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Author Topic: [GenCon] How does the booth red-tape work?  (Read 9076 times)
TonyLB
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« on: August 22, 2006, 11:02:02 AM »

If we could, on the other hand, build some sort of indie shanty-town of booths, well, that'd be amazing, but it's not going to happen.

I don't for a second doubt that this is an accurate assessment of what can be done and can't be done at GenCon.  I hear rumors of seniority systems, and points, and quite possibly virgin sacrifices for all I know.  It is very intimidating.

But part of that is ignorance on my part.  I just don't know what's involved.  Is there any chance that the people who actually know this stuff can cast a bit of light on how the GenCon booth process goes?

To the extent that it's a comprehensible system, maybe some of us clever gamesmen can work up a multi-year plan that will end up with a 2010 GenCon experience worth putting in three years of effort to reach.
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Blankshield
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« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2006, 11:13:34 AM »

First, go here and read the linked documents.

After your eyes uncross, come back.  Now be aware that GenCon LLC will (and has) changed those rules on a year-to-year basis to resolve problems or block loopholes or just to guide Exhibitors into a new direction or behaviour pattern that the LLC wants to see.

That being said, they dont' change a lot, and they don't do wholesale willynilly reworking the system stuff (much), but any kind of plan for several years out based on what the rules are now could crash and burn in a bad way.

I've read all (or at least much) of that stuff, and stongly suspect there's some other factors involved "above and beyond" the rules, but I'll let someone who has actually been involved in Exhbitor registration speak to it, if it's relevant.

thanks,

James

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Justin D. Jacobson
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« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2006, 11:39:08 AM »

There's a reason the "Forge" booth is actually the "Adept Press" booth: seniority points. If you really wanted to do this shanty-town thing, you could just have Ron order a large enough booth to accommodate all the sub-booths and then subdivide on your own. The divisions would be on our end, after the fact, having nothing to do with GC LLC. You'd have one big booth number on the map, but all the individual publishers could be listed as they were this year.

Frankly, I'm with Clinton in not liking this concept on a visceral level, but it is doable. If you want to sub-divide, I'd go with the suggestion I proposed earlier in another thread: Blocks of multiple demos as scheduled events.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2006, 11:54:51 AM »

Okay ... yes.  We could continue to co-op under the Adept Press banner.  It's worked, and I like it.

Let's be clear about the consequences, though:  Every year we do that is a year that no other company is getting Priority Points.  Yes?

Now I totally agree that being flung to God-only-knows-where, floating in a little booth like flotsam in a stormy sea is not an attractive option.  But, as best I can understand, there is no other way for any other organization to ever accumulate Priority Points, and thereby to become more able to pick and choose the location of their booth.

Indeed, the priority point system as written seems powerfully slanted against the idea of co-ops (certainly, I hasten to add, not by intent).  There's no way for a company to leverage the ability to work with others in a way that will make their first year on their own any easier.  For each company, the first year is sink or swim.

Am I reading the structure correctly?
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David Artman
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« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2006, 12:59:15 PM »

People are suggesting that Adept (or whoever) buys like 8 booths in a central area and then sells them off to groups of designers.  Of course, that would require a lot more long-term planning, since I'm sure they have to reserve space pretty early.
Not having read the REAMS of GenCon Exhibitor rules, yet, I will nevertheless issue a preventative warning about this statement.

We might not want to characterize any such plans as "Adpet Press selling space at a booth to others." That all-but implies a form of subletting that I will bet is verbotin at GenCon--otherwise, the Priority Points are a bit... pointless.

I think a safer diction might be "Adept Press will coordinate a combined space, so as to be able to host all affiliated designers who commit to come and share the costs." It's a subtle distinction, but it might be a very important one, to GenCon.

And knowing, now, the general gist of how Exhibitors get floor space, I'd like to say another hearty Thank You to Ron for letting all of us (err, well not me, yet, but...) ride on Adept Press's coattails. Without someone willing to risk (and, yes, sacrifice) their own professional identity, we'd be in the equivalent of the nose bleeds every year.

Maybe the time is come to think... dependantly? Form a nonprofit cooperative or something, just for such "industry-facing" needs like convention priority and, perhaps, group pricing for print runs (not POD) or booth collateral, and such? I am thinking of something like Mutual Drugs, where every owner is "independent," but they stay in business because of cooperative practices in the back office and purchasing arenas.

