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When Dragons Travel: A GenCon Review

I want all of you to know that I am going to cover a large variety of things in this article, not just Magic.  I enjoyed the whole weekend.  However, I do think that unless you are playing in tournaments or waiting on some particular events, I think that you can cover everything you need to in two days.  That’s my personal view though.

Something else to note is that the game industry has certainly gone more mainstream in the past couple of years.  There were lots of business people there.  Lots of people from the corporate world.  Also, there were a LOT of families that came up to the show.  It’s interesting to see that the industry is reaching young kids and not just the college age and up people that it used to.  When the show started on Sunday, they made an announcement to the dealers that the turnstile had seen 24,000 people.  Now let me explain how this works:

The turnstile is the total number of people that have come through the door.  Take into account that a lot of people attended multiple days.  So if you assume that everyone attended all three days up to that point that is somewhere in the ballpark of 8,000 people.  The honest truth however is that some people only attended one or two days of the convention and the actual number they had seen up to that point was in the range of 12,000 people.  We even saw a ton of new faces on Sunday. 

I also want to saw thanks to Hank Rose and the entire Comic Images crew for getting me out to the show.  As usual I had fun demo’ing WWF Raw Deal.  It’s a great game and easy to get people hooked.  For those of you that haven’t tried it, check it out.  Almost all of the people that play the game play either Magic, Star Wars, or L5R.  It plays fairly fast and has a lot of skill in deck construction.  Most of you would enjoy it.

Anyway, the show had a ton of stuff going on at all times.  If you were just looking for something to do and a game to play, there was definitely something there for you.  I spent a large amount of time in the exhibitor hall, so I will give you a rundown of my overall impressions.

NOTE: THESE IMPRESSIONS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH HOW THESE PEOPLE DO BUSINESS.

THIS IS JUST HOW THEY CAME OFF AT THE SHOW.

I might as well start with the bad ones.  The one that tops my list is Ultra-Pro.  I own a game store here in Waco and we use a LOT of their products.  The people they had working their booth were rude and HIGHLY uncooperative.  I was trying to get some samples of their sleeves to bring back to my store to hype them up.  I either wanted to outfit a deck, or if they gave me enough I would put them in peoples bags with their purchases.  Their new sleeves are SUPPOSED to release at the end of the month, so that would be helping to increase sales for both them and myself. The lady working the booth would only let me get one.  That’s right ONE of each sleeve.  Even after explaining this whole situation.  I came back on the last day of the show, so I could try and get what was left of some of the samples and the gentleman in charge let me get FIVE.  Needless to say I wasn’t happy. Really bad for someone that leads the industry in their niche.

My award for second worst disappointment goes to the Playstation booth.  Don’t get me wrong, I own a playstation and everything, but they didn’t show anything new.  You are going to have more than 15,000 people in the exhibit hall throughout the weekend.  Why not have new games to show.  Their booth was highly unimpressive.  They didn’t have much room t get around while you sampled games and they only had a couple to look at.  All the new games they had were already available.  Also, not to mention that one of the guys working for them kept mentioning Sega off and on and would catch himself.  If you work for a million dollar corporation, it’s good to know who you work for.

To finish off my list of disappointments is Troll and Toad.  Personally I like these guys.  As a matter of fact, I have done business with these folks before. However, on multiple occasions I stopped by their booth with cash in hand.  I wanted to spend $200 at one point and I kept getting sent from one person to the next.  After I explained I had a store, they were all about wanting to ship me stuff.  But I wanted to take it with me, so I could sell it on Monday.  They had a hard time understanding this.  I felt like I was being ignored, especially when I was there before and/or after the show.  There weren’t any crowds or anything.  I wasn’t the only one that got this treatment from what I could tell.

Obviously, not everything was bad.  There were several good booths.

I generally don’t support Scrye much in my store.  Their parent company Krause (which I found out is pronounced - Krow-zee) gave many people a very good impression.  They were polite to everyone of all ages.  They answered everyone’s questions, they listened to suggestions, and they even gave a free copy of the latest issue of Scrye to the people helping us at the Comic Images booth just so we could get the promo that we hadn’t received yet.  They almost made me feel bad for supporting InQuest over their magazine.  Kudos to their workers.  They were enough to make me want to push their magazine more.

Atomoton had a great booth.  This is a company many of you probably haven’t heard of.  It was started by the guy that created the White Wolf line, Mark Rein*Hagan (I think I spelled that right).  Anyway, they had their first game release at the show.  It is called Z-G. It’s all about robot fighting.  You get guys dressed up in armored robot suits and get to blast the armor off of each other.  It plays along with a deck of cards and everything.  It’s th ebest of both miniatures and CCG’s.  Their booth always had people there getting demo’s and they were hugely helpful and informative.  Not only that, but they always seemed excited and eager to get more people to play their game.  That’s a very good sign for their company.  He has apparently kept in touch with a lot of people via e-mail that he met at the show.  I hope this company does well and goes far.  We have already sold out of two shipments of their robots in our store :)

Now this one might seem biased, but I have to give props to Hank with the Comic Images crew.  Hank went above and beyond the call of duty this time.  He had sweatshirts, T-shirts, and tank tops to give away with the new set logo and stuff on them (Backlash).  He got enough people there to help out.  Also, the rest of the crew, Barron, Mike, Marc, Tom, and Jeff, along with myself busted our butts for our tournaments.  The first tournament we ran of the weekend was on Thursday night.  It had 98 participants.  We knew at that point the rest of the weekend was going to be huge.  Our largest event was the World Championship event on Saturday.  It had 140 participants.  And this isn’t even counting the players that couldn’t play because they were participating in the Star Wars and Legends of the Five Rings World Championships.

