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WotC Presence at Conventions

ShadowDenizen

Explorer
Hey, all.

So, I was tempted to place this in the "Hasbro ordered...." thread, but this seems like it might be more appropriate for a thread of it's own.

Before I start, a little about me, so you have some perspective. I'm a 30+ year gamer, and have been through each iteration of the game. I'm actively playing a 3.5/PF game, and try to keep up with the "Main" releases for 4E. I am NOT particularly kindly disposed towards WotC, and haven't been for some time, though I'm not "Seething with Bile" at them either.

I attended PAX East on Saturday and Sunday, and I was a little disappointed in the showing that WotC had for D+D; I thought they were really outshone by Turbine (who does the DDO game.) [And yes, I know this is more a "Video Game" con than an "RPG" con, but the same tenet should still apply.]

I was curious to see if any other Con-Goers had opinions. (I'd love to hear peoples thoughts on PAX East, and if I'm alone in my opinions, but am also curious about the showings for the rest of the country.)

The "booth" was fairly centrally located in the Expo Hall, and they failed to make proper use of it, IMO. It was largely a "StoreFront", with people manning the counters. There was no great visual presence,either elecronic or physical, [no-one in custome, which seemed a natural fit to me!!], no people there to really "Schmooze" the crowd, and when I asked the clerks about the "DarkSun" release, they were depressingly ill-informed.

Also, there was overall more space taken up for MTG than for D+D.

"Swag-Wise"? Also a diappointment. They gave out mini flash-drives in bracelet form (w/ MTG logo)- But they apparently only hold 256 MB?! And the other incentive was a "50% off a monht of DDI". (Isn't a subscription like $5/month? Why not give 50% off a year?)

WHile they DID have some Dungeon Delve events, they were located two-floors up from the booth, and were not really advertised, yet it was still impossible to get a slot. (WHich goes into the "Overselling/Overvcrowding" issue that I'll address seperatly, and is not specifically a failing of WotC.)

The one bright spot? If you stood in line for a bit, you could get into a "Live-Action" D+D "demo". (You got a quick laminated "Character Card", and you were escorted into the "Dungeon" [a cordoned off area with a floor-map overlay, and a stand-up of a dragon that you get the "fight".]. I'll see if I cna get my iPhone photos linked in here soon; I have some pics of the dragon standee.
 
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Dannager

First Post
Wow. So, speaking as someone who returned from PAX all of a half hour ago and spent most of his time there participating in D&D-related things, I'll attempt to clear a number of things up here. The OP is, unfortunately, not very accurate in his portrayal of WotC's presence at PAX East.

First, it's important to remember that PAX is primarily a video game convention. WotC had, without a doubt, the most significant non-video game presence at the convention. They absolutely dwarfed whoever was next in line. You can check out the convention map here. All the tabletop rooms on the second floor were dedicated to WotC - even the ones on the bottom row labeled simply "Tabletop" were actually the RPGA and organized play event rooms, where Dark Sun previews, D&D Encounters, and Learn to Play games were taking place.

I'm not sure what the OP is talking about as far as the WotC organized play games being "two floors above" the booth. Given that the exhibition hall (where the booth was) was located on the 2nd floor, and the convention center only has three floors, that would be patently impossible. In reality, all the D&D organized play events were located on the same floor as the exhibition hall (and the WotC booth) - a pretty heavily trafficked area.

There was not really more space taken up by MtG than D&D. Three full rooms (and I heard rumors of a fourth) were used for organized play, and the exhibition hall booth itself was primarily D&D (the Play D&D Live event took up quite a bit of space itself, and I never saw it without a line to wait in). The organized play events did become overwhelmed with demand (WAY more than anyone anticipated) and ended up needing additional volunteer DMs. A lot of people did have to be turned away, unfortunately, but only because they ran out of space to hold events in. The convention center only has so many rooms, and as it was there were about 20 tables of six players each running pretty much constantly throughout the convention. It was a really encouraging turnout, according to the WotC guys I got a chance to speak with. They apparently faced a lot of resistance when it came to having a presence at PAX because it was considered a video games convention, but this sort of turnout handily justifies their investing in it.

