I have a booth for GenCon

January 19, 2016

gencon2012-asmodee I might have stood up in front of my computer and danced for a while yesterday. This is because, after many months of waiting, I received an email resolving whether I would have a booth for GenCon this year. At first I didn't want to open the email - I didn't want to observe whether the cat was alive or dead. Eventually I did, though, and I cringed, expecting the worst. The last time I felt so unsure about something that was so important was probably when I received a link from Rahdo for his run-through of Forge War, desperately hoping that he liked it. Luckily, in both cases, things worked out for the best. But perhaps you don't believe me when I say that getting a booth at a convention could be as an important event as getting a reviewer endorsement that essentially launched my career as a board game publisher. Well, maybe, but let me tell you a story. It was maybe a year and a half ago. Right after GenCon 2014. I had finished the Kickstarter campaign for Forge War and had just spent that GenCon showing an advanced copy of the game to as many people as possible. I didn't have a booth, though, so I did it through events. Days and days of events. I knew there was a better way to get my game in front of people. I knew I would need a booth the following year. I mean, I would even have a physical game to sell at that point. And look, I'm not Fantasy Flight by any stretch of the imagination, but I figured with the success of my Kickstarter, I was at least deserving of 10'x10' space in the Entrepreneurs' Avenue. Immediately after GenCon 2014, I reached out, trying to reserve a booth. I was told applications would be sent out later, so I waited for months. When the application finally arrived, I sent it in and waited more months. Until we get to that time about a year ago when I opened up an email and discovered I wasn't going to get a booth for GenCon 2015. It was a little unbelievable. I honestly a difficult time accepting it. I had followed their every instruction and I felt like I deserved a booth, so what the hell happened? Well, it turns out that "deserved" didn't factor into the equation at all. As a new applicant, I was simply put into a lottery and then failed to get randomly chosen. It's hard to estimate what my chances of failure or success were in that lottery. There are were maybe somewhere around 40 slots, but when you consider all the board game Kickstarter companies out there and how you'd be a fool not to try and get a GenCon booth, well, chances of success didn't seem that high in retrospect. The worst part about losing in a lottery and then realizing your chances weren't that high to begin with is that the feeling that you will never get a booth starts to sink in. If you lost the lottery this year, what's to stop you from losing it again next year and the year after that? The number of applicants is only going to get larger with each passing year that the hobby expands. It was daunting and frustrating and depressing. At this point, though, I realized I probably wouldn't have any Forge War stock to actually sell at GenCon, but I knew I would be launching a Kickstarter soon afterward and I wanted to get as many people exposed to the game as possible. 4-CPH There's always the possibility of using a side room for that purpose, but anywhere outside of the main hall sees so much less traffic. You need a sufficiently large pre-existing fan base to drive traffic to a side room, and I feared I didn't have one big enough to avoid some sort of ghost town situation. And more than that, have a booth legitimizes you. It's not only about the consumer traffic, but also about the throngs of press wandering the exhibit hall reporting on what they see. Very few press wander over to the event hall ghetto. But without a booth, the event hall ghetto was my best option. I camped out at an unoccupied table and played as many games of Gloomhaven that I could, coaxing whatever press I could over to the table as well. For what it was, it was a success. Maybe 50 people got to play the game and I ended up in a few GenCon coverage videos. But I couldn't help how much more of a success it would have been with a booth, and how I'd actually have product to sell the following year, and how my chances of actually getting a booth were still not very good at all. I tried very hard at the 2015 convention to make headway towards getting a 2016 booth. I'd heard that the best way to get a booth was to make a down payment at the previous year's con, but that turned out to only be for returning vendors. And even for them, the tides were turning. There were so many returning applicants, that only those who had spent over some specific amount of advertising dollars were allowed to make a down payment for next year. So I, as a non-vendor, wasn't going to make any headway at all. All I could do...ALL I could do, was go through the same soul-sucking process as the previous year. But there was a glimmer of hope. There were rumblings of some sort of merit-based selection process, and also expansion into the football stadium to make room for more vendors. I can't really say how accurate any of those rumblings are. I answered a number of free-form questions on the application about how I my booth would contribute to GenCon being the best convention ever. These questions certainly implied merit might be taken into account, but when I looked at the fine print of the application, it said that spots would be assigned in the order they were received. And, of course, I didn't see that until about two weeks after they had started accepting submissions. I panicked, put the application together as fast as possible and sent it out the same day. But I was heart-stricken. Two weeks. There was no way spots were still available. Once again, I was going to be denied a booth, and this time it was my own damned fault. So I opened that email yesterday, expecting the worst. And then broke into a dance. Now I can officially plan on a Gloomhaven retail release at GenCon, and I get giddy just thinking about it. I know I've said it many times before, but I really think this game is going to blow people's minds. Like I said, I'm not Fantasy Flight by any stretch of the imagination but I feel Gloomhaven could very well be one of the big buzz items at the con. I don't know. Maybe the power is already going to my head. It's gonna be great, though. I just have to make sure that I get the game manufactured and into the hands of my backers before then. It's gonna be great.


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