Posthuman Studios 2011 Gen Con Review

Gen Con 2011 is in the history books as the Best Four Days of Gaming of the year. With an announced attendance of 36,000 people, it was certainly a successful convention for the organizers -- and for Posthuman Studios!

For Posthuman Studios, Gen Con preparation was a bigger challenge and drain on our resources than we originally anticipated this year, in part due to the dissolution of our partnership with Sandstorm just two months before the show. One of our partners, Brian Cross, also acquired a new job right before the con that required a cross-country move during Gen Con instead of being there. On top of that, he had to defend his thesis in the month leading up to the convention. However, we are thrilled for the newly minted Dr. Brian Cross, and only wished we could have celebrated his new doctorate and job with him. We will get around to that.

We soldiered on, as we always do. Adam flew into Chicago a few days early, and we went on a mega-shopping trip for last-minute booth supplies on Tuesday, picked up very important people at O'Hare on Wednesday morning, and convoyed down to Indianapolis.

Let's run things down, starting with the successes:

  • We made money after all expenses were tallied, even including sunk costs (such as book printing expenses).
  • Panopticon debuted to excellent word-of-mouth and good sales!
  • The Third Printing of Eclipse Phase was available in good quantity, and this was our first chance to watch people flip through it and instantly see the improvements to the physical production quality.
  • We released Degenesis, a translation of a post-apocalyptic German-language roleplaying game that we started work on many years and several companies ago. We printed 100 Primer Edition copies especially for Gen Con, with an electronic release to follow in the near future, as well as some other sort of print availability (still TBD). This was also a success because we worked with an excellent new-to-us short-run printer for the first time! The copies that we had left over from the show are available now from Indie Press Revolution, in limited quantity.
  • Continuity won the Gold ENnie for Best Electronic Product of the year.
  • We ran all of our sales from a single iPad 2 using the Square software and credit card swiper. Adam will be writing a longer blog post about this software/hardware combo, but it was very successful. We had a minor hiccup a few hours into Thursday when the AT&T 3G network was overloaded, but the rest of the convention was smooth sailing. Our cash/credit total was less than 1% off at the end of the show.
  • We presented two seminars: Open Sources: Making Games More Free and What's Up With Eclipse Phase and Posthuman Studios. They both went very well. We had a small but full room for Open Sources, and we had a good back-and-forth discussion with the attendees about the history of open source gaming licenses, how we came to adopt the Creative Commons license for Eclipse Phase, and some challenges and successes we've had with that. The What's Up? seminar was recorded by Ross at Role Playing Public Radio and is available here.
  • We ordered 48 custom dice bags from Dragon Chow Dice Bags; we had commitments from buyers for about 75% of those, plus some extras to sell on top of that. We sold out of every last one, very quickly. We should have ordered more!
  • We had fun. Sprite DJed a great set at the Ugly Monkey on Friday, and we were back there the night afterwards to watch our friends The Gothsicles debut some tracks from their new album Industrialites & Magic. After that over a dozen of our friends retreated to a hotel room to play games and consume beverages until the wee hours.
  • Our friends and loved ones kicked ass helping us at the booth, with logistics, and providing moral and caffeine-based support.

Averages:

  • Our booth was too small. We were going to have a 10x10 foot booth as part of our arrangement with Sandstorm, but we didn't need to do actual sales within it. Without Sandstorm, we had to do actual sales and store more stock in the booth, which made it more crowded than we expected and didn't give us enough room to effectively display all of our merchandise. We have already reserved a 20x10 foot endcap booth for next year!
  • We made some USB drives with all of the available Eclipse Phase PDFs on them and priced them to sell at $30 for the entire catalog. They sold out within the first day; we should have either made more and kept on selling them, or we underpriced them!
  • Our event schedule was not handled by us until the last minute and we had trouble getting the number of GMs we needed. We had 20 games scheduled (which had all sold out early on, showing that people want to play EP!), and luckily several people came through last minute to fill in the gaps in the GM schedule. Some of the adventures that we had planned to write were not properly completed and so a few of our GMs had to default to other scenarios, but our games were well-attended and we did get enthusiastic feedback from many players! We also paid our gamemasters cash money for running games, instead of giving them gamer-swag -- we think this is the best way of compensating them for taking the time to run our games. Several of them ran enough games to get their badges compensated by Gen Con as well.

Failures:

  • Due to Adam's travel schedule, the Panopticon PDF was not available immediately before or after Gen Con. This lowered buzz and sales for the book. It still did well: it could have done better.
  • Before the show, Adam ordered some book display racks that he had been lusting over for years. Unfortunately, our hardcovers didn't actually fit in them properly; we ended up selling them at a loss to another publisher and ordering different racks, which were much more functional but not quite as lusty.
  • Gatecrashing didn't win an ENnies in the four categories it was nominated in; the competition was tough this year, but we can't deny that we weren't disappointed. Looking at the list of nominations in many categories, though, makes one thing very obvious: there is a plethora of great games and support material being released every year. We as gamers are spoiled for choice, and we as publishers need to keep pushing the envelope and paying close attention to the core qualities of a good book (solid rules, writing, editing, etc.)

Special Thanks:

  • Derek Guder and Scott Elliot at Gen Con LLC for their help in organizing our events and our booth space.
  • All of our friends that helped run the booth and run games. You guys have been rocking our world for a long, long time, and we are glad to have you with us.
  • The kind folks at Geek Chic who let us borrow one of their amazing tables. And for the Moustache Monocles, which provide no end of delight.
  • Shane Ivey and the Arc Dream crew for handling transport of our books and booth stuff to and from Gen Con this year.
  • Our fans and friends for showing up, playing our games, buying our books, and occasionally, sometimes, telling us about your character ...
  • To the nice couple who watched a box of books for Adam when he finally admitted that he could not carry two full boxes of Eclipse Phase books from his hotel to the exhibitor's hall. (What was I thinking? Stubborn goat -- Adam.)

Keep Your Eyes Out For:

  • We have some swag -- t-shirts, stickers, posters -- left over from the show in limited quantities. We'll be posting these up for sale soon!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *