An Open Letter to Small Game Conventions from a Tiny Publishing Company

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Feb 3, 2014 marketing 81 Comments

Geekway

Geekway to the West 2013

Dear small game conventions (less than 2,000 attendees),

I’ve heard from a lot of you over the last year, and I really appreciate that you took the time to reach out to a tiny game company like Stonemaier Games. I love what you’re doing for gamers in your area (and beyond).

A lot of you have asked for us to donate copies of our games to your convention’s game library or stock of prizes. I totally understand your need for donations to fill those purposes, given that you have small budgets. As a tiny publisher, I get what it’s like to have a small budget.

But when I hear those requests, I always have just one question: Do you have a play-and-win section?

Perhaps this isn’t common terminology–I’m pretty new at conventions, and I was introduced to this concept at Geekway to the West 2013. Here’s how a play-and-win section works:

You have a bunch of new/like new games available to be checked out. A group of people will check out a game, play it, and then return it to the play-and-win section. When they do, they place a piece of paper with the name of each player written on it into a jar that corresponds to that particular game. [Update: If someone taught the game to the group but didn't play, they may also write down their name. That encourages an atmosphere where everyone helps everyone else even if they're not playing the game.] As the convention is winding down, one piece of paper is selected from each jar, and a name is randomly selected from the people on that piece of paper. They get to keep the game.

This is a perfect system for tiny publishers. People play as many games as possible to increase their chances of winning at least one game at the end of the weekend. They play the games they’ve read about online. They play games that they’ve never heard of but look awesome. And they play games that they wouldn’t otherwise take the time to learn because there are lots of friendly people at game conventions who will teach them.

The best part about a play-and-win section for a small publisher is that only one person wins the game, which leaves lots of other people wanting the game but not having it. Hopefully a few of those people will actually buy the game at some point in the feature. Because, you know, that’s how we stay in business.

This is way better for small publishers than game libraries or random giveaways (like raffles). With a game library, there’s no urgency to play any of the games. With a random giveaway, there’s no connection between what people are actually playing and the prize. It’s a shot in the dark. Play-and-win gives people a reason to play your specific game right away.

So if you’re involved with a small convention, please consider adding a play-and-win section. If you attend a small convention that doesn’t have a play-and-win section, perhaps request it if you like the idea. As a gamer, I had a blast with Geekway’s play-and-win section. And as a publisher, I see it as the best way for us to devote our limited resources to a convention.

Thanks for your consideration,

Jamey

PS. Geekway shared their 2014 play-to-win data with me, and I analyzed it here.


Comments

  • MK
    Feb 3, 2014 at 2:31 am Reply

    Great idea. I will implement it (if I ever organise such a convention, which I doubt)

  • Johan Krüger Haglert
    Feb 3, 2014 at 2:34 am Reply

    We have a bunch of Bezzerwizzer boardgames at Örebro universitets spelförening which we have been given (two different versions) so we can arrange contests for students in the game where they can win a copy.

    I assume those events would possibly have less than 100 people too. I haven’t been on one.

  • Anonymous
    Feb 3, 2014 at 3:52 am Reply

    That is an awesome idea. Cheers Jamey.

  • Chris D’Andrea
    Feb 3, 2014 at 7:49 am Reply

    That is a awesome idea.

  • Jamey Stegmaier
    Feb 3, 2014 at 10:40 am Reply

    Thanks! I should be clear that it’s not my idea–I learned about it from Geekway to the West. I don’t know if it originated there or if it’s been around for a long time. Does anyone know who invented this concept?

    1. Christopher Brimmer
      Feb 4, 2014 at 10:41 am Reply

      It’s a great read and something that has been discussed among the coordinators for our annual gaming weekend event. We do something similar: All of the board games provided to Noobsource for review throughout the year or donated for the event are given away via raffles at the end of the event or during special featured events.

      For example, last year we hosted a Krosmaster Arena tournament and a The Spoils preview event with materials provided by Japanime Games and Arcane Tinmen. In the month leading up to the event, we promoted these features on our website and social media to inform readers and followers of the types of events going on during the weekend. During the event, we posted updates to these featured events on our social media pages as they were going on.

      At the end of the events, everyone who participated walked away with something. People got sets of The Spoils cards, the winner of the Krosmaster Arena tournament got a copy of the game, and everyone who entered the tournament got some promo pieces. Based on the feedback of these featured events, we found about 20% of those people either bought copies of the games we featured when they got home, or they got the game over the holidays a few months later (our event takes place in October).

