Tabletop Pros Talk Impact Of Gen Con Cancellation

Tabletop article by Giaco Furino on Tuesday, May 26, 2020 - 12:00
Feature
Topic(s): Board Game, Tabletop

USA's Biggest Board Game Con Cancelled

Though many predicted it before the initial announcement, the cancellation of Gen Con 2020 will have rippling effects through the tabletop community. We wanted to get a sense of how it's impacting tabletop publishers and creators around the world, so we checked in with a wide array of them to get their thoughts in their own words.

What does the cancellation of Gen Con 2020 mean for you and your business?

Isaac Childres, Creator of Gloomhaven: Honestly, we weren't planning on going to Gen Con this year anyway because of the pandemic. I decided it would have been irresponsible to put ourselves at risk like that, and I'm glad Gen Con finally came to the same conclusion.

Leo Vesperini, Mythic Games: It means a lot for us. Gen Con is the number one show that we would never miss. We always make some of our plans according to Gen Con. We book meetings, we recruit demoers, we buy banners, panels and all sorts of material. Gen Con is a very visible convention, and one where you can announce some spectacular releases.The cancellation means we’ll have to do our announcements differently: on our social media channels, and through other media. We won’t be able to see the American players’ reactions to our new projects. We’ll have to adapt to this sad but expected news.

Ignacy Trzewiczek, Portal Games: As Portal Games we were aware of such possibility—that is canceling Gen Con—and we were adjusting to the situation for the past few months. We rescheduled some of our releases moving them for a different release date, we also decided to run Portalcon Online—a convention that will happen in July to create awareness about our new releases and to help us engage with our community. The lack of summer conventions affects our marketing strategy and we are adjusting to the new situation.  

John Swinkels, Privateer Press: The cancellation of such a major show means finding new and remote ways to engage with our community—both new and old.

Grégoire Boisbelaud, DUST USAThe cancellation of the events are obviously a hit on our business figure and our recruiting capabilities for new players. Nevertheless, we have worked with shows organisations and our teams to turn this around and bounce back when the situation is getting back to normal.

Romeo C. Filip, Battle FoamFor Battle Foam it means a shift in approach and availability. With the opportunity to stay open during the shutdown we have been able to catch up on past orders and build up our inventory for upcoming events. Not having Gen Con gives us added travel revenue that can be reinvested in the business for advertising and product creation.

Hero Realms by White Wizard Games
Hero Realms by White Wizard Games. "Although we had already paid for a 20X50 booth at GenCon, we had already decided that we would not be attending GenCon before the cancellation." 

Debbie Moynihan, White Wizard Games: Although we had already paid for a 20X50 booth at GenCon, we had already decided that we would not be attending GenCon before the cancellation. We have also decided not to participate in the rescheduled Origins event planned for October. We will miss seeing everyone at GenCon and Origins. We will be participating in online conventions. We have started a weekly Facebook Live on the White Wizard Games Facebook page so that we can keep in touch with everyone (they are actually getting more spoilers this way!). 

Belén Moreno Garrido, Corvus BelliGaming event cancellations mean we have to reorganize all the planning for the year and make changes to the release dates. We also have to think about other ways of promotion.

Michal Rynkiewicz, Micro Art StudiosWell, cancellation of major gaming events means that we're unable to meet our customers face to face. It's a huge loss if we can't share thoughts, show products in person, learn customers expectations, explain doubts or simply chitchat with people from the community. It also mean lower sales results, that's obvious.

Aaron Shanks, Paizo: Gen Con is our biggest event of the year. We co-sponsor Gen Con. The majority of our staff attends. We meet with our licensed partners and build new relationships. But the safety of the gaming community is of paramount importance to us and, as disappointed as we are to not be able to meet face-to face, cancellation is the right decision. We are experiencing the same situation with our smaller PaizoCon (paizocon.com) event. In-person networking with customers and industry professionals is vital. But there is a silver lining to this dark cloud—online cons are blossoming. If PaizoCon Online is any indication, the reach of Gen Con Online—as a free, online event with lower barriers to participation—will be substantial. Game companies and gamers are innovative and resourceful. We will get through this and come out the other side better connected to each other than ever before. Geek culture finds a way.

Did you have major plans for new product launches or announcements that were scheduled for Gen Con? And if so, do you know how you'll release that information now?

Childres, Creator of Gloomhaven: We were timing the release of Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion to coincide with Gen Con, and probably would have seen significant sales there. We weren't depending on it, though. It will be releasing in Target in July and in normal hobby distribution in August, so we'll get it into the hands of fans either way.

Vesperini, Mythic Games: We actually did. We don’t know yet how we’ll release that information but most probably through press releases, YouTubers, media channels, and our own social network (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube).

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion by Cephalofair Games
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion by Cephalofair Games. "We were timing the release of Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion to coincide with Gen Con, and probably would have seen significant sales there."

