This weekend I have the pleasure of returning to tranquil Oaks, PA for Comic Con For Kids! The show is being held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at 100 Station Ave, Oaks, PA 19456 from October 12th – 13th. Show hours are from 9 am – 5 pm both days.
Hopefully I have better success driving to Oaks than I did last time when I attended Too Many Games. For those of you who don’t remember, a gang of roving cannibals (The Pennsylvania Turnpike People-Eaters) laid a spike trap down on the road in an effort to snare as many innocent travelers as possible. Once I succumbed to their trap, I had to fight my way out of there with only dental floss and Where Shadows Slumber commemorative pins. It went about as well as you’d expect, but the important thing is that I got out of there alive. Big shout out to the fellow travelers on the road who gave their lives in the Great Battle of Mile Marker 176. (Remember the fallen, etc)
On a more serious note, I want to thank the organizers for giving Where Shadows Slumber indie access at absolutely no cost to us at all! They’re not charging me anything for this show, all I had to do was email the organizers and sign on board. Given the fact that Oaks is only a 2 hour drive away, and AirBnB’s nearby are dirt cheap, doing this show is a no-brainer.
Kids! What About The Violence?
I’m well aware that Where Shadows Slumber isn’t exactly a kids game, due to the complexity of its puzzles and an extremely violent story. I made this clear to the organizers as early in the process as possible. Two points on this topic:
When I warned them about the violent cutscenes, they still said the game was a fit for Comic Con for Kids! They know their audience better than I do, I suppose.
I always warn parents at these shows about the cutscenes, and they’re disabled by default at conventions anyway.
For shows like this, I’m really selling the game more to parents than youngsters. (It’s impossible to get teens to spend money on mobile games anyway) So I’m not too worried about parents getting tricked into downloading the game and then having a horrifying experience when their four-year old watches an old man drown a leopard.
Maybe I’ll just make the booth look as spooky as possible to scare people away? Speaking of which…
I’m trying to spice up the booth since it’s October-ween, so I bought these cool flickering lanterns on Amazon. I’ll give them a try this weekend and see how they do! (See video above to witness the glory) These are so perfect for nailing that Where Shadows Slumber effect.
It probably won’t be dark enough in the hall for these to show up, so I’m considering bringing a pop-up 10×10 tent and setting it up over my table. I only bring that to outdoor shows, and I haven’t done one of those in years, so it’s just collecting dust in my apartment. It’s white though, so I’d probably cover it with a big black tarp or something. Maybe I can bribe them to turn the lights off? If only this was MAGFest…
I’m rambling, so that’s all for now! I’m driving there Friday to set up. See you in Oaks this weekend?
Back in April, I had the pleasure of showing off our game Where Shadows Slumber at AwesomeCon in Washington D.C. (Click here for the recap.) While I was there, someone mentioned a convention called TooManyGames and asked me if I was going. I had never heard of it before, and the deadline to apply as an indie had passed just a few days earlier. Despite that, I applied anyway because it sounded fun, and it was an even closer drive from Hoboken than Washington D.C. since TooManyGames is in Oaks, Pennsylvania.
I ran into a ton of problems during the weekend, but TooManyGames itself is a blast! This blog post is a recap of the convention, but the short version is this: if you’ve never been before, you should really check it out!
The Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Revenge
I thought I’d save money on my AirBnB costs and drive to TooManyGames on Friday morning (Day 1 of the show) instead of the night before. In theory, this made total sense. Hoboken is two hours from Oaks, the drive isn’t bad at all, and the show didn’t begin until 2 pm. My spartan setup for Where Shadows Slumber takes all of 15 minutes to prepare. I don’t need an entire night to set up beforehand like some people do!
This plan would have worked if not for one thin piece of metal that came loose on a bridge somewhere along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This piece of metal, when it encounters tires moving at 70 mph, rips them to shreds. My car wasn’t the only one that got rekt, either. The moment I heard the loud BOOM and I felt my back-right tire disintegrate on the highway, I looked to my right and noticed that tons of cars had pulled over on the side of the road.
They were all changing their back-right tires. The cops were there, a bunch of mechanics and tow trucks were there, and I had to pull over. The mechanic who helped me out said that so far, 30 cars had gone over the same exact spot on the bridge and got flat tires! The government accidentally set up a drug-cartel style nail-trap across the road. (This is what your toll fee goes to, I suppose – democratic nail-traps) Suffice it to say, we had to throw a spare on there just to get to Oaks and I was 2 hours late for the first day. Not an auspicious start! Pennsylvania is totally paying to fix my tire now that I’m back in Hoboken.
