Saturday, May 31, 2014

Late May Post

Hey everyone,

I finally got the Game News section of the website working.  I can now start recruiting Community Managers / Social Media peeps to write news articles through the site and have them show up without me having to do a thing.  Once I got that working, adding an events list in the sidebar wasn't that much harder.  Drupal's been time consuming to learn, but I’m finally getting a handle on it.  There's still some parts of the site that bypass Drupal like the Jobs page, but I'm going to be fixing that soon.

Speaking of events, have I mentioned we have a booth at Sac Anime?  Two actually, side by side.  My goal is to turn our 10’ by 20’ booth space into a family room, though I've come across an unexpected snag.  Seems like furniture rental places won’t let you move furniture once it’s delivered, and they’ll only deliver to a residence--certainly not the Sacramento Convention Center.  I don’t want to outright buy two couches for Sac Anime.  I don’t have any room to put them at my place before / after the event.  What I might do is end up buying a bunch of cheap bean bags then stuffing them in my bedroom closet for next year.  But hopefully I can still pull off Plan A.

Speaking of conventions, Sac Arcade is coming along well.  I can’t make any announcements until I have more things confirmed.  But basically, people that run game related things for Sac Anime, I've recruited to do the same for Sac Arcade.  This isn't confirmed, but it’s likely I’ll also be bringing in a huge group that organizes events for PAX.  PAX, btw, huge game convention that draws 80,000 gamers in Seattle once a year--this year, all their tickets sold out in less than 5 minutes.  Sac Arcade might not be amazing the first year, but I see no reason why we can’t eventually rival PAX.

Duplicating PAX in Sacramento isn't going to be easy though.  It sounds like there’s a lot of money to be made, but that’s not really the case.  When you figure labor costs for security (you can’t rely on volunteers for everything--especially the safety of people that can sue you or expensive equipment that can be so easily stolen or broken), food and shirts for those that do volunteer, venue costs, insurance, and marketing, whatever profit I could have made for the amount of work I’m putting in, I could just have gotten a conventional job and made more money for less time.  That, and all the proceeds will get sunk right into making the next event bigger.  I think we’re going to sell out the Sheraton long before the event starts, and will likely be expanding into the Convention Center by 2016.  I've already gotten quotes from the Convention Center, and it’s really do-able.

What else?  I had a company contact us about making a game for them.  I’m on the fence about this.  Being able to finally meet a payroll would be fantastic. But as soon as we’re done with the game, we’re out of money again.  Then we go back to working on Stigma Games stuff right back where we started from: without any money to pay people and a huge chunk of time taken away.  I know some studios only exist to make games for other developers and own nothing.  That feels like it would defeat the purpose of working in the game industry.

Ok, this was a nice break, but time to get back to work.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Start of a Game Convention

Hey guys,

I have a little bit of time, so I thought I’d make another post.  I’m not generally a fan of birthdays anymore, but the last thing I want to have to do is decide where to go out for dinner with the family.  So my sister and my parents worked out some British Pub to go to called Sterling Bridges.  I’m used to Mexican, Chinese, Italian, and classic American food here.  But British food?  The items on the menu were totally foreign to me.

But I wanted to make the most of it.  I ordered my first Guinness, which wasn't terrible, and, what looked like the worst idea on the menu--an Irish pizza with cabbage, carrots, turkey, and potatoes.  Um, yeah, on a pizza.  I was a little surprised that it really wasn't too bad.  It tasted a little bit more like a spring roll.  Otherwise, a pretty uneventful birthday.

Ok, on to way more interesting stuff.  I mentioned in my last post how disappointed I was in the Indie Arcade thing.  I talked to Gabriel about what we could do to make things much, much better.  I don’t want to get into the details here, but let’s just say I want to do a big event, he wants to keep things small, and so we've parted ways on that.  That means, for this event I’m planning, I’m calling all the shots and he’s not involved.

