The third GenCon to take place in Indianapolis wrapped Sunday night, after a four-day weekend of gaming events, demos, tournaments, sales, and news. According to owner Peter Adkison in his Friday press conference, attendance was expected to be at least the same as 2004's, with pre-registrations running about the same as last year's record number (see 'GenCon Sets Records in Second Indy Show'), and hotel reservations and event ticket sales up. A representative of the Indiana Convention Bureau who spoke at the press conference said that his group was projecting attendance of 45,000.
Adkison said he has a contract for one more year at the Indiana Convention Center, although it's 'bursting at the seams.' The Indiana legislature has recently approved a $900 million expansion of the complex, with groundbreaking scheduled to take place in three to four weeks, but the new convention center itself, with nearly twice as much convention space (575,000 square feet in the new facility) will not be complete until 2010. If the event is moved after 2006, according to Adkison, it will stay in the upper Midwest, where the show has always been held.
By our observations and those of regular exhibitors, floor traffic seemed about the same as last year's during most of the day Thursday and Friday, after a very heavy first couple of hours when the floor opened Thursday morning. Exhibitor sales reports were mixed, although some products, such as the Serenity RPG from Margaret Weis Productions were selling very quickly; the company had only about 100 copies left out of 500 by 1 p.m. Thursday. Gaming rooms were reported to be busier than last year.
As has been the case for many years, and reflecting its status as founder of the show (or, more accurately, acquirer of the founding company), Wizards of the Coast had the most dominant booth, but there were some dramatic innovations this year. The launch of the Axis & Allies Miniatures Game was promoted with a large display area decked out with military hardware, and demo areas on tanks. And demos promoting the launch of the Hecatomb CCG, reflecting its mature content, were being held on blackjack-style tables in a darker area of the display. Another large booth innovation was the large, rotating Zatch Bell spell book anchoring the Bandai Games booth.
Many other areas of the floor were also constantly busy, including those of most of the largest game companies. We noticed steady crowds at the WizKids booth, at the large group of tables where Fantasy Flight's many new and existing board games were being demonstrated, and at the Clout Fantasy demo tables at the AEG booth.
Electronic game companies were in the house, including substantial booths from two companies whose MMORPGs are blamed by some for the recent downturn in sales in gaming stores: Blizzard (World of Warcraft) and NCSoft (City of Heroes).
Non-gaming activities added to the general hoopla, including the Gamer Olympics, where gamers participated in archery (no points) and swordfights (plastic swords) to determine whether their fantasy skills would hold up to reality; and Cardhalla, where gamers built structures from (presumably common) CCG cards, and later made donations to charity for the privilege of destroying them.
Those activities, however, were primarily for consumers and we attend the show for its role as the largest non-electronic game trade show in North America. And based on the number of exhibiting companies, attending retailers and other members of the trade, and business being done, it will hold that role for the foreseeable future.