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Selling Your Game at GenCon

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jdrodi
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Joined: 05/10/2009

I was looking into this and I was wondering if there are any small self-publishers who have tried to get a booth at GenCon and sell their game, and if it was effective or not. I was looking at just getting a 10'x10' booth to sell my game, and a full page ad in the con guide. Do you think a full page ad might get anyone interested to check out the booth, or do you think it's just a waste of money to do?

Isamoor
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Joined: 08/06/2008
I've seen plenty of small

I've seen plenty of small publishers there. I don't know how many of them actually break even at the show. I believe most of them see it as a publicity thing. Raising name awareness and all.

The con guide is sooo frickin' big that I don't know if an ad would do a lot. Maybe if you're selling something related to RPGs. Those guys generally read more of the guide than the average boardgamer I see.

Anyway, best of luck. Let me know if you get a booth and I'll be sure to stop by.

bluepantherllc
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Joined: 07/29/2008
Gencon Publicity

You can join the GPA (Game Publisher's Association) and then get a "Showcase" spot for a fraction of the cost of a booth. Then you can demo your game or better yet set up events where you play it with folks, when they want to buy it, send them to the GPA booth.

Last year I bought booth space at both Origins and GenCon through the GPA.

I made more money at Origins than I did much at Gencon, even though Gencon is about double the size. I attribute the difference to the fact that one of the local Ohio game groups set up dozens of sessions for our games at Origins, while at Gencon, we did not have that exposure. As a matter of fact, at Gencon, there were alot more people actually stopping at the booth, but fewer people buying. At Origins, I heard, "I just played your game in an event and I want to buy it". This is the way a new publisher, without brand recognition, sells stuff. It was also more common for people to buy more than one game at a time from us at Origins than at Gencon.

Now we make games and dice towers, no roleplaying systems, so I would expect Origins to be the show to go to because it's much more boardgame oriented., but I was still surprised at how much better we did at Origins than at Gencon.

Dralius
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Joined: 07/26/2008
It will depend of what you’re

It will depend of what you’re selling and how much your making per copy. If you have a good looking product and have a health markup so you’re not working for nothing then you might come out ahead. Do you already have a game made, website, literature to hand out and are you ready to do business in general? For example many people will want to purchase using credit cards. Are you set up to do that? If you’re not I believe www.GAMA.org has a program for small publishers to help with those things. And don’t forget that the day is long and you’ll need to leave the booth for bathroom breaks, food etc… You need at least one assistant that is enthusiastic. As for being a waste of money i guess its just a matter of how you look at it. You may loose money on the show but it is advertising being there.

Check this out http://www.starfleetgames.com/book/ there is a chapter that covers attending Cons.

If you do end up attending drop by the Mayfair booth and say hi, I demo games for them.

jdrodi
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Joined: 05/10/2009
RE: Gencon Publicity

bluepantherllc wrote:
You can join the GPA (Game Publisher's Association) and then get a "Showcase" spot for a fraction of the cost of a booth. Then you can demo your game or better yet set up events where you play it with folks, when they want to buy it, send them to the GPA booth.

Last year I bought booth space at both Origins and GenCon through the GPA.

I made more money at Origins than I did much at Gencon, even though Gencon is about double the size. I attribute the difference to the fact that one of the local Ohio game groups set up dozens of sessions for our games at Origins, while at Gencon, we did not have that exposure. As a matter of fact, at Gencon, there were alot more people actually stopping at the booth, but fewer people buying. At Origins, I heard, "I just played your game in an event and I want to buy it". This is the way a new publisher, without brand recognition, sells stuff. It was also more common for people to buy more than one game at a time from us at Origins than at Gencon.

Now we make games and dice towers, no roleplaying systems, so I would expect Origins to be the show to go to because it's much more boardgame oriented., but I was still surprised at how much better we did at Origins than at Gencon.

If you don't mind me asking, about how many copies of your game did you sell at GenCon?

MichaelM
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Joined: 03/09/2009
Is the game published and in

Is the game published and in print?

Are you looking to create a buzz around your game to get a larger publisher to look at it?

What are your goals. My personal opinion is that doing GenCon is a miss-allocation of funds, depending on the game. Do you live in the area and as a result will be able to spare the flight cost for 2 people (at least) and hotel?

Are you looking to possibly split costs with other publishers or to promote other games?

bluepantherllc
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Gencon booth

We sold several different games at GenCon and several different dice towers. One game was sold out Sat, another on Sun, and I should have brought more dice towers - people who had money ready to give me on the spot did not always go for "we'll take your money today and give you free shipping next week) - they wanted it now.