The Sheraton people are really excited about this convention I’m starting.  We've set a date a little over a year from now, though I’m still keeping things open in case we need to move it up or down a week or so.  Basically, just because it’s currently set on Memorial Day Weekend 2015, that doesn't mean it’s set in stone.  There’s good and bad about this date.  The biggest of the bad is that it’s in competition with Fanamie, which, I still think there are a whole lot of gamers that love games but don’t care about anime.  So despite this being a huge even a few hours drive away, I don’t think this will hurt our pull too much.  And second, it’s a little too close to E3.  Generally speaking, if a big company is showing off their game at E3, they don’t want to spill the beans early at a small convention a couple weeks earlier.  This is the worst of two worlds--the game gets way less press and journalists don’t want to cover old news two weeks later.  This could be a more excellent convention for Indies who can’t afford E3, but still want press on their game around that time frame.

The good news is that it’s fairly far apart from other, related events in town.  Aside from the Jazz Festival in Old Town Sacramento, not much is going on Memorial weekend.  I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of gamers into Dixieland Jazz anyways.  Sacramento gets a lot of traffic from lobbyists and political types, being the capitol of California and where the state legislature meets.  The law makers leaving town to go home for the holiday weekend really empties out downtown in general.  That means a lot less traffic.  Also, there are some streets that offer free parking in an effort to get people to come spend their holiday weekend downtown.  So this might be a great window.

Before I settled on the Sheraton, I went to 4 different hotels to get bids.  In each one, the sales people gave me a tour of the facility.  Each were very familiar with Sac Anime and saw a game convention as something they didn't want to pass up.  It was pretty fun to have sales people treat me like I was important and to try and convince me to go with them.  One lady even promised to beat whatever the Sheraton quoted me by 25%.

There are a few reasons why I will likely settle with the Sheraton, but the biggest is their vast experience with Sac Anime and how aggressively their sales people have worked to bring me in.  We've so far had brain storming meetings where their staff have shared tips on organization and marketing.  The good news here is that the more successful this event is, the more money they make.  So they’ll do what they can to try and make this happen.  And the experience, as I mentioned, plus their networks with potential sponsors and local businesses… you can’t put a price on that.  Being right next to the Convention Center where I’d love to see this expand to one year, that’s a compelling reason as well.

Now, I used to be a concert promoter years ago.  I used to be the booker at a pretty big night club in town as well.  I know something about this, but music and bands are a lot different from game conventions.  The best thing I can do right now is find alliances and partnerships with people in the gamer community that know a lot more about organizing conventions than I do.  I’m going to try and get those alliances in place now by the end of May.  Once that’s in place, we’ll spend the next month laying out the organization: chain of command, staff requirements, physical equipment needed, and other budgeting concerns.  Then starting in July, I’ll be contacting press and potential sponsors.  I've already heard from people interested in sponsoring, so that’s a good sign.  Although we’ll start some level of marketing in July, we won’t likely start physical marketing distribution such as flyers and posters until January (five and a half months before the event).

I have no illusions that I’ll do a lot of dumb things and screw up a lot in organizing this.  Being my first time organizing such an event, of course I’ll have a ton of misconceptions.  Planning early and aggressively with people that have been involved in big conventions--like Sac Anime, Fanime, and the Nor Cal Fighting Championships, will be really helpful so we can knock out potential problems early.  There are many things you can have in a game convention.  I know what I’m trying to make happen, but I don’t want to say anything yet that I’m still working on.  I can probably say for sure that there will be booths for game developers to rent out and show off their games to fans.  There will likely be a fighting game tournament on some level--hopefully a big level.  There will likely be a table top game room.  There’s at least one other big thing I’m trying to get, but it will be tough to get.

Speakers, voice over actors, panel discussions, live performances--these are really common in conventions.  That’s all a possibility, but that might be a difficult thing to organize the first year.  Plus, there may or may not be room for it.  Keep in mind, if I dedicate an entire room to a theater layout, I pretty much have to either fill the whole rest of the convention with speakers and performers in that room for the duration, or it becomes wasted space.

What could happen, is such events could be planned for after parties at local clubs in the area within walking distance.  Get in free with your game convention badge at Bob’s Bar and Grill and listen to Joe the Game Developer talk about the making of Popular Classic Game III.  That could work.

Really tired.  Need sleep.