In Part 4 of our PAX East post-mortem-ish series we hope to help developers get the most margin, money and savings from conventions such as PAX and more. Yes, some of this may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how often people overlook the easy stuff.
Throughout my years of attending PAX, whether it be to cover games for various media outlets or working PR for Developers and friends, I’ve always walked away from the convention with a list of do’s and don’t for next year. This year, since I focused largely on game development and discoverability, I thought it would be useful to share a few things I’ve learned in an effort to help developers get the most out of their time, and game, at such conventions (notably the various PAX events).
8. Cut Out The Middle Man.
Already have a game available for purchase?
Used to telling people to buy it on Steam or any other store?
It doesn’t take much time or effort to export a list of keys and print them on stickers to attach to your business card, or go a step further and contact a printer like Jakprints and have that CSV file printed right on a card.
Save yourself the cost of paying stores a cut of things and have codes on hand to sell (and don’t be afraid to ask if your visitor would like to purchase it). This also gives you the flexibility to price your game anything you choose, as well as wheel and deal a bit on the show floor (gamers love swag bundles).
Last year I ran across a Developer who had an excellent idea around how to gain additional sales: generate Steam keys for a discounted version of the game, have them printed on flyers as mentioned above, and hand them out to everyone who visited the booth. He found that a considerable amount of people would redeem the code on Steam to at least have the item in their inventory.
This allowed for a couple of things:
- Increased sales long term as his game in the inventory was a constant advertisement or reminder.
- Those who wished to purchase the game could do so when they saw fit (cons tend to overwhelm people with a ton of stuff to play)
- Some gamers would use the code as a bartering tool for trades in the Steam community.
Sure beats having your flyer tossed out with all the others after the convention.
9. Be Wary Of Hidden Merchandise Costs.
Merchandise can totally be a hit or miss investment when it comes to conventions. Keep in mind when you print 100 shirts, those 100 shirts need to be shipped to the expo… and back if you fail to send on them. I’ve encountered far too many Developers who have lost money on merchandise through unexpected costs or low sales.
If you do plan on going the merchandise route, here are a few things to consider and a few ways to cut costs.
- The easiest: have the items shipped to your hotel or a friend near the convention, or better yet, find a local shop near the expo that allows for pickup.
- Partner with another Indie and combine printing, shipping, etc to get better volume pricing discounts.
- Be realistic.
- Have you spent enough time promoting your company that someone would wear (or recognize) your logo?
- Does your swag help promote your game in any way?
- Would you wear it?
- Bundle with your game. I repeat: gamers love swag bundles.
- Don’t be afraid to slash prices your last day as it’s often cheaper (and less of a hassle) to break even than to ship home.
When it comes down to it, merchandise can be a great way to offset costs or make money if done correctly. If you already have a hit title, great buzz or word of mouth, or perhaps you’re already a recognized Developer, then you’re likely in the clear. If not, be wary and more important; be smart about your investments.
Check back tomorrow as we wrap up our 5 part series with a couple of gems around design help and free QA. Free is good right?