My honorable mentions go out to three groups:

The first is Steve Jackson Games.  They seemed to have a crowd around their booth most of the weekend.  Mainly because they were having a blast playing Munchkin.  It’s their new game that mocks role playing.  The whole objective is to adventure and screw your friends.  We keep selling out of it and the show showed exactly why.  Steve Jackson had a small booth, but did well with what they had.  I have heard through my overly connected grapevine that they are having some money trouble.  I hope this latest set of games helps get them back on their feet some, they deserve it.  They have been with the industry for a long time now and they showed why.  Their people seem to genuinely enjoy games.

Z-Man games is another group you may not have heard of before.  They recently picked up the license to the Shadowfist ccg.  They re-released it, gave it a better look, and are selling the hell out of it.  They had a decent bit of people playing it all weekend.  The best part is, they made it compatible with the old cards.  Also, they sold out of their new game:

Zombies from Outer Space, the B-movie card game.  People were all over that game.  I hope they do well in the future.  I know that I am definitely ordering some of their stuff for my store.

Games Workshop rounds out the list.  I personally felt that they did a GREAT job showing their stuff and getting people to play some demo games.  They were always talkative and were moving product.  They even had a pretty elaborate set up.  They had actual shelves and all, almost like aisles.  The one thing I was TOTALLY disturbed by was the fact that they had a nice glass display up with models in it.  On each shelves there were little tags saying “Please don’t take pictures of items in this display.”  I mean seriously, who brings stuff to the show and doesn’t want people to go show it off to their friends or customers.  Plus it was all stuff that you can see on the website from what I can tell.  But whatever, it’s not my business.

The tournament areas were non stop movement all weekend.  Role playing games, board games, and card games each had their separate rooms.  You could walk by at any given time of night and there were vents happening literally ALL night long.  It was the proverbial 24/7 of gaming around that place.  Anyone that thought Magic: The Gathering was dying is TOTALLY mistaken.  They did at least 25 drafts every evening.  Including the drafts, I would say that Wizards of the Coast ran upwards of 50 tournaments every day.  I mean for a game that is dying, this is a lot of action happening.  I have to say that the Wizards employees working the night shift did well trying to accommodate everyone and make space for all the different games.  They were all over the place all the time.

The Legends of the Five Rings guys didn’t do too great of a job trying to get people to like them and their game.  The players were constantly yelling out different things for some unknown reason.  I have to admit most of the players in the card area were pretty presentable.  Most of them were respectable and the funk factor in the room was pretty low. 

Overall, I have to say, the show was a success.  The city of Milwaukee needs to stay open a little later that weekend though.  After 7PM the only thing that seemed to be open were fast food, the mall, bars, and casinos.  When the whole town relies on that revenue from the GenCon tourists, they need to take advantage of it.  People shouldn’t have trouble finding things to do and places to eat when you are coming from the convention center in the middle of town.

Also, if you are ever traveling in the Midwest, fly Midwest Express.  They are a top notch airline. From what I can tell, they don’t have a first class, but everyone gets treated like first class.  Their meals are really good, usually like hoagies, steaks, shrimp and chicken salads, etc.  They also serves cheesecake and homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  They even have leather seats.  They were also booked up on every flight from what I could tell.  And with good reason.  They also only put to people to a side.  Not two on one side and three on the other like a lot of airlines.

Well, that’s my take on the weekend.  Hope it was informative.  Sorry about not posting, but with GenCon and all, I have been real busy.

Oh yeah, one last thing.  I want to say good bye to Sam at Rama Llama Comics in Plano,TX.  They are closing their doors at the end of the month.  Apparently things aren’t doing too well for Sam and the crew.  I hope his future goes well.  The reason this is strange for me is that Browser Games (Houston), Rama Llama Comics (Dallas), and The Game Closet (my store, Waco) were the three known stores that people played at and traveled to.  Well, Browser Games closed back in April I believe, and now Rama llama is closing.  Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t even closed to closing our doors.  It’s just more pressure on us to get things going and I’ve had to adjust some of my plans.  Needless to say, I have a lot of big plans on the way.  For those of you that have attended some of my events or have been to my store, please e-mail me.  For those of you that have been considering coming to my store please also e-mail me.  We are in the process of making some major changes and I need a lot of input.  We are hosting a PTQ on September 8th and I want to make sure everything goes well and we can accommodate everyone in the future.

Well, until next time,

DeQuan Watson
PowrDragn@pojo.com

The Game Closet

 


 

Biography

Name: DeQuan Watson

    Many readers have gathered a lot of information about me through my writings.  For those of you that haven't though, this should tell you a little more. 

    I'm 23 years old and I own my own business. Well, more accurately I own a game store.  The Game Closet, my store is one of the premiere places to play
in the Texas.  I play Magic on a pretty regular basis.  I help people build decks and teach the game to people multiple times a week.  Owning a store is
neat, because it gives me another perspective to write my articles from.  I
can usually tell what the average player likes and can judge some of the
tendencies of the average player a little better.

    However, I know a decent bit about pro level play as well.  I myself have
played on the Pro Tour.  I have multiple Top 8 finishes at Pro Tour
Qualifiers.  I also have made Day Two at two Grand Prix tournaments.  I was also invited to the Event horizons Invitational last year.  These are not
stellar achievements, but high enough to let you know I have my head on
straight when talking about the game. I also spend lots of time each week talking to, e-mailing, or chatting with top level players.  I get to see their perspective on a lot of things as well.  Between the two, I think I get a good sense of balance of the game.

    Most importantly, I still enjoy the game for the sake of the game itself.  I like the time, the competition, and the general interaction of players.  I plan to be playing it until it goes away...if it ever does.

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