Just spitballing, now... sorry if I distract.

As for the claim of "major $$" in the thread from which we've been booted ( :-) ), I'd say that's a matter for the commiting designers to decide. Get the database up soonish, and I suspect you'd get commitment from MANY folks to the tune of a couple hundred bucks. And if the issue is the whole "huts and shacs" sets, I doubt we'd havemuch trouble knocking together something sufficiently "shanty" out of insulating board, some MDF, and normal sheving systems.

Yep, it's time to think about off site storage, then, too! ;)
David
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LordSmerf
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« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2006, 01:00:44 PM »

One thing that's going to be important to notice because it's pretty counter-intuitive: Booths get more expensive per square foot as they get bigger.

Let me repeat that: booths get more expensive as they get bigger.

This is an inversion of expected economies of scale, and thus bears careful examination.  What this means, and this is interesting, is that it's actually cheaper for four separate companies to get four separate booths than it is for one company to get a 4-booth block and then split it four ways.  Of course the scattering problem rears its ugly head here, and there are some serious problems there (though I think there are some potential neat ways to bypass them).

Thomas
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2006, 01:13:15 PM »

Yeah, if we can't do the Indie Games Shantytown, I'm all for going solo and then setting up piratical treasure maps that guide people to the various Indie Islands where there be booty to be had.  Heck, I will personally co-design a short adventure game to be played at GenCon that will lead people between various associated indie booths.  In fact, I may do that anyway.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2006, 01:35:18 PM »

One thing that's going to be important to notice because it's pretty counter-intuitive: Booths get more expensive per square foot as they get bigger.

Let me repeat that: booths get more expensive as they get bigger.

As far as I can tell, this isn't true.

For example, the Forge booth spent several years at Endcap size: 10x20, with three sides exposed.  This costs $2400.  This year, our shared space was a 4 booth peninsula (20x20, three sides exposed), which costs $4750, slightly less that two Endcaps.  Further expansion would probably be to a 6 booth peninsula (20x30), which costs 6950, 250 less than three Endcaps.

You're not the first person who made this mistake, and I think I know why.  Are you misinterpreting the discount on 10x10 booths with one facing side to be "the cost of a 10x10 square?"

Now, if we wanted to declare next year (or 2008 or whatever) to be "the year of exodus" we could really rake in on the discounted booths for first-timers -- once.  But let's plan that carefully, and talk with Peter Adkinson while we do it, shall we?

yrs--
--Ben
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Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2006, 01:36:19 PM »

I don't think people are taking into account what a destination the Forge booth has become.  It is a recognizable place that generates traffic because 1) people know about it and intentionally seek it out, and 2) large crowds of excited gamers playing games attract attention.

Breaking up the booth loses both of those advantages.

Seriously, while its fun to brainstorm and a whole lot of electronic ink has been spilt discussing booth "problems"  lets not lose sight of the fact that what we have rocks.  What we have works.  What we have just generated more revenue in a day than most other booths generated the entire convention.  

Need I remind people that sales were up north of 70% for the second year in a row?
What we need is some fine-tuning, not a bulldozer.
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2006, 01:51:35 PM »

Yeah, if we can't do the Indie Games Shantytown, I'm all for going solo and then setting up piratical treasure maps that guide people to the various Indie Islands where there be booty to be had.

While I actually don't think this is the best idea for the reasons that Fred just mentioned, wouldn't it be awesome if we did this and then equipped each one with an airhorn -- whenever a booth hit a $100 mark, they'd sound off on their airhorn, and the other booths would airhorn back in response.  Heh.  That amuses me.

However -- Forge Booth as destination is a big huge point to consider, and for me, it's the trump.  In my ideal world, Forge Booth sticks together until it's an aisle on its own, like White Wolf / Wizards / Giant Company X.  Think back to those big "booths." Once you get to a certain size -- a size that Forge Booth is very quickly approaching -- you cease to be a booth and become a space.  You get to divvy up the space however you like.

What I would love to see is the Forge taking a big chunk of an aisle, setting up the bookshelves and registers in the middle of that space, and setting up four "pods" at the corners.  Each pod is a little group of designers who are responsible for demoing a subset of games available at the booth.  We can flavor them (fantasy, sci-fi, relationships, superheroes, blah de blah blah) however we like.  Hell, the pods could even overlap or be mixed up mid-con if things need to be adjusted.  What this gets us is the same effect of all the "islands" without losing the destination status.