We sold about the same amount at Origins, but the booth and other costs were much lower so we made more money. We also had a few people at Gencon who bought at Origins as well.

jdrodi
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Joined: 05/10/2009
Re: Gencon Booth

Well I'd like to have a booth at Origins, but it's too soon at this point for me to go there. I should explain my background etc. for my plans with my game.
I'm not interested in having my game published by another company, mainly because the percentage pay is too small. 5% just seems like a gyp. Although it's obviously more perservering to self-publish a game, it's a lot more rewarding. Not just because of getting all profit (I'd be very suprised if I actually made any decent of profit on this. I'm not expecting it), but because you have control of how you want your game designed, and it's more rewarding to know that you did something cool, and you can look back at it when you're 40 and go "yeah, that was fun. I have no regrets."
But anyway, right now I'm just doing research and number crunching. I'll be making a decsion by early June as far as whether or not I'm going with this. I'm still working on a budget, and researching costs for various parts for my game (cards, dice, etc.) which I'll have completed research by the end of this week. I'm also making a plan with possibly going to GenCon (hence this thread) and selling my game there. I'm making a plan A B & C for if I were to break even with costs, not break even with costs, and the highly unlikely scenario that I sell out and need more copies. I know the 3rd scenario won't happen, but the thing is that I want to have a plan and be prepared for all possible scanarios without any unexpected calamities.
Based on my budget so far, I need to sell 500 copies of my game to break even with costs. Those costs include all startup costs, registering a trademark, cost for GenCon, and of course the game itself. I'm sure it seems very optimistic to think that I can even sell 500 copies, but I think it's something that with proper research and all, it's something worth taking the risk for and seeing if it works or not.
Also, I have two friends/fellow playtesters who might be going with me to GenCon to help me out with selling my game there if I do this. I'm driving to GenCon if I go. Plane is too expensive. I don't mind the 9-10 hour drive. I have all of that budgeted.
I should also mention how I did playtesting for this, but I'll save it for another reply or thread since this reply is long enough.

randrews0317
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Joined: 03/23/2009
Food for Thought

GenCon:
10x10 booth $1100 (entreprenurial booth) - $1600
Hotel - 3 nights $450 (taxes)
Travel to and from: $200
500 copies of game: $? - not sure what you are making.
You also mention ads, registered TM,

I'm sure you've done the math since you know what you need to sell to break even. Just some thoughts, since my friend/co-developer and I are at the same place you are... how well play tested is the game? Does your game have a market? Is your price point right for the game from a market and margin perspective? Going to print with even 500 copies before gathering solid feedback on these things could lead to issues that could be worked out prior to the event.

With the help of our game artists (it's slow), our decision was made for us that we can't sell at these events. Which was the right move for us. We did get 4 slots at Origins to run demos, but will not have any product as the game in it's current version is demo only. We are also in the same boat as you with self publishing, same reasons - control, 5% a gyp, control, and yes, control.

I think it's been mentioned before but you may want to consider running demo events at conventions, even if you aren't ready to sell. Cuts costs way down (and yeah, the sales would be $0), but you'll have time to rework things, get feedback from the community that would ultimitely be customers.

Also - get feedback here. :) I didn't see what game you had? The group here has lots of thoughts from experience in both development and as gamers.

Isamoor
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Joined: 08/06/2008
"Demo Events"

Something came up above that should probably be re-iterated.

Instead of a booth, you'd get almost as much exposure just doing game demos as scheduled events. You can see plenty of small publishers doing it that way. Just be sure to give out a free copy to the winner and you'll likely have plenty of sign ups (*if* you game has interesting name / info).

Which as the others said... what the heck's it about? I wouldn't worry much about anyone stealing your idea if you only think you can barely break even and are doing it as a pride endevour. Which, I must give you a pat on the back for a very pragmatic outlook at least :)

MichaelM
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Joined: 03/09/2009
My Experience Publishing with Tasty Minstrel Games

Where are you going to have your game manufactured? If it would take 500 sales for you to break even at full retail price, then I think something may be going wrong in the entire calculation.

I am currently publishing Terra Prime and Homesteaders, you can see more information on boardgamegeek. So I have some experience with crunching the numbers. They are also several months into the production process (read graphic design), and I would not be able to have them ready for GenCon, so your timeline may be too ambitious.

My back of the envelope calculation tells me that if I sold 100 copies of Terra Prime and Homesteaders (combined) I would profit from an event like GenCon. If I take into account all of my upfront costs of the project including Graphic Design. Which I must mention, that I am using two fantastic artists that are active on this forum, Seo and Josh Cappel (outside lime?). Taking into account the graphic design costs for my games and flights, I would have to sell about 220 games.

Either your sourcing for your games is insufficiently low cost, or you are selling games with a smaller cost.