Trzewiczek, Portal Games: Portal Games has planned three new releases for Gen Con 2020. Barbarian Hordes, a new expansion for Empires of the North, will be released as planned in August, Detective: Season One is pushed to September, and Million Dollar Script is rescheduled and will be published in 2021.

Swinkels, Privateer Press: We did, and we do! Beyond the traditional outlets for Social Media and Mailing Lists, tere's potential in the "online" versions of events like Gen Con that we're definitely looking into.

Boisbelaud, DUST USA: Yes, we had new releases for every show we were attending this year, as usual. But as said, shows are for us a recruiting tool, not so much a tool to push new releases. The impact of the lack of shows has been minimal on the new releases we had so far during the crisis.

Filip, Battle Foam: Battle Foam has always had some type of annual release that happens at Gen Con. Last year we released the P.A.C.K. Traveller bag and the new “Slider Magna Racks." This year we will also have new products to reveal during the special 4th of July / Gen Con sale we are renaming SUMMER SUPER SALE. Look for new products and some much anticipated color ways for our P.A.C.K. system bags. Our approach will be to partner with Gen Con and have them spread the word about our specials and promotions. Along with Gen Con, we will do features on our own official website and our social media pages. The news should get out to everyone fairly quickly.

Moynihan, White Wizard Games: We have new Hero Realms products launching in June, July, and August, and we also usually promote our Kickstarters at conventions. We have launched weekly Facebook Lives on the White Wizard Games Facebook Page where we are sharing new content every week with our community. We are also livestreaming gameplay and sponsoring online conventions and livestreams. For example, we will be doing a full gameplay of Sorcerer at Origins online, and we are running an online Legend Series for Star Realms and Epic Card Game where the winner becomes a card in the game. This opens up the tournament to anyone around the world, which is pretty awesome, and something our fans had asked for previously. With reduced travel, we now have more time to work on online community building which is much more accessible around the world. We are excited about that. For example, we ran a coloring page contest, since many people are home with their kids, we are running more online tournaments and livestreams, and we have shared a print-and-play version of our upcoming Epic Card Game Duels set for our Kickstarter backers.

Moreno Garrido, Corvus Belli: We will release our new Infinity edition: N4, it will be a book with fluff and rules and, of course, an exclusive miniature. Also, we will release a new sectorial pack for O-12.

Rynkiewicz, Micro Art Studios: We didn't plan any special releases for GenCon, however some special GenCon purchasing offer is still possible.

Super Fantasy Brawl by Mythic Games
Super Fantasy Brawl by Mythic Games. "Gen Con is a very visible convention, and one where you can announce some spectacular releases.The cancellation means we’ll have to do our announcements differently: on our social media channels, and through other media."

Shanks, Paizo: We have our biggest new product launches at Gen Con. We launched both Starfinder and Pathfinder Second Edition roleplaying games at Gen Con. This year it is the Pathfinder Advanced Player’s Guide, Starfinder Starship Operations Manual, and many other products. How will that information be released now? It is too soon to say, exactly. We will take the lessons we learn from PaizoCon Online, and other online cons, and work those into what Gen Con offers. We are fortunate to have many staff members who are experienced in virtual communication, a dedicated social media producer, an organized play department, and one of the biggest and best group of organized play volunteers in the industry. They are all helping to amplify our messages louder than ever. And Gen Con, even online, will always be a valuable partner in that endeavor. The gaming media will remain vital too. 

How has COVID-19, overall, impacted your tabletop business? Have you had to fundamentally re-think your work in response?

Childres, Creator of Gloomhaven: The pandemic has certainly had an effect on the Kickstarter we ran last month for Frosthaven, though it's hard to say exactly what. On the one hand, about 1/6th of our backers backed at the $1 level because they were more comfortable paying next year. On the other hand, with everyone staying at home with limited forms of entertainment, I'm sure we saw increased traffic from that. Ultimately, the Kickstarter did incredibly well either way, becoming the most funded game on Kickstarter and the third most funded Kickstarter project ever. It is terrible that others are going through such hardship—especially retail stores—but Cephalofair Games is going strong. We have decided to give something back, though. We've donated $50,000 to World Health Organization COVID Response Fund, and will donate some of earnings in Backerkit as well.

Vesperini, Mythic Games: We’ve had to work from home. The biggest impact for us was that we couldn’t send prototypes to reviewers, we couldn’t visit media blogs such as Beasts of War or Tric Trac, we couldn’t film « real » tabletop games right before launching our new Kickstarter campaign. We had to adapt our game on Tabletop Simulator to show it to reviewers. This didn’t prevent us from launching a very successful Kickstarter, so I think we did good!

Trzewiczek, Portal Games: We are certainly affected big time by the situation. From the daily basis changes like working from home (the whole company—nearly 20 people), to changes in distribution and sells due to the game stores shut downs, mentioned earlier no conventions and new ways to interact and engage our fans. It's a huge change. We are happy to have amazing fans, two weeks ago we ran first board game online convention in Poland with hundreds of fans being with us online and interacting with the Portal Games team. This is a very difficult time, but we appreciate the new ways we discover to grow and to engage our fans. Personally, I cannot wait for Portalcon online in July.

