new-to-me fact that it costsone thousand sixteen fucking hundred dollarsto get a booth and the fact that you have topay to play games(apparently? This is what tickets are?), man, I don't know what, but those things just suck.
    Hans-

    No, they don't, or at least, they don't suck because they're unusual or unexpected or a rip-off in comparison to the rest of the hobby. Your cost per attendee at GenCon is totally in line with the industry given the attendance, and probably on the cheap side. (A $1600 booth at GenCon when they get 30K unique attendees is about the same as a $50 booth at a con that draws a thousands attendees, and any con that size will have booths in the several hundred dollar range)

    Every regional gamer Con I attend all charge separate fees for individual events. It's hardly a unique-to-GenCon phenomenon. Your admission gets you into the show, seminars, dealer hall, etc. Specific events require an extra payment, which is fine. It's been that way for years, and it's not like they don't explain exactly how it all breaks out in advance. Most of these shows simply wouldn't happen if they had to make their entire nut just on admissions and vendor sales.

    -Jim C.

    Jim, that makes sense, and thanks for the explanation. I'm coming from only attending GPNW, Gamestorm, and Conquest NW, where I just pay an entry fee and then play all the hell I want. These are regional gamer cons and don't charge separate fees for individual events (though, to be fair, GPNW is its own beast). I don't think Gen Con is ripping people off*, but it's kind of a shock to think about being charged to play games beyond an entry fee.


    *well, like, they're just making the money they need to to stay alive, so that's not ripping people off. But just looking at gaming @ Gen Con vs. gaming @ Gamestorm or GPNW, yeah, it's a ripoff. But then I don't think you really go to Gen Con primarily to play games, so it's not a real comparison.
  • Posted By: Paul CzegePosted By: Keith Sears
    Since I am on the GPA Board of Directors, I can answer this question.

    A full membership for a year is $75. This past Gen Con, a half booth was $375...
    Good lord that's a cost savings. Is there a full booth price option?

    Sorry.. misquoted the half booth price. It was $387.50. Full booth was $675.00. The GPA does try to get discounts when we can. Most of the major cons, except GenCon, usually discount for the larger booth spaces. The GPA subdivides the space and passes the savings along to the member.

    Our main thrust is to provide a helping hand to those game companies that want to give their passion an actual go in the marketplace.
  • Posted By: Robert BohlI know a guy who wanted to sell his games out of his backpack at Gen Con. It was hard for him to do so, and he didn't sell very many this way. He instead walked up to the IPR booth, slapped his books down, and paid for booth space by working every day of the con, selling everyone's games. He was very happy, but probably didn't come out in the black in the end. Then again, he never expected to make money out of Gen Con. At best, he hoped to break even on the trip. He goes to Gen Con to get the game in front of eyeballs, presented by him and his enthusiasm. Eyeballs that come to the center of the United States, then go all over the world with a seed.

    I think he really enjoyed Gen Con a lot.
    This guy sounds like a huge nerd.

    WINK
  • Posted By: Keith SearsPosted By: Paul CzegePosted By: Keith Sears
    Since I am on the GPA Board of Directors, I can answer this question.

    A full membership for a year is $75. This past Gen Con, a half booth was $375...
    Good lord that's a cost savings. Is there a full booth price option?

    Sorry.. misquoted the half booth price. It was $387.50. Full booth was $675.00. The GPA does try to get discounts when we can. Most of the major cons, except GenCon, usually discount for the larger booth spaces. The GPA subdivides the space and passes the savings along to the member.

    Are publishers who participate with the GPA this way listed individually in the Gen Con program?

    Paul
  • Posted By: Paul Czege
    Are publishers who participate with the GPA this way listed individually in the Gen Con program?l
    We do our best to make sure that happens. Unfortunately, we have had some companies sign up past the program publishing, so they are not listed.
  • DexCon and Dreamation happen have a lot of the story game community in attendance.
    But somehow the only IPR is selling story games there.

    If your game is carried by IPR I might see it and pick it up.
    However I would rather play your game, before buying it.

    So if it isn't demoed then I am sure I would never even buy it.
  • Posted By: ziphtDexCon and Dreamation happen have a lot of the story game community in attendance.
    But somehow the only IPR is selling story games there.
    Running a booth at a play con sucks. You wouldn't see a Design Matters-type booth there because of the priorities of those who would otherwise be running it.

    I mean, someone is free to prove me wrong, and then blog about the money earned versus the opportunity cost of focusing on sales at a con that is less about the business of sales are more about the culture of play.

    - Ryan
  • Posted By: wundergeekAndy: This is awesome, but sadly not all of us have games like Misery Bubblegum or Maid that would do equally well at an anime convention as a gaming convention. :) Seriously, though, good luck with that. If you do pursue it, let us know how it goes!
    True, but on the other hand, I don't think you MUST have an "anime game" to sell to anime types at an anime con, but rather a bit of crossover work might help. D&D4E isn't really all that "anime-y". However, there's a supplement or two (like the Penny Arcade guys' one) that does ring the anime bell, and works as a great crossover product.

    If you're of the "I hate anime/manga/Japan, but I'll sell to these fucking savages because they're loose with their cash" camp, then yeah, I'd say, "Okay, but please be hit by a bus now" (I have seen folks like this, too, talking like they can some how grudge-fuck a sale into the hands of people they hate).

    There's a lot of potential, if you like the community, and if you can squint and possibly see your work reskinned as a Japanese cartoon. A postcard slipped into "Remember Tomorrow", "Mars Colony", "Hellas" or "The Shab al-Hiri Roach" with an alternate cover picture of the product redone with anime tropes might be all you need to have people genuinely interested in the product. I've been kinda sitting on a Tokyo Boy's High School playset for Fiasco for a bit now, for example. Polaris is just one Utena-like cover pic away from being a hit.