      We’d love to get more game publishers and developers to sign on with us to promote their products at our event, but the challenge is getting our request to stand out from the reams of other requests I’m sure they see every week. Let’s hope that Jamey’s article reaches out to other event coordinators as it’s really good info.

      PS. If anyone here is interested in having their games included in our featured events section this year, we would be glad to promote your game there!

  • Charles
    Feb 3, 2014 at 10:47 am Reply

    Pretty sure this is a Geekway original. Play to win has been an integral part of the Geekway for years and is one of the great things about it (you know, unless you have a better than 50% shot of winning a game and still don’t ;) ).

    The beauty of PtW is that gamers want to play the new stuff anyway, and the only way to get a chance to win a game is to play it. I also like that the Geekway added the teacher rule last year. If someone volunteers to teach a game (even if they don’t play), teaching counts for adding your name to the played entry.

    1. Jamey Stegmaier
      Feb 3, 2014 at 11:01 am Reply

      Charles: Yep, Chris Darden just confirmed on Twitter that it’s a Geekway original. Very cool. And I really like that teacher rule–that makes perfect sense. That means I could have put my name down for the random game of Tzolk’in I taught! (Not to mention Viticulture…but that would defeat the point of having it there. :) )

  • Phil Alberg
    Feb 3, 2014 at 11:19 am Reply

    That’s a tremendous gesture on your part, Jamey! Thank you.

    ConnCon has sponsored a play-to-win section for several years, and it’s worked out really well. Each day of the 3-day con (Mar 14-16) there will be 6 or more games available. After you play a game, you fill out a slip of paper, and later in the evening a random winner is drawn for each game. Mark Casiglio is in charge of the boardgaming at ConnCon.

    BTW, ConnCon supports a substantial Teaching Area as well. I will be teaching Viticulture on Friday and Euphoria on Saturday.

    1. Jamey Stegmaier
      Feb 3, 2014 at 12:25 pm Reply

      Thanks Phil! I’m trying to remember if I’ve donated a copy of Euphoria to ConnCon…if not, could you send me the address?

  • John J. Coveyou (@JohnCoveyou)
    Feb 3, 2014 at 11:45 am Reply

    Jamey, I love the fact that you teach the game and gain additional entries. My only question: do you get to add ONE for each time you teach it (multiple teaching entries) or just one single entry for teaching it. I would sit by game I really want to and just teach it all day so I could increase my odds of winning :-) Then again I would miss out ob other stuff. Anyway, just wanted to clarify, thanks!

    1. Jamey Stegmaier
      Feb 3, 2014 at 11:48 am Reply

      John: I think you get to add your name to the piece of paper every time the game is played/taught (there is a different piece of paper for each session). So you could feasible just wander around teaching games (or the same game) all weekend if you prefer that to playing the games.

    2. Charles
      Feb 3, 2014 at 11:55 am Reply

      Every play and every teaching gets you an entry. The Geekway is so friendly that folks will usually stop whatever they are doing to explain games when they see a group trying to get started by reading rules anyway. The teaching thing just was a nice reward – it certainly wasn’t needed to get people to help teach games (as evidenced by newcomers like Jaime and Alan stopping to teach Viticulture before heading to bed late one night – that’s pretty typical even if it isn’t your game).

  • Tasty Minstrel Games (@TastyMinstrel)
    Feb 3, 2014 at 1:05 pm Reply

    This is not just good for tiny publishers, but also for those that are just one size larger than tiny… Like TMG. We have been supporting conventions with more support that do Play-To-Win over the past year, so there are more that are doing it now…

  • Tom Wright
    Feb 3, 2014 at 1:36 pm Reply

    Thanks Jamey. My wife runs Game for the Cause here in Austin, TX. I will make sure to show her your article.

  • kgoergen
    Feb 3, 2014 at 2:40 pm Reply

    Hi Jamey! I am the rep from one of the small conventions (PretzCon) that contacted you this year. I think I was just unclear what you meant by “play to win”. Many game companies I talked to were interested in having scheduled events for their games, which puts a lot of burden on a small convention like ours in trying to find someone who knows the game well enough to run it, or to even learn it prior to the convention, when we have so much other planning to do. I think I assumed you wanted an event like that. One game and the winner takes it home.

    Now that I understand the concept, I love this idea! What a great way to showcase small game companies. This blog entry was actually found by a different member of our committee and shared with all of us, so we are already discussing it. It’s too late for this year, but it’s definitely on the table for next year.

    1. Jamey Stegmaier
      Feb 3, 2014 at 6:27 pm Reply

      Thanks! I’m glad it makes more sense now, and I hope PretzCon goes well!

