RIP: GenCon SoCal (2003-2006)
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Post Posted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 10:42 pm 
 

The plug has been pulled on GenCon SoCal, making this a sad day for many West Coast gamers.

I attended the first three of these gatherings, and I definitely had a love/hate thing going on with the SoCal event. On the one hand, I had a pretty good time on all three occasions ... on the other hand, I thought it was the most idiotically-run convention I'd ever attended.

Anyway, there's both a press release and 500 paragraphs of questionable logic from Peter Adkison available for anyone interested:

Press release

You should have emphasized the exhibit hall, Peter

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Post Posted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 11:00 pm 
 

Xaxaxe wrote:The plug has been pulled on GenCon SoCal, making this a sad day for many West Coast gamers.

I attended the first three of these gatherings, and I definitely had a love/hate thing going on with the SoCal event. On the one hand, I had a pretty good time on all three occasions ... on the other hand, I thought it was the most idiotically-run convention I'd ever attended.

Anyway, there's both a press release and 500 paragraphs of questionable logic from Peter Adkison available for anyone interested:

Press release

You should have emphasized the exhibit hall, Peter


Jesus Christ.  When will this guy realize he was just in the right place at the right time (starting a card game right when card games became huge), he has no insight into running a business, and he's no Mark Cuban?  Give me all of Adkison's money, and I bet you a million dollars I could make a convention that is fun AND makes money.  Start with NOT OVERCHARGING FOR THE EXHIBITOR'S BOOTHS YOU FUKKIN MORON.  What an absolute tool....

Mike B.


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Post Posted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 11:36 pm 
 

When will this guy realize he was just in the right place at the right time (starting a card game right when card games became huge)


Wasn't Magic the game that actually broke the genre? Seems to me that's a pretty sweet accomplishment. But with any business, it usually just hangs on for a while after it's original entrepreneurial idea becomes obsolete. WOTC is no different.

  


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Post Posted: Fri Jan 26, 2007 11:57 pm 
 

Badmike wrote:Start with NOT OVERCHARGING FOR THE EXHIBITOR'S BOOTHS YOU FUKKIN MORON.

This pretty much hits it right on the head. Adkison can write eight-page missives until the cows come home, but the fundamental fact remains that the show got worse every single year, with the central reason stemming from the exhibitors being treated like crazed lepers.

Here's a quick comparison of years, using a category near and dear to all of our hearts: out-of-print D&D material.

2003: Lots of OOP dealers. In fact, when I realized I didn't have anything for Erol Otus to sign, I was able to run across the aisle and have my choice of like three different vendors to buy a used module from.

2004: Total exhibitor count is noticeably down. Two — count 'em, two! — vendors with OOP D&D products.

2005: Not a single vendor with used/OOP prodcuts. Not one.

2006: (this report comes from a buddy of mine who attended; I did not go). Exhibit hall shoved in the farthest-away corner that the GenCon people could find. Again, not one single dealer for used/OOP products.

I remember leaving the 2003 show with the buddy mentioned above, and commenting: "I had fun, but they really need to step it up as far as the exhibit hall is concerned." And, instead, the entire experience got worse evey single year.

So spare me your excuses, Peter. Bottom line: you blew it by having zero clue about how to treat your vendors right.

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Post Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 12:07 am 
 

Sea-to-sky-games wrote:
Wasn't Magic the game that actually broke the genre? Seems to me that's a pretty sweet accomplishment. But with any business, it usually just hangs on for a while after it's original entrepreneurial idea becomes obsolete. WOTC is no different.


I thought there were card games already, but clearly not as organized or addicting as Magic became.  I could be wrong.  Regardless, one great idea (which btw has been ground into the dirt ad nauseum over the past decade) does not a business/marketing genius make.  I've read enough about the esteemed Mr. Atkinson over the years to realize he's not a great leader, innovator, or futurist.  
    Without posting a ten page essay, the fact he lost money on Gen Con So Cal is not surprising....brand name marketing like this could take many years for it to catch on.  The dumbest mortal knows that gaming conventions LOSE MONEY...it's a fact of life...the point is to push brand name products or expand your own product.  I would venture to say Gen Con and Origins might be the only two gaming conventions in the US that don't lose money every year.  Expecting Gen Con So Cal to make money in year 3-4 is just wishful thinking and bad business sense, especially when you have the elitist attitude of "Let's charge so much for the tables we lose 20% of our exhibitors the next year, but who cares because the little guys are just clogging up the aisles anyway". That one instance that he happily trumpets as good business sense may be the most asinine piece of marketing doo-doo I've ever heard in my entire life   This asshat isn't marketing a vanity product like Cartier diamonds or Mercedes Benz where the entire point is to weed out the "common people" for brand appeal.  He's selling GAMES for Gods sake.  And he wonders why 4-5 Big Name companies started sharing booths to offset costs, instead of buying their own....absolutely unbelievable.  You think by year four he would have popped a brain cell that might have told him to lower table costs so he's not losing exhibitors every year.  

