Subject: Gen Con
It’s been one week since Catalyst Game Labs returned from Gen Con Indy 2007. A week to recover and a week for everyone to think about how it went. A week of surfing online to see what was said about us, both positive and negative, considering our first experiment at the industry’s leading consumer show.
And our report card looks pretty good, if we do say so ourselves.
The Exhibit Floor (the review of gamers and their migratory patterns)
The Exhibit Hall at Gen Con was very lively this year, with great traffic all day long, every day. The hall was 30% larger than last year because they moved out the Miniatures Hall and opened up the full length of the room for retail trade, the art show, and the expanded electronic games section. Catalyst Game Labs established great “presence” at Gen Con by putting up a fairly high-profile booth to showcase our products developed for Classic BattleTech and Shadowrun. In case you missed us, or weren’t able to make it this year, we had a ten-booth island next to Fantasy Flight Games, at the front and almost dead center in the Exhibit Hall. Iron Wind Metals joined us with a two-booth end cap right next door.
Standing over the demo area was our new truss-built trade show display, proudly flying new banners for both Shadowrun and Classic BattleTech as well as the new Catalyst Game Labs logo. We used the cover art from TechManual and Runner Havens, which looked awesome. There were two tables showing off the new Classic BattleTech Introductory Box Set, and another sharing time between Shadowrun, and the Degenesis RPG, currently being developed under license from Sighpress in Germany. Demos ran pretty much nonstop, with great foot traffic into and around the whole area.
Our demo area was separated from the retail side by one of the best dioramas ever put together by Camo Specs Online, showcasing a DropShip landing (or taking off) over a battlefield. The DropShip had working lights, and also played music-to-Battle-by, though listening to it belt out “Star Trekkin'” during set-up was very, very wrong (there’s Klingons off the starboard bow, starboard bow, starboard bow…) The full-scale battle taking place on the diorama included some of the best-painted miniatures the CSO artists have ever brought. Even more exciting, they promised to top it next year. We can’t wait!
On the retail side, Catalyst Game Labs couldn’t be happier with the response we received over our full list of new product. For Shadowrun we had out Emergence, the plot book which covers in-universe reaction to the appearance of technomancers, and Augmentation in hardback, the sourcebook for all things MedTech: cyberware, bioware, cyberzombies, and other cutting-edge developments. Those moved well all weekend long, and we received many compliments for having enough product to get a copy into the hands of everyone who wanted it. Definitely one of our in-booth highlights! Shadowrun fans also slipped into dozens of the Saeder-Krupp “Sprechen Sie Drachen?” t-shirts, and new fans and new converts walked away with hundreds of copies of the new Shadowrun Quick-Start Rules–including Food Fight 4.0!
Classic BattleTech, by luck of the draw, actually had four new products available as well as an errata-corrected reprint of Total Warfare. There was Technical Readout: 3050 Upgrades, which had just hit stores, Starterbook: Sword & Dragon, a gorgeous and useful sourcebook for anyone, but especially designed for new players, the long-awaited hardback of TechManual–everything you need for construction of all basic BattleTech units–and (the prize!) the new Classic BattleTech Introductory Box Set with the return of plastic miniatures in the box for the first time in over ten years! While we had worried a bit that we were bringing too much new material to the show, in the end we saw a great many happy fans who walked away with a bulging black shopping bag and large smiles.
Of everything we offered at Gen Con 2007, it was definitely the new box set which drew the most accolades from fans, from reviewers, and from other industry professionals. We’ve found great things being said about it in a dozen different Gen Con reports, the podcasts and blogs, and just overall post-convention buzz. Some of our favorite published (or relayed) quotes? “The Catalyst stuff is super awesome …” from Mike Mearls, senior developer for D&D 4th Edition; ” …an attractive product with cutting-edge graphics.” from Tabletop Gaming News’ TOP FIVE from Gen Con 2007; and “We’re boned.” from an employee of a rival miniatures company, both of whom shall remain nameless in this report.
And to do our part for other companies who impressed us with their presence and their product, we’d like to pass out several “Well done!” remarks to Fantasy Flight and Green Ronin for their continued excellence in product, to Paizo Publishing for Stonehenge, and especially to Red Juggernaut Games for Battue which may be the best game we brought back from the show (hey, we already had our own CBT box sets waiting for us at home!). Nice work, everyone!
The Gaming Halls (a study of gamers in their natural habitat)
The gaming halls suffered a bit this year because of construction, and that Gen Con moved the entire Minis Hall out of its former location in favor of opening up more space to the Exhibit Hall. This caused a cascading effect as almost the entire rest of the Gen Con programming got moved around to fill whatever available rooms there were, with overflow spreading out to the hotels in a far-traveling (and often confusing) spread. Fortunately, the RPGA room which was “D&D Central” got to keep the coveted Sagamore Ballroom (which was the minis home two years ago) to itself, without having to suffer such trials. We are very happy for them. (okay, read at least some sarcasm into that please).
BattleTech found a home fairly close to the exhibit floor, on the second level, where the crew worked very hard to oversee a heavy slate of wargaming. It was strange, not being in the big room with other miniatures games, especially when we had planned for some great dioramas and eye-candy games to draw players away from those “other companies.” Still and all, the judging crew did an excellent job meeting their usual high standard. This area also played host to the Classic BattleTech “Iron Writers” event, hosted for the second time in two years, where any writer up to the challenge gets one hour to write a CBT short story to a topic set by the host. This year’s topic: “Raven.” More participated this year as last year, and stories will appear in their raw, unedited version soon on BattleCorps for judging by the fans on which one(s) get full editorial treatment and republished in the professional forum. We look forward to growing this fun experiment into an official event next year, possibly for Shadowrun as well.
Shadowrun did not fare quite so well in getting a prime (or even decent) location. The events were scattered between two hotels as well as a third site many of us never found. However, the turnout was still nothing short of amazing, exceeding last year’s turnout despite players having to spend some extra time searching for their Johnsons (c’mon, it’s Shadowrun … there has to be one good Johnson joke in there somewhere.) Shadowrun’s informal “Mr. Johnson” booth-running game was a success, again, with people completing fun missions for
prizes. And the Gen Con tournament was especially well-attended, and well-run, with no complaints when Catalyst Game Labs showed up with a stack of pizzas to pass out during an unscheduled break.
Forced to eat round bread with cheese, the Shadowrun players (reluctantly) allowed us to force food on them. (Note: A similar pizza stack was also reported to have made it to the Classic BattleTech gaming area, but its arrival appears to have been lost in the confusion of a swarm of locusts which descended at the same time, as well as one deranged Capellan fan running about collecting pizza boxes, yelling “It’s a code! A code!”)
Wrapping It Up
While a daunting experiment, to take on Gen Con so close to forming Catalyst Game Labs and accepting control of both Shadowrun and Classic BattleTech, we would like to believe that we came out of the show in fairly good standing. And the largest feather in our cap (for this year) had to be Classic BattleTech picking up two ENnie Awards on Friday night; a silver medal for Best Free Product (the Classic BattleTech Quick Start Rules) and gold for Best Electronic Book (the Leap Into The Action page on the Classic BattleTech website).
So, all in all, we seemed to do well and fans of both BattleTech and Shadowrun had a great time, enjoying the new product and looking forward to the things which Catalyst will bring in the near future, as well as to Gen Con 2008. We invite any feedback people might have on what we did right or wrong, where we can improve, and what you might want to see next time around. In the meantime, please keep an eye open for our continued efforts in this, our grand experiment.
The Catalyst Game Labs’ Staff