Sac Arcade update

I mentioned quite a while back that I wanted to put together a game convention.  The model makes a lot of sense.  Gamers want to see new games up close and personal.  Game developers want to get as much exposure as they can while their games are in development.  As long as I can provide a venue and bring these two groups together, it should be smooth sailing.

I believe that Sacramento can support a large event such as this.  The cost of doing conventions in the bay area is high.  But Sacramento is relatively inexpensive.  In fact, the Sacramento Convention Center gets so little use, that it goes unused much of the time and loses the city money because of that.  I asked for a price sheet a while back.  It’s actually pretty cheap to rent.  I was surprised.  There are also a lot of gamers in Sacramento.  This whole model just makes sense.  Um, but there was one single problem that derailed the entire thing.

The exhibitors won’t come.

Had you asked me a month ago if it would be a problem attracting game companies to come exhibit their games and get tons of free press, I would have laughed and said, “Of course not.  That’s going to be the easy part.”  But it wasn’t the easy part.  While I knew we wouldn’t attract the big game companies the first year, I thought the indies would be easy to get.  They’re not.  And I’m really shocked how hard it’s been to make that happen.  On the one hand, Indie developers have a bit of a history of looking down on marketing.  If you have to market your game, you’re admitting that it’s not good enough to sell itself.  That’s non sense, of course, but many Indies see marketing as selling out.  While that’s a bit dramatic, I think it’s more accurate to say that Indies think marketing is important, but since they’re just not interested in paying attention to it, the channels I would use to reach Indies are also being ignored by them.  That makes getting the word out nearly impossible.

I posted in numerous LinkedIn groups for marketing games, game development, and the game industry, about half a dozen FB groups for Indie game development, bay area game developers, LA game developers(all of which with 1,000 of more members), I posted on meetup groups for bay area game developers, and 3 other bay area game marketing groups(also all with 1,000 members of more).  I also, hmm, I shouldn’t mention names.  I’ll try and generalize.  I wrote to the largest game development association in the world about it.  I wrote a well known company that gets indie developers discounted booth rates at PAX.  And I looked up Indie game developers in California and wrote to over 30 of them personally.  I emailed a company that custom builds arcades in Sacramento.  I also wrote to several game journalist groups and some other related people based in Sacramento.  That should have gotten responses, right?  This is what I got:

The global game development group told me a month ago they’d send out a newsletter about Sac Arcade, but decided not to.  The PAX booth discount company told me they get calls for Indie companies all the time and, to be fair, make it a rule not to share that information with their members.  Hmm.  A Sacramento based tech group offered to be a media sponsor.  Awesome.  One large Japanese game company responded asking if they could get a booth to recruit instead, but never followed up with me after that.  One game company in Sacramento was interested, but never followed up after I asked if they’d like to be interviewed about their game and thus, get free press.  And two of the Sacramento based game review companies emailed me to let me know they wanted to cover the event.  Or to sum things up:

Press: 2

Sponsors: 1

Exhibitors: 0

I want to make clear, I’m not down on the people that didn’t jump up with excitement just because someone they didn’t know was one of the bejillionth people to hit them up about a game convention.  Seriously, I’m not down on the community.  My point is more to demonstrate how removed from reality my thinking was.  I mean  the response from the PAX booth discount people said it all.  They get hit up by so many people trying to do the exact same thing as I’m doing, that they actually have a policy in place to deal with it.

I had a talk with the Sheraton people.  Not only were they not mad that it looked like I was going to have to cancel, but they were thanking me for being honest and upfront with them.  Gaby, the sales guy for the Sheraton told me that he still believed in me and that he would have been our first person to pledge on Kickstarter.  He also told me that if I ever wanted to try it again, they’d love to work with me.

So here are my options:

1.) laugh that I ever thought I could pull off a game convention, avoid the few people that told me from the beginning I would fail, down play it as much as possible, and forget it ever happened. 

2.) try and go for even smaller events and build things up from there.  I could start by organizing small fighting game tournaments or partner with people already doing them in coffee shops and pizza places.  Once Sac Arcade is well known, attracting game developers to come and exhibit their games will be easier.

3.) take Dan of SacAnime up on his offer to partner with him.  Piggy back Sac Arcade with SacCon or even SacAnime until it’s big enough to stand on its own.

4.) partner with LANFest.  Hit up Kickstarter and try and throw a massive LAN party at the Sacramento Convention Center in 2016.  From there, set aside an area for the expo and spend a year trying to attract game dev companies.


There are a few problems with these.  The first one is probably the smartest option.  In general, I usually never pick the smartest option.  The second is problematic.  I don’t know that community, so trying to organize events for them is going to be a massive effort.  I really don’t see why anyone would partner with me on that.  Essentially I’d be saying, “Let’s use your knowledge and pull while I’ll take all the credit for it by calling it a ‘Sac Arcade’ event.”  Who would go for that?  Or just as bad, “Let me help you organize your events so I can learn how to better compete against you down the line.”  I’m being a little dramatic.  It’s not as bad as that and most the people I’ve met in the local fighting game community just want to hang out rather than put in the work to make the next Evo, so they might not be all that bothered by someone like me with more ambitious goals, especially if I was respectful towards them.

I think I’m more likely to go with 3 or 4.  I could possibly try both.  SacAnime doesn’t fill the entire Convention Center.  What if Sac Arcade filled the other half one day?  How cool would that be?

We shot a Kickstarter pitch video I’d like to start doing weekly video blogs, so making of this (my first video I ever tried to make) was a good practice run.

I’ll make a post about the progress of the rest of our games soon.

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