Gen Con: The Most Important 4 Days in Gaming

I did just say that we were ready for Gen Con right?  We are, but the chaos that comes the week before the show is here nonetheless.

Gen Con and maybe Essen are shows that I think everyone should give publishers a pass on.  There are just certain things that should happen at these shows that set up the rest of the year.  Having a successful release at Gen Con often translates into much better sales in the coming holiday season.

There is now also a big group of game purchasers who buy 80% or more of their games at shows.  They show up at Gen Con with pockets full of cash and ready (or not ready) to max out their credit cards to buy most of the games they have missed before their last show and bring home the new hotness.  If you do not have a product to sell to these people you may never sell them a game. So it is imperative that companies sneak out a few copies early if they can even if it means during KS campaign fulfilment or ahead of a retail release.  

The number one reason someone quits or starts  playing a game is someone to play with and Gen Con is the biggest place to find like-minded friends and share a play session and fall in love with a new game. We (publishers) need to be able to do everything we can at Gen Con to excite the thrall of players without fear of reprisal from retail, distribution, and our players.  This is not an excuse and we are also responsible for good communication and not making promises we might have to break at Gen Con. I am just saying, if you favorite company is pulling out all the stops at Gen Con and you can’t be there or get a game you want faster than someone else it might be the one time that it is OK to cut them a break.  

Did you know that Gen Con is the single most expensive marketing cost on most game companies marketing plan?  In fact most companies look at spending at Gen Con with a sort of break even plan. How big can we be and find a way to break even with sales at the booth.  Booth space, travel, hotels, new signs, volunteers, uniforms, giveaways, per diems, and schmoozing put a big dent into the pocket book. On a good year we walk away with just a bit more than we spent and if you notice there is a station outside the hall where Gen Con takes the down payment for next year’s booth right at the show.  That extra money does not come home: it goes full circle right back into preparing for next year’s fun.  

It’s a wonderful circle and the reason why I say the gaming year runs Gencon to Gencon. 

Here are – in no particular order – my personal top 6 goals for Gen Con this year:

  1. Swag trade for at least 5 new games for the Larkstone house.  I am looking to trade our new hotness for your new hotness. Come find me. I have a big suitcase.  
  2. Have a non-business dinner with old friends.  Currently I have this scheduled for Saturday night.  It would take an Avengers level threat to get me to cancel.  
  3. Make a real connection with a new to AEG talent.  There are a lot of talented designers, artists, and developers out there and we spend a lot of our time trying to find undiscovered talent.  I want to connect with some all stars as well as find fresh faces.
  4. Have our booth plan work.  We are really trying something new this year and while it’s not a crazy expensive plan I don’t think anyone else is doing it so we will see how the booth quick change goes over. 
  5. Take an hour of personal time each day for the gym and just centering myself.  I get caught up in the 14-hour days so often.
  6. Leave the show with one thing. One idea, one relationship, one feeling that could translate into something big for AEG.  I get one every year because Gen Con is magic.  



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