Michael

FYI - My designers are getting more than 5%, and I still have plenty of room for profit. I do not want to say how much, because I am unsure if I can process all of the potential submissions. One thing that may work, is to set up a partnership, by which you could work with a publisher to produce the games and provide some of the initial capital for the project. Then you have a risk sharing, and in exchange would also have a higher ongoing revenue stream from the game. I would be willing to discuss such a setup if you are amenable to the idea and have a game I would be willing to publish. Or maybe I am just talking to myself :)

jdrodi
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Joined: 05/10/2009
Re: Experience

I should of mentioned the budget more clearly. The whole thing with needing 500 copies to break even with costs. Those costs aren't just for the game itself. If that was the case, I would only need to sell a little more then 200-250 to do that. The 500 copies also covers paying for the costs of GenCon (if I decide to do so), trademarking the logo and name of the game, startup costs etc. Also, I decided not to do an ad. Knowing now how large the conbook is, it would be ineffective. If it was a small 50 page thing, it would be different, but I'd be throwing money away putting an ad in the GenCon book.
My game is a card game who's main influences are European games and Magic, except (I really need to emphasize this) does NOT play like magic. If someone were to play it, they might see the influence with the abilities on the cards, but there's nothing mechanics wise that works like it or anything. The main mechanic of the game revolves around bidding, and strategically trying to get all your cards in play first. There's abilities on cards that give you advantages etc. and effects on the overall game. There's also a couple other cards that deal with alternative ways of winning or getting cards in play. I don't think I explained that too well.
I want to mention the playtesting process better with how I'm doing that. Basically, I'm doing two steps of this. First is playtesting with my (emphasis on this) brutally honest friends. They're not afraid to say "This needs to change. That part sucks. What is this?" I've had at least 5 playtest sessions with them on my game, and their feedback has been really valuable to making improvements on the game and taking out all the uneseccary stuff. The problem with my game when I first playtested it was that it had too much stuff. It was like trying to cram two different games into one, so I took out a huge chunk of it, which will eventually be going into a seperate game on its' own. After I simplified the game, for the first time it made sense to everone, because up until then, they couldn't comprehend that and they all said "It's too complicated. You need to fix this." So now that the main structure of the game is worked out, I'm now just doing small tweaks with gameplay. The game is a 3-5 player game, however, I'm making a 2 player variant of the game as well. Althought it uses all the same cards as in the 3-5 player version, it's a different animal from the multiplayer version, which it has to, otherwise it wouldn't work. Once all that is all done, I'm then doing the 2nd step of playtesting, where I'll be playtesting at a local gamestore called "Millenium Games and Hobbies", which is just outside of Rochester, NY. I'm going to be playtesting with the European boardgaming group there, and also try it with the Magic group as well to see if they'd actually like it or not, since I'm looking at those two demographics. Mainly the European board gamers and other trading card gamers. Although this game is NOT a trading card game, and doesn't play like one, it might be appealing to some TCGers that you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on cards to have many different possibilities of a game. But anyway, when I do playtesting there, I'm not even telling them that I designed it. I'm just "playtesting for my friend who designed this game, so let me know if you see anything wrong with this, or if you like this". I'm not going to have the game printed until July, so I'll be playtesting until the end of June.
As for the graphics, I designed them myself. It's a simple design, but looks professional, and looks the way I want it to. The theme is a bit of a concern for me, but I'll talk more about that on another reply since this reply is long enough.

adamw
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Joined: 12/10/2008
Just so you know, I play

Just so you know, I play tested my game for about 18 months before it was released. That was somewhere around 150 play tests I think. That's just for a frame of reference. Right now, I've tested my current design about 40 times and it isn't even what I'd term "ready" for convention testing.

Testing is a good thing.

jdrodi
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Joined: 05/10/2009
Re: Just So You Know

That's a very good reference to have. It does seem crazy to have a game that's entered what I consider "final" stages of playtesting to even think about selling it at a con. That's why I'm looking into this now before I actually do anything with it. I want to make sure my decision to go ahead with this is based on thurough research and playtesting. I have until early June to make my decision with this, so I'm very greateful to be getting all the excellent feedback and recommendations everyone has been giving me on this. Next Wednesday will be my first playtest with people who have never played the game before, and I know that will add a very important perspective to the game, and determine if it's actually any decent or not. The playtesting that I've done so far with my brutally honest friends has let me be able to develop the game from a complicated thing with too much stuff in it, into something that's workable, and now (so far) only needs details worked out. Details like "Win 2 modify cards instead of one" "bidding works like this instead of like this". Small things with gameplay such as that.
I've also been working with my budget and have been able ot cut a few costs by a lot, but the budget still isn't final yet, so it would be a waste of time for me to put it on here only to have it changed the next day. Thanks again for your insight :)

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