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.

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