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Author Topic: Gen-Con Indie Passport Critiques & Comments  (Read 11373 times)
iago
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« on: August 22, 2007, 09:49:17 AM »

I'm worried that the passport stuff is starting to overtake the GenCon post-mortem thread, so I'm starting this one.

Perceptions appear to be in two different camps.  From where I'm standing, the majority has been positive; folks on my LJ and here saying that the passport did what I wanted it to do:

- Increase traffic among the booths
- Give booths an opportunity to define a "you must do this for your stamp" activity at their booths with the hopes of driving sales
- Establish a far-ranging community identity for the small press RPG publishers in attendance
- Orient convention-goers on where to find "the awesome"
- Incentivize but not mandate con-goers to visit all of the locations and find out what they're about
- Share the love through kewl lewtz

At least one dissenting voice has been heard, however, with observations like:

- The passport didn't drive sales, just increased valueless traffic
- With traffic came interruption of existing booth activities
- The traffic was largely composed of familiar faces (*) who didn't buy product

(*) I can't say that I share the familiar faces perception, at least, because I failed to recognize so many of the names I drew from the box.  Of the 12 names I drew, only 2 or 3 were folks I knew, so at least from where I'm standing that means four times as many people as I could have easily identified as "indie crowd" by name participated, if not far more.  I may get a chance to look through all the submitted passports and comment on that.

Generally, on the ground commentary from the various booths was pretty positive, especially the "non-standardly indie" booths like the Exile Studios, Cubicle 7, Rogue Games, and Grey Ghost Games folks.  There was another "run around and get your card punched" event being run at the convention too, and the feedback I specifically got from the booths that participated in both (Rogue/Grey Ghost), the passport was vastly preferred.  Most have asserted an interest in continuing and expanding the passport's role in 2008.

But I want to hear from everyone on this -- whether it was as a passport carrier (con-goer) or as a passport beneficiary (exhibitor).  What were your specific experiences like?
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Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2007, 11:10:42 AM »

For me the single most important aspect of the passport was reinforcing the sense of community...both ways.  I like and want the buying public to associate "indie games" as being part of this larger movement sweeping across the hobby and reinforced by numerous quasi-related booths in the GenCon hall.  These aren't small obscure vanity games...these are a Thing.

I like and want the designers to build and maintain connections amongst ourselves.  For a number of years "The Forge" provided a kind of branding umbrella for a certain subset of indie publishers.  IPR provides another such umbrella for a larger subset.  But there are alot of indie designers out there not associated...or only tangentally...with either of those and if we can build the "Indie-Passport" into an even larger community / network of indie-designers that would be fantastic.  There are many key advantages to being an Indie Publisher...and one of them is "we are not competitors...we are allies" and to the extent that the passport is one visual / public means of helping to establish that identity...it can only be a net win for everyone.


Plus it was just way cool.  I went and collected stamps because I wanted the passport as an artifact on its own (going the extra step of creating logo stamps REALLY was the differentiating feature)...of course, I lost the darn thing and so failed in that goal...but still...just collecting the stamps was of greater interest to me than the prizes...I can't be the only person geeked out on that aspect.


From where I'm standing that's well worth the price of having to deal with a few interruptions...all of which are not really "interuptions" but rather "opportunities to demonstrate customer service standards".   I mean how you deal with the guy who just wants a stamp might not help land his sale...but it very well could influence (pro or con) the sale you're in the middle of trying to make.
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2007, 11:17:45 AM »

Plus it was just way cool.  I went and collected stamps because I wanted the passport as an artifact on its own (going the extra step of creating logo stamps REALLY was the differentiating feature)...of course, I lost the darn thing and so failed in that goal...but still...just collecting the stamps was of greater interest to me than the prizes...I can't be the only person geeked out on that aspect.

Anecdote.  On Saturday, someone specifically requested to be able to keep his passport but still be entered in the drawing.  We managed to work that out, which was cool.  But, yeah, you weren't the only one geeked out on that aspect of the Passport.
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iago
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« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2007, 11:32:56 AM »

So, there are a few numbers to comment on here.

Production vs Use vs Return

First off is the number of passports I printed: 1000.

Of those, I distributed maybe 400 or 500 to the various booths on the passport circuit (50 each at most), at a ballpark -- less than half of the stack.  I don't have a sense of the rate of consumption at each of those locations, but I think most of them had leftovers at the end.

Of the 500 to 600 that left at the Forge booth, based on the single stack we had left at the end of the convention, I'd say the Forge booth got between 300 and 400 (basically I eyeballed us as having around 200 left, but due to the booth breakdown frenzy didn't make an actual count of it) out into circulation. 

I did hear from a few people that they lost their passports or decided they wanted to keep them rather than put them into the drawing.  This is fine from my perspective because I wanted the passport to be a map of places to visit first and foremost, and a prize drawing as a distant second.

I think I managed to grab most of the passports that were put into the drawing and bring 'em back with me, but this may have been a "lossy" process; the total I have on hand is (approximately) 75-80 passports actually submitted for the drawing.  I don't think I kept all of the winners' passports, which is why that's a range rather than a fixed number.