The OP apparently stopped by the booth at a poor time, as when I was there Trevor Kidd was on hand specifically to schmooze the crowd - he was actively going up to those wandering the booth and addressing any questions they had. They also had demo kiosks for the Character Builder and MtG at the booth itself, as well as three or four booth spaces just outside the exhibition hall where they had a number of 360s set up with Duels of the Planeswalkers for people to try out, and then a couple of computers with the Character Builder in the organized play rooms hooked up to printers for people to make use of for the events there.

WotC also had their own well-attended Save My Game Live panel featuring four of the D&D team answering audience questions the entire time, and which was extremely enjoyable.

Swag-wise, I walked away with two free PHB3s, a short deck of Magic cards, and a pile of the aforementioned DDI coupons that I plan on handing out to my players who don't already have subscriptions. I didn't see the thumb drives he mentioned, but then again I didn't spend a whole lot of time at the booth itself.

Just wanted to clear a few things up.
 

darjr

I crit!
Awesome! Man I wish I was there, I would have DM'ed by arse off.

Very cool.

PHB3 as swag is cool to. What I want is some of those DDI coupons, I want to hand those out at my organized events... actually I'd like to be able to buy them for friends. WotC?

Anyway, glad to get a couple of perspectives. I'm also happy that tabletop gaming is getting some spotlight and love at PAX.
 

Asmor

First Post
I wasn't at PAX, sadly, but I follow a number of people in the RPG community who were and got the impression that there was quite a lot of D&D stuff happening. I was actually quite shocked to read the OP, and Dann's experience falls much more in line with what I expected...

Also worth mentioning is that various WotC twitter accounts were quite active at the event, including posting about a meetup at a bowling alley after PAX and mentioning how you could get free copies of the PHB3 by accosting various WotC folk...
 

Dannager

First Post
Also worth mentioning is that various WotC twitter accounts were quite active at the event, including posting about a meetup at a bowling alley after PAX and mentioning how you could get free copies of the PHB3 by accosting various WotC folk...
I ended up at the bowling alley last night, and spent the evening eating and drinking with Greg Bilsland, Chris Tulach, Logan Bonner and Trevor Kidd, along with maybe five other fans and volunteers. It was a really awesome opportunity to get to know some of the WotC guys and chat at length about the game. It was a tremendously cool way to cap PAX off for me.
 
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Zephrin the Lost

First Post
I spent 3 days there and played so much D&d I missed a lot of other things I wanted to see! I missed the DM challenge, however. Anyone sit in on that?

More to the point of the thread, I agree that the swag was a bit disappointing, based on the tales I've heard of of PAx Prime give-away, but that didn't really bother me. I was mostly impressed with the D&D pushes: the 'what is D&d' sessions, the live dungeon presentation you mention, as it introduced folks to the mechanic, and the miscrosoft surface demo, which also introduced a lot of folks to the concept, albiet on a $12,000 unavailable peripheral that WoTC had nothing to do woith really. :)
 

Piratecat

Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
I stepped in and volunteered to run a "brand new player!" D&D game for folks who wanted to learn how to play. I had an absolute blast, and was sort of shocked when I got a PHB3 as swag for doing so. It was a great experience.

The coordinator for the WotC D&D games was Willi Burger and his team from ConnCon, who are pretty good at this -- ConnCon was one of the first cons I went to in the late 80s, and it's still ridiculously fun. There were also some good judges. I noticed Art Lobdell, for instance, who is hands down one of the best GMs I know. I wish I'd had about two more days of time to do both the gaming and the seminars at PAX.

I agree that it needed many more DMs, though. Demand was off the charts for playing (and seminars and everything, really.) Next year PAX East will hopefully be in the other convention center, and I expect they'll scale up to meet demand.
 
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Eridanis

Bard 7/Mod (ret) 10/Mgr 3
I think WotC was hammered with much more demand for D&D than they expected - which is a good thing for them! The podcasts with Mike, Jerry, Scott and Wil really primed players to want to check out the game, I think, and Piratecat's example above of jumping in to volunteer to run more games is indicative of that. I would have loved to try a 4E demo, but my understanding was that if you weren't there in the first few minutes to sign up, you weren't getting in. That goes for a lot of events at PAXeast, from what I heard - I heard an anecdote of people waiting an hour and a half for an hour-long talk, and it sounded like there was a lot of that going on.