In truth, I’m just glad I’m ok. I didn’t get hurt, I didn’t see anyone else crash, and being a little late is not the worst thing in the world. (But I’m definitely going to remember this the next time I get into an argument with someone about taxes and roads.) Shout-out to Ford Roadside Assistance for offering me free access to a mechanic who came to me on the side of the Turnpike and swapped the spare out! The government mechanic was charging $60.00 and told me to just wait for Ford to come [<_< ]…
The theme of TooManyProblems continued, when on Sunday morning I awoke to see this wonderful push notification:
So Google does this a lot – they randomly check the apps on their store for this one specific thing, and then take your app down without checking with you first. [ /o_o]/
We went live again yesterday morning, so hopefully those who liked the game over the weekend were able to find it!
Sorry, I had to get those stories off my chest. The truth is, I had a great time in Oaks! This show was awesome and I’m definitely going back to TooManyGames next year. How about a look on the bright side? Here’s 8 good things that happened, in absolutely no coherent order:
1.) I conducted 200 personal demos with attendees (yes, I keep track of this stat at conventions!)
2.) About 20 people bought the game right there at the booth, and some left reviews over the weekend. I think this is due to my new policy on pins – no freebies! Cards are always free, but the pins are exclusively for those who have purchased Where Shadows Slumber. (More details on that below…)
3.) Speaking of cards, I got to debut the new slate of Where Shadows Slumber business cards. There are 8 cards, since we have 8 different Worlds in the game. Everyone loved them, and they drew lots of people to the table.
4.) Someone asked for my autograph on one of the cards… LOL
5.) I ran into some of my old friends from the Stevens Game Development Club as well as some indies I met a few months ago at AwesomeCon, and tabletop developers I’ve known since the Mr. Game! era.
6.) The AirBnB I stayed at in Phoenixville had a cat.
7.) I got the chance to hang out with Nando and Emily, old friends from Stevens, in Philadelphia on my way back home Sunday night. (Nando is the host of the extremely popular channel NandoVMovies on YouTube. Like and Subscribe!)
8.) Finally, before I left Pennsylvania on Sunday night, I had the distinct honor of walking into a Wawa for the first time in my life. The scales fell from my eyes, I was comforted, I felt accepted, and I experienced true luxury. All other pretenders to the throne (7-Eleven, and other atrocities) revealed themselves to be false gods and I know the truth now.
Two Lessons Learned
During TooManyGames, I spent most of my time trying to learn what drives people to purchase things. For the longest time, Jack and I were been in “marketing mode” – which is to say, we wanted to tell people about our game. But since launch, we’ve transitioned for the first time into “sales mode”, and I’m still not used to that. It’s strange knowing that every new person is a potential $3.00, or a potential 5-star rating. In some ways it was easier before. We could always say “the game is a work in progress!” and be happy with people that thought it was cool and promised to check it out later.
After this weekend I have a new convention strategy, based on these two principles. I strongly encourage you to adopt these ideas as well if you are in “sales mode” like us!
“Later Isn’t An Option. Buy It Now!“
It’s tempting to use these shows as a chance to hand out as much swag as possible, show the name of your game to as many people as possible, and demo the game as many times as possible. But I’m focusing a lot more on sales and other quantifiable stats, because the truth is that the people at these shows are being bombarded with about a hundred other games at the same time.
If they don’t buy your game in front of your eyes, they probably won’t buy it later when they get home unless they are highly motivated already or were prevented from purchasing it during the show. So I’ve been thinking of ways to ratchet up the pressure and persuade people to pull the trigger while they’re at my booth. I recommend doing some kind of promotion / deal that only lasts while you’re at the con. (Reducing the price doesn’t count, by the way! That will not encourage an impulse purchase.) This is connected to the next piece of advice…
Make It Physical
When selling digital products, you are at a disadvantage. A tangible item like a cup of coffee will always seem more real / justifiable as a purchase than a non-tangible item like music or video games. (This is why free versions of those go further – such as Pandora, Candy Crush, and piracy) If you’re at a convention, you have the ability to do something that Internet ads can’t do – you can make the purchase physical. That’s why I only gave buttons out to people who purchased the game on the store. I needed to make the purchase physical for them to persuade them to buy the game in front of me. I also didn’t feel like selling pins because I’m not in the pin business, I’m in the gaming business! And I know for a fact that this lead to more sales. One guy literally said these words:
“So to get the pin I just buy this?” (And he held up his phone with Where Shadows Slumber’s app page loaded on it)
“That’s right!”, I said. He bought the game and I gave him the pin. It seems so backwards, right? But that’s just how humans are, and you shouldn’t fight our human nature. The next time I do a show like this, I’ll have more physical stuff to sell. Not exactly merchandise (logo tees, plushies, etc) but stuff like Google Play codes printed on cards. I saw one guy selling Steam Codes as physical cards that were about the size of Magic: The Gathering cards. That’s genius!