I think marketers often feel lucky to get even a 1% return rate on a survey or drawing or whatever, but maybe I'm on crack to think that...  still, getting 8% of the passports back doesn't sound bad to me, even if I had originally been overestimating the number we got back as being between 100 and 200 (it's hard to estimate how many passports are in a big pile when you're rapidly stuffing that pile into a box so you can get out of the exhibit hall).

A rough attempt at statistics on those follows...

Stamp Frequency

The vast majority of those returned had all 11 locations stamped.

10 had 10 of the 11 locations stamped.  Universally, the omitted location was Games On Demand (I anticipated this).

1 had 9 locations stamped.  Omissions: Keith Senkowski, Games on Demand

1 had 8 locations stamped.  Omissions: Cubicle 7, Exile Studio, Games on Demand (our three most remote locations)

2 had 7 locations stamped, in the same pattern.  Omissions: same as the 8, but also lacking Keith.

1 had 4 locations stamped, getting only the forge, hamster press, play collective, and burning dead -- the four "most visible" from the Forge booth.

4 had 3 locations stamped:
- 4 Burning Dead stamps
- 3(!) Forge stamps
- 2 Play Collective stamps
- 1 Games on Demand
- 1 Hamster Press
- 1 Keith Senkowski

So by process of elimination something like 56-60 of the ones returned were fully stamped, with 19 being partials as described above.  Burning Dead was the only one to achieve 100% exposure on the ones returned, with the Forge being down 1 stamp out of the 75-80, and Play Collective being down 2 -- not shocking given the proximities and line of sight on all three involved.  You can crunch numbers on the above for the rest.  Games on Demand suffered the most, but was the most remote and potentially required the greatest level of involvement in order to get your stamp...

Name Recognition

So, the question that remains is, of those returned, how many are names I recognize?  This is a very subjective thing, dependent on my memory and internet travel patterns.  Someone will be recognized if:

- I know their real name
- I frequent a forum they're on using an identity that I have managed to put together with their real name
- Or if I listen to a podcast they do
- Or if I recognize them from livejournal
- Or if I recognize them as a reviewer or other internet personality
- Or if I've absorbed their name as a part of working IPR's customer support queue
- I've sat at a table with them at Dexcon or Dreamation or Nerdly etc

I'm doing the '2 second test' on these names.  If I wrinkle my brow and go "hm, sounds familiar" it goes in the recognition pile.  This should produce the least conservative estimate of familiar faces.

Of the 75ish I have on hand here, I recognize about 22-24 names, one third.  So if we can extrapolate wildly, you could say that for every person who came by the booth that I would recognize, another two came by the booth who I wouldn't recognize.  That feels pretty good to me.

Feedback

At the bottom of the information on the back of the passport, it read:

"Did you enjoy your indie passport experience at GenCon?  Have any comments, questions, or concerns?  Let us know here!"

Here's what I got back.

"Yes"

"This was a lot of fun -- I don't usually do contests or scavenger hunts, but this let me visit places I might not have otherwise seen."

"REALLY good idea!"

"Awesome Idea!!!"

And that's it for the information I could gather.
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Blankshield
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« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2007, 09:13:47 PM »

Right up front, I'll state that I'm probably using a different criteria than most, but:

The Indie Passport was a success, plain and simple, because someone (didn't catch the name, sorry!) brought one to Games on Demand, I explained what GoD was, stamped their passport...

then they hung around, got sucked into a game, and had fun.

James
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Brennan Taylor
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« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2007, 03:19:50 AM »

The passport was great as far as the IPR/Forge booth goes. I think it's value for increasing awareness of where all the indie stuff was located was invaluable. The booths were a bit spread out and it provided a great way to find them all.
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Matt-M-McElroy
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« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2007, 04:34:30 AM »

The passport was a pretty awesome idea. I was watching how folks at a couple of different booths interacted with folks looking to get stamped. Most were using the opportunity to show off something and engage the attendee in conversation, even if it didn't result in a sale. This was great customer service and probably hooked more than a few new players.

Out in the general GenCon crowd I could see folks carrying the passport around showing it off like a cool new game. They were checking out the Hall Map trying to figure out where the booths were and what they wanted to check out next. I even saw one guy asking someone what "that passport thing" was, the response was awesome. They started explaining the booths and game available to check out and gave directions on where to get started.

There will always be folks who stop-by just to get a stamp and move on. Not much can be done about it, and "requiring" them to participate (i.e. play a demo) is not a good idea. You would get far more complaints in-person and online if such a policy were in place. This way the attendee gets to decide how involved they want to be.

Anyway, great job on the passport and I'm looking forward to seeing it evolve next year.

Regards,

Matt
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2007, 06:33:29 AM »

Hi there,

In evaluating the passport, I think we should also consider the impact on other booths. The connection between, for instance, Games on Demand and the Forge booth is intuitive and clear - the step it might take to prompt a game at the former and a sale at the latter, in either order, is very small, just as James says. For new booths, like the Play Collective and the Ashcan Front, traffic and any method to provoke dialogue of any kind is a plus.

