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GDC vs PAX South: Lessons and plans from a first-time exhibitor

Hot on the heels of exhibiting at our first PAX comes exhibiting at our first GDC. What did we learn from PAX South, and how are we going to apply it to a more professional event like GDC?

There's been quite a few articles about indies exhibiting at events like PAX, so I'm gonna to try to respect your time by not restating the type of lessons covered in great articles like this (Post PAX Australia 2014 with Crabitron Kinect), this (Tips for Exhibiting Your Game), this (Maximize Your Impact, Exhibitor Tricks for Indies), this (PAX East or Bust), and many more. 

Instead, I'll talk about topics that I felt were unique to our situtation at PAX South, such as the experience of showing off three games in one tiny 10x10 booth. I'll also talk about how we're going to take those lessons and apply them to the upcoming GDC 2015, where we'll have an even smaller booth space than at PAX South. 

The Decision to Showcase THREE games on FIVE computers:

Serenity Forge is currently actively developing three games, all in various stages of completion. In preparation for attending PAX South, we decided that we wanted to have as many people play our games as possible.  In order to achieve this, we decided that we could fit five different setups and a large TV in our booth space. It was never our goal to showcase three different experiences; it just happened that we had three games that were all playable, and we wanted to maximize large scale feedback on all of them. 

Pros of Our Setup:

Our strategy of showing all of these games turned out with mostly positive results.  

  • Relative to our booth size we had a large volume of people try our games, which was our goal from the beginning. There was almost never an empty spot at any of our five demo stations for more than half a minute.  
  • It was easy to find a game for everyone. Most gamers who walked up would find at least one of our games interesting. 
  • We were able to observe which game appealed to each type of customer.  This was extraordinarily valuable to see first hand the different demographics each game attracted.
  • An astonishingly large number of people expressed disbelief at the fact that a team as small as ours were showing off three different games.  Showing three games made us stand out to quite a few people.
  • Although each one was very different, the games were all linked together by our company’s mission statement: to create games that challenge the way you think. Displaying a variety of games put a good focus on our company's brand as a whole.

Cons of Our Setup:

Inevitably, there were also some negatives that resulted from our setup.

  • Our booth’s heavy focus on getting a large quantity of players sacrificed its presentation. Having five demo stations in a 10x10 booth made us look more like a tiny LAN party than a visually stunning video game expo booth.  Compared to some of the other nearby booths that focused on cleanly presenting a single game, our setups looked jumbled and less professional.
  • All of the monitors were set up on a fairly low table, making it difficult for passer-bys to watch any of the games being played. At times we even had a barrier of people waiting to play that would block off our entire booth.  Overall, our booth was set up in a way where it was hard to notice.
  • There was an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the King’s Bird, but the King’s Bird will not be released for a very long time and it took attention away from Pixel Galaxy and Luna’s Wandering Stars, both of which will be released sooner.  It is debateable whether or not we should have put less focus on the King’s Bird to further promote the games that are coming out sooner.

The Games

Luna’s Wandering Stars is a puzzle game about manipulating planetary orbits to collect asteroids and grow your moon.  The game features realistic Newtonian system which is close to how the universe actually works.  

We showed this game because it will be launching on Steam towards the end of March.

Luna's Wandering Stars Steam

Pixel Galaxy is an arcade style bullet hell game where you can collect and build your ship out of enemies. A good comparison would be Katamari + Geometry Wars. 

We showed this game because it will be launching during the summer of this year.

Pixel Galaxy

The King’s Bird is an artistic platformer with a focus on freedom, flight, and flow. The game features high mobility in the air, making you feel like you’re performing air parkour with a flock of birds.

We showed it because the game is in very early pre-alpha, and we wanted to make sure it was headed in the right direction.

The King's Bird GDC

How we are adjusting for GDC 2015:

PAX South was an invaluable learning experience for us, and we are taking many of the lessons to heart in preparation for our GDC booth at GDC Play (PL300). 

Unlike PAX South, we will be focusing more on our booth’s presentation for GDC.  Not only did we learn the importance of booth presentation at PAX South, but it’s especially important for GDC where the focus is more on increasing the presentation value of the games. To do so, we plan on having fewer setups and a more organized space.  

  • As of right now we're planning on having just two playable setups. We've still yet to finalize our decision on which two games to make playable (perhaps you can help us decide!), but we'll have all three games installed on our two main computers in case we need to make any last minute changes.
  • We'll have a gigantic horizontal banner that will cover the entire width of our booth, as well as a TV mounted up on a high TV stand that plays looping trailers of all three games. 

So if you are ever in indecision about whether or not you should showcase multiple games at your booth (especially if you’re a small indie with not too much of a budget), please take our story to heart. Showing multiple games has many advantages, but always consider booth presentation and make sure to focus on content you will be releasing soon.

Even if you have just one game to show, keep in mind that there are huge advantages to having fewer setups with bigger monitors, rather than many setups with smaller monitors.

That's it for our PAX South postmortem/ GDC Play premortem! If you're going to GDC, please stop by our booth at GDC Play (PL300) to say hello! You can also follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook to keep up with our adventures. Lastly, if you have any questions, comments, or want to meet up at GDC, you can contact me at [email protected]

Thanks for reading!




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