I don’t even know where to start. I’m still sort of letting that weekend set in. I guess I will start by saying that I loved it. I finally feel like we are approaching that indie dream in the sky.
So after our successful Kickstarter Campaign, we had some extra money. We decided to use some of it to get a booth at PAX East. It’s only $1400 for a 10×10 booth. We decided to go because we’ve never done anything like this before and it seemed like a great way to expand our audience. We also ordered a whole bunch of extra swag, since buying it bulk meant that the price difference after getting the Kickstarter rewards was almost negligible.
First of all, I broke rule #1. I took the week off work to try and add some new features I thought would be important to demo the Director’s Cut version of the game. Of course this meant it was breaking and we were up at 5 am the first night (we got 2 hours of sleep) before reverting to a perfectly good build from the week before. (Sorry Mike!) There is probably a lesson to be learned somewhere in there…
We pretty much packed as many buttons, postcards and posters as we could take as carry-on among the 4 of us traveling together. We took probably 3000 button, 3000 postcards and 500 posters. Mike and I were graced by the generosity of our lovely partners-in-crime as they came with to help man the booth.
A little while before the whole thing kicked off, Kickstarter contacted us and asked if we wanted some free booth space and to give a talk. Double yes.
We also slapped together two giant “The Men Who Wear Many Hats” banners for the booths. (We ended up only using one since they were too big for the Kickstarter booth.)
So we got there day 1. We kind of on-the-spot decided that we should try a pay-what-you-want preorder for the game. Worst case scenario we end up giving a free copy of the game to everyone at PAX East (Which costs us like a dollar each on the app store (right?)) That would only put us like 60k in the hole at launch.
So this was our set-up: Free postcards and buttons to draw people in (people LOVE free buttons.) You can get the game free but the poster comes with a $5 pre-order. There was a new version running on an iPad so people could demo it. We were originally thinking of playing the web version (since you can actually play that version all the way through) on our laptop with an external monitor facing outwards. We also thought it would be cool to do some live development on that machine. Turns out we were so popular, we could barely sit down. We did however hit up a Best Buy for a monitor, mifi hotspot (we didn’t use), keyboard, easel stand and whiteboard, as we realized we wouldn’t be able to fit this stuff on the flight there. We took cash only pre-orders in an excel document. Wait no, excel wouldn’t run, we did it in the open office version; Calc. Considering how unprepared we were, we constantly adapted to what was working best and things seemed to go fine.
We couldn’t really spare the extra person to man the Kickstarter booth the first day, although once we hit our stride we were there on and off. Special thanks to Tim Rodriguez of http://www.dicefoodlodging.com/ for pimping our game for us while we could not be there.
So, flying by the seat of our pants, as is the company strategy; the convention began! We were between the Reddit booth and the HitPoint Studios booth. Both of these groups were amazingly kind to us, even going so far as to send people our way. I feel bad in retrospect that I didn’t even think to return the favor. So if you read this: Thanks guys. Everyone else: give them money.
We pretty much never had more than a minutes rest as people were very intrigued by what they thought was bad spelling (Organ/Oregon) and zombies. My favorite instances were where parents were more interested in the game than their kids, who often didn’t get it. The Reddit booth had someone doing a signing (must have been important (didn’t catch who it was (maybe the creator of Reddit?))) So even though we were kind of in a corner, we got lots of eyeballs.
Time for some cold hard data: We got 151 Pokemon… Wait I mean pre-orders. We made $820.50, which means the average donation amount was $5.43. Proving that pay-what-you-want is code for amazing-people-support-indies-and-are-attractive.
I gave a talk at the Kickstarter Arcade. “Building a Community Around Your Game.” They seemed to really like it. *phew*
Then I got invited to another talk, last minute, by Cindy Au (Dark Overlord of Kickstarter Games and Comics) to tell our story to a room full of interested people. That also went really well, although I kind of got a little emotional while trying to explain how great Kickstarter has been for us.
I was really shocked at the caliber of people at PAX East. We didn’t run into a single person with a bad attitude. This blows my mind for a convention. There was just so much love and support that when I came back home I was sort of still stuck in that mood, which is unbecoming of a Chicagoan. I am 100% confident that the Enforcers of PAX East are the reason everyone is so nice. They were always supportive, going well out of their way to help everyone there. The management of the convention was the nicest and best organized I have ever seen and that really just sets the tone for the attendees. Special thanks to our Enforcer buddies, Doug Currier, Stephen Meyer & Karlyn Meyer,whom made everything go amazingly.
Our game showed pretty well. After pitching it back-to-back 4000 times, we got a good beat going. Lots of good hand-waving and pointing at free swag while our team of street urchin children picked their pockets. We ran out of buttons early Sunday and only had like 50 postcards left when we packed up. We did however get a lot of shit for not having a Boston postcard. But people really responded to us. I think we might have a cool game.
The only regret I have is that we couldn’t make it Thursday to set-up with everyone else. Apparently Mike and Jerry aka Gabe and Tycho walk around and look at all the booths during that time. If anyone has the connections, make sure they know we exist, that would please me greatly.
Okay… So many other cool things happened and cool people were met but I don’t want to go on for too long so let’s see if I can remember at least 20% of them and put it in a bullet-point list.
- Great time drinking with the Kickstarter Arcade folks
- Joshua From Mobile Frame Zero is really cool
- Max Tempkin of Cards Against Humanity is a true Chicago hustler
- The guys at Star Command are cool and their game is beautiful
- Talked with Alex of Code Hero. He is cool.
- The Game Boss, Matt Lewandowski from Fist Puncher was also cool
- I happily bought a shirt from the Monaco guy and gushed a little bit
- Had good talk with the folks from Ska Studios
- Met a cool dude (Brian?) from Riot Games
- Got a cool Mustache Monocle from Geek Chic. And I rocked it.
- Nice people from Turbine Games drank with us for a bit
- Nice chat with Stephen Totilo of Kotaku
- Bought expensive Scott Pilgrim posters from Oni Press
- Managed to catch Jonathan Coultan’s show
- Hundreds other great people talked with us
I don’t know if that’s a list of shout-outs or a list of name-drops. Regardless, I had a great time. We may shoot for PAX Prime next.
Now to make a game… oh wait we have to send out rewards? Okay… maybe some day we will make the game.