    -Andy
  • Also, I gotta say: The Entrepreneur booth area deal is pretty sweet in comparison to a regular booth.

    Still, though. After seeing huge anime cons (the local one half as big as GenCon, as well as ComiKet in Tokyo which is by conservative estimates 7-8 times bigger than GenCon), huge local international/new age/antique/LEGO cons, GenCon table pricing makes no sense.

    Well, it makes clear sense, actually: "People will pay for the booth, so let's charge them as much as they'll possibly pay." But it's ass.

    -Andy
  • I gave Graham an exhibitor badge and said he could sell Play Unsafe and Taste for Murder from the stand at not cost, in exchange for running games and selling Pelgrane stuff. I am rubbish at selling, and I'm not proud of that - selling things you believe in is a noble calling. Graham also produced some delicious print versions of his PDF Trail of Cthulhu adventures which covered their total print costs. All in all it was a reasonable arrangement; he knew our products and sold them; likewise, other booth staff would promote and explain his games where appropriate.

    I think this year is the first year that Pelgrane just about broke even, exclusing any notional amount for my preparation time - ProFantasy usually makes a modest amount, or when a major new release occurs makes a profit. The only problem with considering it a marketing expense is that it makes one inclined to be less focused on breaking even or making a profit.
    I do remember when we launched Dying Earth and sold many copies - but as we had only one product, there was no way we would break even - if you are introducing a new game, it may well make sense to view it as a marketing expense.

    This year, the demo area was a very expensive waste of space; Steve and Graham demo'ed games elsewhere for the most part and I would have been better off spending the resources on ensuring the games where in the main program and at Games on Demand.

    I have always avoided going for exclusivity, although at Origins there was a dealer who had got hold of a large stock of old-sih ProFantasy stuff and was selling it at $5 a piece, so I'm not so sure for the software.

    One potential outlet which people overlook are the retailers; I usually sell a few hundred dollars' worth to retailers at the trade show, and one retailer expressed an interest in Graham's stuff on sight - they are definintely worth approaching, even if it's just to place a couple of copies with a pro-active retailer.

    One big success at the con which certainly increased sales, and that was giving PDFs away with the print version through our POS software. People didn't mind waiting for their orders to be entered and then supplying their email addresses in order to get a PDF of every product. It builds a direct connection with the customers, and provides an incentive to buy at the convention. It also ties in with the level playing field we are building with the Bits and Mortar initiative.
  • Posted By: AndyPosted By: wundergeekAndy: This is awesome, but sadly not all of us have games like Misery Bubblegum or Maid that would do equally well at an anime convention as a gaming convention. :) Seriously, though, good luck with that. If you do pursue it, let us know how it goes!
    True, but on the other hand, I don't think you MUST have an "anime game" to sell to anime types at an anime con, but rather a bit of crossover work might help. D&D4E isn't really all that "anime-y". However, there's a supplement or two (like the Penny Arcade guys' one) that does ring the anime bell, and works as a great crossover product.

    If you're of the "I hate anime/manga/Japan, but I'll sell to these fucking savages because they're loose with their cash" camp, then yeah, I'd say, "Okay, but please be hit by a bus now" (I have seen folks like this, too, talking like they can some how grudge-fuck a sale into the hands of people they hate).

    There's a lot of potential, if you like the community, and if you can squint and possibly see your work reskinned as a Japanese cartoon. A postcard slipped into "Remember Tomorrow", "Mars Colony", "Hellas" or "The Shab al-Hiri Roach" with an alternate cover picture of the product redone with anime tropes might be all you need to have people genuinely interested in the product. I've been kinda sitting on a Tokyo Boy's High School playset for Fiasco for a bit now, for example. Polaris is just one Utena-like cover pic away from being a hit.

    -Andy
    As a market for tabletop RPGs, anime cons are still kind of an unknown frontier. What I can say for certain is that there's a definite overlap between RPGs and anime fandom, and D&D probably gets more at anime cons play than, say, BESM these days, and that's before we get to cons like A-Kon that specifically branch out to tabletop gaming (amongst other things). Showing off how to give a game an anime spin would definitely be a good idea though. Although you can't hope to please some of the picky and acutely negative anime bloggers or anything, it pays to keep in mind that anime fans tend to have a definite aesthetic sense, so aesthetic authenticity is something to strive for with that demographic.

    There are also plenty of other non-gaming cons that could be a potential market for RPGs and attract similarly fresh eyes. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror conventions spring to mind, and those are just the obvious nerdy ones. I have an acquaintance who's working on a steampunk RPG and contemplating trying to sell it at a steampunk convention.
  • Posted By: Neko Ewenso aesthetic authenticity is something to strive for with that demographic.
    Layman's translation: Don't pay bottom dollar for shitty art. If you contact the lowest bidder on DeviantArt to "do you up one of them anime chicks for the cover", you'll can expect as much sales as if you had paid the lowest bidder to print or write your book.

    -Andy
  • Posted By: hans ottersonthe fact that you have topay to play games(apparently? This is what tickets are?),
    There's an older model of game con where you pay (for instance) $25 to register for the con, and then $1.50 per 2-hour table slot. The principal advantage for the con organizer appears to be that they can track participation in each event separately, and figure out which games were popular (and, in a more punitive vein, which GMs actually showed up to run events). Gen Con apparently still runs according to this model.

    A lot of other cons looked at the paperwork and bureaucracy and said, "We could charge $25 plus $3 a slot, but it's much less work to charge a flat-fee $45." This is the model that Go Play Northwest uses.

    (Of course, alter numbers to suit local costs, production values, inflation, etc.)
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