  • Jacob Chaney
    Feb 3, 2014 at 3:16 pm Reply

    Jamey,

    This is a great observation but I would say that the Play-and-Win section isn’t just good for publishers, but good for the board gaming community in general. I’ve noticed that even at events/conventions, a lot of gamers still tend to stay in their own groups. The beauty of having a play-and-win section is that it lends to gamers getting out of their comfort zone and try NEW things with NEW people. That gives me all sorts of tingly feelings because these are the types of things the community needs in order to grow stronger.

    Last year at Geekway, I noticed even myself getting away from that comfort zone and branching out. Being fairly introverted myself, that’s a pretty huge leap. Geekway definitely left an impression and I already bought my ticket for this year.

    1. Jamey Stegmaier
      Feb 3, 2014 at 6:28 pm Reply

      Jacob: Absolutely, it’s a win-win concept for everyone involve (the convention, gamers, game companies, etc). Geekway definitely made a mark on me as a gamer even more than as a publisher–I’ll be there all 4 days this year!

  • Glittercats (@PlayGlittercats)
    Feb 3, 2014 at 3:35 pm Reply

    Great idea, from both the publisher and player standpoints!

  • Alabast
    Feb 3, 2014 at 3:47 pm Reply

    Excellent way of doing it!

  • Anonymous
    Feb 3, 2014 at 4:25 pm Reply

    dare

  • Anonymous
    Feb 3, 2014 at 4:26 pm Reply

    FYI, this got posted to reddit’s board games sub and it’s sparked up a very positive conversation: http://www.reddit.com/r/boardgames/comments/1wwjpv/an_open_letter_to_small_game_conventions_from_a/

  • James
    Feb 3, 2014 at 5:38 pm Reply

    I used to run a small game con, I also ran gaming at both small and medium sized Sci Fi cons and I have done play to win style long before I had heard of Geekway. I have also done scheduled events for donated games… In fact one year all I did was run donated games… 24 total hours of gaming. My experience as an organizer is that both style events are a very mixed bag. For in demand items both are highly attended. So much that not everyone gets a chance to “play to win”. For new games from small publishers, it can be either a hit and a buzz builds around the game or a complete miss (meaning only one group of friends check out the game).

    What I have done with great success was to combine elements. Play this game and get a chance to win it.. But also get entered to win this other prize also. You can get multiple entries from a game to win it, but for the other prize you only get one entry per unique game played.

    I can go on if you want to contact me offline.

  • Daryl Andrews
    Feb 3, 2014 at 6:09 pm Reply

    I just learned about this format via Tasty Minstrel Games and we are implementing it at our upcoming event “Board Game Bash” in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario Canada on Feb 17th. Thanks for sharing the idea of the Play-To-Win. I think its a great win-win for events and hope to do more of it in the future. We do need some games to build up the library (and I run 10+ board game events per year so games get used ALOT) but I think its a great way to highlight a game or two per publisher.

  • James Doster
    Feb 3, 2014 at 6:21 pm Reply

    I’d like to add that many bigger gaming companies have demo teams and volunteers who are already happy to teach the game (and could possibly contribute more games and prizes) – some companies like – Atlas Games are happy to contribute games in exchange for advertising!

  • William Baldwin
    Feb 3, 2014 at 6:21 pm Reply

    Hasbro did this one year with Rocketville and Vegas Showdown… that’s how I got those games. I will tell the ones I know to look at this. Certainly Buckeye Game Fest should have enough people to entice small publishers and have the ability to pull it off.

  • Paul DiGennaro
    Feb 3, 2014 at 6:35 pm Reply

    Hi, I’m Paul, Ops Mgr for interventioncon. I love this idea. It fits with what we do. We are by artists, for artists. Artists of all genres, including game designers/publishers. I already spoke to the con chairs and we’ll be discussing the feasibility of implementing this tonight. Great idea and I wish that I thought of it first.

  • Pat Fuge
    Feb 3, 2014 at 7:12 pm Reply

    We’ve had a “Play for Keeps” program for a decade that is a big part of our demo/convention event programming. It works when managed properly.

    Pat Fuge
    CEO & Head Gnome
    Gnome Games & Let’s Play Events

    1. Cal
      Feb 4, 2014 at 10:19 am Reply

      Would you consider doing this at Daisho? Not that I need any more reason to spend all of my time in the board game room..=P

  • Jeff Wilcox
    Feb 3, 2014 at 8:18 pm Reply

    I love this concept.

    Having run some part of 150+ conventions, this does hit up against whatever the laws are around a raffle, so convention runners should just make themselves aware of the laws of their state.