Indie is great and all, but indie also, ironically, needs to stick together sometimes.  I like organic produce, but I don't buy it at the farms it grows on; I buy it at the farmer's market.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2006, 01:55:39 PM »

Ben:  You won't get any newcomer discounts on a booth that has more than one main product.  And, frankly, I don't think fissioning down to a booth-per-product is in any way feasible.  Yeah, I'd love the lower prices, but not if it comes with a strait-jacket that makes it impossible to organize an effective booth.

Ralph:  I would question the sanity of anyone who was talking about breaking up the Forge booth.  It is absolutely working like gangbusters.  The point of a diaspora (which I'm not quite at the point of suggesting, but definitely at the point of thinking about) would not be to replace the Forge but to supplement and diversify.  I can see manifold advantages:

  • Distributed Priority Points:  The more we rely on Ron to be the sole interface with GenCon the more we impinge upon his freedom.  Some day he might, y'know, want to not attend, and I think it would be a great thing if that day could come and we could collectively say "Wow, that's going to take some hopping logistics to reorganize our other booths to cover the absence of the central booth," rather than say "Ack!  Without Ron we are powerless to continue!  Ron!  You can't go!  We'll eat you up we love you so!"
  • Geographic distribution:  It's a minus, but it can also be a plus.  The basic fact is that we gleefully freeload off of the booths around us by clogging the aisles and spreading beyond our borders.  I would hate, hate, hate to be trying to sell right next to the Forge.  How can you compete?  But, the larger our booth, the less we'll be able (proportionately) to do that.  The surface area becomes less and less by comparison with the interior area.  If we hadn't had the Full Metal Alchemist photo-wall this year I think we'd all have immediately noticed that simple geometry.  Spawning new booths each radiating enthusiasm into their general area lets us reclaim our ability to prevail by superior coolness.
  • Experience and Darwinian Selection:  Diversifying means that if I want to I can go out and do something radically different and possibly stupid ... and if the forces of the market conspire to squash me and I lose all my investment then you guys can mourn my passing, learn from my mistakes and go on.  The more people are dependent upon a given booth, the less easily that booth and its administration can take the big risks.
  • The power of the referral:  In all seriousness, consider the power of the following recommendation:  "Y'know, there's this great game over at the Forge booth that sounds like it would be right up your alley.  Let's walk over there while we talk.  You can get a demo there, and see whether it's right for you."  That's powerful sincerity there.  It's one of the powerful lessons of Miracle on 34th street.

Now ... like I said, I am not convinced that these advantages come even close to outweighing the huge advantages of the centralized booth.  I'm thinkin'.  And, personally, all of the incoming information and opinions is really helpful, so thank you, all of you.
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Blankshield
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« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2006, 02:04:30 PM »

Jonathan, good idea.  It was done a couple years ago (in a fashion that would now violate the 'no flyers' rule) by a map of the exhibitors hall that had only the indie designers on it.  By-the-by, there's a lot of indies out there that aren't here.

I think it's really really important to consider some of the other significant effects of suggestions so far.

First: booth size.  I think the 20x20 penisula was a fucking awesome size this year, and probably is still a good size for next year.  One of the things that drives more of our sales that people might realize is that the booth is always crowded and hopping with a pile of designers waiting on a free table to demo the first person that even looks crosseyed at the booth.  If we went up to the size White Wolf had, I think it would kill us.  Too big.  We'd rattle around in there, and probably lose money, or barely turn a profit.  As opposed to every year so far, where I will lay strong odds that the forge booth has a profit margin that kicks the crap out of everyone else at the show, with the possible exception of the food court.
-Too many tables=designers standing around looking desperate instead of hungry
-a big sales area with several people browsing=looks empty instead of hopping,
-too much space around stuff=looks sparse and bare instead of 'street cafe'
All of those add up to us looking just like every other frickin' booth at GenCon.  Part of the draw of the forge booth is that it's different; it's a little bit too small every year, it's always got more cool shit that you can absorb.  I'm not one of the primary sponsers, but I strongly suspect that's a deliberate effect.  I know ferdamsure it would be if I was one of the sponsers.

Second: cost.  White Wolf's booth cost them over 10 grand, just for the booth.  Floor costs would double, furniture costs would at least double.  Setup and tear down issues would magnify, storage concerns, transporting all the stuff and the list goes on.  HUGE.  Doubling the booth will cube the headache and the cost, too.

