A quick look back as a Game Con Vendor – Con of the North 2016.
Since my first crack as a Game Con Vendor at Con of the North 2016, I’ve finally gotten a chance to write down my thoughts. Based on our preparations, I was well prepared and staffed for demos and sales. The booth looked great even though it literally squeaked under the 8ft tall ceilings. Overall the convention was a success but I thoughts on how to make my vending experience for next year even better. This is a follow-up post to the goals I initially established for the Con here.
- The passport game at the con was a success. I donated one copy of Brewin’ USA to the cause and in return had 100+ people stop by to get a stamp on their passport that might not have stopped by. Some were definitely intrigued by the game and this engagement even led to a few sales that probably would not have happened. A Passport stamp game is a no brainer.
- At Con of the North, the vendor hall never really closed. I wasn’t aware of this going into the Con but it definitely benefits somebody who is okay working late. Vendors drape their wares when they leave and do so anywhere from 5:00pm to 11:00pm. I stayed pretty late on Friday and Saturday which gave people extra time between their scheduled events to sit down and play Brewin’ USA. This was a big success as we really utilized our demo table space well.
- Demoing, staffing, and having a setup to sell product (cash / credit) worked as expected. The booth setup looked professional and held up well. Used vendor booth paid off and more in one con!
Things I can improve on:
- Finding players can be more difficult than it seems. This sounds silly at a gaming convention but it is always the truth. I did my best to scour the room for somebody looking for a 30-60 minute demo which often worked. Finding players for pickup games is still something I have yet to see a good solution.
- I did not deliver on the my initial goal of doing something different to help stand out.
- Make a better effort to network with other designers, publishers, and hobby retailers.
- Have more product on the table. I started out the con with 3 boxes on the table and ended up with maybe 8-10 on the table. Not many people made an impulse purchase after hearing about the game, but later during the Con they would come back to the table. I felt that more boxes on the table felt more professional and legitimate as a vendor.
We will definitely be back to Con of the North 2017 so I hope to see you there! Also a huge thanks to all the volunteers that make this con run smoothly.
Adam’s Apple Games is excited to announce we will be at Con of the North 2016 in Plymouth, MN as a First Time Vendor!
As a first time vendor, we’re in list-making mode to make sure we’re prepared for the Con.
- Look Professional: (2 mo ahead)
- We got shirts and they are bright green to stand out!
- Put some thought into your booth. You can do this on the cheap by looking for used trade show equipment on craigslist and ordering banners for used banner stands. We bought a 10′ x 8′ booth on the cheap with velcro backing so we order and customize posters for Brewin’ USA and also future projects.
- Posters to catch attention and help explain your brand or product.
- Table – There are some neat table runners that look pretty professional AND fit any table.
- Business Cards
- Printed material for upcoming products
- Have a spot to Demo your game:
- Last Year, we noticed a vendor area that had tables in the center of the room. These tables actually attracted quite a few players looking to demo games, so we snagged one for an extra $100 to make sure we had this space available.
- Bring a fully published product to demo if possible, or even your polished prototypes.
- Be Well Staffed:
- We will have two people at all times at the booth to offer a quick and full-game version of product demos.
- We also managed to link up with another local game designer and offered some demo space at the booth in return for help managing things.
- Have a Way to Sell Product:
- Since there are multiple booth members, we’ll be using a card reader and iPad mini as a way that either Chris or myself can process any game sales. If you don’t have a product to sell, make sure you get a sign up list and ask anybody you pitch the game to if they would ask to be on it. Digital and Paper are both good.
- Do Something Different, Stand Out, and Have Fun:
- We’ll be dressed in Lederhosen nodding to the craft beer game theme of Brewin’ USA.
- We’ll plan on having some type of food we’ll be giving away. Possibly some cookies.
- A raffle or tournament of some kind!
I will make sure to revisit this page with photos of our booth and learning from our experiences at Con of the North. Please add a comment if you have any other tips as a First Time Vendor to a gaming convention.
I recently attended my first Protospiel in Madison, WI. The event was a great environment for somebody looking to find players to test and hone their board games. I was pretty surprised to see a lot of wasted time at this event including some of my own time. I jotted down a few notes on how to maximize your valuable time during a Protospiel.
- Come with a prototype assembled. This lets you get into play testing games and networking right away. I saw at least 50% of people show up with unfinished business and spent much of their Friday assembling their prototypes.
- I will play your game if you play mine. There is value in networking but I saw a lot of people standing by their fully setup games waiting for players. It would have made sense for these people to just start playing other’s designs versus standing around for 3 hours doing nothing. Yikes!
