By Lisa Goins, Dwarven Tavern Cyberzine
Last year the Gaming Industry witness several changes that went into effect this year. One of the biggest changes was the 30 year old TSR, Inc., a company famous for Dungeon and Dragons, officially passed hand to Wizards of the Coast. Folks wondered what was going to happen to TSR, Inc. convention, GENCON usually held the first part of August. Answers followed soon after that Andon Unlimited, Inc., owned by Wizards of the Coast, convention organizer for GAMA’s Trade Show and Origins, would take over the job.
The beginning of 1998 started the convention organizer’s job of sending out convention packets, advertisement, and pre-registration booklets. This has sparked quite a lot of controversy from several companies voicing their concerns to refusing to attend as well as boycotting the famous "must be there con".
Dwarven Tavern Cyberzine conducted the following interview via e-mail with Andon Unlimited, Inc.
> DTC* Andon Unlimited is responsible for organization of GENCON this year.
> It has became know that the cost has risen from 33-50% depending on whom
> you spoken to in the Gaming Industry. Several ideas have speculation
> that the new facility in Milwaukee is the reason as a potential
> anti-con. Would you care to elaborate?
I'm not sure what you mean by "as an potential anti-con", so I will reserve
Comment on this portion of the question until it is clarified. Prices for
the 1998 GEN CON(r) Game Fair have changed anywhere from -40% to +70% with the
Average being around +30%. Many, many factors have contributed to this much
needed increase. The show was losing money. Remember, TSR (the founder of
GEN CON) was sold due to financial problems that almost caused the
cancellation of last year's show. The economics of the show have changed so
that the show may continue. The cost of a single booth at GEN CON is still
only about 1/3 the cost of a SINGLE 1-page ad in any of this industry's
flagship magazines. This is an excellent value.
>DTC * Several well-known companies that have attended GENCON in the past
> will not or have officially stated they are boycotting this year. Some
> have sited the reason is the "Grandfather clause". Could you explain the
> "Grandfather clause" and how it came about?
This is an incorrect statement. The Grandfather clause does not become
effective until 1999. This year's show is being sold under the exact same
methods used by TSR over the last 30 years. The only Grandfather policy for
1998 was to offer all of last year's exhibitors a special discount if they put
a 50% deposit down by the end of February (TSR required 100% down and didn't
accept company checks forcing even large companies to run to the bank for a
In 1999 a Priority Point method of assigning booths will be implemented.
Simply, points are awarded to a company for all the different ways that they
support the convention. This includes purchasing booths, advertising, being a
manufacturer (instead of a retailer), and for running events for the
attendees. This priority point system has been in effect at our other major
shows for over 2 years now, and works very well. Right now, GENCON is a race
to get your application in with payment. First come - First served. If your
Exhibitor handbook arrives in your office on a day when you are traveling, you
have a very good chance of not getting the booths you want because 60% of the
space will be sold in that first 24 hours. With the priority point method, we
mail the Exhibitor Handbooks 30 days prior to the booths being sold. That
gives every company 30 days to decide what space they want, get the paperwork
through their accounting department, etc. At the end of the 30 days, we start
assigning booths in the order of most priority points to the lowest.
A great example of how beneficial this method is to medium and small companies
is the fact that at Origins '98, the second and third highest point totals
were held by Iron Crown Enterprises and Chamelion Elecktic Ent. Both of these
companies soared to the top of the point totals because of the all the great
events they ran for their fans.
- DTC* There has been a lot of unhappy gossip about the floor plan having
> reserved spots listed prior to going out to potential companies. Is this
> true? Who has been listed? Have the convention packages officially been
> sent via US mail at this time (2/9/98)?
- As is stated in the Exhibitor Handbook, all companies that had purchased
more than 10 booths in 1997 were pre-solicited for space in 1998. This was
done in the past, but just not made public. FASA always had the same space
every year at GENCON, as did Games Workshop. And they both have the same
space again this year. The only difference is that all the other exhibitors
now know where they are located and can effectively plan their placement
around where these companies are located.
- All exhibitors at the 1997 GEN CON Game Fair had Exhibitor Handbooks
FedEx'd to them at our expense (over 250 packages - some international). All
other potential exhibitors had their Handbooks mailed first class mail a
couple of days later.
> company part take in any over seeing of last years con and/or will any
> left over GENCON convention staff have been enlisted to aid help this
Senior level Andon staff and volunteers did assist with on-site management of
last year's show for integration reasons. Many of TSR's fine staff will be
back at this year's show helping to keep the tradition of excellence that
everyone is expecting.
- DTC* Now as we all know TSR was purchased by Wizards of the Coast which
> became final last year. Since then WotC has moved TSR's headquarters to
> Seattle, Washington from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Do you think this will
> have any bearing on attendance this year? Would you blame last years
> decline in attendance on the purchase of TSR (est. attendance was 30,000
> and recorded as 25,000).
The moving of the TSR offices will not impact on the show. The show has not
moved location or time of year. The fans never gathered at the TSR offices
prior to going to the show, they just go to the show - and the show is there
for them. We actually expect attendance to increase this year as there is no
longer any fear that the show will be cancelled, and we are beefing up our
event offerings and adding some amazing Guests of Honor.
>DTC* Last and final question, will GENCON move this year since rumor has it
> negations for a new five year contract has not been reached with the
> City of Milwaukee's Convention Center's new building.
No. I do not expect GENCON to move any time soon.
> DTC**Any additional comments?**
This year's GENCON Game Fair is going to be one of the greatest shows ever!
With almost 70% of the exhibit floor sold (only 19% is WotC/TSR/FRPG) every
game company will be represented in some way. We already have over 1,000
events and over 2.000 registrations for the convention (both new records for
this early date). We are hoping that the few companies that have stated that
they are not buying booths decide to join the show, as we looking forward to
supporting their events, their fans, and the companies themselves. In fact,
registrations and event submissions over our web site http://www.andonunlimited.com/
have reached record levels in the last few days providing hard proof that this
year's GENCON is going to be the one event that is not to be missed.
Thank you for this opportunity to talk with you.
Gary E. Smith
Division Director, Andon Unlimited