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Author Topic: I-CON Aftermath  (Read 6982 times)
Luke
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« on: April 11, 2005, 08:41:30 AM »

Just back from ICON in Stony Brook, NY -- about 90 minutes east of NYC in infamous Long Island.

The con is held on a sprawling suburban university. One of the hassles of the con is that all of the events are so spread out -- you have to hike to different buildings to go from the Dealer's Room to RPG gaming, and from there to another building with Computer Gaming. It's a small gripe, but one worth noting. However, the attendance is so high, the damn thing needs tons of room. On Friday night, the Dealer's Room alone had more people in it than the total of the last two Ubercon's combined.

I-CON, though, is not a straight gaming con. It's a sci-fi/anime con. But it spreads itself wide. There's guests, like the ubiquitous Peter Mayhew, there's panels, there's a huge vendor presence and there's a smaller gaming section.

But the sheer size of it makes the possibilities for hooking gamers into your stuff very good.

At this point, I've attend ICON three years in a row. We have a bit of a following. So rounding up folks for our games isn't too much of a problem. The challenge is roping in new gamers.

We (the bw/nerds) had a lot of organizational glitches behind the scenes this time around and I felt like they hindered our ability to fluidly rope in new folks.

Conversely, the con support was excellent. James Carpio (Dregg on these boards) is the Gaming Guests host. He enthusiastically provided us with a demo table for the weekend, a free dealer's table and a free hotel room (in addition to con-provided food and water).

There were minor problems with the con organization itself: the room chosen for gaming was an echo chamber and dark, and the panels had no moderators, but all in all, the chaos was well-handled.

Credit needs also to be given to the NERDNYC crew who volunteered scores of hours to run games and just generally held the fabric of the gaming side together. It was really amazing to watch.


I was on two panels at this con. In fact, panels are part of the deal. Dregg gives us a free ride, and we do panels for him. My initial reaction to doing panels is to shrug my shoulders and say, "Who am I? What the fuck do I know?" But I remembered my very own words spoken in this very forum: "We must go out and apply what we wank about here. We must be intelligent and well-spoken proponents of what we believe in." So I changed my attitude and decided to participate as best I could .

The "State of the Industry" panel contained such luminaries as Mike Pondsmith (of Cyberpunk fame), Alex Jurkat (CEO of Eden), and the owner of West End Games (whose name escapes me).

They were rounded out by Tony DiGerolamo (writer for Kenzer and his soon to be released mafia game), folks from Slugfest Games, Brennan Taylor (IPR, Bulldogs), Jay and Otto from Dilly Green Bean Games, the most infamous Jared Sorensen and little old me.

I've got to say, though I might disagree with Mr Pondsmith on a number of points, he really (really) knows his stuff. He's well-spoken, knowledgeable, friendly and open. He's one of those old veterans that you meet and say, "Damn, I hope I'm that cool in 15 years."

Aside from Mike offering wisdom and sage advice, Jared and I pretty much ran roughshod over both of the panels we were on. It was doubly fun this time because we even disagreed on a number of points. How the sparks flew!



Now, on to the good stuff, the sales numbers:
The Nerd table, partnered with Brennan's IPR and my own little "promote the cool games venture" had quite a display of games.
From bottom to top:

Things that didn't sell: Sorcerer, Sorcerer's Soul, Sorcerer and Sword, Bulldogs, Elfs, FVLMINATA, Pax Draconis, Conspiracy of Shadows or Fastlane. We also had a ton of glossy d20 books from IPR that didn't move.

Sex and Sorcery: 1 copy
NPA: 1 copy
Universalis: 1 copy
With Great Power preview: 1
Lacuna: 1
Octane: 1
Code of Unaris: 1
Inspectres: 2
Dogs in the Vineyard: 2
MLwM: 2
Shadow of Yesterday: 2
Pulp Era: 3
Monster Burner: 6
Burning Wheel Revised Edition: 22

As you can see, we suffered from pretty typical small-press-itus. The games that were demoed or actively promoted sold. Those that didn't have demos or promotions either sold very little, or not at all.

Sorcerer usually sells better, just on reputation alone. I was curious to see that its sales were so low.

I'm confident that my top sellers (MLwM, Dogs and Uni) would have moved more, except that I was out of stock of everything! I forgot to reorder after Ubercon. At a smaller con, it wouldn't have been a big deal. But at this con, we were sold out of those books by either friday night or early saturday. My bad!