    Beyond that – this idea is great!

    Best regards,

    Jeff Wilcox
    12SP Entertainment
    (and Curious Games)

  • Barry Figgins
    Feb 3, 2014 at 9:18 pm Reply

    To echo Jeff, make sure you research your local lottery/gambling laws. In California, this would definitely fall under the definition of a lottery and be illegal to run.

    1. Barry Figgins
      Feb 3, 2014 at 9:19 pm Reply

      You can get around that by providing an alternate form of entry, such as allowing players to enter the contest by filling out a short form without playing a game. Anyone who enters via the alternate method must have just as much chance to win as someone who played a game to enter, and you can’t attempt to coerce or guilt them into playing a game.

  • Jamey Stegmaier
    Feb 3, 2014 at 9:22 pm Reply

    Thanks, Barry and Jeff! I could see convention attendees respecting the point of that loophole and not abusing it if it’s necessary in a particular state.

  • Shane Runkle
    Feb 3, 2014 at 9:23 pm Reply

    We ran with this format at Storm-Con last year as the Cons first year. The play-and-win was so successful many of the game library games went untouched it was such a success, this year were expanding play-and -win to our RPG games as well!
    It’s been such a success that most other cons around us have begun their own types of P&W programs !

  • AndoCon (@AndoCon)
    Feb 3, 2014 at 9:30 pm Reply

    What a great idea! Thank you for sharing! AndoCon hears you loud and clear! ;)

  • Michele Mazzola
    Feb 3, 2014 at 9:34 pm Reply

    I’m part of a Game Club of Maryland and we run a convention in November called EuroQuest. We run a Play to Win event that has been very popular for the past two years.

  • Daryl McLaurine
    Feb 3, 2014 at 10:01 pm Reply

    Every large convention (Mostly WorldCons) , and every regional or genre-specific fandom convention I have run gaming for, I have always done a “Play the game/Win the game” mix of demo and prize award format. It always worked in both ways…more support from the publishers and distributors, more people playing new games, first as a demo, then to compete, Easier for me to keep a floating library of new games to demo, and to support convention runners, and in conjunction with a vendor presence from the publisher, a noticeable uptick in sales.

  • David (aka Connect More)
    Feb 3, 2014 at 10:36 pm Reply

    Absolutely spot on letter! Fantastic Jamey!

    I was involved with a small convention last year (~500 people) and whenever I had the decision as to where to put a game it was in Play to Win out of fairness to the publisher. Stragoo games sent me Mafia City when I suggested to them that I would put it in Play to Win. I ended up teaching Mafia City nearly all weekend long as the game was constantly signed out for a chance to win it. What made it even more valuable was that it was from a small foreign publisher, which has made it nearly impossible to get here in North America. People who did not win are still asking me about that game because they have played it and are pumped to play it again. This is exactly the sort of primer that a small publisher needs in all the small convention markets to give its game mass appeal! (As a separate aside – a publisher really should pick up this game as it was a huge hit at the convention..ahem…Jamey?! :) )

    If the game sat in the 800+ game library without any special reason to sign it out, chances are that it would be lost in the crowd and the publisher would have been better off sending the game to a random BGG user who might start hyping it up online! :)

    Play to Win also forces the volunteers at the convention to learn those games as well, which makes them more likely to be pointed out to con goers. With an 800+ library it is impossible to know all the games. So when casual lookers who are just looking for a good game experience come by, you tend to point them in the direction of games that you know and are comfortable with (why would you recommend something you do not know anything about…and how could you possibly teach it?!) And if nobody is there to help learn the game, the con goer is more motivated to actually sit and read the rules because there is a chance they might win something for their efforts.

    I should also add that I spent the rest of my time at the convention teaching Yedo. Why? Because I donated my own signed copy of Yedo to the convention but put it in Play to Win as well. This was just as Yedo was being released to North American markets (thank you very much Pandasaurus Games!) and I wanted to help Thomas (one of the designers) showcase his awesome game for people on the verge of making a possible purchasing decision.

    You know what I thought would be a very interesting idea for all the small conventions in North America? All of them should join a consortium or coop (so to speak) and create a calendar with all the Cons on it. Then as a group they can ask publishing companies for sponsorship game bundles that will shared throughout the year at all their conventions. So, when one convention is done they bundle it all up and send to the next one (think NetFlix when it first started or even that online board game library…does that still exist?). The argument against this that shipping will kill you. Then charge that extra $2 a person to cover this cost.

