about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Sunday, July 07, 2013


Origins 2013 After-Action Report and Lessons Learned
1. Taking Jean in the car was the right move, even if it meant leaving out six cartons of backstock (which cost us maybe $70 worth of sales) and the big blue display (which took up a lot of space without really adding anything). Putting Jean on the bus for the Origins trip was never really considered and having her share the driving reduced the exhaustion factor a lot. Having her as Electronic Warfare Officer (checking storm fronts on her Xoom and making blog posts en route) was very useful. Buying Jean a dealer badge was a good move as she could go take care of things without having to be escorted through security by one of the Steves (neither of which were doing well on their damaged knees). Steve Cole spent the show in a wheelchair. While he COULD walk, he could do so only for limited distances, and the "hotel to booth" distance was at least twice his limit.

2. For the first time, we actually had retailers talk to us during the Retailer Hour, and more of them later during the show. That exposed the fact that we had no real plan to deal with them. SVC thought that Jean should have sent them to talk to him (he was only a few feet away) but that did not occur to Jean. (SVC never told her because he never believed another retailer would appear.) We need to create a card with two or three questions we want to ask them, and be sure to get their business cards and follow up with a mailing of customer support materials.

3. GAMA did their usual good (but not perfect) job. We had our badges and stuff waiting for us. Some gamers complained of registration problems (and cited very unfavorable comparisons with GenCon which supposedly processes more people in less time). Event pre-registration seemed to go very well. GAMA did tell one very noisy booth to turn off their sound system, which was a good thing. There were a lot of silly typos in the program. GAMA ran the Origins awards but when I was asked for my suggestions on improving them my only response was "Shut them down." GAMA continues to want to attract some GenCon people to go to both shows but cannot grasp that Origins offers nothing that GenCon people want to see so the effort is futile and wasted. GAMA needs to focus its efforts on doing the best Origins it can and not try to recruit GenCon people.

4. The crowd seemed smaller and spent less money. (GAMA insisted that the crowd was bigger than the disastrous 2012 show.) More and more game companies remarked that "It was a decent Origins, but Origins is only barely worth going to." The Saturday crowd is huge but is largely composed of non-gamers who buy cheap tickets to look at the non-game booths (and the funny game people). It is a cheap, air-conditioned, family outing. This inflates the number of attendees without helping the game publishers. It does help the non-game booths and those non-game booths (jewelry, costumes, T-shirts, game tables, backpacks, card sleeves, toys, swords) are taking over more and more of the dealer hall to the point Origins is rapidly turning into a general convention than a game convention.

5. Sunday was (as always) almost a total waste of time. We might have sold $200 worth of stuff, none of that after noon. GAMA really needs to shut down the dealer hall at 2pm and let us go home earlier. It's against the rules to pack up the booth before 4pm, but we "rearrange the stock" and quietly take half of the games out of the shelves and slip them back into boxes. (We still have a full display until the end and have at least one copy of everything on the racks.) Many others do the same, but others (so disgusted at the poor sales this year and at the stupid rules) blatantly began taking apart their booths and packing away their stock long before closing.

6. Tournaments are dead at Origins and we will not run them again. Board wargames are also dead (except for F&E). If we run events (other than F&E) in future we will only run single-session scenarios and demos, and probably will not run anything that doesn't use miniatures.
Due to a comedy of errors, four GURPS events somehow go onto the event schedule during a year that all three of our qualified GURPS gamemasters did not come to the convention. We were able to satisfy the players and run the events by having Leanna email us a copy of Starship Aldo and recruit two people to run the events in exchange for gamemaster coupons (that are as good as cash). Next time, we need to have an envelope full of RPG stuff ready to go just in case a gamemaster does not show up.

7. Of the 14 trips to Origins, only once did we do what we should do and set up the display ahead of time, then pack the products for each rack into a marked box. This would make it much faster to set up the booth.

8. We need to divide the minis rack between 2400s and 2500s. (We had no blistered 2500s and the ones in bags did not fit the racks.) While displays of painted minis would seem likely to increase sales, we have done this before (it's a lot of trouble) and seen no increase at all. We're thinking of having some laminated pages of color photos of painted ships next year.

9. Some have said we should have a bigger booth and that this would produce more sales. In fact, a bigger booth would cost another thousand dollars, take a second full-time booth person, and would not produce more than a few additional sales. If we get Tribbles vs. Klingons (and/or other "first class" games out) by next year, we might consider a second booth to use as a demo area. Tribbles vs. Klingons must be played to be fully understood (and more importantly, enjoyed).

10. At noon on Sunday we were told of new load-out rules that were not used in 2011 or any previous year. (I do not know about 2012.) Those rules were that we could not park in the back lot before 4pm and had to load in 20 minutes (which wasn't possible). After SVC complained, the rules changed (or perhaps were just clarified) and we were allowed to take as long to load as we needed as long as someone was obviously working on the car. SVC showed Jean and the Knipfers (who helped us) how to load things, and headed to the car. (The problem is that the car is full of things like luggage that go on top of the heavy boxes of unsold games, not that there was a lot of that.) So SVC unloaded the car, then reloaded it in the proper order, while everyone else kept bringing him stuff to load. We were out the gate in record time at 4:50. That was the start of an uneventful trip home.