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Post Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 12:28 am 
 

I thought there were card games already, but clearly not as organized or addicting as Magic became.  I could be wrong.  Regardless, one great idea (which btw has been ground into the dirt ad nauseum over the past decade) does not a business/marketing genius make.  I've read enough about the esteemed Mr. Atkinson over the years to realize he's not a great leader, innovator, or futurist.  


I hear you. I just think the exact same thing can be said of Gygax, or the inventor of the hoola hoop for that matter. You have be from a very special breed to continually innovate and stay ahead of the pack. Heck, even Gates is milking an idea he had 25 years ago.

I think there was a Boardgamegeek con here last year (which presumably had a lot of rpgers).. but I don't know how much business it did.

  


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Post Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 12:29 am 
 

Badmike wrote:And he wonders why 4-5 Big Name companies started sharing booths to offset costs, instead of buying their own

I believe an all-time convention record was set at GenCon SoCal in 2006 when eight companies decided to share one booth rather than be told, individually, to bend over. Eight.  8O  :!:  8O  :!:

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Post Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 12:55 am 
 

Sea-to-sky-games wrote:
I hear you. I just think the exact same thing can be said of Gygax, or the inventor of the hoola hoop for that matter. You have be from a very special breed to continually innovate and stay ahead of the pack. Heck, even Gates is milking an idea he had 25 years ago.

I think there was a Boardgamegeek con here last year (which presumably had a lot of rpgers).. but I don't know how much business it did.


Hey, I would also say I don't see Gygax as any great business leader...but unlike Adkinson, I don't think he ever presented himself as such.   Conversely, Anna Nicole Smith has more money than I could ever dream of, and I doubt she would be considered a business genius.  But presumably neither Gygox or Smith would write a self serving 10 page "explanation" about how their non-existent business acumen led to a pet project being cancelled when the reason why is as clear as day...
 BTW, the inventor of the Hula Hoop also invented the Frisbee...that guy was on FIRE  :D

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Post Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 2:12 am 
 

I don't know a lot about Peter Adkinson, or about running a business.

I did not read his amazement at what has happened to him as arrogance.  What happened to him was amazing.  Luck is a major part of the gaming business.  Card games...who knew?  Role-playing...who knew?

If he thinks he knows how to run a business...well...he certainly has more experience than me.

I wish him well.

Mark


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Post Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 5:38 am 
 

It was an odd convention... For some reason they never picked up the local population like you think they would. It was a major non issue here, like nobody really talked about it even though it's a pretty huge Con. I'm not sure why it really failed to draw crowds in this population dense area. Maybe we have too much to do already? MTG is very healthy here and there are plenty of board/RPG gamers. I think maybe the mistake was not putting it in LA  :?

I think Warcraft is giving WOTC a run for its money nowdays and might put them in the same situation TSR found itself in.

  


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Post Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 6:16 am 
 

Strange, maybe its different in America but most of the conventions I have been to in the UK make money. Maybe not a lot of money but they make money.

They tend to be small affairs, a handful of rpg shop stalls, a hand full of rpg company tables, a couple of people to sign things or do pictures, an auction at the end often with things donated by any companies that attend along with a few other things, add to that some competitions and a heavy focus on gaming.

Keep your costs down and your income high.

What seems the problem is the time involved and some of the people you have to deal with? I have been asked more than once if I would organise a convention. I fondly think of all the things I would do and that it wouldn't be costing me anything. Then reality returns and I say no, I have neither the time nor the patience.

