Although Kite has been in development for over 2 years now, there haven’t been many opportunities to show it off at an event. This year however, I was invited to show at the Eugene Comicon, or Eucon – where there is an entire island dedicated to Indie games. I eagerly accepted the challenge, and it proved to be well worth the effort!
Sharing a few of the big takeaways and surprises will be the focus of this post; if you haven’t shown your game before it’s an intimidating task and you’ll need all the help you can get. Some of this is very 101, but there should be a tidbit for everyone!
Eucon is a strange place, Eugene being a pretty small town, the con has a real backwoods feel. This was the second year and the floor space was at least double last year’s. In 2015 it was fiercely crowded, but from what I can tell – that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. This year’s expansive space was never really crowded and there honestly weren’t enough vendors to fill the two large rooms, leaving some very dreary corners and areas in the room we were in. My main problem with this was when you’re in a big huge convention room and it’s only 1/2 full of vendors it really takes away from the ‘excitement of abundance’ as I call it. As humans, we want to see full, complete, abundant things. Just like at a grocery store or a good party. You need to build up that frenzy and a crowded, busy atmosphere is ideal.
That being said, nothing to be done about it! You work with what you got and applying the same abundance principal to everything under your control is a great strategy. The more people around your booth, the more people it will attract. The more product out on the table, the more people will buy. The more empty space, the less folks will be interested. You get the idea.
Humans love to consume the best of the best and taking the first item from a complete group is immensely satisfying to us so keep a bunch of all your swag and items out at the same time and replenish them.
Having at least two stations is crucial. We left one machine sitting there, mid-stage, just waiting to be played, and the other would always be reset after someone left to go through the intro loop. One of the two would grab most people’s eyeballs for a bit.
Have an intro loop. You need to mesmerize people every second they look at those screens and a static title or menu won’t do it.
Have a good stereo. Don’t make it an arms race with your neighbors but as politely as possible, pump the bass. You will cut through the din with your SFX and music and I guarantee none of the potential customers will say ‘turn it down’.
Having a mouse/keyboard as opposed to a controller is intimidating. Engaging with people is incredibly easy when you can just hand them a controller. You’ll also have 80% of parents and children able to attempt your game. Which brought me to one of my biggest takeaways!
Holy #%^$ kids want to play my game so bad. And most of their parents want to buy it for them! Somehow this completely escaped me, but that was sort of the point of making Kite! Build the game I would’ve wanted to play in middle school. One thing about these kids is that they have home ‘rules’ limiting their playtime (as opposed to the modern adult realities of being chewed up and ejected into the great spittoon of life). Most of them want to make games for a living (strange considering we’re really light on Biggie and Jordan types) and their parents honestly want to support them.
These factors all combine to literally make the perfect customers and as a solo dev my pitch wrote itself:
“Your kid is really good at Kite.”
“Oh yeah they love games you know, their friends all play ___craft.”
“Nice! ___craft has really opened up a lot of horizons for this generation because it’s so accessible and creative.”
“Yeah, they even mess around with this after-school program and work on making games. How big is your team?”
“Just me. Yup, art, sound – I had the soundtrack composed though. This Canadian guy, he was great.”
We talk about gamedev, learning programming or art or Gamemaker specifically. How I always wanted to do games too but didn’t until recently because it was more accessible. Meanwhile the kid is just locked in, usually blasting the hell out of some plants.
“We like how it’s not really violent or too sexy.”
“Yeah just doing what I can to promote a non-sexualized female protagonist. Stuff like that is the biggest issue with my industry.”
At this point, unless they don’t have a computer, they’re asking to buy or how much the game costs. It also helped that I released the same day as the con so I could call it brand new, etc.
Have a raffle and have swag. We raffled off a free swag box every 2 hours for the entire con. The swag box had all my postcards of game art, a fridge magnet, robot stickers, a sweet envelop and card with the Steam key and the box itself was hand painted in Kite’s traditional colors of cyan, lime and magenta. You bet people are signing up completely free, giving me their emails (squeeze page anyone?). It also gives non-players something to do and lodges your game firmly in their brain.
It was awesome to see people win too! Several hadn’t ever won a single thing and they were just on cloud nine. If they couldn’t redeem it in person a key was emailed to them.
Have posters, big ones. When I ordered from Vistaprint I thought “2.5 x 4 that’s a huge poster” and it is, if you’re at home. The scale of things is completely different at a con and I promise you that it’s nearly impossible to go ‘too big’.
Have fun with your appearance! You’re at a con, everyone is wearing something weird, join the fray! There was one other Indie guy who dressed up and he had a different ridiculous suit from Oppo-Suits each day. Him and I got a lot of attention for dressing up at all.
Have help. No way could I have pulled it all off on my own, the Indie Con team had multiple aides each day helping everyone out, the main director lent me his son’s computer for the second station and I had incredibly good advice giving booth mates. Not to mention my wife Dana and good friends Mike, Shannon, and Hunter all helping out.