Monday, August 17, 2009

Gen Con Booth Grades

Another year of Gen Con is in the books, but there's still some work to be done. Here's RPG Blog 2's grades for some of the company booths at this year's convention. The grade considers a mix of visual appearance and presentation, convention buzz, and overall booth experience.

Please note this is just my perception of things. A company may receive a C+ here, but that doesn't mean they didn't have a wildly successful convention from their point of view. Likewise, a company receiving an A may have burned through their trust fund money thanks to lavish demos and booth displays, and will fold in a year. (Actually, several publishers I spoke to said it was a really good year for sales, so that's encouraging!). But perhaps some of the notes here will be useful for companies or prospective exhibitors to consider for next year.

The Grades

Alderac: B
They came in with a larger booth this year, with plenty of available demo space.

Burning Wheel: B+
Small, but busy and engaging of prospective customers.

Catalyst: Split Grade
RPGs get a C, due to some unfortunately standoffish booth personnel when I tried to get info on Eclipse Phase, but the rest of the booth was a healthy A- for a whirlwind of demos.

(EDIT: Adam Jury of Catalyst contacted me personally about this issue, and couldn't have been nicer in working to resolve it. Great work, and great outreach).

Cubicle 7/Adamant: B+
Kind of a back location, but they were busy talking to gamers almost every time I ventured that way. Friendly, patient booth staff.

Dwarven Forge, Fat Dragon Games, Hirst Model Arts, and the Miniature Building Authority: A
All 4 of these companies did an equally splendid job setting up and displaying their scenery and miniatures.

Exile Game Studio: D+
Recessed, dark booth didn't do them any favors. There's always next year.

Fantasy Flight: B
These guys are always busy, but more accessible info on their RPGs would be nice (though the Warhammer 3e display case was nice, if it not hugely informative. I tired to get a pic of it, but found out after I came home that a glare rendered the pic unusable).

Gamescience: A
An expanded booth, a new display, plus Louis Zocchi as a Guest of Honor equals a top grade. Could perhaps clean up a bit on the outside display.

Gaming Paper: B+
Came into Gen Con virtually unknown, left with a healthy amount of buzz.

Goodman Games: C+
I think they could have done a better job displaying the majority of their titles than just stacks. More vertical displays would be nice.

Green Ronin: C
Good-sized island booth, but being in the dim light back by the electronics area didn't do them any favors, Dragon Age tie-in or no.

Indie Press Revolution: B+
Demo space didn't appear as expansive this go-around, but they still do one of the best jobs at the convention of engaging customers and cranking out the demos.

Kenzer: B-
Nice, navigable booth, but I missed the in-booth demos, which in years past were a big draw and some of the best at Gen Con. From what I heard, they had some GMs fall through at the last minute.

Margaret Weis Productions: B-
There were so many people in the booth at one time that it got confusing. Otherwise, solid, if unspectacular.

Mind Storm Labs: A-
One of the best knacks for aesthetics at the convention. Nearly everyone comes away impressed, even if it isn't their exact cup of tea.

Mongoose: B
Man, they have a lot of product lines, something you realize when you see them all in front of you. Nice display of new and recent Traveller products.

Paizo: A
The only way this could have been higher is if they sold out of Pathfinder completely. Pathfinder was the show's big product and big buzz, even more so than many expected.

Pinnacle/Studio 2: B
Definitely caught some word of mouth on the $10 Savage Worlds Explorer Edition. They should really stress promoting it as much as possible.

Q-Workshop: A-
All they have to do is put out their dice, and folks come running.

Rogue Games: B+
Really engaging with customers. Good game pitch. Looked completely wiped by late Saturday.

Rootjack Pirate Energy Drink: B-
I'd say 8/10 people I talked to who tried this root beer-ish drink liked it. but even if they couldn't help it, not being able to sell the actual product in the Exhibit Hall (it was available at the RAM) was a downer.

Troll Lord Games: B
Clean, with lots of room to navigate, but it was hard for me to get a good, exact answer on a couple of product questions.

White Wolf: B+
I'm not a White Wolf player usually, but they do a great job of staffing their booth with affable, knowledgeable personnel.

Wizards of the Coast: B-
Announcing their 2010 campaign setting and the $5 4e Player's Handbook promo saved an otherwise underwhelming convention. Still the big dog, but a quiet show by their standards.


Chgowiz said...

And kudos to Fat Dragon for spreading the love about S&W!

Joseph said...

How much control do the individual companies have over where their booth is situated?

Fred Hicks (Evil Hat Productions) said...

Companies have very little control. The amount of control they have is mostly based on seniority (the more often you've attended, the more GenCon will consider your preference when determining placement).

That said, preference does factor in SOME -- just not a lot at times, especially not a lot for 1st or 2nd timers.

HinterWelt said...

@Fred - I thought you could buy a better booth position? Stuff like corners and head of rows and (I thought) even closer to the doors. I could be wrong on that though as it has been a bit of time since I bought a booth myself.

HinterWelt said...

@Zach - XRP? Don't they get points for Squirreliness? :)

Fred Hicks (Evil Hat Productions) said...

@HinterWelt - That's not a booth position so much as a booth footprint. There are only so many 10x20 endcaps, so many 20x20s, etc, so it has the *effect* of being a better position *sometimes* (tho not always), but really it's the amount of floorspace that's getting bought & brokered there.

What I'm talking about is more about getting a choice of where you are in the hall (how far out of the way vs. along main routes, etc).

Zachary The First said...

@ HinterWelt: Perhaps had you been there yourself, to encourage said squirrliness. ;)

Robert Saint John said...

So does the comment on Green Ronin mean they weren't showing anything fot Dragon Age? Because I heard nothing about it in any con reports. Thought it was due next month?

Zachary The First said...

@Robert: No, they had some fliers on Dragon Age, and they were across the aisle from the Dragon Age booth itself. But the area back by the electronic games is dim—not the best choice for a print RPG company booth, in my opnion. I get the whole tie-in attempt, I just thought from a tabletop RPG fan’s perspective, the booth could have been in a better lit area.

HinterWelt said...

So, Zach, what grade would you give them (XRP)? Enquiring squirrels want to know...

Richard Iorio II said...

Yeah, by the end of the day Saturday, I was dragging my butt. I love working the booth, but I am going to have to get more help next year. I was not prepared for the amount of people who needed to talk to me this year.

It was great talking with you Zach -- even though it was so brief.

Zachary The First said...

@HinterWelt: XRP is easily a B+ or A- . Nice displays, a clean booth, and a friendly booth staff.

@Rich: Good seeing you as well!

Adam said...

Zach -- can you zap me an email to and describe the person at the Catalyst booth you had a poor experience with, and what day/time it was, roughly?

Thanks, and I'm sorry you had an experience that wasn't up to the rest of our booth.

Zachary The First said...

Adam--Happily. It'll have to wait until I get home tonight, but I'd be pleased to.

And it may well be that I just hit upon someone who was having a rough time. I didn't think they were busy when I asked, but Jeff (of the Bone Scroll, who was with me) and I were surprised by the reaction, especially since we were there an hour early as press, and the booth did not yet have customers.

On the other side of things, the rest of your booth seemed to be flowing really well with the demos! Nice work on all that!

Zachary The First said...

I wanted to thank everyone for their viewing. Between theRPGsite and RPG Blog 2, we have now passed 20,000 page views for the Gen Con Coverage! Thank you all--that shatters, and nearly DOUBLES, last year's record! Wow!