    The shipping will be reduced anyhow since all the sponsorship games can be bundled together. This way the publishers are only out 1 game, but that game might go to 15 small conventions throughout the year, which might be a total exposure of 15 x 750 > 10,000 people exposed to the game. Yowzers! Now that is something I am sure small and big publishers alike would be interested in! Plus, the publishers will only have to ship their games once…and then let the coop pass them around.

    This is also way less stress for the convention organisers. All you need is one or two representatives who represent the consortium/coop. Organize the cons, then present this to the publishers and be the main point of contact. At the convention level all you need is someone to be in contact with the main consortium person (and all they will basically do is organise shipping).

    I know last year I spent a ton of chasing dead ends and I reached the same conclusion (as well as many more) as your note Jamey.

    Who would be interested in doing such a thing? Would there be publisher buy-in to such a model? Will there be convention buy-in? If so, perhaps I could help champion the cause? Put me in coach…I’m ready to play! :)

    Sorry for the ramble – I was thinking while typing!

    Cheers,
    David
    Connect More

  • Diann Wacks
    Feb 3, 2014 at 11:06 pm Reply

    I’m the special events coordinator for GalaxyFest, and I really like this idea. We’re a gen con, but this year we’re running 2 full game rooms. The game room coordinator and I will definitely get together on this for 2015.

  • Daniel Pawliw
    Feb 4, 2014 at 12:21 am Reply

    I’m the co-coordinator for a University-club run gaming convention called Gryphcon out of the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario. We get around 200-300 players yearly, but since we run through the University we have a very unique model to work with.

    Unfortunately due to Ontario gambling laws a lottery system like this would be illegal to run without a license some heavy paperwork. Also, we have asked and gotten stuff from publishers/designers in the past, we’re in a unique position to make sure that you get paid for your hard work bringing more games to the world.

    Our funding comes from the yearly memberships for the club, and we focus on a break-even strategy for the convention (so each year we have more to spend on the convention, but NOT generated via convention profits). Part of this strategy puts more than 50% of each player’s entry fee (anywhere between $5-$20 CDN depending on how many events you sign up for) to prize support. We spend a lot of time and effort into making sure the prizes fit the theme or spirit of the game, and where feasible we give away copies of the core games (rare).

    We buy a prize or multiple prizes for every single game at the convention and we’ve left it up to the GM(s)/Storyteller/Game-Runner to decide which of the players should get the prize (It CANNOT be the GM). What prize support is available, and what goes to what game is only known by 3-4 staff members, is held in a prize vault, and is delivered near the end of the game to prevent people from competing for it.

    Many of the games the GMs actually let the entire table decide, but most of the time it goes to a player who made everyone’s play experience just that much better. In the near decade of playing in, helping out with, and for the last 4 years co-coordinating the convention, we have only had a problem with this policy once… and it was just a new GM who didn’t realize it was a giveaway prize.

  • Jamey Stegmaier
    Feb 4, 2014 at 1:07 am Reply

    Many of you have shared some really great insights and ideas above–thank you! I like that s many of you have already implemented the play-and-win section, and others are discovering it and trying it out now. David, that’s an intriguing idea of having a moving game library–I think some game conventions already do that. Is there a website hub for all gaming organizations?

    Daniel: It sounds like your convention down to a science!

    1. David Minken
      Feb 4, 2014 at 8:55 am Reply

      Jamey – not that I am aware of. I am a believer that necessity is the mother of all invention. I will dig around and see if there would even be interest and/or support in such an idea (perhaps a geeklist is in order?). If anyone is aware of such a thing, or would be interested please let me know! Have a great day!

      David

  • Eric Portney
    Feb 4, 2014 at 3:09 am Reply

    Jamey, I’ve been thinking about this all day. I am Gaming Manager for Emerald City Comicon, which will take place in just under two months. I think that is enough time for me to implement this for this year! I also spoke today with one of the volunteers from Geekway about how this is run, and am mulling over the logistics. I think I can make it work :)

    Thank you for bringing this to everyone’s attention today. It’s a simple, wonderful idea that benefits both show attendees and the publishers who provide convention support, but it’s also so easy to forget to implement if you don’t have a plan in place to ensure it happens at a show.

  • Mike O’Brien
    Feb 4, 2014 at 9:56 am Reply

    I brought this up as an idea for ConQuest SAC http://www.conquestsac.com for 2015 or maybe ConQuest Avalon this year. If so, we will contact you.
    Love Euphoria.

  • Barry Lewis
    Feb 4, 2014 at 10:05 am Reply

    We did a play to win at our convention last year and it was wildly popular! We’re doing it again this year as well. Stonemaier participated in it as well. Our game library went basically untouched!

