How Relevant is Gencon (or Any Con)?


Obviously Gencon is still immensly popular. Even with the threat of plague looming over the horizon, hordes of gamers are willing to descend upon it for a few days of gaming. Gencon was a place where you could go and interact with people in the industry, get a look at new products from both large and smaller publishers, buy things from vendors that aren't available in your area, do a little gaming, and of course there all panels. But it's not 1990 any more. Thanks to the internet, this very site for example, I don't have to go to Gencon for any of that. I don't need to go to Gencon to hear about the latest in gaming news, to find vendors selling stuff I can't find in my area, or even to hear about games from smaller publishers.

How relevant are large cons to do business for game companies? And will they remain relevant?

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I've never been to any. I've never heard of anything important happening on one. I've never heard any people talk about interesting things they did on one.


Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Gen-Con I never made it to. Didn't have the resources/motivation to make it happen in the 90s and early 2000s, and by the time some of my local friends were going in the mid 2000s it was already a dauntingly large thing, with huge crowds and a feeling that arranging accomodationa and schedule, and moving back and forth between hotel and the venue were going to be an exhausting PITA.

I haven't been back to one since the pandemic started, but I used to regularly enjoy local and regional gaming conventions. For several years I regularly traveled to big 40k and Warhammer Grand Tournaments, including in Baltimore when GW was still based there, Adepticon in Chicago, and the Throne of Skulls invitational in Las Vegas in 2011. The sheer number of players, the camaraderie and level of competition, the spectacle of the gorgeously painted armies and displays made for an intense and enjoyable hobby experience.

More general gaming conventions, focused more on RPGs and board games, I also went to periodically, generally here in NH or neighboring MA. For these there was usually less spectacle and intensity, but still the fun of seeing cool miniatures displays, and the opportunity to play a bunch of games in a weekend that my regular gaming group wouldn't be inclined or able to at home. And to check out/experience different play styles with GMs and players I don't see regularly. It was at one such in 2008 or 2009 that I randomly met Frank Mentzer and got to play a game of 1E AD&D, and between that and his recommendation of the Dragonsfoot forums, I got hooked into the OSR. For several years I'd make a point of attending conventions in my area with the same usual agenda- sign up for one miniatures event (usually a 40k tournament if they had one), and fill the rest of my time with old school/OSR D&D.
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I never been to a giant convention and only go to the smaller local cons. I feel they are relevant for gamers to get to play with other gamers and see how others play apart from your home game. A few years ago we took my son to his first con when he was 12-13 and came home seeing him play a different style than before. We played at a table with a person who he was copying some to make the character more alive or different than we were playing when just in our home group. It allowed him to grow in the game where not going to play with others would have stifled that.

From a game company perspective, I think new companies with new rules can find a place to have other try their game or give out free starter rules or such. I tend to just play D&D when we go, but another in my group likes to try some other games and might not play if we did not go. Large companies with established players like D&D/Hasbro/Wizards might get less return. It is a good place to hear from fans and put out new products even if they are leaked online first.


He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I think the internet point is the best one. Cons used to be a connection point for the creators and fans to meet and discuss products and news. From that point I dont see them as really relevant anymore.

That said, its still good to connect with folks in the community and hobby and enjoy ourselves. So, from that point I think they are still very relevant.

So Covid has killed our locals Cons, which ran twice a year and I miss them dearly. They are smaller, local cons, so hype and marketing isnt really a part of why anyone goes to them. What I most miss are getting to play games that I don't have the chance to aty my own table, the dealer room, and just being around fellow gamers. I'm also a big fan of LARP, and enjoy the options at my local Cons.


I help run a local con that gets around 400-500 guests. We've talked about this anecdotally over beers and wonder if the local, smaller cons are becoming more relevant (depending on how you define "relevant"). The smaller, more localized cons seem to be a way of finding more niche or developing artists/artisans/publishers, making local connections w/ artists/artisans/publishers/players, etc.

From a personal/player perspective, when I go to a larger con, I'm often looking for
  1. A demo of a game that I can't find/find players for locally that I want to try before I buy.
  2. A special event. I'm a Pathfinder Organized Play player and their big three night specials at Gen Con for Pathfinder and Starfinder society make it relevant for me. Even if you can find them run locally, its not the same as playing with 1000 other people. :)


Stuff used to get released at some of the big Cons... nowadays that role has been taken over by Kickstarter.
Maybe Spiel in Essen is important in terms of the industry...

I haven't been to Gen Con since 2019, but I did do Origins this year. I think that they are still relevant in that there still are panels to go to, plenty of vendors to purchase things from, game creators to talk to, plenty of new games to discover, and familiar games to play.

Yes, the internet makes it easy to do all that, but there is a difference in the experience. And sometimes, there's just so much stuff out there on the internet that you'll never find a game that calls to you like you might at a con where you can catch a cover out of the corner of your eye and then talk to one of the creators about the game.


yea you can see and buy stuff on the internet but I think the point is to actually be physically with other likeminded people. Talk to the people that create the games we love to play, learn about there new games ask question on some of the games where rules can be vague. Sit with strangers and play an rpg maybe you make a new friend that you can later play online with if you come from different parts of the world. the vendor hall alone has people from all over you can talk and learn more of say why a game is made a certain way thats important to a specific culture, ask question and expand your own Knowledge. That’s just the start of what can happen there, people just being themselves that makes it relevant. Try and see go to one see What it’s like. I remember one year I say some thing on the list called puppet karaoke I don’t know anything about it went and had a blast. It’s was people bringing there own puppets to sing with professional puppeteers doing backup. If I didn’t go I would have missed that experience

hope that helps answer your question 😀


yea you can see and buy stuff on the internet but I think the point is to actually be physically with other likeminded people. Talk to the people that create the games we love to play, learn about there new games ask question on some of the games where rules can be vague.
Oh, I get the appeal of conventions. I've never been to Gencon or any of the other BIG cons, but I've been to smaller cons, and enjoyed them quite a bit so I understand the attraction. And I'm also aware of how silly it is to ask how relevant a convention that saw 50,000 attendees in 2021 is. Almost as silly as referring to Tom Cruise as an irrelevant actor when his latest movie has brought in more than one billion in ticket sales in 2022.

