6d6 spent the weekend at Oddcon, a small convention in Telford, UK and this marked a milestone in our business development. Oddon 2010 was the first con we attended as 6d6 and we ran our first demonstration games of Outbreak! (see last year’s write-up). This year, it is the first convention we’ve attended since the release of the 6d6 Core rule set. In short, Oddcon 2011 was our first con as a real publisher.
OddCon = FunCon
Of all the conventions we’ve attended over the last year, OddCon is the most fun. It is smaller and more relaxed than other cons, with a bigger focus on social activities. A lot of this comes down to Steve ‘Sad’ Pennington, who organises the con, and his enthusiasm for getting people to mix. He makes the the convention very welcoming for new attendees which is why, year-on-year, the con grows.
It’s size also helps make it fun. With around 80 – 90 attendees faces soon becomes familiar and paths cross (either in the bar or in games) regularly. This allows members to get to know each other. The size also allows all the gaming and social activity to be contained in a small area. This is in sharp contrast with larger cons where everything is spread-out and you never the see the same face twice.
So OddCon was a fun convention to attend but what about the business side of things?
In many ways it sucked.
Total sales for the weekend was £45 (one copy of Mince Pies & Murder, one Library Card). This is offset by the cost of a hotel room (£100) and transport (only £10 thanks to a lift from Dingles Games). I also needed to eat and drink which, even doing it extremely fugally, added £15 to my costs. Leaving me £80 down on turnover and even worse off if you factor in the costs of the goods sold. These numbers also do not account for lost opportunity costs, i.e. what I could of done if I used those three days of work and £125 differently.
One way of looking at conventions is as adverting and marketing. We certainly had a chance to talk to and demo games to people who had never heard of 6d6 but again, let’s look at the numbers.
We ran three demo games with five players in each. So 15 people had a chance to experience the product. However, of that 15, a few people had played 6d6 before and a some people played in multiple-games. At best, I reached eight people. Even if those people go home and tell their regular gaming group about 6d6, I’ve got the name of 6d6 and a positive vibe to just 30 people. True, there are the other con attendees who saw the 6d6 name and people having fun playing it, but at best this weekend has reached around 100 people and that, I feel, is highly optimistic.
One problem with gamers at large, cons in general, and OddCon in particular is ghettos. We all tend to to play the same games with the same people and most of us are reluctant to change.
OddCon suffered from this more than most cons because there was a large Pathfinder Society attendance plus also a large group from LIHR, a 3.5 living campaign. Over half the games played fell into those two ghettos. Many of the attendees had come because of those games and naturally stuck to playing them. This restricts our ability to reach them and their interest in our products.
This is not a criticism of those gamers or OddCon. I’ve played the same two games with the same three players for something like five years in my regular Thursday Night group so I’ve got no grounds to complain. Everyone should play the game they enjoy. My point is that from a business point of view, RPGs is a very conservative market.
Is It Worth It?
Comparing sales and costs for OddCon with Con-Quest in April then is is certainly not worth it. Does it make sense from an advertising / marketing point of view? Probably not. With three days and £125, I’m sure I can reach far more gamers.
Now, it must be noted that the amounts of money we are talking about is small. Many people reading this may be thinking that £125 is nothing to spend. But to a small publisher who is living hand-to-mouth and pretty much dependent on someone else paying the mortgage, wasting a single £1 coin is a big deal.
So, if it cost us money and didn’t really achieve much, why am I keen to go back to OddCon next year?
Most of the people running conventions know each other, know the publishers, know the shops and know a lot of gamers. It is a complex social network and, as with any network, a kind word here and favour there can pay off in unexpected ways, often many months or years down the line. This is sort of return on investment is impossible to measure.
By supporting conventions such as OddCon we invest into this social network and our reputation as being a player focused business – one that supports and helps players even if it does not contribute directly to the bottom line.
The time and money spent attending OddCon is an investment in the future and one that I look forward to repeating next year.