I may be wrong, but I get the feeling that among the gamers in the know, the nerd table is the place to go for hot small press games. There were definitely a few people who made a bee-line for us.

there it is, in a nut shell, where it belongs.
-Luke

PS: Code of Unaris is G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S. It's one of those games you immediately want to pick up, touch, and hold. I love that shit!
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Brennan Taylor
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« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2005, 09:39:22 AM »

To add to Luke's report, I attended the con as well and was pretty disappointed in the results for both gaming and sales. I-CON is not a gaming convention, and I think it shows. There are some gamers who come, but the gaming side seems to compare to a really small local con (with <300 attendees), despite the huge attendance of the con overall. The panels were interesting, it's always fun to hang out with Jared and Luke, but these alone probably won't lure me back next year.
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Helvetian
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« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2005, 09:55:04 AM »

Quote from: abzu


The "State of the Industry" panel contained such luminaries as Mike Pondsmith (of Cyberpunk fame), Alex Jurkat (CEO of Eden), and the owner of West End Games (whose name escapes me).



Eric Gibson.  :-)
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Rebecca Badurina
Vice President, Programming
Double Exposure, Inc.
www.dexposure.com
Luke
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« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2005, 10:01:31 AM »

Hi Rebecca,

thanks for the info.

You're a coordinator for another con, I'd love to hear your insight into ICON. This forum is dedicated to helping cons create a better atmosphere for promoting small press games. Your thoughts, I imagine, would be invaluable.

Oh, and it was nice to finally meet you.

-Luke
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Thor Olavsrud
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« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2005, 10:30:13 AM »

Hey Brennan,

While I agree that the main focus of the con was not gaming, and the traffic through the gaming area was not that great, we managed to do pretty well with the Wheel, and I don't think it was just the Luke-factor this time. Luke spent a lot of his time at the con at panels, or signing and numbering books at the nerd booth so we could sell them.

I think the X-factor really is the demos. Not full on 3 to 4 hour games, but quick 10 or 15 minute demos showcasing the strengths of the system. I spent almost all the three days of the con in the demo area running Burning Wheel Duel of Wits demos, just grabbing people that peeked in on the table to see what was going on and asking if they wanted to try it out with little time commitment.

I think the Duel of Wits is an even better demo than the Melee demos Luke has been running for a few years now. It allows people to get into character a little bit and experience an actual conflict, gets across the philosophy behind the system, and, most importantly, really showcases something that is fairly unique to Burning Wheel. The melee mechanics are different than most other games, but most fantasy games try to play up how "way cool" their combat system is.

I try to emulate Luke when I run the demos: 1. I ask the participants' names and try to use them liberally throughout my spiel, 2. I try to be really enthusiastic and excited that they are trying it out and convey how much I like the game, 3. I make sure to praise them for the choices they make and also give suggestions while helping them feel as if they're in the driver's seat.

Two out of three times, those trying the demo catch the excitement themselves, and the praise really makes them feel as if they're doing well in navigating an array of choices that  could otherwise be confusing. Finally, using their names liberally makes them feel like they've made a human, friendly connection. If they had a good experience, many of them will grab their friends and come back to the table later.

Often, they like to sit around after the demo is over and chat about their experience for a few minutes. I try to kick it off by asking what they thought about it. By that time, I generally have a pretty good idea of what turns them on about the system. With that in mind, I try to pick out other unique aspects of the system that I think will appeal, whether it's character generation, Artha, character advancement, combat ("it works similarly to what we just did!"), the Resources mechanic, the Circles mechanic, etc.

If I haven't closed the sale there, I mention something like: "Luke, the creator, is going to be running a game later tonight, and again tomorrow afternoon. You should come check it out! I think you'll have a blast!"

It really seems to move the games, even more than full-on scenarios, which require the hassle of sign-ups and time commitment.
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Brennan Taylor
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« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2005, 10:44:00 AM »

Thor,

That's really the philosophy behind the Forge GenCon booth, and I think it is really effective. I want to develop some of this dynamic for the future con appearances of my games, as well as the games of our other IPR clients. What I really need is a posse like Luke has, some folks who can spell me off when I am doing these demos at the con. As we go forward with all of this stuff, developing quickie demos that take, at most, 15 minutes seems key.
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Thor Olavsrud
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2005, 10:50:12 AM »

Quote from: inthisstyle
Thor,

That's really the philosophy behind the Forge GenCon booth, and I think it is really effective. I want to develop some of this dynamic for the future con appearances of my games, as well as the games of our other IPR clients. What I really need is a posse like Luke has, some folks who can spell me off when I am doing these demos at the con. As we go forward with all of this stuff, developing quickie demos that take, at most, 15 minutes seems key.


I definitely agree. Luke and I have been talking about it and the possibility of working up a menu of demos for some of the other Indie games he sells. There is absolutely no reason why the Wheel and the nerds can't coordinate with IPR to make this happen. We should try to come up with a plan for DexCon, since that seems to be a pretty Indie-favorable con in the area.
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Helvetian
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2005, 10:51:07 AM »

Quote from: abzu
Hi Rebecca,

thanks for the info.