  • Heather Hopp
    Feb 4, 2014 at 10:15 am Reply

    THANK YOU! Con on the Cob will take the idea and run with it. We currently have both a library and a raffle (which helps defer the cost of running the con), but I think this would be a wonderful addition to the library as we know it. We would love to keep a single copy for the library, but the play and win and raffle distribution will be at the discretion of the publisher donating. If you haven’t considered us before we’re at http://www.cononthecob.com . It’s run by myself and my husband, Andy Hopp, who is an artist and small publisher himself ( http://www.muthaoithcreations.com ), so we appreciate the thoughtful blog and great idea!

    1. Jamey Stegmaier
      Feb 4, 2014 at 10:34 am Reply

      Heather, Mike, Eric, others: If you want a copy of Euphoria for your play-and-win section, please contact me with your mailing address at stonemaiergames@gmail.com. I gave away a bunch of copies yesterday after this blog post started getting passed around the internets. :)

  • Eleri Hamilton
    Feb 4, 2014 at 10:45 am Reply

    My only ponder about this, is how it impacts the Con having to restock the library every year? Do they ask for a new copy from the publisher? Cross their fingers for more donations?

    1. Jamey Stegmaier
      Feb 4, 2014 at 10:49 am Reply

      Eleri: It does take a little more work, I’m guessing, but once you build up a database of publishers to contact, it’s probably just about a day’s worth of work once a year to contact them to ask for new games.

    2. Jamey Stegmaier
      Feb 4, 2014 at 10:52 am Reply

      I should also say that the most successful repeat solicitation for me would be one that said, “Hey, thanks for donating Euphoria to our play-and-win section last year. 35 people played it over the course of the convention. We’d love to have [specific new games] in our play-and-win section this year on [date]. Here’s our address: ______”

      That would be the best e-mail to get from a convention. Second best would be one that just thanks us for last year’s donation (I’m sure that tracking plays would be an extra hassle for an already overworked convention crew). Worst would be a mass e-mail with no personalization that doesn’t acknowledge past contributions.

  • Daryl McLaurine
    Feb 4, 2014 at 10:50 am Reply

    Usually, you ask for two. One for your library, one as the prize…or they send one for the library, and redeemable certificate for the prize(s)

  • Kenneth Versaw
    Feb 4, 2014 at 10:51 am Reply

    I am an organizer for a non profit convention called the Great Plains Game Festival and this idea fits perfectly into what we want to do. I absolutely love it and will be implementing it this March. Thanks!

  • Anna
    Feb 4, 2014 at 11:13 am Reply

    We’re hosting a small convention in Washington, DC next year. This sounds like a great idea for us since our gaming room won’t be crazy big.

  • Esther MacCallum-Stewart
    Feb 4, 2014 at 11:13 am Reply

    Just been sent this by another organiser and will be adding it as an aspect of the Games Programme at Worldcon this year. Would you be interested? We’re also going to add the option that people coming from overseas who don’t want to go over their luggage allowance can give it to one of the local boardgaming groups that will be attending games and running games for us. Thanks for the suggestion!

    1. Jamey Stegmaier
      Feb 4, 2014 at 11:15 am Reply

      Esther–Of course! We’re interested in any play-and-win section. You can contact me at stonemaiergames@gmail.com.

  • fraustaenki
    Feb 4, 2014 at 11:33 am Reply

    Very nice idea, but what about the games that become classics and are most likely asked for in the next year of that tiny convention??!

    1. Jamey Stegmaier
      Feb 4, 2014 at 11:36 am Reply

      There’s nothing wrong with putting older games in a play-and-win section. At the same time, people have had a much greater opportunity to play and buy older games than newer games. I think it would be good for a publisher who is about to release an expansion for a game or if they’re trying to inject new life into an older game.

  • Avonelle Wing, Double Exposure, Inc.
    Feb 4, 2014 at 12:13 pm Reply

    We have a different model, because an open-play area doesn’t fit into our vision of how board gaming at our conventions should work at DEXCON or DREAMATION.*
    When you have open gaming, and you have a giant library of games available to your players, you either need a massive, flexible staff available at a moment’s notice to teach the game or you rely on your players to know/teach the game themselves.
    For us, there’s great value to having somebody who is easy and confident with the game, and to having hot properties in our convention library – the ability to offer a game that picks up steam has great value both for us and the publisher. And things stay in rotation until they cool down – we don’t stick with just the latest hot product. Our copy of Puerto Rico has been in circulation since we received it and we’re only now talking about retiring it. That’s a lot of exposure.
    Because we schedule our games, you can look at the schedule and know exactly when to show up to learn something new. And because we staff new things (and complex older things), you know without a doubt that there will be somebody at the table to teach you how to play.
    We just don’t like sending a new/unknown game out into the wild without a teacher. and we offer so many games that there’s no way we could cover the breadth of offerings we provide as many hours as we do without a schedule.

