Gen Con By The Numbers
  • Gen Con By The Numbers



    While flying home from Gen Con on Monday, the convention released its attendance numbers for the Best Four Days In Gaming. If you were there at the convention, you knew there were a lot of people there. The place was busy, there were big crowds lining up at the door each day to get in when the exhibitor's hall would open up, and sales are off the charts. Paizo sold through their run of Starfinder on the first day (by 2pm I have heard). Green Ronin sold through their daily allotment of the D&D 5E setting books made in conjunction with Geek And Sundry's Critical Role channel every day. By Saturday, Modiphius had sold through their copies of ENnies Award winning game Tales From The Loop. Everyone that I spoke with had great sales throughout the weekend, although a few did suffer from being in the hinterlands of a much larger than before exhibition hall.

    The layout of the exhibition hall was different this year. The walking areas between booths was wider, but not overly wide as I have seen at some comic conventions of late, which meant that there was a better flow of traffic over the dealer room floor. According to Gen Con there were 500 exhibitors in the hall, and while a few (like dicemakers Gamescience and Chessex) had multiple booths, I don't know if those counted as one exhibitor or if they counted by booth space sold. Studio 2 had an enormous, and always busy, area shared with a number of the publishers that they work with. IGDN (the Indie Game Developers Network) had a good sized cooperative booth that serviced a number of indie game publishers.

    Over the course of the four days Gen Con had 19,000 ticketed events, which includes games, panels and seminars. There were also a number of unticketed events like the Gen Con Museum and the Games Library, both out on the floor of Lucas Oil stadium. Lucas Oil was also the home to the games being run and sponsored by ConTessa. ConTessa also ran a number of seminars and panels, I got to be on a couple of them (which helped lead to my loss of voice).

    The official overall numbers, from the Gen Con press release, "Gen Con celebrated its 50th convention with its ninth consecutive year of record turnstile attendance, reaching 207,979, an approximate 4% increase over 2016. The convention also sold out of all attendee badges prior to the show for the first time in its 50-year history. For the third consecutive year, Gen Con targeted an approximate attendance of 60,000 unique attendees."

    Regardless of how you look at it, or what sort of gaming you enjoy, Gen Con was a huge event and a huge success for everyone involved.
    Comments 37 Comments
    1. Flexor the Mighty! -
      Sounds awesome. Maybe next year I'll finally go.
    1. JediSoth's Avatar
      JediSoth -
      Attendance will probably be down a bit next year... and there will be hundreds of posts screaming about how the convention is dying (and the industry, too).
    1. Christopher Helton's Avatar
      Christopher Helton -
      Quote Originally Posted by JediSoth View Post
      Attendance will probably be down a bit next year... and there will be hundreds of posts screaming about how the convention is dying (and the industry, too).
      These numbers were the same for three years now, so probably not.
    1. soulcatcher78 -
      I was surprised to see Paizo sell through their Starfinder stock during the show. The pop up store experiment they ran by the Sagamore Ballroom helped them by having 2 areas (one right by the game space) to sell from. One of the GMs I spoke to said that they were surprised by the rate of sales (expecting to spread it out over the weekend) and I never even got to check out their pop up store (it was broken down by Friday morning I believe when I passed the area it was in).

      I will likely be skipping next year to go to smaller cons but this one was fantastic all around and I can't wait to get to my next convention.
    1. MichaelSomething's Avatar
      MichaelSomething -
      Once you you reach numbers Gen Con gets, the issue becomes finding a space big enough in stead of getting people.

      Sent from my VS990 using EN World mobile app
    1. Flexor the Mighty! -
      So is this so big that you spend a lot of time just in line?
    1. Lanefan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Flexor the Mighty! View Post
      So is this so big that you spend a lot of time just in line?
      Depends what you're trying to do.

      For popular game demos or steal-of-a-deal sales yes, you'll spend time in line. To get into any of the eat/drink venues near the ICC yes, you'll spend time in line. If you're "flying standby" at an event hoping a ticketed person no-shows then yes, you'll wait around a while. But for a great many things (far too many to count, and obviously including your pre-booked events) you don't need to spend time in line at all if you don't want to.
    1. Flexor the Mighty! -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lanefan View Post
      Depends what you're trying to do.

      For popular game demos or steal-of-a-deal sales yes, you'll spend time in line. To get into any of the eat/drink venues near the ICC yes, you'll spend time in line. If you're "flying standby" at an event hoping a ticketed person no-shows then yes, you'll wait around a while. But for a great many things (far too many to count, and obviously including your pre-booked events) you don't need to spend time in line at all if you don't want to.

      Thanks. Going to do a gaming con next year and thinking of this, but part of me thinks this may be too much spectacle and GaryCon could be better. Plus probably a better chance of some 1e tourney gaming at GaryCon. But GenCon is to gaming what Wacken Open Air is to heavy metal festivals and I feel I must make my pilgrimage once.

