Rise of the Digital Convention

For better or worse, the tabletop industry has been thrust into planning and executing almost exclusively digital events. Some publishers believe we are seeing a potential paradigm shift in the way published games are marketed and sold. Other publishers believe that these events are only temporary emergency measures. Many publishers, new and established, are frustrated with the situation in which we find ourselves and the solutions thus far from leaders in our industry.

“Let’s say I’m designing a board game and I have the rights to a video game IP. I now have two options. I can try to turn that game directly into a board game. This nearly always fails and creates a bad game. Or I can design a board game inspired by the core experience and narrative that game provides and create a board game that feels like it belongs to that IP. This is how the good ones are made. Every organizer has run at this saying, how do I create my convention online. No one has stepped back and said, how do I design an online experience that captures the essence of my show.” – Frank West, The City of Games

Frank and Ignacy’s statements ring true to a lot of fellow industry stakeholders. But these are early days of massive digital planning for our communities. We believe openly discussing the opportunities in the online space will help empower the tabletop industry to do better.

Presenting Imagination Symposium, a new optimism initiative by Tabletop Backer Party.

On Sunday, Tabletop Backer Party will do what we can on our part to try to find answers. The goal of this project will be to bring together relevant stakeholders within the tabletop industry to openly discuss relevant and timely topics. Our first discussion will be focused on digital-first publishers who are implementing digital marketing strategies with relative success.

Joining us in this first talk will be Adam McCrimmon and Lauren Nepomuceno of XYZ Game Labs, Conor McGoey from Inside Up Games, El Whitcombe from Deep Water Games, and Stephanie Kwok from First Fish Games. Daniel Zayas, founder of Tabletop Backer Party, will moderate the discussion.

Look forward to these topics to be discussed and more:

How do I participate as an online exhibitor?

Details from organizers must be thorough, but exhibitors and attendees must also ask for specific information that will allow everyone to be successful. We are going to discuss what a Business Requirement Document is and what we should be expecting from organizers as exhibitors. Exhibitors themselves will need SMART goals and conversion platforms in place to calculate their ROI more accurately.

How are organizers helping exhibitors market the event?

How can exhibitors be more involved and mentioned alongside organizers’ planned marketing efforts? What assets and empowerment tools have been made available to exhibitors by the organizers? How can exhibitors make planned digital events special for attendees in meaningful ways? How many publishers are sitting on Print-n-Play games which can be ready to add to an event’s digital swag bags?

“I don’t look at digital conventions as being a marketplace. I look at them as being a concerted promotional event.” – Eric Price, Japanime Games

How are exhibitors helping themselves market their involvement?

Are exhibitors leveraging existing connections (or forging new ones) to put their best digital foot forward? Which celebrities are demoing their games during the events? How many panels are exhibitors speaking on and how many are they planning to join as audience members? How many exhibitors have reached out to online communities (such as Tabletop Backer Party) to market their debuts and new releases alongside their digital booth involvement?

“Publishers should tap into the power of online communities and micro-influencers. I have never bought a game just because I saw an ad or video.” – Ella Galang Ampongan, Ella Loves Board Games

Where are the success stories in digital events?

There are a lot of unknowns in these early days. But there are already real-world examples of digital-savvy consumers prospering in online streaming environments.

“Last weekend an out of state friend and I attended a virtual LEGO convention together. They used Zoom meetings for rooms and had several going that either stayed up all day or changed on the hour like a panel at a con would. One of the nice things about this setup was the ability to ask questions anonymously – either in chat or with a mic – things that I’d probably hold back on asking in a room full of people otherwise.” – Allison Chase, Quartermaster Logistics

Cat Quartet Games demoed Gladius for an online stream recently, with maybe 50 viewers total. As a result of that event, they made upward of 20 sales of one game for the investment of appearing online for 10 minutes. Our speakers will similarly tell you about what has been working for them.

“People have more time and attention than they’ve had before. They’re stuck in their homes and they’re looking for things to do. Online conventions are an opportunity for the tabletop industry to figure out how to adapt to changing times and connect with consumers in a whole new way.” – Victoria Caña, Cat Quartet Games