You're a coordinator for another con, I'd love to hear your insight into ICON. This forum is dedicated to helping cons create a better atmosphere for promoting small press games. Your thoughts, I imagine, would be invaluable.

Oh, and it was nice to finally meet you.

-Luke


It was very nice to finally meet you, too.

I hadn't been to an I-CON in at least 8 years.  It used to be an annual event for me.  Classicly, I believe it's considered one of the best literary conventions in this country.  They also tend to have wonderful media guests, and I was actually a little disappointed by the guests offered this year.

First, I do think Dregg did a great job with the resources and location he was given.  I-CON isn't at all an easy convention to coordinate (not that any are), and just isn't where a lot of people are going in order to game or try out new games.  A lot of the attendees may be gamers, but there is SO much else to do at I-CON that it isn't something most attendees will make much time for.  Not that there weren't a lot of people there to play.  Sheer numbers of people who attend I-CON guaranteed that.  The gorgeous weather may not have helped, either.  That seemed to me a particularly dark building, and it was way too nice weekend to be indoors.

Personally, I think I-CON's strongest opportunity, gaming-wise, is to expose some new people to games and help them learn where they can play them when they have more time.  Double Exposure did wonderfully this weekend with our fan table, in part because we were so perfectly placed.  Pretty much everyone went past us at some time, and many of them at least paused on the way.  Even if briefly.  So even though they didn't have much time at the convention, they were looking at information about an event where there wasn't so much else to do.

The gaming track might have benefitted from having a table near registration as well, with a few games out, to kind of snag some attention and let people know what was being offered over at the Union.  I wish I'd thought of that earlier, and suggested Barb and Tiny help direct people over there to have a look.  Yes, NerdNYC had a dealers table and could certainly point people that way, but I'd imagine that for a lot of people, by the time they were out of the huge dealers room they'd forgotten half the conversations they'd had while in there.

I'm not at all saying that the time at I-CON wasn't well spent.  It most certainly was, IMO.  There were of course people introduced to games that they hadn't considered or had the time to try out.  And again those attendee numbers guaranteed a certain amount of success.  There are plenty of gamers who don't get off the Island much, and it was a great chance to catch them since I'm sure most attend I-CON.  It was also a great opportunity to network, and I loved meeting people I hadn't had the opportunity to meet previously.  It just wasn't going to really compete with a convention where the focus is gaming.

All IMO, of course.  :-)

Becca
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Rebecca Badurina
Vice President, Programming
Double Exposure, Inc.
www.dexposure.com
Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2005, 02:31:07 PM »

It sounds like ICON was a great time. I didn't know Mike Pondsmith was gonna be there. Now I have some regrets.

BTW, TonyLB has volunteered to take point for the Indie RPG Explosion at Dexcon. He even has Forums dedicated to the event. I'll be there to do my bit.
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2005, 07:04:20 PM »

I also sold a Memento Mori snack pack of octaNe/Against the Reich! at a crazy discount to a cute 20 year old chick. BECAUSE I'M THE BEST THAT'S WHY!

Blah blah great to hang out with the Nerds, Luke, Droz, Dregg, Mike P. and Brennan. That's pretty much why I go to these damn things.

Oh...and the pizza? The pizza is for closers.

- J

Man, props to the Code of Unaris guys (despite the game's unfortunate title). I gotta get me a copy of that. It's cute and green!
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Dregg
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« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2005, 06:13:35 AM »

Thank you for all the Positive responses gentlemen, Brennan I am sorry you did not have a good time. I tried...
Jared and Luke, it's just not a convention without you...
Rebecca it was great to have you at I-CON, next year if you let me know earlier, I will make sure I get you more comforts.

Yes, I-CON gaming is hard because of the fact the University likes to make our lives a bit challanged as the Con rolls around. Yes the Fireside Lounge is a tough place for RPG's but It was the best I could work with. Next Year we are going to hopfully be moving the gaming tracks into Ballrooms in the SAC at Stonybrook, and as well this being our 25th year next year we are going to be doing some Mad promotion.
I would like to invite any memebr of the Forge to contact me offlist to discuss a possible better way to handle things or suggestions as to what you want to see.

Next year I am changing the Dynamics of my track a bit as well, I am going to be focusing on Company Demos and setting up tables in the Demo area for company reps, Also my track will be fully handling Indie gaming as well, and as a promotion I am actually thinking of have a contest with a cash prize or equivilent if I can for a new and innovative RPG or Indie designed game.