      On a related note, does tournament style D&D gaming even happen anymore or is it all AL stuff? I need to check an event list if they still have it for this past con and see what all was going on.
    1. Lanefan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Flexor the Mighty! View Post
      Thanks. Going to do a gaming con next year and thinking of this, but part of me thinks this may be too much spectacle and GaryCon could be better. Plus probably a better chance of some 1e tourney gaming at GaryCon. But GenCon is to gaming what Wacken Open Air is to heavy metal festivals and I feel I must make my pilgrimage once.
      I've been 6 times but didn't make it this year. Still hoping to make it to GaryCon one of these years.

      And I see you're in St. Louis so you've no excuses based on travel distance to Indy!

      On a related note, does tournament style D&D gaming even happen anymore or is it all AL stuff? I need to check an event list if they still have it for this past con and see what all was going on.
      Whether AL or not, D&D games in general* always seem to sell out on the first day of event registration. 1e games are the hardest to book, largely because demand crushes supply by a big margin.

      * - except 4e, some years

      I'm not sure how much tournament play happens any more, if any.

      Lanefan
    1. Mistwell's Avatar
      Mistwell -
      The convention center's max capacity is 60K unique visitors and they hit that a couple years ago. Imagine how many customers they lost this year, who wanted to go but could not get a ticket - nevermind not finding hotel space. This convention needs to move or split into two different conventions in two different locations, if they want to have any growth. It's not sustainable right now - their costs will continue to rise, but their capacity doesn't, so slowly their earnings will fall over time at this rate.
    1. Flexor the Mighty! -
      Looks like GC has their event schedule up still and it looks like there are a lot of non AL games. I just always loved Con tourneys where you would have some insane objective that only a table or two would even finish. Hmmm...have to put a lot of though into this.
    1. Silver Moon's Avatar
      Silver Moon -
      My son and I enjoyed it. I had only been once before, way back in 1994. With the exception of Saturday afternoon I did not find it at all difficult to get around. At places where there were lines everybody was cordial. We played a mix of genres, including various types of RGP's, a LARP, and my son did some Magic. I also attended the Open Mic comedy event where I did a five-minute set, multiple seminars including several of the Retrospective ones, and also the ENNIES.

      One highlight was the "Autism and Puppetry" seminar, where the presenter was Stacey Gordon who is the puppet artist and voice for Sesame Street's new autistic puppet character Julia. Also spoke to and collected autographed items from Larry Elmore, Tracy Hickman, Mercedes Lackey, David Mack, Frank Mentzer and Margaret Weis, and Steve Winter.

      We had a great time overall.
    1. Tyranthraxus's Avatar
      Tyranthraxus -
      Does anyone think they will move again? THey probably have a list of criteria that determines that , ie distance from airport, number of hotel beds in an X number of blocks around the location.
    1. ccs's Avatar
      ccs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mistwell View Post
      The convention center's max capacity is 60K unique visitors and they hit that a couple years ago. Imagine how many customers they lost this year, who wanted to go but could not get a ticket - nevermind not finding hotel space. This convention needs to move or split into two different conventions in two different locations, if they want to have any growth. It's not sustainable right now - their costs will continue to rise, but their capacity doesn't, so slowly their earnings will fall over time at this rate.
      Hotel space isn't an issue in Indy. See, they host this really big, really famous, race each year that draws way more people than GC. And they all fit for a few days.... So if you can't get a room? It's because you weren't looking/were unwilling to stay somewhere other than within walking distance.

      Nor is the Con confined within the walls of just the Convention center (& hasn't been since they moved to Indy). Events are spread between the ICC, at least 4 hotels with all their meeting spaces on multiple floors, the Union Station center, & now the football stadium.
      If they plan to keep using the football stadium they'll have to make sure not to overlap with a Colts pre-season game though. (wich'll be too bad as sometimes I get a Colts game along with my D&D)

      I'm positive there were more than 60k people there this year. But we were never tripping over each other, not even on Sat in the dealers hall.

      Cost? Don't know anything about that. But space wise GC is fine.
    1. ccs's Avatar
      ccs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Flexor the Mighty! View Post
      Looks like GC has their event schedule up still and it looks like there are a lot of non AL games. I just always loved Con tourneys where you would have some insane objective that only a table or two would even finish. Hmmm...have to put a lot of though into this.
      Come on, join us for 2018! Whatever you play you'll have fun.
    1. Von Ether's Avatar
      Von Ether -
      Does anyone ever talk about ALL the walking you do. I saw a fellow, must have been 400 plus pounds easy, and it looked like he was going to go in cardiac arrest in the elevator on me.

