This weekend I had a stall at UK Games Expo, the UK’s biggest gaming convention. I chatted to lots of people about my games, and did a decent level of sales. It was a great experience, and I’ll happily go again.
Expo takes place in Birmingham, our second-largest city after London, well placed for visitors from around the country. It covers board games, card games, roleplaying games, miniatures games and pretty much any other sort of game. It’s still quite a young event: this was its seventh year. It’s a sales-focused convention with loads of trade stands, but there’s also a substantial game-playing programme of pre-booked slots and a lot of board game demos.
This year Expo had made the bold and slightly scary step to a new venue: the Hilton hotel near the NEC and airport. I think everyone had liked the old venue, but they needed more space – and game-playing areas not hidden in the basement labyrinth! Fortunately it was a great success, with around 3500 people attending over the three days. 3500! And almost 100 exhibitors.
There were glitches of course. The most common negative feedback is that the hotel’s food and drink prices are aimed at businesspeople using the airport and exhibition centre. It would have cost me over £4 for one of their peppermint teas! (Thankfully, as you all know, I keep a supply next to my grappling line and timarangs.) The Expo organisers had set up a lower-cost area, but had found it difficult to convince the hotel of the likely footfall. I think they know the nature of the beast now! Overall, though, I’ve seen little or no serious complaint, and lots of people saying they had a great time. Score!
Here’s our stand, set up and ready to go. I was sharing with Graham Spearing of Wordplay Games, who you can see in full male model mode. Graham has recently launched Age of Arthur – 5th century Britain, warring kingdoms, Saxons, fae, using the Fate system. That did really well. In fact, we tended to find that either AoA or Albion would attract people in, and most of them would be interested in the other one as well. I sold out of the Albion copies I’d brought, which was very pleasing. Rocket Amoeba, which I was launching at the show, didn’t sell so well but at least it got it in front of people.
It was also great to be within hailing range of folks we know at Pelgrane and Chronicle City. The Pelgrane guys saved my bacon with a working net hook-up for my new iPad card payment set-up. Of course other friends were scattered around the halls. I just wish there had been more time to talk to them, but it was too busy! The initial rush when the doors first opened on Saturday was like nothing I’ve seen at UK cons. Selling books in the first few minutes is great for settling in and relaxing a bit.
I’d definitely go again as long as I have new products to sell. I’ve been musing on lessons learned over on Facebook. They definitely include pull-up banners for vertical visibility, and linking more marketing to the show. Many UK conventions have overlapping audiences drawn from a pool of the usual suspects, but Expo is different. It was a big reminder of how many people aren’t hooked up to the online chat about RPGs: we mentioned AoA using the Fate system, thinking it was a selling point, but most of them had never heard of it! It’d also be nice to form a bigger coalition, get a bit more space, and book earlier to be sure of a good location. We had a great spot this year, but with a late booking it was lucky that was available. It’d definitely be useful to get some extra helpers.
So, hi to everyone I spoke to, thanks to all who bought stuff, and enormous kudos to the organisers. Till next time!