The sound of clashing swords, the few women present all wearing corsets, the plethora of strange hats worn by people not even playing Corporate America. Is this some sort of bizarre dream? A glimpse into a strange, alternate universe? No, this is DunDraCon!
I’ve been talking about the need to get out to meet people and show off Corporate America, rather than just talk about it, and this weekend I put my money where my mouth is. Wearing yet another of the many hats of an independent game designer, I hit up my very first gaming convention. Today I’ll talk a bit about my experience at DunDraCon. Just as a heads up, this is coming from the perspective of a game designer and self publisher, not a happy-go-lucky, enthusiastic convention goer (which I was to some extent, just not primarily).
First thing’s first, though: I want to give a big thanks to my friends Andy and Raymond (of Corporate America sample turn fame) for helping me out at the convention. These guys helped me find tables, attract players, and played Corporate America so many times it may not have been fun by the end of the convention (if that’s possible…). I couldn’t have done it without you guys, so thanks!
All Work and No Play
I was at DunDraCon all day Saturday and all day Sunday, and the first thing I’ll mention is that it was exhausting! That’s partially because I’m still recovering from a nasty illness that totally knocked me out for most of last week, but it’s also because there was so much stuff going on. Just to give you a taste, I played two games of Corporate America on Saturday (teaching the game before each session) and I played five (!) games on Sunday (again, teaching the game before each session). All that before playing other games late into the evening! I came home exhausted each night and woke up tired the following morning. My voice was basically shot at the end of both days.
That said, it’s not like I was really working the whole time or anything. While selling stuff doesn’t come naturally to me (it’s more draining than say design or programming), playing games most certainly does come naturally to me, so the hours just flew by. In fact, I was having fun basically the whole time! It was just a lot of time, and a lot of time being on.
Location, Location, Location
I didn’t really know what to expect when I went to DunDraCon… I hadn’t been to the hotel or town before, and hadn’t been to a convention like it before. I was winging it in a lot of ways.
Promoting Corporate America was my primary goal, and I didn’t really do much to prepare, like set up events for the game or anything. My plan was to just show up, claim a table in the open gaming area, and invite people to give the game a try (the game sells itself way better than I can sell it).
On the first day, Raymond and Andy found a primo spot right at the entrance to one of the open game rooms. Almost everyone had to walk past, so a lot of people saw the game. Over the day, we got two games going, one with three new players and one with four people who hadn’t played before. Both games went really well, though I was a little disappointed we couldn’t get another game going.
One mistake I made the first day was not exploring a bit more… I pretty much stayed at the table all day. On Sunday I wandered around a bit before settling on a table, and it was definitely the right move. Raymond and I discovered there was a demo area, and we got an open table there in an even better location. Now we caught more traffic, plus we were in an area where people expected to find and try random new games. Andy and I ended up playing a whopping five games that day (definitely a record for me… can any print and play owners beat that???), though most of the games only had four players. In five games, we only had a total of seven new people playing all day. Still, lots of people passed by and expressed interest or amusement in the game.
Getting games started was challenging even in the more prominent location, partially because of the structure of the game. A game takes at least 3 players, preferably 5 or 6, and 2 hours. It was difficult to find enough interested people at any given time who could spend so much time playing an unknown game. Next time, getting one or two sessions planned and in the convention program will definitely be a priority: it will get the game’s name out there, and create a specific time and place where people with casual interest in the game will definitely be able to try it.
Give and Take
So, the big goal of the convention was promoting Corporate America. How well did I do?
One measure would be how many sales I made, and that was a big zero. But that’s because I didn’t actually have anything to sell! If I’d had copies of the game with me, I’m guessing I could have sold six or seven copies, which isn’t bad for a weekend.
Will the people who played and enjoyed the game preorder it or get it when it eventually does come out? Maybe, but who knows. As their enjoyment of the game becomes a more distant memory, the odds aren’t in Corporate America‘s favor. But there are some things I wish I’d done to stack the odds a little better.
First, I should have had an email sign up sheet for the release announcement. Raymond thought of this during the convention and suggested it, but I didn’t do it… big mistake. I think a number of people there would have happily signed up, and having me take the first step to help them buy the game (reminding them via email) would have made it much more likely that they’d actually follow through and get the game.
Second, I should have brought more stuff to give people! I handed out quite a few business cards, but business cards don’t really stand out. What should I have brought? Patches! I have a bunch left over from the Kickstarter hats, and they would have been great to give out as prizes for playing the game. Patches are much more memorable and fun than business cards, and they can double as advertising. That was quite the missed opportunity!
Still Looking for the Right Fit
I was definitely late to the convention party, but better late than never! DunDraCon was a blast for me. I met a lot of cool and interesting people, played a lot of fun games, and learned a lot about gamer culture and the board game industry. So… see you at KublaCon!?