Thank you all for your support of I-CON and be assured that NERDNYC, Jared and Burning Wheel will be invited back with the best that we can offer.
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J. Carpio "Dregg"
Gaming Coordinator I-CON (iconsf.org)
Chapter 13 Press co founder(www.chapter13press.com)
Column Writer "Lights, Camera, Action!" (silven.com)
DarkForcePrime
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« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2005, 02:29:01 PM »

Ah, how soon I forget that I have an account here at The Forge.

Ok, Jay here from Dilly Green Bean Games and iNDi RPG.

I-Con. Well I had a blast. Why? Let's see............

-We got to meet some movie stars and other famous people.
-We got to see Luke, Jared, Brennon, Blix, Dregg, and Dana.
-Hosted a great cocktail hour on Friday night. We had Alex (Eden), Mike Pondsmith (RTG), Blix (Studio 187), Jared, and my crew. Needless to say, I was totally wasted and I still had people convinced I was sobor. It was only when Blix or Tyson stood up is when I tended to lean.
-We got to run demos all day for The Basic System v3.
-We did the panel from hell............
-I got to play Cyberpunkv3 with Dregg and Blix (run by the man himself Mike Pondsmith).
-Lastly my crew and I got rear ended by a drunk driver who hit us while we were stopped at a red light. Everyone on my side is ok for the most part. One cracked sternam and some back injuries. Guess that happens when they hit you going 50mph.

Highlights for me:

Cocktail hour for sure. As a fan of RTG and Eden is was a dream come true. Gave Alex some dilly green beans. The Fuzion designers all got cyberpunk Tantos compliments of my company.

Running TBSv3 demos. I mean holy cow. People came to our table and played the system. On top of that designers were inquiring how to use it.

Getting thumbs up from Mike Pondsmith on some cyberpunk art I did. Not to mention good words about my RPG in print Xandoria Core Fuzion. Coming from Mike, yep I was gitty.

Seeing Dana from Silven Crossroads. Great gal. She even lasted through my XI demo.

Hanging out with Jon Sussenberger who came down with us as a Fuzion fan.

Showing off our newest TBS designer and NERO chap, Bob LeBlanc.

Standing in the vendor room at the Nerd table and holding up a copy of Pulp Era and asking the guy why the system used for it rocked and his reply was: Because you're Jason Libby, the guy who designed it. (although the Pulp in Pulp Era was Dregg's material, he tweeked TBS to make it super crunchy for pulp fans).

Playing in the Cyberpunk v3 demo. It rocked. And they say Fuzion is dead. Too funny.

The BEST thing was a 2am breakfast with Blix and Mike Pondsmith at the diner where we got to discuss Fuzion and our companies. Mike is the man.........no doubt.

I give I-Con an A-.

As for comments about sales and it not being a gaming convention. While my sales weren't noteworthy, it was fun just being there. That's what it's all about. Sitting behind Luke as he screams his Burning Wheel battlecry. Having to put up with Jared's non-stop rants during forums. Getting no sleep. But I enjoy it. That's what makes the con so much fun. Even qualities that annoy me make it part of the excitement.

Granted due to the accident I lost 2 staff members who refuse to leave the state. BUT I will return to I-Con again next year.

~Jay
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2005, 04:00:20 PM »

Quote from: DarkForcePrime

That's what it's all about. Sitting behind Luke as he screams his Burning Wheel battlecry. Having to put up with Jared's non-stop rants during forums.



In my defense (uh-oh), I gotta say that I'll stop ranting when people on these panels have something interesting or even important to say.

And I swear to Grud, I'mma gonna throat-punch the next person to ask if computer games are a threat to pen and paper. Holy shit, people. It's 2005. CLUE, GET A.
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
DarkForcePrime
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« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2005, 04:29:11 PM »

So are you saying that all those people on the panel had nothing worth saying? You realize Dregg was supposed to be on that panel too right?

Oh Jared, what are we going to do with you? Flogging doesn't seem worth the wooden shoe.

Quote from: Jared A. Sorensen
Quote from: DarkForcePrime

That's what it's all about. Sitting behind Luke as he screams his Burning Wheel battlecry. Having to put up with Jared's non-stop rants during forums.


In my defense (uh-oh), I gotta say that I'll stop ranting when people on these panels have something interesting or even important to say.

And I swear to Grud, I'mma gonna throat-punch the next person to ask if computer games are a threat to pen and paper. Holy shit, people. It's 2005. CLUE, GET A.
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Brennan Taylor
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« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2005, 06:05:34 AM »

Quote from: Dregg
Thank you for all the Positive responses gentlemen, Brennan I am sorry you did not have a good time. I tried...


I didn't say I had a bad time. My time was fun, and I liked hanging with folks. I just didn't sell squat and that is why it was not particularly worth the expense of time and money this time around. You did me right, Dregg! Never fear.
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