So, last night I got back from my second time bringing I Love the Corps to the UK Games Expo. It was overwhelmingly positive and leaves me with great hope for both I Love the Corps’s future and my own.
Before I talk about this year’s Expo directly (in another blog), I wanted to reflect on how much has changed for the positive in the last year, to show how far I, and I Love the Corps, have come in so little time and how that clearly had a big effect on my 2017 Expo experience. But, before the positive, I think its interesting to think of all the negatives I saw last year (that have almost entirely turned around into positives, bear in mind).
Reflecting on the Last Year; The Seemingly Negative Side (on the promotional front)
Last year I ran a stall at the UK Game Expo. The intention was to canvas, create awareness of the game, and run some demos if I could. It was very hard to get RPers that actually had the time to play the demos, as you can’t just do it in five minutes like some card and board games (and there are lots of official RPG slots people have booked in to play.) It was great to reach a lot of people though, and to see how easy it was to find people that were interested by the game’s concept. Many seemed interested, but because there was nothing to buy, it was difficult to gauge the success of the venture, though I did get at least 2 backer pledges for the Kickstarter that were clearly from people who had played the game at the Expo in one case, and an old Nationals player who I spoke to in the other. Still, I was unsure if the money I had paid for the stall had been worth spending at the time. I didn’t exactly get much in the way of e-mails, Facebook likes or anything to really tell me I had expanded the fanbase.
My other 2016 cons didn’t exactly go in the most positive direction either (again, strictly in the promotional sense), though I made the best of them. Had 2 decent ConPulsion games, but I was supposed to have 4. This left me with a lot of time with little to do, feeling quite alone. Strategy was largely a bust; though I did at least get some great ILTC players and some stall interest, the money didn’t seem to be worth it. (At the time.)
This year was a difficult start too, convention-wise which didn’t indicate to me that I was going to have an easy time when it came to selling the game, as though the large amount of backers was fantastic, that money pays for the game itself, not for my continued existence. My first con was the small Spaghetti ConJunction in Birmingham, where I was able to run one of two games. it had four players, two of which who could play any time and knew me well. One of the new players goes to the same club as me too, so there wasn’t really much in outreach there. (Though the game itself was EXCELLENT and all four players had a blast. )
However, ever since then, my expectations and assumptions have been constantly blown, and 2016 also had an unreasonable amount of positive too.
2016-17: the Positive Stuff
ConPulsion: okay, I only had two games, but of those games, I got three return players this year, and some friends of some of those players. I also was NOT lonely this year. Made some friends and contacts last year who all came to find me and chat with me this year and other friends of mine came. I was never bored. Still had a small game booking problem (3 out of 4 bookings got through this time)… but found that if I did a last minute sign up sheet, I would have had players. (I did this last year and got nobody, so didn’t bother this year, signed up to play a game instead, and then found out I’d have had at least three players in that slot who would’ve played ILTC. Ah well!)
Also, if I hadn’t have gone to ConPulsion last year, I would never have met Scott Neil, the first of my artists, who showed me the ropes of art direction, as well as providing some brilliant pieces. I never would have become friends with several industry professionals and bloggers and would have never attended a seminar that gave me utterly vital advice for both my Kickstarter and production.
Strategy: Yes, the con itself floundered quite horribly. But, I got to introduce an entire group to RP and had some other great players who may end up supporting me later. It continued to show me that the game has a decent market. Also, I would never have met a nice lady called Kat, who got me to contact James Hayball. Without her, I would not have a big industry name for art doing my covers. Hindsight, eh? I also met some ace GMs, including my fellow game designer Simon Burley (we had encountered each other before, but the this was the first proper time we actually had a chat, though he did unknowingly give me some decent advice at the aforementioned ConPulsion seminar). Simon has become something of a mentor in many ways, being an old hand at convention GMing and game design, and has given me company at cons since, as well as setting me up at Geek Retreat where I now run monthly games.
The Expos: Yes, the 2016 Expo didn’t immediately give me obvious payoff immediately… until this year, when EVERY con since SpaghettiCon I have had at least a few people come up to me to talk to me, saying they recognised me from the Expo last year. Also, before this years’ Expo, quite a lot of people I saw at ConPulsion and the Nationals said they recognised me cos of all my Expo bookings. Then, when I got to the Expo itself… most people I spoke to who weren’t in a game and I didn’t otherwise know either recognised me from a previous con or had noticed me on the Expo game listings. And most of those people wanted to play my games, but hadn’t the time. There were a lot of requests from both my players and others I spoke to, not only for games next year, but reruns and sequels of this years’s stories.
Kickstarter: And let’s not forget the biggest positive of 2016. Some of my friends saw firsthand on the opening weekend how utterly stunned I was, overwhelmed by the support shown. With that, I have been able to make the books that have consumed much of my life. I can live a dream.
And yet, that support alone will not allow me to continue to do this once I Love the Corps is released. For that, I need the sufficient sales in October. I need the support to spread a lot further. I worry about this constantly. But after this weekend, and reflecting on the last year, those fears are nearly wiped out.
A hell of a lot more people are aware and interested in I Love the Corps than I thought. And in August I have Gen-Con. 7 games, and only two tickets left… and I am practically unknown there. It was a risk to go… not anymore. After the 2017 Expo, I know Gen-Con will be a blast. Despite the people that know me in the UK, 36 of my 40 Expo players were completely new to me and the game, and the feedback was phenomenally positive.
I’m coming, America. Prepare to Enlist.