- Improvement first, marketing second. Protospiel seems to be an event more focused on testing and improving versus marketing your game. However, you will have an opportunity to play test with people that came to playtest only as well as people that brought their own designs. It’s good to have a mix of both when gathering feedback. I do ask to collect players emails AFTER they play as a way to put more weight against somebody’s positive feedback. It’s also fine to bring some business cards as this is also a great networking event.
- Come with a play testing plan. Jot down a list of things you want to learn through your multiple play-tests. This will keep you focused on gathering useful feedback each test. Just thinking about this before you show up will help you arrive with a more malleable prototype that can be used to fulfill a broader test plan. Here are some things that might be pretty easy to tweak during a Protospiel without big component changes: How a player gets resources and how many, What a player does on their turn and in what order, Turn order itself and what dictates it, Combat mechanics and/or Combat resolution, End Game conditions, Hand Limits, # of actions,
- Design for ways to implement new ideas on the fly. One of the reasons I left the event early was that I didn’t think to bring spare components that I could modify to test new ideas. This can be as simple as a few spare blank cards with printed card backs. TIP: If you’re ordering parts from a website like The Game Crafter, always order a few spare cards with nothing on them that you can modify throughout the Protospiel. The events team DID provide blank components (cards, minis, tiles) but unfortunately I was unable to make do.
- Tell people what you want to learn BEFORE playing the game. This will help focus on providing feedback against what you want to learn. I specifically wanted to learn about combat in “Terraform” and focused my plays on a few different implementations of the combat. In the end I received invaluable feedback driving a large overhaul in the way I plan on handling combat.
- Have a list of feedback questions prepared. It’s super tempting to lead with “So – What’d ya think…” Be smarter than that and ask what you want to know. When I ask for feedback, I want to know 3 things. Did you have fun? Did your experience match the experience I was hoping to create? Should I keep working on this project? When seeking this feedback from players, use questions are crafted to deliver a qualitative response as well. What was the funnest part of the game for you? What about your play made you feel clever or powerful? What about your experience felt unfair? After receiving a qualitative response, always ask WHY a person felt or responded this way. Ask for feelings and experiences versus solutions. The Protospiel did provide feedback surveys but you will get more value from talking to people and noting their replies than having them fill out a survey.
- Always say thanks for playing and listen to feedback. Even if you don’t like the feedback or it doesn’t make immediate sense, there is probably a reason they are telling you something.
We have a Protospiel coming up in MN in January 2016 where I will be bringing two games and will report back with my learnings on bringing two games versus one.
It’s interesting to think about where ideas come from. In his TED talk, Steven Johnson claims that ideas come from the Coffee House in that boasts an environment paired with stimulation. He goes on to say that a Coffee House in particular is a “space where ideas can have sex”, and that an idea occurs when a new pattern of neurons in your brain is now firing in sync. This contradicts the assumption of an idea as a singular thing, but rather as a new way to compile existing parts. Steven ends his talk with the statement “Chance favors the connected mind.”
This got me thinking about particular game design ideas that pop into my brain. I find that they usually germinate when in the presence of other stimulus, usually a listening to podcast or chatting with a friend. The interesting part about the ideas that come up is that they are usually not very related to the conversation or content within the podcast. There is simply some new way of arranging existing information, or potentially adding a new perspective. It’s interesting that simply listening to a Podcast can serve as a Coffee House in that I am taking in new stimulus, and I am usually in a space where my brain has freedom to roam a little bit (driving, exercising, etc).
Is listening actually a form of connecting? I would argue that it can be. Back to the podcasts, I have reached out in person and on multiple occasions to podcast hosts I listen to. I felt connected and comfortable enough to do this. When reaching out, I was able to genuinely say hello as a fan and ask them about something meaningful to them. This has resulted in sharing a genuine personal connection and friendship even if only via social media, something that is strikingly hard to find these days. I would say listening is and definitely leads to a form of connecting.
So listening paired with your other life experiences, can lead to new ideas. The next time on you’re on the road, visit your proverbial coffee house via an interesting podcast and pair that with a cup of joe to get the ideas flowing. Use listening as a way to combat designers block and to stem innovation on theme, mechanic, and overall experience.
What I am listening to:
Of course, we at Adam’s Apple Games value listening so much that we also want to be part of creating content that will help you feel connected. We help host the recently created Gamers With Wives podcast where we talk about games, gaming, and sometimes some small business and game design things.
What are you listening to?
If you have any other killer game design podcast recommendations, leave a comment with them below.