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