After three years of going to every game convention I could find, I'm finally taking a break. You'll still see Black Diamond Games at Dundracon and Conquest, you just won't see me for a while. The bottom line is that it's just exhausting. It makes me feel old. I've lost that loving feeling. Time out for Gary.
Conventions got us through some lean months over the past few years, and the money we made was unbeatable. I also enjoyed working in an environment with other vendors, seeing what they had to offer and learning about what they think is hot. The customer too were fun to talk to, although they could often be rather mercenary at times. There's no relationship to build or maintain at a convention, so it's all about what you can do for them right now.
Trade shows, on the other hand, are where I'll be focusing this year. The San Francisco International Gift Fair is in February. That's where I've found things like the pirate bandaids. It's free and close and I can do it on my day off, so it's no big deal. As an aside, it's also the largest concentration of women I've seen since college. It's a shock considering I'm surrounded by guys in their 30's most of the time.
The Gama Trade Show is in April. Last year I skipped it and had an unbeatable experience at the ill fated Games Expo, or Game Sexpo as we call it now, since their website turned to porn. Low attendance meant great service from the vendors. Usually they're too busy at GTS to spend much time with you.
I've never been disappointed overall with what I've found at GTS. One year I quantified the sales of stuff I learned about from GTS and found that I at least broke even by attending. This is the hobby game show that everyone in the industry attends (except Games Workshop). It's in Las Vegas and the only question is whether to go for two or four days (probably two). Forget trade journals, websites, the "GIN" forum, it's what you learn at GTS that determines if you're in the know for that year.
After GTS, there's always the question of Gencon. Gencon has become a combination trade show, game convention of sorts. Many products debut there instead of at GTS, especially RPG products. I think I would only go if I found a friend to come with me; it's just too much of a social experience to go it alone. I've never been to Gencon. There. I said it. Shame me now.
Finally, we're having mini conventions of our own each month. I'm hoping to spend more time playing in them rather than being ringleader. We've got a boardgame and miniatures mini-con on January 19th-21st, our "Non-Con" on February 16th, coinciding with Dundracon weekend, and a war games mini con on March 15th. Every month will have a mini convention of one kind or another.