tinyBuild's Games Convention Survival Guide
I thought it'd be useful to make a cheat-sheet for convention showcasing for young developers. Past few years we exhibited at GDC/PAX South-East-Prime/Gamescom/EGX and many more. This specific post refers to showcasing at a consumer show or convention, and is specifically designed for an Indie Megabooth-style collaboration where you have a small booth alongside a series of other smaller booths. It becomes different when you scale up.
Here's what it's like to build a large booth:
I'm writing this in prep for Gamescom specifically, where we are in the Indie Arena with SpeedRunners. Hope it helps!
Have a great showbuild
Be friendly and open
Have a card-sized flier
Reward players for being at the show
Make it interesting to participate
1. Have a great showbuild
You need to have a concentrated build of your game. It will be different from what you'll sell on Steam/ps4/xbox one -- it has to be a build that a person can play for 10 minutes, and get an idea of what your game is about.
For Local Multiplayer Games, have bots take over control if anyone isn't playing - and give back control to a player when a button is pressed
For Single Player / Campaign Style games - create a demo that teaches the player how to play, and gives a small slice of what the game is about
Do NOT try to force-explain to players how to play the game
Do NOT hover over players, taking over control of the keyboard/mouse
The whole purpose of this is for players to enjoy your game, not see you play it for them
By observing - not participating, you're learning how well your build does on its own, you're seeing what player intuitively try to do. Use this knowledge wisely! A good showbuild can mean a deal with Sony or Microsoft to be showcased at their booths. Download our showbuild of SpeedRunners from here
2. Be friendly and open
If you're just sitting there and watching people play, with your back turned to the hallway, nobody will approach you.
Always face the players, never turn your back on them
Do not just sit there, we know it's tiring but you have to be upbeat, always standing, and chatting with the people waiting in line
Smile. It goes a long way.
Do never ever interfere with people trying to figure out your game, unless they ask for help
If you're with a group, do not stand around chatting with yourselves, spread out and ask players about what they like seeing in the game, ask what they couldn't figure out, etc Remember, there is a ton of Youtubers walking around that area, and you should treat everyone equally because it might turn out that the one guy is big and will get you tons of coverage
3. Have a card-sized flier
Nobody takes A4-size fliers
Needs to have a clear logo of the game, and a URL
Adding your contact details on other side helps
Seriously, everyone will throw away your large fliers, don't even bother with those
4. Reward players for being at the show
Give out swag
Give out special builds of the game
Give out steam keys to top players
If you see someone who is super engaged in your game, give him a card with a Steam Key. He will be good at the game, enjoy it, and tell all his friends about that game -- possibly become a moderator on your forum. If anyone mentions "oh, it's a lost sale" -- I will personally slap that person. You're at a convention competing for attention from the most engaged gamers on the planet - reward them for being there and let them spread the word to less engaged gamers.
5. Make it interesting to participate!
I can't stress this one out enough. It's a show. It's an event. Make something interesting! It can be as simple as "best highscore wins this stupid hat". We're hosting SpeedRunners tournaments at all of our events, and giving out T-Shirts. It's very expensive, and requires a lot of coordination. But because of this we're now getting to host our finals on the twitch stage at the end of Wednesday and Thursday. Invest everything you make from your games back into these events, and it'll be worth your while.
Make a competition with valuable prizes - it can be swag that you're selling either way
Juicybeast did a fantastic thing at PAX East where they gave away steam keys to all observers when someone won a boss - I'm totally stealing that idea for PAX Prime
Other things specifically for Gamescom
Practice your game pitch, it needs to be very short
There is a language barrier in Germany, speak clearly and loudly
Get earplugs on the off-chance of loud bass stage next to your booth
Practice speaking really loud. Otherwise people won't hear you, smile awkwardly, and walk away
This is not a walk in the park. Gamescom is the most tiring event I've been to, especially if you're also doing GDC Europe.
Prepare yourself - work out, eat healthy, take lots of walks leading up to it.
Lack of sleep, convention food, stress -- all of this will get to you, prepare yourself physically and mentally
On the press front
We stopped bothering with pushing for press meetings at conventions. We'd rather have people follow us on twitter and become fans of our games, than to desperately try to get interviews.. Focus on getting hardcore fans of your brand, and your game - then those fans will tell their favorite youtubers/streamers to play your game, and you'll get sales.
Bonus video: how NOT to do PAX South, a full video log of doing a large scale convention with 5 people
Security at the booth? - Use zipties, duck tape, and always have someone at the booth
Banners? - Use standing banners or "backwall" setups
Seating? - Use bean bags, never use chairs with back support - they're awkward to get into
Press kit thing? - Create a page that has...
an embedded trailer
short info on your game, platform
layered key art in PNGs
link to that page from your fliers
I post general tips on our twitter constantly, so make sure to follow @tinyBuild