Up North IndiesWe had our very own booth at the convention, but we were part of a bigger (and brand new) group called Up North Indies. We're essentially a group of multiple indie developers from Montreal/Quebec getting together to share knowledge, but also to get easier access to events like PAX. We've been learning and getting a lot of help from the other studios by being part of this group. We're definitely lucky!
Designing our first 10' x 10' boothThe event was in Boston, so about 5 hours drive south of Montreal. We managed to get there by car to save money, but the downside was that our car was pretty small and we couldn't travel with a lot of equipment. We still managed to get two 7' tall TV stands, two 42" TVs and one 50" TV. Here's how we did it.
How we got noticedTo put things in perspective a bit, we originally designed our PAX demo so that matches would be really quick. That way, we'd have a better flow and more players would try the game. Since matches wouldn't last long enough for the crowd to feel any major engagement, or for hype to build up, we needed a better way of getting spectators more engaged in the game as they were looking at it.
The Showdown systemIf you've followed the development of Toto Temple Deluxe a bit, or simply played the game, you know there's 2 main game modes. The Classic mode, where you fight for an egg-laying goat to make points, and the Bomb mode, where you fight for an explosive goat in order to kill your opponents with the blast.
Giving away 1,700 keys in 3 daysEvery once in a while, a skilled player would win a match AND the following showdown. Here's what it looked like:
1,700 keys. Was it worth it?It might look like a lot of keys at first, but they probably won't get all redeemed in the end (fingers crossed for not too many resellers). We also saw a couple players win more than one Steam key. Because why not. For the attention it got us during PAX, we definitely think it was worth it. We actually saw a lot of people stop by out of curiosity, in part because of the huge crowd, in part because they could get something for free. As they stood there and waited for something to happen, they usually tried to make sense of the gameplay. By the time they would reach the controllers as the crowd rotated, most of them already knew how to play. In other words, those big "free keys" signs acted as some kind of salesman, stopping players and introducing them to our game. All of that without us having to say a single word!
Tournament system (elite only)On top of the showdown system, we also experimented with an "easy" tournament system. We say "easy" because we didn't want to manage names, lists, finalists, whiteboards, time, etc. The system we went with was a "ticket" system, where the winner of each match would not only be thrown into a showdown, but would also get a tournament ticket.
ExpensesSince it was our first big event, we had to invest in stuff we won't need to buy twice, like TV stands and promotional banners. It ended up a little bit expensive for the small budget we had, but we're still pretty happy with the results. Here's a breakdown of the costs, for a total of about $8,000.
No, we won't pay for that.It's important to note that, out of the $2,380 for the PAX related fees, there was one specific invoice that could have been avoided. We had a little issue with the company that handles pretty much all the logistics at PAX (Freeman). Before ordering our TV stands, we called Freeman and explained that it was our very first PAX and that we had no idea how we could get the stands to our booth. We heard that we could have them shipped there, but we didn't know what the process was, or what were the details. The person we spoke with told us that we could simply have our equipment shipped at the convention center on a specific date, and they would take care of all the rest (get the stuff to our booth, etc). We were pretty surprised by how simple that was, and they confirmed that it was an included service for all exhibitors. We said "Really?", they said "Yes".
What went wrongNot much actually, but there was still a couple things we'll do differently next time.
- 1,000 flyers / buttons weren't enough, we should have ordered 1,500.
- We should have printed more free keys from the start (at least 2,000).
- We had a lot of equipment to handle for just 3 people with a small car.
- The goat hats were cheap but wouldn't fit well on everybody. We should make better hats for the next event.
- Big media appointments didn't show up because of the snow / flights being canceled.
- Freeman charging too much for handling the equipment (and lying to us on the phone).
What went rightOverall, pretty much everything went right. We found a couple of new things that we'll probably try to repeat for next events though, like:
- AirBnB was way cheaper than hotels.
- We used a Karma to get really cheap wifi for the whole event.
- Boston was close to Montreal, so it was possible to go by car and save a lot of money.
- The 2 TV stands helped a lot and made it easier for everyone to clearly see the game.
- Giving away keys attracted a LOT of people to our booth.
- Using the QR code trick for the keys also got us a couple extra emails in our newsletter (over 500 for one day, but could have been more if we would have used it from the start).
- The tournament system worked well, it was an easy solution for quick and simple tournaments.
- Being positioned on a corner definitely helped, especially with the crowd we had.
- Having only one playable station was definitely easier to manage with only 3 people.