3 min read

My First Convention Booth - Postmortem

My First Convention Booth - Postmortem

I showcased my game, Luck be a Landlord, at PopCon Indy last weekend! Was it worth it? Let's crunch some numbers and find out!

The Money

One-time Expenses

These are expenses that I have no way of re-using for future events. For example, the cost of electricity at the convention center.

Expense Amount
Booth -$525
Electricity -$128
Transportation -$90
Total -$743

I also paid some local friends for their help with set-up and running the booth, but I think I can handle all the labor on my own at future events, so I haven't counted it here.

Reusable Expenses

These are purchases that I can re-use for future events or find some other purpose for. Like the Luck be a Landlord banner I had printed and the Fire tablets I demoed the game on.

Expense Amount
Demo Tablets -$200
Extra Table -$67
Banner -$64
Security Cables -$51
Business Cards -$38
Display Containers -$35
Whiteboards -$30
Tablet Stands -$28
Total -$513

Merch Sales

I sold my merch at the event to help offset the expenses. The merch doesn't cost $0 to make, so I've taken that into account as well.

Entry Amount
Merch Sales $340
Materials & Labor -$156
Total $184

So overall, financially, was it worth it? On the surface, no. I lost $559 ($1,072 if you count the reusable expenses).

However, months before the convention, I watched this fantastic GDC talk to prepare. One takeaway Nicolae (the speaker) had at the end of the talk was that you'll barely generate any sales or wishlists from having a booth at a convention, but you will make important connections. I very much agree with both aspects of this.

I didn't notice any additional sales or wishlists, but I made some really nice connections with attendees and other vendors as the convention was winding down. Bring business cards. They're so important.

The merch didn't pay for the booth, but it did help offset expenses. It also drew the attention of attendees much more than the game itself. Turns out people like cute cat plushies, what a concept!

The People

Having a booth can also be very good for morale. I had a lot of people come up to my booth and say things like "I love your game!" and "Are you the developer? It's so cool to meet you!" There was even a fan who wanted me to autograph their friend's sticker sheet, a first for me!

Even if the game isn't well received by the attendees, that can still be vital playtesting and marketing feedback. A lot of attendees at this particular convention weren't really sure what my booth even was. If someone had a confused expression at my booth, I modified my pitch by starting with "it's a video game" instead of "it's a slot machine roguelike deckbuilder."

A few dozen people told me they had my game on Steam and then were surprised when I told them I'd ported it to mobile as well. This is very good actionable data. I'll have to find more ways to inform players that the mobile version exists.

The Advertising

While not a lot of people stopped at my booth, a lot of them saw my banner and confusingly mouthed the words "Luck be a Landlord?" While this doesn't create any sales or word-of-mouth at first, this gets my game's title and imagery into more brains.

I figure that if someone has seen a game's title before, they're more likely to check it out later on a storefront. I don't have an exact study to back this up, but I've seen this happen time and time again with my friends. The old "Oh this game! I've heard of this."

Speaking of word-of-mouth, I had a lot of instances of attendees telling their friends good things about my game once they saw my booth. Something I know for a fact is very important.

I also gave away physical Luck be a Landlord Steam keys to anyone who bought merch. I made sure to mention this to anyone who played my game on the show floor. People seemed to like it, so I consider that a success and something I'd do again.

The Takeaways

  • Conventions can be great for building morale, making connections, and gathering playtesting/marketing data.
  • It is extremely likely you will lose money in the short-term while having a convention booth.
  • The connections you make and lessons you'll learn can be worth the time and money.
  • This time around, the connections, lessons, and happiness were definitely worth my time and money.
  • Practice your game's elevator pitch and adapt it depending on the show and attendees.
  • Think of a way to give away physical Steam keys for your game.
  • Bring. Business. Cards.

Feel free to send me an email if you have any questions or comments about my postmortem, I'd love to chat!

Until next time!