Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Asmodeé may be going to PAX in 2007.  They also may be missing Origins.

These are a couple of interesting decisions, and I know part of why, but not all of it.

See, there is a perception (accurate or not) that Origins is dying.  Wizards of the Coast (WotC) did not attend this year – the official reason was that it wasn't financially feasible.  There are all sorts of rumors about other reasons – but I'm not going to go into that, now.

See, what a lot of convention attendees don't realize is this:

Companies very rarely break even at conventions.

That's right.  They spend a lot of money to attend, and then generally fail to recoup those losses at the convention.

The key phrase in that last sentence, by the way, is "at the convention."

See, to a gaming company, a convention is much like buying a TV commercial to a toy company.  It allows you to hit your target audience with information about your product, presented in (generally) a favorable light.  That way, gamers who go to the convention go home excited and tell all their friends about it.

Different conventions are equivalent to different time slots – not everyone advertises on all programs.  It's too expensive.  So you choose when and where to advertise, and how big to make the advertisement.

For game companies, you want to have new releases and/or demos of upcoming releases there – that way, you can show off things with a wow factor and get gamers excited about your products.

This is a large part of why having a good demo team is of critical importance.  A bad demo can cause bad word-of-mouth.

Origins is smaller than GenCon.  Since the two conventions are so close on the calendar, very few companies have new releases at both – it's typically previews at Origins and the games at GenCon.  This has led to a situation where Origins is not as well attended as GenCon – gamers prefer coming home with the game to just looking at it or trying it out.  It's basic human nature – "This is cool, I want it."  And we don't like having to wait.  We'd rather wait the month to see and buy than just see and be unable to buy.  Because the lag frustrates us that much.

At Origins, however, you get the true hardcore gamers.  People who are there to play games, not to spend money (although you can easily do that, as well).  You get a lot of these same people at GenCon, too, but they're a lower percentage.

WotC pulling out of Origins starts a potential vicious circle – WotC pulls out, claiming that it's too small and dying.  This leads fewer gamers to attend (WotC always had good previews at Origins).  This causes Origins to shrink.  Other companies notice smaller attendance and pull out, causing fewer fans to attend causing fewer companies …

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

I sincerely hope Origins is not going down.  There are some solid reasons for companies to attend.  Tom Vasel is a significant reason, all by himself.  He's the #1 reviewer of board games on the Geek, and he tries to be fair (and still say good things).  He also lives in Korea, and can only attend one US convention per year.  In 2005, he said that Dungeon Twister was (for him) the best game at Origins.  We'd had trouble pulling large numbers of people in for a demo – we had no such trouble at GenCon.  Close to half of the demos I ran at GenCon started with "Tom Vasel said I should check this game out."

I do think that Asmodeé should attend PAX.  Wade, a good friend of mine, attended this year, and he said that the board game area was out of control, but that there were only a very small handful of board/card/roleplaying companies in attendance.  WotC was there, but they were focusing on D&D Online.

I'm of the opinion that game companies need to cater to both East and West Coast gamers.  GenCon Indy is too far for many West Coasters to attend.  GenCon SoCal has failed to catch on – it had just over 6,000 attendees in 2005.  PAX, by contrast, had 9,000.  And SoCal started a year before PAX did.  PAX 2006 was over 19,000.  Numbers for GenCon SoCal h aven't been released anywhere I can find.  But it means that PAX is a more viable West Coast convention that SoCal at this point – even with its primary focus on video games, they still have a large board-gaming area (as large as GenCon or Origin's, actually), and there is a fair amount of overlap between board gamers and video gamers.

And that's all I've got to say about that.

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