Third: anything we can do... This is a much bigger and more subtle issue than it might look like.  Anything really 'out-there' like a shanty town of booths, or a two-story plan or a collective of booths that we can do, GenCon LLC has to either shut down, or let everyone do.  Didja notice where the EVE booth got shoved with their very cool second story?  So what if we do something cool and innovative like is being suggested, and manage to pull off a 'forge town square' or something where we've got a bunch of conceptually-tied booths grouped together in a square around a 20x20 of just demo tables.  Pretty fucking cool, right?  So then what's stopping Wizards of the Coast from taking that same concept and sucking up a full quarter of the dealers hall the next year?  What's stopping EVERYONE from doing it and shutting out the new single companies that aren't part of one of these funky new collectives?  You can be damn sure that these are the kinds of questions that Peter Adkinson asks himself every time something off the status quo happens or is requested.

Now please note, I'm not saying that doing something new and cool is bad, or that throwing ideas out there is bad, but be aware that the dance floor is crowded and there's a lot of important people with open-toed sandles.

James
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Justin D. Jacobson
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« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2006, 02:08:11 PM »

Well, as long as we're dreaming...

The idea I had back when I first proposed an IPR/Forge/Wicked conglomeration was that the added purchase power would allow us to get a much bigger space which we could, in turn, use in more diversified ways. One of those ways was a "lounge" area. Some comfy couches and rugs for floor-sitters, where people could sit around and flip through some sample copies of books and actually talk about gaming. If permitted (and I don't think it is), you could even have some free coffee and donuts/granola bars, etc.
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2006, 03:51:59 PM »

Quote
Distributed Priority Points:  The more we rely on Ron to be the sole interface with GenCon the more we impinge upon his freedom.  Some day he might, y'know, want to not attend, and I think it would be a great thing if that day could come and we could collectively say "Wow, that's going to take some hopping logistics to reorganize our other booths to cover the absence of the central booth," rather than say "Ack!  Without Ron we are powerless to continue!  Ron!  You can't go!  We'll eat you up we love you so!"
Geographic distribution:  It's a minus, but it can also be a plus.  The basic fact is that we gleefully freeload off of the booths around us by clogging the aisles and spreading beyond our borders.  I would hate, hate, hate to be trying to sell right next to the Forge.  How can you compete?  But, the larger our booth, the less we'll be able (proportionately) to do that.  The surface area becomes less and less by comparison with the interior area.  If we hadn't had the Full Metal Alchemist photo-wall this year I think we'd all have immediately noticed that simple geometry.  Spawning new booths each radiating enthusiasm into their general area lets us reclaim our ability to prevail by superior coolness.
Experience and Darwinian Selection:  Diversifying means that if I want to I can go out and do something radically different and possibly stupid ... and if the forces of the market conspire to squash me and I lose all my investment then you guys can mourn my passing, learn from my mistakes and go on.  The more people are dependent upon a given booth, the less easily that booth and its administration can take the big risks.
The power of the referral:  In all seriousness, consider the power of the following recommendation:  "Y'know, there's this great game over at the Forge booth that sounds like it would be right up your alley.  Let's walk over there while we talk.  You can get a demo there, and see whether it's right for you."  That's powerful sincerity there.  It's one of the powerful lessons of Miracle on 34th street.

-Ugh, for one year everyone should have to run a 10x10 booth of their own and learn what a real pain in the ass it is.

Peace,

-Troy

PS: sorry if I sound condescending.  i truly am.  i'm not trying to be derogatory at all.  it's just that running a booth, even one right-next-to-the-Forge is super hard work in a cramped and undertrafficed environment.  it is way harder to break even than any of you think.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2006, 05:17:32 PM »

Troy, if you could be specific in terms of your experience, that would be very helpful.

Assume that I can, for instance, do basic arithmetic.  I can figure out how hard it is to pack people into a 10x10 space.  I can calculate roughly (given a specific spread of publishers, their cohorts, group support, the saleability of product and our likely location/traffic during the con) what our odds of making back our investment are, at various levels of investment (corner vs. end-cap being the main division).

If I can do all that, coldly, rationally, and not just on a wish-and-prayer "If we get a booth at GenCon it will all somehow turn out alright!" basis ... what have I overlooked?  You've got experience, I'd love to benefit from it.  What are the other obstacles?
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