The question is whether it's any good for established companies with their own booths, like Burning/Dead or whoever else. These booths are more dedicated to sales to new customers, plain and simple. No one in Forgie culture has a copy of Poison'd, and everyone has a copy of Burning Wheel (or if not, knows where to get it on-line and doesn't need GenCon for that). It is possible that people arriving for a stamp is not well-suited to these booths' goals or isn't a good model for customers to see when at that booth.

But it's also possible that the foot-traffic and personal contact - depending on how friendly it is - will have a longer-term effect. I know myself that various positive interactions at the Forge booth (and the Sorcerer booth before it, in 2001) netted me sales, year after year, after the con, whether from a store or on-line. I know that associations of games with one another, for instance Sorcerer and The Riddle of Steel when it was Jake's, has benefited both tremendously in raw sales over time, even if a customer only bought one of them at the moment at GenCon.

Which of these possibilities, or something else, prevails as the reality in the case of the Indie Passport - I don't know, and I don't think anyone can know. I only saw the Forge end of it, and as I said in the other GenCon thread, from there, it looked heroic. But how a given publisher assesses it can only be their responsibility and ultimately cannot be stepped on.

My current thinking is, for this and similar activities, whether to participate should always be the choice of the individual booth. I'm pretty sure that notion applies already, but as time goes by, it's probably fair and right to stick by it.

Best, Ron
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GB Steve
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« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2007, 06:14:12 PM »

I'm slightly annoyed with myself for handing mine in - it was way cool! It got me to go visit Keith which I probably would not have done otherwise and was directly responsible for Paula purchasing a stuffie Hamster Press hamster.

I'm not sure I'd do it again, unless you had to demo or buy something for the stamps.
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iago
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« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2007, 06:52:54 PM »

I'm not sure I'd do it again, unless you had to demo or buy something for the stamps.

So, if I'm understanding you correctly, you'd prefer mandatory activities at each booth rather than activity-optional? Can you elaborate on the reasoning for that?  I don't necessarily disagree, but I'm not feeling like I'm guessing at the motives correctly...
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Robert Bohl
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« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2007, 09:10:50 PM »

Mandatory activities would be the death knell of this thing. We were giving people stamps just for stopping by. We were giving people passports for just stopping by. Plenty of people hadn't heard of it and I was the first person to introduce them to it, and happy to do so.

Chotchkies for demos are a good thing, but the stamp shouldn't be that IMO.
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GB Steve
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« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2007, 06:05:15 AM »

I'm not sure I'd do it again, unless you had to demo or buy something for the stamps.

So, if I'm understanding you correctly, you'd prefer mandatory activities at each booth rather than activity-optional? Can you elaborate on the reasoning for that?  I don't necessarily disagree, but I'm not feeling like I'm guessing at the motives correctly...
I think a more involved activity than just turning up would be good. It could even be arm-wrestling Ron or trash talking Luke  but no just turning up to get the stamp. Involvement, that's what I would like to see.

I already know most of the Indie crowd, and their products so I guess the stamp thing isn't perhaps directed so much at me, but something a bit more off the wall might be.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2007, 06:09:51 AM »

There's a balance there, somewhere.  I don't know the right place to strike it.

Rob is right that telling people "Okay, if you find these eleven locations then you've completed the quest" is a more attractive challenge than "If you complete fifteen minute activities at each of these eleven locations then you've completed the quest."  I mean ... that's almost three hours added to the length of the activity, overall.  I get that each individual booth thinks that their request is so small as to be negligible, but in aggregate they get pretty intimidating.  People can do the math.

On the other hand ... yeah.  These places are more than just walk-through destinations.  We should be billing them as places that you want to spend some time in.

Now I'm thinking of one of those japanese tour-guides with the little flag to direct their masses.  Could we organize guided tours of the booths, to go along with the passports?  Would anyone want to?
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KeithBVaughn
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« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2007, 06:44:52 AM »

Since I wasn't at GenCon, this is an uninformed opinion but from an outsider's view. The passport and quest idea sounds excellent; it's a game you incorporate into shopping. Did the passports and/or stamps have the websites for the various companies? This would make the artifact value of the passport a marketing value as well. Did each location or booth have some form a give-a-way that the passport holder could take back to their hotel room and: game, gaze over, admire, or something that would keep the game and company in mind? possibly levering a sale by the end of the con.

I think the value of the passports is going to be in months to come. The buy this flyers and junk are going to be thrown out after GenCon but the passports are going to be kept and admired/read for years to come.

For What It's Worth

Keith
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iago
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« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2007, 06:46:55 AM »

FWIW, I had asked each participant to think about an activity they could have the carriers participate at their locations; not everyone did so.  Regardless, the idea of some level of involvement beyond "here's your stamp" at each location was present.  In my mind this wasn't mandatory demoing so much as mandatory conversations.  So maybe next year -- especially if we have more participants -- it will be more about needing to ask questions at each booth and writing down the answers to the questions.  Or something else -- but basically, an "easter egg" approach.
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