  


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Post Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 6:22 am 
 

Tharizdun wrote:I think maybe the mistake was not putting it in LA

I think you might be right. The expected synergy between the Anaheim Convention Center and Disneyland never seemed to materialize, despite the fact that the two are practically neighbors.

It's interesting to note, though, that the GenCon folks had already announced a move to downtown L.A. for 2007 and beyond. Obviously, they must not have actually signed the contract, given this most recent announcement.

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Post Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 8:20 am 
 

Xaxaxe wrote:I think you might be right. The expected synergy between the Anaheim Convention Center and Disneyland never seemed to materialize, despite the fact that the two are practically neighbors.

It's interesting to note, though, that the GenCon folks had already announced a move to downtown L.A. for 2007 and beyond. Obviously, they must not have actually signed the contract, given this most recent announcement.


So one has to wonder how they will go in Australia.  It is an expensive and  long way to travel.  Unless you are looking for a holiday.  Which I can highly recommend Australia as a great place to visit.  

The show is to be based in Queensland.  8O Which may be nice from a weather point of view (July = winter in Australia) but does not have the population of a Sydney or Melbourne....

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Post Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 10:26 am 
 

On a positive note though Gencon Indy registration begins on Feb 11!  It is still strong and popular!!


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Post Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 4:05 pm 
 

Badmike wrote: Start with NOT OVERCHARGING FOR THE EXHIBITOR'S BOOTHS


This is why we never attended. I'm not going to pay the same amount as I pay for GenCon for only 1/5 of the audience.

joe b.

  

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Post Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 6:30 pm 
 

jgbrowning wrote:
This is why we never attended. I'm not going to pay the same amount as I pay for GenCon for only 1/5 of the audience.

joe b.


Peter said:

Unfortunately there was one blight, an early warning sign of a large problem looming on the horizon. Exhibitor participation, instead of climbing too, dropped from 106 exhibitors to 81. Apparently I wasn't the only one who lost money the previous year.

In all fairness, I should point out that I priced the exhibitor booths at Gen Con So Cal somewhat aggressively (at about three-fourths the cost of the booths at Gen Con Indy, a show roughly five times the size). There were two reasons for this: first is that because I was losing money on the show anyway, I should try and make up for some of that where I could, and the exhibit hall seemed a reasonable place. Second, I really didn't want too many exhibitors at the show because the number of exhibitors has to make sense as a function of over all attendance. Its close to a zero sum game. If you have $100 to spend in the exhibit hall, the more exhibitors there are, the less revenue and foot traffic each of them will get. So it made sense to me to weed out the guys who were very price sensitive. So I wasn't too worried about the decline in exhibitor participation as the drop actually seemed to bring the exhibitor participation to a level more appropriate for where the attendee participation was at.


This makes so little sense it's almost criminal.  You are supposing ifI walk into your exhibit hall with $100 I will definitely spend it on something.  Ah, no, I've walked out of plenty of conventions with money still in my pocket when they didn't have what I wanted. Apparently if someone wanted used gaming items, theywalked out with the money still in their pocket, since you "aggressively" priced the booths to Gen Con prices so as to exclude the used gaming dealers (see above for evidence of this from a certain attendee...).
  I swear, from his own words, it' sounds like a monkey could have run a better convention that this goober.

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Post Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 6:56 pm 
 

The logic is just baffling. I mean, here's two pretty simple scenarios, using the mythical $100 mentioned by Peter:

Scenario 1: I see a nice, vibrant exhibit hall full of all sorts of vendors. Throughout the day, I manage to spend my $100 on a variety of products. I find this easy to do because I have a number of interesting choices.

Scenario 2: I see a tiny, sad exhibit hall that has more of the feel of a funeral home than a major convention. I spend no money and leave the hall with all $100. This is because the limited choices I was given had no appeal to me.

So, if you happened to be in charge of GenCon LLC, which scenario would you want to see? How about if you were a vendor? Wouldn't you rather compete for a chance at that $100 rather than be practically guaranteed to have none of it?

After re-reading Peter's letter, especially the part that BadMike highlighted, it's no wonder the SoCal event is gone. No event can survive without at least an ounce of common sense.

BTW, take a guess at what booth was the big winner at the last GenCon SoCal event I attended (2005). It had nothing to do with gaming ... which, at the time, actually did set off warning bells in my head. It was the guys selling the man-kilts. 8O You know, the ones with pockets and other accessories? They were swamped on both days I attended. Too bad they actually have zero to do with gaming.

