Friday, July 03, 2009

Origins Game Fair 09

I was at my sixth consecutive Origins Game Fair last week, and I have to say that it has "diminished". Where it really hit was in the lack of exhibitors and apparent lack of attendees. The auction appeared to be in a smaller area with fewer items and fewer bidders, but that's hard to judge. Smaller booths for companies, or no booths at all for hobby game mainstays (Days of Wonder, GMT), were the order of the day. I was told GAMA raised the booth prices, but other folks didn't seem to think that was a sufficient explanation. Matrix Games, the makers of electronic wargames, were not there. Those "Really Big Show" booths that used to dominate the floor from WotC, WizKids, AEG, and so on were all gone. The aisles were all wide, the area at the end of the hall where the larping practice took place was even larger than in past years. We still had the slightly pathetic little booths of self-publishers who have one or two games and were trying to drum up interest. They usually find it isn't worth the cost, and aren't back the next year, replaced with another set. I admire their moxie, but maybe not their business sense.

FantasyFlightGames was there but no Britannia copies were in sight (they could have sold out, they had two days before I got there).

The economy is clearly part of the effect. Avalanche had a booth but sent only one person instead of three. The attendance seemed to be down, and certainly judging from attendance at seminars, there were fewer people at Origins this year. (Official attendance may look better because this is the second year for the $10 ticket that is only for the exhibits and such.) I talked with someone who'd just been to an engineers conference where attendance was 40-60%, and he said others there had told a similar story about other conferences. Who knows what it will be like next year? I expect the recovery from this debt-based recession to be very slow and limited, as we're not willing to stop going further into debt as a country.

The usual Chinese companies trying to drum up business manufacturing game parts seemed to be missing. Someone told me that the minimum order from China had risen from $5,000 to 10,000 PIECES of an item. Though I talked with someone else who had found a Chinese producer of nice plastic parts willing to make just 2,000 of each.

Some companies are doing well. Decision Games is growing in their magazine production. "Strategy & Tactics" has a 15-20K circulation altogether, more without the game. They emphasize analytical articles and maps maps maps. But their "Fire & Movement" magazine was not mentioned in the Decision Games update, so it may be that magazines about games rather than about history aren't doing well.

Attendance at Monte Cook's seminars--admittedly, they weren't in the convention book, but were listed on easels in main thoroughfares--was quite low, considering how well-known he is in RPGdom (wrote the 3rd Edition Dungeonmasters Guide, among many others). Attendance at my seminars was way down from the past two years.

I have always disliked the money aspects of Orgins: you pay extra to play games, even open gaming! You pay extra for a lot of the seminars ("Origins War College"). Mine are free, btw. WBC is a MUCH, MUCH more friendly environment for game playing, but as it's limited to boardgames (which are a stepchild at Origins, I think), the minis guys and CCGs types and RPGers aren't at WBC and probably wouldn't be welcomed in large numbers.

There wasn't much opportunity for business from my point of view, and I'm not sure I'll attend next year.

I did my usual survey, counting people walking past a particular main thoroughfare. The result (out of 200, counted in two separate sets of 100) was 45 women out of 200, and only three black people (all males). This fits with previous years, relatively many women, very few blacks. I saw no one who appeared to be Hispanic, but I think that's too hard to notice in any case. There is definitely a cultural difference when it comes to attending non-electronic game conventions. (I'll have to count at the next video game convention I attend, but I think the proportion of blacks is higher.)

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