    *other conventions use other models, but after years of adjustment and modification, this is the model that works for us and our community. I totally get that play to win makes sense, but if you compare it to the likelihood that you’d get greater exposure at our conventions than you would with our standard model, within our community, your odds are about equal.

  • Jeffrey Hammerlund
    Feb 4, 2014 at 6:49 pm Reply

    We at Nexus Game Fair are certainly willing to talk about this kind of idea. We are a first year show in Milwaukee Wisconsin June 19-22, 2014 at the Airport Clarion. Please contact us at http://www.nexusfairfair.com if you are willing to help us find more small companies to get copies of games for this type of area. You can e- Mail me at jeff@nexusgamefair.com

  • ike
    Feb 4, 2014 at 9:51 pm Reply

    FanExpo and other cons have tournaments where the winner wins the game, but I like this idea much better!

  • attilla13
    Feb 5, 2014 at 10:26 am Reply

    I have a confession, I did not recognize the name Stonemaier Games. Please don’t be offended, as I am normally more of a wargamer than board game player. However, our kids have finally gotten to the age that they can play some of the more “complex” titles, and we have started a Game night every other week. Pretty much started with basics like Catan, Scene-it, etc. But we have started getting new games as well. The first introduction to conventions was the Adepticon event (for wargames), but they now want to go to other events as well.

    A friend (who makes Shuuro and Loka, etc) linked your blog on facebook, and so I came over. While I understand that this may not have been your original idea, it really appeals to me, as one of the things I was looking for was a convention that did have a Play board games section.

    I used to work for a large miniature manufacturer, and so I also have an interest in the gaming business, and the workings of conventions. I have to say that I was impressed with your “Open Letter” because it was not a whine about all those people asking for free games, but a message on how they could benefit, and with a method that would also benefit their gamers and you. Very forward thinking and open.

    And on a better note, I am familiar with Euphoria (at least as far as I believe it was a kickstarter last summer?), now I want to get a copy and try it out. Good Luck with your endeavors, and for any Convention Coordinators out there, I have a family with four kids, and we’d all be interested in an event like this! Thanks!

  • Jamey Stegmaier
    Feb 5, 2014 at 10:49 am Reply

    attilla13: Thanks for your nice comment. I’m happy to contribute something positive to the industry, and I’m pleasantly surprised by how many people are sharing it. This blog usually averages about 1,000 hits a day, but the last two days have received over 9,000 hits each!

    It wasn’t my intent to try to sell our games through this post, but if you’re interested in Euphoria, your local game store probably has a copy (and if not, you could request it or order through us). Thanks!

  • attilla13
    Feb 5, 2014 at 10:57 am Reply

    I have already called my FLGS, and they do have it. (They luckily carry a lot of board games!) I should be picking it up this weekend. Thanks again – and I know you were not trying to sell the games (at least not hard sell ;) ) but I’ll be happy if it does have that side effect! And i do truly hope more conventions use this, not just you, but I could see this really helping a lot of small publishers. The game industry is hard enough as it is, would love to see more great ideas take off – the big boys can only do so much with their games after all…

  • Jamey Stegmaier
    Feb 5, 2014 at 11:02 am Reply

    Awesome! I’m glad to hear it. Fortunately Kickstarter has been a huge asset for us little guys :)

  • Jennifer Ward
    Feb 5, 2014 at 5:49 pm Reply

    This is a great idea, and at the perfect time. I’m busy putting together the gaming half of ZappCon (zappcon.com). If I can get games donated from various companies, then I know this is the way we’ll give them away!

    Thanks for sharing this. I hope to see more cons adopt it.

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  • Robin
    Feb 5, 2014 at 11:28 pm Reply

    We are a 5,000 + show – and we still love Play to Win! http://www.xconworld.com

  • Jamey Stegmaier
    Feb 6, 2014 at 9:20 am Reply

    Thanks Robin! I didn’t mean to leave out bigger conventions–I think it’s great that you’re able to attract so many people. Does your play-and-win section get a lot of attention from attendees? My only concern would be that it would get lost in all the other things going on at a bigger convention.

