Our stations were full most of the time. We had 32 of them at our booth.
- 12x SpeedRunners (seating spots)
- 4x Check In Knock Out (seating spots)
- 4x No Time To Explain (seating spots)
- 6x BOID
- 2x Party Hard
- 3x Lovely Planet
- 5x Fearless Fantasy
- 2x Divide By Sheep
- 2x Spoiler Alert
- 2x Snail Bob 2
Let's do some math!
- That's 42 stations total.
- Let's assume an average session is 5 minutes.
- There are 8 hours in the show day.
- 8 hours = 480 minutes
- 480 minutes / 5 minutes = 96 sessions per station per day. Let's average that down to 80 due to some downtime and longer sessions.
- 80 sessions per station * 42 stations = 3,360 sessions per day
Over three days that is 10,080 sessions total. Ten thousands play sessions. Ten thousand playtests.
If the developer is there, we urge him to take notes on usability which improves the games enormously.
If not, we have booth staff constantly take quick voice memos on issues users are having.
This feedback is what truly makes a difference in games. It's just one enormous playtest that also gives us insane amount of fans, and exposure.
The after-hours networking
Unic & Salem cosplayers during the Indies Need Booze Party
I found that the after hours networking is the most useful time to get valuable business contacts. Since everyone at a consumer show is there for the same reason - nobody is trying to sell you anything, everyone is trying to find ways to work with each other that'd be mutually beneficial.
For example, because of our PAX South success, so many people came up wanting to partner up - be it do a party together, give us some branded equipment, or help out in general. It's nothing short of amazing. (thanks Skullcandy for those awesome orange controllers!)
The team bonding
The team during teardown time, special thanks to our fans (right side) who helped us build up the booth, and tear it down. They also made that super cool timelapse video of the whole thing!
A great way to see if your team is compatible is by putting on a large consumer show together. Relationships get tested, boundaries get pushed. I'm always the guy that freaks out when someone is running late, pushing everyone out the door. Luke is the guy that always keeps calm. Mike calms everyone down with his soothing accent. Yulia is my best drinking buddy. Lerika is excellent in paying attention to details. A certain vibe in the team gets established, and everyone bonds. The games industry is all about the people, and it's important to know - and be friends with - your coworkers.
It also makes people resistant to stress (especially with my freak outs about being late). We all know how dynamic and at times hectic the industry is. Being resistant to stress is an advange - because during shifts of tides you will be able to adapter faster, instead of stressing out about your job changing.
One of the main things I never ever want to do is stall decisions. Read the excellent book "Hatching Twitter
" about how that company came together, and pay close attention to lack in decision making on some of the CEOs parts. This is where I'd never want to be.
The way we do conventions is very iterative, with quick decisions being made on the spot. This is key to what we do at tinyBuild - we iterate, we don't overplan. And having the skill to make quick, intuitive decisions is a really good one to have. The way the team works is that whenever you need to make a decision - use your best judgement, you don't create a dependency on someone else to consult with, assuming the decision is time-sensitive.
"Say yes to a great opportunity, and then figure out how to do it" -- Richard Branson
This usually comes off as a shocker to people with proper business education, i.e. "stakeholder management", but I truly believe that if you surround yourself by great people, you need to empower them to make those decisions. Conventions are a great "accelerator" for that.
We've had over a thousand people sign up for our newsletter (every 10th person who played?) as part of the tinyQuest we designed. It's a card collection game within the booths, a scavenger hunt of sorts.
Countless fans came up just to say hi and find out more about the games.
And we created a small private meeting area where we could show off the games to media, specifically our unannounced titles. Amongst which is Party Hard, which got loads of traction - in part because everyone could see the large crowd at the two preview stations.
Some of the press it got (OK, it also helped that Mike worked his face off by doing both GDC and PAX East in the same week)
I'm not going to do a full coverage roundup because that'd eat up most of the article. Point is - if you focus on your fans, your products will become better, and you'll get more fans. This goes in a spiral effect that ends up getting you more of everything, provided you're willing to push your boundaries and get way the hell out of your comfort zone.
Try it, it's great!