+++++

A quick sidebar: I have nothing against Peter Adkison personally. In fact, as I think I mentioned in a long-ago thread, I actually met the man (briefly) at one of the shows. He was helpful enough to answer a couple of questions and point me to the correct registration line. Nice guy, I'd say. I'm just not sure he should be in charge of anything.

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Post Posted: Sun Jan 28, 2007 3:57 am 
 

So Cal is basically one vast city... The question is how they only got about 5K people to go? I assume around 1/2 of the visitors weren't even from the local area...

The exhibit hall wasn't that great for non CCG players but I doubt it was the reason for such low attendance either.

There's no simple answer for its failure. I don't think Peter honestly knows either, hence his looong synopsis of events.

It's a blow to the hobby that such an ambitious endeavor failed :?

  

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Post Posted: Sun Jan 28, 2007 7:09 am 
 

Tharizdun wrote:So Cal is basically one vast city... The question is how they only got about 5K people to go? I assume around 1/2 of the visitors weren't even from the local area...

The exhibit hall wasn't that great for non CCG players but I doubt it was the reason for such low attendance either.

There's no simple answer for its failure. I don't think Peter honestly knows either, hence his looong synopsis of events.

It's a blow to the hobby that such an ambitious endeavor failed :?

In my opinion Peter Adkison has some business sense. I mean... Magic is very successful today, but imagine this guy and the other fellows of pre CCGs WotC wondering about spending much money on this new card game and fearing it could bomb. With hindsight, it was a hollow worry, but hindsight is like cheating on a computer game  :P

I have a far less positive attitude about Gen Con SoCal management, asking for 4/5 of the cost of Gen Con Indy for a booth is absurd. Exhibitors may be convinced once, but not twice. I am convinced that people go to a convention for events and exhibitors. What is the point in seeing some giant sized booths selling games you can find easily at home or on Internet... I think they should encourage exhibitors with some hard to find and small press products because people could say Hey! I went to X con and I found this rare/bizarre/out of print game! New releases are very attractive too  :wink:

For example, in Italy Lucca Comics and Games is, by far, the biggest convention, it attracted, in 2006, over 80 thousands visitors! As you can guess, companies of every size race as soon as exhibitor registration is open. I attended in 2006 for the first time as a exhibitor and I made quite a good chunk of money  :D  There were many attempts to copy their formula, but clearly they are not working. The recentmost project is Mantova Games and Comics, placed in Mantua, a city in Nothern Italy, in March while Lucca Games is in november. They have a nice convention center, a great city, they are placed in the richest, most populous and with most game and comic fans in the country, they are in a period of the year devoid of big events. But they are not exactly flourishing...

2007 is their second year. In 2006, when I received and read their exhibitor rates I was aghast. They were HIGHER then Lucca Games ones and WITHOUT Lucca proven track record. Of course, exhibitors were few and wooed with radical cuts in price for the booths. At least they showed some common sense and I really love the idea of a big convention in the first part of the year and in the NORTHERN part of the country where I incdentally live  :D

I am really starting to think that every country has room just for one big convention and that is all. This not saying there will be just one because, for example, we have Mod Con which is a convention by Gamers for Gamers. It is popular with hardcore players, but it is not a mass event and it does not pretend to be one. But many companies exhibit nonetheless or have a strong presence to woo them... everybody here knows the theory about the imnportance of convincing hardcore players about how good your game is, I suppose...

Last a funny anecdote> I was told once that Gen Con offered to Lucca Games and Comics in 2003 the use of the Gen Con brand for mere 10,000 dollars. When they asked for my opinion, along the ones of many others, I laughed. Gen Con is meaningless for the far biggest part of Italian gamers so why spend so much money for just a brand when you could have more and more guests... For example, more American game designers... Lucca Games asked to Gen Con management what could be worth of this money... They told we can help you in... errr... let us think about it... you are in Italy... uhhhh... The brand had no use and they could offer no significant help so they offer was refused. But last year I heard a rumour about Gen Con offering the same brand FREE to build brand awareness  :D  I am still wondering why Asmodee uses the Gem Con brand in France, unless they got it fo free...

  
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