There were quite a few minor glitches at PAXEast, which can be attributed to it being the first time running the convention. The one thing that could have been a big problem for me was when my wife and I walked into the Exhibition Hall with our stroller, we were told no strollers were allowed due to the fire code. It would have been nice to have been told that on the PAX website, or before we bought our badges and paid for hotel room and parking, or by security as we were walking in, but at least the Enforcer was very professional and apologetic. Luckily, we're the kind of people that adapt easily, but taking an 8, 4, and 2-year-old to a gaming convention requires some planning, and having a major part of that disrupted is not a good thing to do to a frazzled parent. :) Everything worked out OK in the end, but that's just one example of a detail that I'm sure their team will work out for next year.

It's definitely not a show that was friendly to small kids or their parents, so I'm not sure I'll go again next year, but I enjoyed my time on Sunday. It was nice to go to a major convention that was less that three hours away from home, instead of 14 hours. :)
 

Festivus

First Post
Tangent: Regarding podcasts driving people to the game, this is my experience with my local meetup. Many new players tell me it's because of the robot chicken videos that they became interested in giving it a try.

Glad to hear many had such a good time. Not having enough DMs is a problem on any level for events. A free PHB3 for DMing is really nice.
 

Mournblade94

Adventurer
Even At new York Comic Con, WOTC has a pretty good presence. It does appear as a storefront, but I always noticed Chris Perkins or another design staff member in attendance. At least for the 2009 Comic con.
 

filthgrinder

First Post
I was at PAX as well, and I had a great time with the D&D events offered.

Just to explain a few things, the event was really crowded and VERY well attended. I arrived about an hour before the keynot on friday and the main theater was already full, so I missed out on that. The WotC booth in the EXPO Hall was just what you'd expect, a "show" booth that displays products, has a quick event to get people, and your chance to talk quickly to folks. They were also friendly and directed you to the Organized play rooms. WotC had sign-ups for a "Learn to Play" event, D&D Encounters week 1 and 2, and the Dark Sun Delve. There was also a special Delve event for the con, which didn't have a sign-up but ran almost hourly.

They were SWAMPED! I think this was basically a space thing. All the tables in their rooms were PACKED. They ran out of DMs, space, and supplies. I signed up for the Dark Sun and Encounters 1 on Friday afternoon (for friday night and saturday) and figured I'd talked with my friends there and see what other times I had in my schedule to sign up for more, however, by friday night they were completely booked. Gabe (Mike K.) mentioned on the PA Panel saturday that he couldn't even get in a game friday night when he went to check it out. Also, there were tons of tables in the "free play" tabletop rooms filled with ongoing RPGA events as well.

They had a GIANT presence at the con, and an EXTREMELY heavy turn out of people wanting to get in. The back cover of the program (which every attendee got) was a full back cover ad for the D&D encounters program. They gave out a 50% off one month DDI coupon. They had stations in the organized play room with the character builder for people to use. The Save My Game panel was full, and a good line of people with questions (they didn't need to go to the internet for questions). On the nonD&D side the free swag bag that everyone picked up with their passes contained a deck of magic cards. There was a really big Magic area, they had xbox360s with Magic up for people to play. There was also a TON of Magic being played. At every line for a panel you could see people sitting in line playing Magic. There was a ton of Magic being played in the beanbag chair lounge as well. My girl and I were like, "wow, I didn't know Magic was this popular". I also overheard some people who were lapsed players talking about it and looking through the free decks they got.

The only negatives were ones that effected the entire con in general. Space. The con was REALLY crowded. Mike and Jerry acknowledged it in all their panels and said that plans for a bigger place for next year are already in the works. I think everyone under estimated the turnout/response. They sold out the con, but they sold it out to people who wanted to be there, the entire time. So you had a huge throng of people who wanted to experience it all, so everything was crowded and packed.

However, my girl and I had a really great time.
 

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