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Attendance jumps at Gen Con 2013

Game manufacturers reveal, demonstrate newest offerings
By John Kaufeld
Published: August 27, 2013
Gen Con 2013 Warmachine demo Privateer Press
More teens and tweens were on at the show this year, reflecting continued growth in the tabletop game market.
Photo by John Kaufeld
Gen Con 2013 Dungeons & Dragons demo area
Wizards of the Coast set up a large Dungeons & Dragons demonstration area in the tournament playing hall.
Photo by John Kaufeld
Gen Con 2013 exhibit hall
The large company booths featured elaborate demonstration areas, which kept players engaged and interested.
Photo by John Kaufeld
Gen Con 2013 giant Duke Catalyst Games
Giant-size games, like this giant Duke from Catalyst, always please the Gen Con crowds.
Photo by John Kaufeld
Gen Con 2013 AEG demo area
The AEG demonstration area was packed with players wanting to learn Trains and their game other releases.
Photo by John Kaufeld
If this year’s Gen Con game convention, held Aug, 15–18 in Indianapolis, is any indication, then tabletop gaming is alive, well and stronger than ever.

This year’s attendance broke last year’s record of more than 41,000 attendees by 20 percent, setting a new record for unique attendees at 49,058, with turnstile attendance of 159,364 people. Over the last five years, Gen Con’s attendance has grown by a stunning 75 percent. This increase brought a broader group of people to this year’s show, including a growing number of families with young children, as well as more tween and teen girls and boys.

Attendance doubled for the annual Gen Con Trade Day, taking place on the Wednesday before the show’s opening. This year’s event featured retail seminars on developing new audiences, developing the store’s customer experience, and dealing with projects released through Kickstarter, along with manufacturer demonstrations and product giveaways.

More than 360 companies showed games and game-related products on the exhibit floor this year. Retailers at the show benefitted from the mixture of larger game companies, such as Mayfair, Paizo, Fantasy Flight and AEG, and smaller independent companies. Unusual products from smaller companies often make perfect impulse items or can fill gaps in a store’s product mix.

Mayfair Games pitted players against the destructive power of Mount Vesuvius in a race to rescue the people of Pompeii in The Downfall of Pompeii. Star Trek Catan players explored the new Federation Space Map Set, which includes two maps of the “known galaxy” of Captain Kirk’s time. Both items will be available in distribution in the coming months.

Iello Games continued expanding its line with Titanium Wars, The Phantom Society, Uchronia and The Three Little Pigs, all currently available. Iello also previewed Heroes of Normandie, which is coming later in the year. Look for a bigger and better retail tournament coming from Iello, as well, with event support for more of its games.

Fantasy Flight was heavily invested in expansions this year, showing new items for its Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game, Android: Netrunner card game, and Battlestar Galactica game. Some are currently available, while Fantasy Flight will release others throughout the fall.

In the Steve Jackson games booth, players lined up to try Castellan, a two-player castle-building game. The game comes in two individual boxed sets, which customers can combine into a four-player game. The game play works very well, with a strong balance between luck and strategy, leaning more toward strategy.

Paizo showed its Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, which reimagines a Pathfinder role-playing adventure in card game form. Look for this game to help Paizo expand the audience for its role-playing products.

Gale Force Nine had one of the most anticipated games of the show in its booth. Fans wanting Firefly: The Game practically mobbed the booth every morning, eager to try the game and buy one of the few copies available. Consider bringing in a few copies of this, and using it to anchor a display of TV-themed model kits and other products.

AEG had plenty of excitement in its booth with the updated edition of Trains, a new deck-building game with a board game twist. This game will work well for a holiday display, combined with some of the evergreen Mayfair train games from the Empire Builder line.

Queen Games showed expansions for both of its popular Kingdom Builder and Escape games. Kingdom Builder: Crossroads introduces more boards and new scoring challenges, while Escape: Quests gives the cursed temple more twists to throw at your party. Both are available exclusively through ACD Distribution.

Blue Orange built on the popular Spot It! game with Spot It! Party version, expected in September. It also added three small games to its line: Flash, Nada and Ooga. All three were expected in September.

Three dice games stood out as strong prospects for impulse holiday sales. Mindtwister demonstrated Fandooble, a fast game featuring four oversized, wooden dice. Try showing this game out of the box, so customers can see how the pieces fit into the included dice bag.

Tasty Minstrel Games’ Dungeon Roll combines strong game play, clever artwork and a low price point to make it an easy impulse sale. A stack of Dungeon Roll chests will definitely be eye-catching!

Finally, Calliope Games demonstrated Roll For It, a fast-playing dice game for two to four players. Its light strategy and indirect “backstab your neighbor” playing style made it a favorite at the show. Look for all of these games in distribution soon.

Out of the Box games announced the return of Snorta, the popular party game of crazy animal noises. The game will be rebranded as Quackadoodlemoo, and will feature new art from John Kovalic. Look for it in late 2013.

Outside of the exhibit floor, Wizards of the Coast held a special press event to discuss its series of The Sundering events. These events let players influence the future of the Forgotten Realms. Ultimately, the events will tie together outcomes from games played at Gen Con, in-store play at participating retailers and in-home play.