The Where Shadows Slumber World Tour™ continues with a trip next month to Oaks, Pennsylvania for Too Many Games! The wonderful developers at AwesomeCon were nice enough to mention this to me last month when I was in Washington, D.C. I got our application in just in time, and we were approved!
It’s kind of a depressing name for a show, since the the title hits close to home: there are too many games. The App Store, Google Play Store, and Steam are packed to the gills with titles. (In fact, sometimes it feels like there are too many marketplaces too!) The truth hurts, I guess [<_< ]
Here’s their description of the show:
TooManyGames is a long-running gaming convention in the Philadelphia area with a massive marketplace, gaming guests, tournaments, cosplay, tabletop gaming, console and arcade freeplay area, and more.
TooManyGames offers 3 days of gaming fun and activities for everyone from the hardcore gamer to the whole family.
This year, TooManyGames will be held June 21-23 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA. Buy your tickets today!
In particular, we’ll be part of their Indie Showcase. I don’t know what the price of being a regular vendor is, but I’m glad we got into the showcase. Like many other conventions, the indie section is curated and we needed the approval of judges to be included. (More about costs below)
Their description of the section:
The TooManyGames Indie Game Showcase highlights independent game developers locally and nationally. The Indie Game Showcase is a great place to show of your game and have space at a reduced rate. Indie Game Showcase submissions are reviewed and approved by the TooManyGames indie game team.
Thanks again to the TooManyGames staff and judges for choosing Where Shadows Slumber – we’re honored, and we’ll see you in Oaks next month!
How Much Does This Cost?
This blog isn’t just a weekly update about the development and marketing of Game Revenant’s projects – I also want it to be a behind-the-scenes look at independent game development. Specifically, I like focusing on some of the business-y aspects that people rarely discuss. One business decision you have to make a lot is “Does it pay to do X? Should we bother going to Y?”
Unfortunately, usually you only know the answer after you’ve dedicated your time and money on the risk in question. The same is true of TooManyGames, but I can at least record here how much the show will run us.
We’re getting a table at TooManyGames since the booths were sold out, which is $75.00 + tax. I also need to stay in an AirBnb near Oaks once I arrive Friday morning, since it’s too far from my apartment or any of my Philly-based friends. We’ll forget the cost of tolls since I’m borrowing my brother’s car & E-Z-Pass (sorry Paul!) and assume the cost of gas is on yours truly. So the cost for doing this show is:
3 days from Friday to Sunday
$ 82.40 for the table
$ 118.45 for the AirBnb
For a grand total of $200.85, I think that’s a pretty good deal. We could also take our chances on a $200 Instagram ad (and, honestly, we’ll probably do both) but it’s important to get out into the world as well. I think the fact that my AirBnB is in Phoenixville, PA has something to do with the low overall price. You’d expect to pay way more when staying closer to a large American city, but this town is 45 – 60 minutes from Philadelphia!
I love smaller shows like this – the cost isn’t too high, the barrier to entry is low, and there are plenty of new customers who have never heard of your game before. Now that I’m keeping track of how many face-to-face connections you really make in the course of a weekend, I feel like smaller gaming conventions are just as important as big shows like PAX East. Don’t get me wrong, we’re totally still submitting to PAX 10 later this month – but do you really need to travel to Seattle to find new customers? Why get in a plane when you can drive a few hours to a city filled with people who have no idea what Where Shadows Slumber is?
As for our Return On Investment – ask me when I get back to Hoboken. For those of you who are saying to yourselves “Frank just loves every show he goes to, what’s the point?” you should read my thoughts on last year’s IndieCade and why I’m not returning. I don’t always apply the sunk cost fallacy to every convention! Some shows do, in fact, end up on the dreaded blacklist written in blood on papyrus, kept deep inside the Game Revenant Vault of Secrecy.
If you’ve ever been to this show before and you have thoughts, feel free to share them in the comments! Otherwise, if you’ll be there this year, let me know! I love meeting other developers at shows [^_^ ]