Up until last week I had not attended a gaming convention. I know that sounds a bit ridiculous for someone that wants to design and create games. However, I guess the main reasons for not going was twofold: The whole experience was unknown to me. I did not know what to expect, what was involved, how it all worked. . Secondly, it can be hard to put yourself out there. Showcasing your work to complete strangers can be daunting. So instead of attending conventions, I preferred to stick in my little bubble which I knew.
That has now changed. Last week I went to PAX Australia to demo War of Supremacy. And it was amazing. There are many reasons why conventions are great to go to, and people go for completely different reasons. I will focus on the aspect of publicizing a Kickstarter and showcasing first and then go into other reasons why it is very worthwhile going.
1: Showcase. If you are planning on Kickstarting your game, demoing at a convention is one of the best ways to get a lot of people playing your game. If you have the game set up, people will come and play. They get to play or at least look at the game and see how it is before potentially backing or purchasing it.
2: Be Human to Backers. If you are there personally, potential backers get to meet you. People are more likely to help and back something they can put a face too. Be nice, talk with them and show them the rules or play a game with them.
3: Feedback. From the above two points, you can get great feedback on the game. Depending on where you are in development, going to a convention will get you a lot of playtesters and feedback you need to improve the product. Everyone will have their own opinion. Make sure you listen and write down all feedback. If one person mentions an issue, then think about what it may be. If multiple people mention the same or closely related issues, then you may need to tweak something.
4: Try before they Buy. If the Kickstarter is coming up, potential backers can try the game before they buy. Instead of just a digital interface of Kickstarter, they can demo it and see if they like it.
5: Sign up Sheet. Probably one of the main reasons you want to interact with people and go to a convention. Getting people on your email list is integral in getting backers to your campaign page early. If people don’t want to put down their email, give them something they can contact you with. I used a bookmark (so people would be less likely to throw out), but you can also use business cards with information to your website, facebook or sign up sheet.
6: Meet other Designers. I was lucky enough to be in a joint booth with 10 or so other local designers. The booth was split on cost (booking a booth can be expensive) and we had three tables to split over the whole weekend. While it reduced the cost, the main benefit of this was that I got to meet all other local designers. Everyone is very welcoming and friendly. I made some friends, played their games and had a great time.
7: Contacts. There are plenty of important contacts in the industry at conventions. Whether these be other designers, reviewers, publishers, manufacturers, distributors, there are plenty of people to talk to. I should add to this point that if you are not looking to self publish, there are usually publishers you can pitch your idea to.
If you already have run your Kickstarter, there are additional reasons in which you may want to go and promote.
1: Sell your Product. If you have gone the Kickstarter approach and are self publishing then going to conventions can be a great way to sell any additional stock. While it does cost money to get the booth, you can sell the product as pure profit.
2: Play the game with Backers. Depending on where you are in the timeline of fulfillment, you can play and demo the game to existing backers and get others to potentially late back the product.
3: Play the game with the Designer. Some people would love to be able to play the game with the designer.
4: Demo your next game. If you have another game in the works, then you can demo off your game and have all the above benefits while potentially getting a profit from selling the first.
There are also plenty of reasons to go to a convention other than to showcase.
1: Meet people. You meet a lot of people when at a convention. While this could be at your booth, it could also be at other booths/stores/gaming area. Go up and meet new people. Everyone is friendly and you meet some great people.
2: Play New Games. There are plenty of games either brought by others, or from a convention library you can play. At PAX, there was a massive free play area where you could grab a table or join others in playing. People are more than happy to let you join or teach you the game.
3: Teach Games. If there are people struggling with a game, people would love you to teach them.
4: Rekindle. You can rekindle with old friends or people you have met online.
5: Information. There are plenty of great talks going on throughout conventions. These can be quite insightful, informative or just fun to view. Chatting with people is always a great way to get information that could potentially help you in the future.
There are plenty of reasons to go to conventions, if your planning a Kickstarter, selling a product or just looking for feedback on your game. I can’t wait for the next one.