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  • Breaking Down The Costs Of A Convention Showcase

    - An Lieu
  • I have done it, there is no going back now. We brought Rabbit Hole to show off at a convention for the first time: Anime Matsuri. Oh boy! I did not know what I was getting into.

    As an indie developer with the first commercial project, It is difficult to know what to expect and what to prepare. There were so many little questions: what to bring? Where do I get those? How much to bring? What should you get from the guests? How to get traffic to your booth? Can I bring food? Is the table big enough? Can we setup extra chairs? How much should I spend? How about meals? The list of questions just goes on and on.

    This blog post is a way for me to reflect on the experience and share it with other fellow aspiring indie developers, or other creative individuals who want to share their works with the world. It is full of answers to the little things that you didn't even know to ask. If you have never gone to an expo as an exhibitor, read on. Even if you are a seasoned exhibitor, I hope you will find something interesting and relatable.

    Preparing the booth

    To prepare for the booth, I started off with our good old friend, Google search. I looked at dozen of articles, listened to a few GDC speeches, and scanned through hundred of booth photos from PAX and other gaming events. There are lot of advice, and you can spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on the booth trying to follow all that advice. Who am I kidding? an indie guy like me can't afford that.

    When you are not sure what to do, the best option is to pick a goal, pick a budget, and then optimize for those goals. Since Rabbit Hole is still in development, my goals are just to get email addresses and build up a list of potential players/fans for the game, and all with a budget that is less than $600 for the entire booth. Here is a list of things that I bought, and why:

    1. A refurbished 30' TV from Best buy ($90): I needed a large TV to show gameplay footage, and to let people play the demo. I couldn't bring my computer monitor, and the spare one I got is too small. Also, moving images and video help capture people attention as they walk by the booth.

    2. A 8'x'4 vertical banner with stand from Vista Print ($83): I feel that a portable large banner facing oncoming traffic is a good way to catch the eye of each passerby. The art is one of the biggest assets of Rabbit Hole, so it is important to be able to show it off.

    3. 500 business cards to Rabbit Hole website from Vista Print, with UV finish ($42). Again, not sure how effective they were, but it is nice to have something to give to those show interest, but did not want to sign up that very moment. A great way for them to find the game online, after the expo.. More about this in the "The Script" section.

    4. A 4'x'4 banner from Vista Print ($43): This was used as the table runner. The default table provided by the organizer is too ugly and it just looks bad without some branding.

    5. A Small T-shirt with Rabbit Hole artwork ($10): I just wanted a t-shirt.

    6. A 8'x4' banner from Vista Print ($69): To use as the backdrop. Again, another great way to grab the attention of those walking by,

    7. A Studio PhotoShoot Stand and Backdrop support from Amazon ($32): I needed something to hang the backdrops.

    8. Clamps and Clip Holders from Amazon ($15): These are super useful. I speak of this in greater detail in the section: Things that went well.

    9. Black Linen tablecloth from Amazon ($8): Super cheap, work greats due to the dark theme of Rabbit Hole.

    10. Props and miscellaneous from Michael Craft store ($130): The whole booth needs to have a theme that ties them all together, so I went shopping: sketchbooks, blackboards, prop trees and greeneries, bookstands, lantern, table lights, power cord, rotating display stand...

    Here is how the booth looks after we put everything together, the bunny girl not included:

    Not too shabby, and at around $550, the whole thing comes in a little bit under my targeted budget. The only thing that I would change is that I would have bought extra black linen to cover the whole booth. They are super inexpensive, and the red/white default color of the provided booth looks so weird.


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