I spent last week in Columbus, Ohio for Origins Game Fair and had a great and exhausting time. Origins Game Fair 2008 was a change from previous years, especially for me. Not only did the "fair" aspect begin this year, but it was my first year volunteering during the show.
We started attending Origins several years ago, soon after buying our game store. The first year we went, we stayed at the DoubleTree several blocks from the convention center. I was more concerned with playing my new Sims game and relaxing than I was in actually attending the trade show. I went a day or two and walked around with hubby, though, to show my support and try out some new games. Mostly I listened to him talk to all the vendors, wishing I were elsewhere.
The next year we stayed a bit closer and I became a little more interested in what was going on during Origins. I even played in a Blink tournaments, but didn't win. I play tested more games, and made some suggestions to hubby about purchases. He still spent a lot of time talking to everyone, but I was starting to accept that talking could be his calling in life. :)
As our store and knowledge of the game industry grew, so did our interest in selling outside of our little town and small spot on the web (a yahoo store, at the time). Year 3 of Origins (for us) brought a whole new adventure as we became an Exhibitor, with a small booth toward the back of the hall. We sold only Game of Thrones, the CCG (collectible card game) while we were there, and still managed to turn a small profit after travel, hotel and food expenses. When the hall closed each evening, we took our binders of cards to the CCG hall and sold them and card sleeves to the players between rounds. A whole new worlds was opened to us.
Year 4 we went with a much larger booth and brought a wide variety of board and card games, and even accessories such as the aforementioned card sleeves. A Game of Thrones CCG was dying by this time, so we focused on other things. We brought more staff and worked hard - and again came home with a small profit.
The following year we went HUGE. We became an island unto ourselves and a show sponsor, which boosted our visibility significantly at the show and in the industry as a whole. Name and logo recognition improved dramatically, as did sales at Origins and GenCon (we followed the same growth strategies at both cons).
Those years, not only did we have large booths, but we continued running the poker tournaments more often and attendance was increasing, which made us more revenue - though not as much as some would expect, due to the overhead and large prizes we would offer.
Last year, 2007, we ran the poker tournament at Origins and GenCon, but didn't sponsor the shows or have booth space in the exhibitor hall, due to an overhaul of our year-round business online. The "World Series of GenCon" became quite popular, and the smaller tournaments we ran at Origins would feed a player into the finals while the rest came from the GenCon tournaments. Finals were always in Las Vegas, for fun and for legal reasons.
So, now here we are in 2008. Hubby is the Treasurer for the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and I was recently elected to the GAMA Retail Division's board, at-large. What this means is we get to volunteer lots of hours to improve the organization and what we get out of it is meeting more people. For GenCon, as a GRD board member I will be helping run Trade Day seminars. For Origins, it meant being in the seminars and contributing when I could, while helping to run the Finance office. This was my first year "behind the scenes" at Origins, and it is a totally different perspective. I learned many things about the organization and its good and bad. I had a good time, though, and was able to spend some time with some great volunteers throughout the week, as well as have dinner several times with the other board members.
GenCon (www.gencon.com) is just 6 weeks away from today, and let me know if any of you will be there! Other than Trade Day, my schedule is open. Looks like I may be able to actually play some games or attend some seminars myself this year!