I like GenCon, it's fun, there is a lot to do in and out and around the place. I usually just go for a day though. Sometimes meet up with gamers from around the world, one time I met with a bunch of UK Traveller people, some who were running games.


Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I expect it’s variable.

When I went to UK in 2007, the game store I visited had a big stack of new games they picked up in Essen days before that they were trying out. So for them, the Essen show was a big deal.

I also think it can be a big deal for some smaller publishers/producers if there’s a con they can afford to get to with inventory, because cons bring together people expecting to buy stuff. Lots of impulse shopping happens at cons.

And for the older generation, I think it’s a big deal to get out to conventions like GaryCon. Sentimentality pretty much condenses on the walls at that con, and not without reason.


It's definitely a major advertising event for a lot of companies - everyone loves to make a big announcement in front of a crowd, you know? Plus (if there wasn't a horrible plague going on) there's the presumably fun aspect of getting to meet new people and play some convention games with them. (I've never been to a convention myself, though Gencon isn't the worst drive away - maybe in a few years?)

Hand of Evil

Gen Con or any other convention is as relevant as you make it.

My first was 1985, off and on been to about 26, and I have been to great ones and had a few bad. The biggest thing it does for me is "touch and feel," I get to see and demo games, put my hands on things I don't see anywhere else, which is important these days with stuff being dumped on Kickstarter. It also gives me a chance to interact with different gamers, artist, and such to expand my thoughts on gaming.

So, for me it is very relevant.


How relevant are large cons to do business for game companies? And will they remain relevant?

I have been to Gen Con, other biggish cons, and little cons. At some of those, I was there as a designer and representative of a company. Why did we spare the (often insane) expense to go (sometimes crossing a big ocean to get there)?
  • to present a new product that can get much more exciting buzz when attendees post Look-at-that! pics on their own accounts, spreading the word fueled by attendees enthusiasm - that's the key! That boosts the signal in ways your marketing team never could.
  • to introduce products to newbies who will never look for it online. Not all attendees of cons are hardcore in-the-know gamers. There are friends of gamers who are curious, moms who bring their kids, non-gamers looking for an offbeat day out, and hyper-focused fans of one product who might become your next big customer if you catch their attention out of the corner of their eye. We want to talk to them! Players new to the hobby make up a larger portion of the attendees than you'd think at the big cons - we want to be the game that brings the ultra-newbie into the hobby, and doing it in-person makes it a special moment for them..
  • to meet up with peers and talk shop. Companies know companies, designers and employees mix and mingle all the time, and the business relationships that you build can be critical when you have a need. The business folks who go to these events see each other and look forward to chatting (and, sometimes, gaming!). It's super important to develop these business relationships and maintain them, and cons make that possible, especially when we are all scattered across the globe.
  • to avoid uncomfortable questions. "Why wasn't your company at ______ this year?" "Nothing new to show?" "If you couldn't afford to go, does that mean you're in trouble?" Yes, this is the stupidest of reasons, but I can confirm that, when discussing the expenses and agonizing logistics of presenting at a con, this has come up as a reason to go.
In an industry like this one - plagues aside - the big and medium cons are always on your radar. They have to be. If the only thing you get out of it is to have a few strangers come up to you and say "I love your game," it can be worth it to give you the encouragement to keep going...


Gen Con or any other convention is as relevant as you make it.
This would only be true if the world revolved around me. And as my wife has made it abundantly clear to me over the years, the world does not in fact revolve around me. Back in 1994, when Dallas, Texas was one of the host cities for the World Cup, one of my teachers commented, "Isn't it exciting that the World Cup is here?" My attitude, which was shared by most others student, was summed up by one kid who shrugged, shook his head from side-to-side, and replied, "It's just soccer." The more recent 2018 World Cup had nearly zero relevance to me. I didn't care who was playing, where it was played, I didn't even watch highlights of the games, and the only interest I had in it was the corruption surrounding the World Cup in general. But with an audience of more that 3.5 billion people, I'd be hard pressed to say it wasn't relevant.

I'm not here to say Gencon is bad or irrelevant. I still think about going on occasion, but I have to admit that I'm a bit overwhelmed by the planning phase and fearful that I will not be able to sign up for the events I wish to participate in. And while I have the money and time, I can't help but think I'd be better off spending a little more and going to Scotland or something.

It's definitely a major advertising event for a lot of companies - everyone loves to make a big announcement in front of a crowd, you know?
I wonder how long that's going to remain true though. E3 is certainly still a major advertising event for video games, but it isn't as important as it was in 1999. Nintendo is going ot have a presence this year, but it's not going to be a very big presence. And I suspect it's because the no longer believe E3 is of great importance to their marketing efforts. I'm wondering if Gencon is going to be seen the same way by RPG companies and their customers in a few years.


I think they're hugely relevant to publishers. Not sure how covid will change things, but for many companies, a large proportion of their annual sales will occur during the four days of Gen Con.

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