  • Sean Wanderer
    Feb 7, 2014 at 12:06 am Reply

    SaltCON is a 3-day event in Salt Lake City with a great turn out! They have sent out requests to manufacturers and distributors to participate in Play to Win events, so what are you sending this year? http://www.saltcon.com/

  • Jamey Stegmaier
    Feb 7, 2014 at 12:09 am Reply

    That’s great to hear, Sean! I actually submitted a copy of Euphoria to Saltcon through one of our Stonemaier ambassadors about a month ago. :)

  • Jeremy Commandeur
    Feb 9, 2014 at 11:22 pm Reply

    This situation might be a great time to use the component upgrade kits. Instead of play to win the game, play to win the upgrade kit. The Con gets to keep the game in their library and re-use it next time. You as the publisher only have to mail out the cheaper/smaller component upgrade kit for each con. Players who win the kit need to buy the retail game from their FLGS to use the upgrade kit.

  • Jamey Stegmaier
    Feb 10, 2014 at 12:13 am Reply

    I like that idea, Jeremy! Although I’m not sure the resource kit will be cheaper–those metal and resin resources aren’t cheap! :)

  • Jeremy Commandeur
    Feb 10, 2014 at 2:50 am Reply

    Mailing promotional full copies of the game is expensive and time consuming. If you get a lot of con requests, I don’t know how a small publisher could keep up with that. Maybe its worth creating a con support kit with promo cards or an official winner certificate with art from the game to use as an alternative.

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  • Robert A.
    Feb 24, 2014 at 4:10 am Reply

    While I admire the intention here, there’s some problems with this concept at the conventions I’ve worked.

    1. If there’s a chance people may win a game, they may not purchase the game from a dealer prior to the drawing. Dealer rooms are a really, really, nice thing to have at a convention. If there’s a mass drawing at the end of the convention — well, dealers may not see much business for small titles in the lead-up to the drawing.

    2. The incredibly limited donations from publishers are largely given to the incredibly hard-working volunteers that make the convention run and provide the fun. If a sizable fraction of games were given to the convention goers over volunteers, there would be half of almost nothing for them.

    Game publishers should realize the above and how play-and-win could work counter to dealer rooms and volunteer rewards.

    1. Jamey Stegmaier
      Feb 24, 2014 at 9:39 am Reply

      Robert: That’s an interesting perspective. I think the key is that dealers might need to keep their booths open after the play-and-win drawing ends–that way there will be a lot of people who want a certain game but didn’t win it. Would any dealers like to comment on this?

      I don’t know the economics of running a convention, but given the work that volunteers put in, I’m a little surprised they aren’t paid out of the convention feeds (thus becoming temporary employees, not volunteers).

      1. Jeff Wilcox
        Feb 24, 2014 at 9:36 pm Reply

        Jamey,

        Most people running a convention are volunteers. If they work XX hours then they get their badge comped. Sometimes there might be other perks (drinks and munchies). Rarely more than that.

        The organizing staff of the show usually are volunteers as well, but might also get their rooms comped. or maybe get some other perks. But rarely are any of them paid employees, temporary or otherwise.

        NOTE: I am talking about local and regional conventions. The structure of Origiins, the two PAX, and GenCon, are probably different.

        ————————–

        Robert A.,

        Your exact arguments against this are the ones used against having a flea market – and conventions ignore those arguments all the time and the impact of a flea market on a dealers room is negligible.

        While a person or two *might* actually hold off making ANY purchase, the vast majority will not wait, or simply spend their money on a different product in the dealer’s room instead. In the end this sort of program (much like a flea market) will have little impact on sales.

        The number one things that impacts sales is the number of people at the show.

        As for giving donated games to staff – I am uncertain what percentage of conventions do this. I have worked on staff for over 120 conventions and that sort of thing used to happen back in the 90s a little – especially when CCGs were big and there were some free-floating-packs in the prize pool.

        Maybe it is an East Coast thing. (I have worked on the West Coast primarily.)

        But the events themselves – both the convention spanning “play-and-win” concept, and the actual giving out of the games – are probably a better use of the games.

        It will create an increased buzz in the open gaming areas. And since those games would be self-organizing they take fewer man-hours to handle.

        The best thing is to hold the prize giving event on the final day, thus luring attendees to stay longer.

        I am just not seeing it as an issue at all for a convention.

        ymmv, of course.

        Best regards,

        Jeff Wilcox

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  • Jamey Stegmaier
    Jun 3, 2014 at 2:07 pm Reply

    It’s been a few months since I posted this entry, but I wanted to mention that I just wrote a follow-up entry with some hard data and analysis from the play-to-win section at this year’s Geekway to the West:

    http://stonemaiergames.com/the-hard-data-behind-play-to-win/

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