Swinkels, Privateer Press: We did, and we do! Beyond the traditional outlets for Social Media and Mailing Lists, there's potential in the "online" versions of events like GenCon that we're definitely looking into.

Boisbelaud, DUST USA: COVID has impacted our business very seriously in both good and bad ways. The bad part is the business figure loss obviously as shops are closed and they are our main outlet. The good is that it allowed us to imagine new ways of promoting our products, gave us some time to put our effort on procedures and operations we had neglected for too long. As a small company with a staff all over the globe, the isolation was not really anything new. It just allowed us to put our values first: We like our players healthy and alive and we are making sure we have a very careful stance on the whole situation. We had cancelled our coming to Gen Con the day before their announcement, and we already warned the other conventions we would not be part of anything until at least this winter.

Filip, Battle Foam: We feel it has impacted our retailers more than it has impacted us. Battle Foam LLC is a diverse company that offers products in other industries outside gaming. This has allowed us to stay “essential” while still creating new and exiting products for the gaming customers. Our goal for the rest of 2020 will be to help our retailers reopen and get the much needed revenue they will require to get back on their feet. By providing additional discounts with our TIER system pricing it should generate positive income for the stores. I wouldn’t say that we have re-worked anything that Battle Foam does. I do feel that we have adjusted to the changing world by providing a safe and productive work environment for our employees. I also feel that we have done more sales in the past four months than we have ever done in past years. We tried providing some type of discount or ongoing promotion so gamers can still get what they need while saving a few dollars. Being a small business, we can change quickly without having to wait on corporate decisions to come down the pipes. Fluidity is key during these uncertain times. You have to act fast and be dedicated to the path you choose.

Starfinder by Paizo
Starfinder Starship Operations Manual by Paizo. "We launched both Starfinder and Pathfinder Second Edition roleplaying games at Gen Con. This year it is the Pathfinder Advanced Player’s Guide, Starfinder Starship Operations Manual, and many other products. How will that information be released now? It is too soon to say, exactly."

Moynihan, White Wizard Games: We have seen a significant reduction in our distributor orders, which we expected, since hobby game stores and distributors have been closed or had disruptions. We continue to move forward with our distributor and retailer communications, but we have changed our expectations on this side of the business in the short-term. We are offering consumers the ability to buy our games from our online store while still supporting their local game store (if you enter the name and address of your game store in the Notes section at checkout, your game store will receive 25%). Our plans for Kickstarter remain unchanged.  We will be launching a Sorcerer Kickstarter with solo/coop over the next couple of weeks, and have plans to launch KAPOW! and an all-new Star Realms product later this year. We have seen many companies moving towards digital versions of their games, we are lucky that we already have the Star Realms and Epic Card Game digital apps that are both free-to-play for the base game. From a personal perspective, many of us have had to adjust to working at home with our families. For game development, we are lucky that we have multiple gamers in our home, so that we can continue rigorous playtesting and development. We are also running an interactive Facebook RPG game on the Hero Realms Discussion Group where we post questions online three times a week, the community votes, and the adventure is unfolding.

Moreno Garrido, Corvus Belli: It has mainly affected our way of working. We have had to reorganize the factory, and many of us are working from home. We have also experienced shipping delays. We had to adapt as quickly as possible to the new situation.

Rynkiewicz, Micro Art Studios: The virus caused a crazy mess in production abilities in March-early April, so it did impact our business much. We caught some delays with completing orders, we face delays/problems with shipping worldwide, as some postal services are on hold and courier rates have raised. While our production dept. can't work in any other way than personal attendance at workplace, the office team has gone mostly for homeplace work, taking care of the children at the same time, which gives an everyday unique challenging experiences ;) Nevertheless we appreciate ongoing support from our customers all over the world. We're built up with their understanding and patience, regardless all the circumstances that inflict everyone's life these days.

Shanks, Paizo: We are OK. The majority of us are working from home, quite productively, which is a change for us. Our warehouse has reopened and caught up after being voluntarily closed for a few weeks. We are maintaining our robust production. What is different is the emphasis on virtual tabletop play and digital products. Fortunately we have a number established licensed partners, like Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, and Syrinscape, to provide those services. Our organized play community has rallied to help players—most of whom are used to meeting at home, local game shops, and conventions—learn online play. And we reexamining our own digital products and finding ways to make them more accessible than ever before. In the bricks-and-mortar world, we made the decision to expand our distribution methods to include direct to retail even before the pandemic. Now, we can help keep favorite local game stores stay open by making sure they have the products their customers want and the organized play programs to showcase them. Over time, our “Play at Home. Play it Safe” message will only get stronger. Our community’s well-being is our top priority. 

Be sure to check out all of the tabletop companies quoted above to learn more about the incredible games and products they make.


How has COVID-19 impacted your tabletop gaming life? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author

Profile Pic

Giaco Furino

Staff Writer

Giaco Furino is a screenwriter, writer, and editor living and working in Brooklyn, NY.