      And as for me, I started taking Advil in the morning like a multivitamin so my dogs wouldn't start barking until the late afternoon.
    1. Silver Moon's Avatar
      Silver Moon -
      Quote Originally Posted by ccs View Post
      Hotel space isn't an issue in Indy.....So if you can't get a room? It's because you weren't looking/were unwilling to stay somewhere other than within walking distance.
      We booked late (early July) and still managed to find a reasonably priced hotel downtown within a .75 mile walking distance. Talked to lots of people who found inexpensive hotels within 10 miles out, and then paid the $25 to $28 a day for parking by the convention center (and $0 for Sunday, as parking on the street is free that day). A huge improvement from Milwaukee, where we also booked late and found downtown lodgings for Wednesday through Friday but had to go over an hour away for Saturday night.
    1. ccs's Avatar
      ccs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Flexor the Mighty! View Post
      So is this so big that you spend a lot of time just in line?
      No, you shouldn't be spending much time in line at all. Especially not with a bit of planning.
      1) Register for your badge & at least some games on-line & have your stuff mailed to you. This'll avoid standing in the Will-Call or Registration line altogether. Order about 10 generic tkts on top of everything else.
      If you do end up selecting Will-Call to pick your badges/tkts up on site? Arrive on Wed if possible. The later in the day, the longer the line. (we walked into the Convention Center @ 2:30ish Wed & had a massive 6 minute wait).
      If you're arriving Thur+? Do this 1st thing, as early as possible.
      2) There are alternate sites around the con to buy/pickup tkts. So if you need more tickets you can usually avoid a trip to the main concourse. And you can order & pay for them on-line as well. Order, pay, walk to nearest tkt center & retrieve. Really handy if your over in the JW Marriot or somewhere.

      Otherwise where you'll spend the most time waiting is:
      *The restroom
      *the various food stands in the ICC (but they are slow & way over priced so why you'd be there in the 1st place....)
      *At 10am to get into the dealers room (just plan to enter about 10:15+ & the sea of people will have dispersed)
      *Almost any time at the Paizo & Fantasy Flight booths (seriously, I don't even go to FF)
      *Starbucks in the various hotels.
      *Steak & Shake (and various other restraunts)
    1. Silver Moon's Avatar
      Silver Moon -
      Quote Originally Posted by ccs View Post
      Otherwise where you'll spend the most time waiting is:
      *The restroom
      *the various food stands in the ICC (but they are slow & way over priced so why you'd be there in the 1st place....)
      *At 10am to get into the dealers room (just plan to enter about 10:15+ & the sea of people will have dispersed)
      *Almost any time at the Paizo & Fantasy Flight booths (seriously, I don't even go to FF)
      *Starbucks in the various hotels.
      *Steak & Shake (and various other restaurants)
      The longest line was actually at the consignment shop, but well worth it for the bargains, especially on Saturday. Fairly long lines for some author autographs too, but also worth it.
    1. Mistwell's Avatar
      Mistwell -
      Quote Originally Posted by ccs View Post
      Hotel space isn't an issue in Indy. See, they host this really big, really famous, race each year that draws way more people than GC. And they all fit for a few days.... So if you can't get a room? It's because you weren't looking/were unwilling to stay somewhere other than within walking distance.
      The city of Indianapolis, and the convention center, and GenCon, all admit hotel space is an issue. You're in denial if you think it's not. It's a major issue. They've been struggling with shuttles, which they had to cancel, which has been a controversy for years.

      Nor is the Con confined within the walls of just the Convention center (& hasn't been since they moved to Indy). Events are spread between the ICC, at least 4 hotels with all their meeting spaces on multiple floors, the Union Station center, & now the football stadium.
      That has zero to do with what I am talking about. The Convention Center is only permitted, by law, a maximum 60K people. That's it. That's why they only sell that many tickets, and that's why they report every year now their unique visitor number is 60K. It's a ceiling number - beyond that, and they lose their license and the fire department shuts them down. No matter how much space they acquire, the regulations limit them to 60K visitors. Period.

      If they plan to keep using the football stadium they'll have to make sure not to overlap with a Colts pre-season game though. (wich'll be too bad as sometimes I get a Colts game along with my D&D)

      I'm positive there were more than 60k people there this year. But we were never tripping over each other, not even on Sat in the dealers hall.
      Then you are positive the convention is lying and breaking the law.

      They're not though, because you're wrong. They reported the correct number like they always do - 60K. They sold out of tickets - it's not like they printed more tickets than their capacity allows. Are you claiming some mass forged tickets or something? That's the only way you get more than 60K unique visitors.

      Cost? Don't know anything about that. But space wise GC is fine.
      Nobody mentioned convention space. I mentioned max visitors of 60K and hotel space. Their costs go up every year. For example, you mentioned they expanded to the stadium which costs them more - but they still only had 60K paying visitors because that's still the number they are allowed. Which means they made less money per visitor. Their costs go up, their revenue is flat, this is a losing proposition. They will either need to increase the ticket cost, or split the convention into two conventions, or move. There isn't really another option I can think of other than those three. You cannot grow a convention without raising prices and without growing visitor numbers. Something has to give in that scenario.
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