The financial hit indie studios are going to take because of GDC being cancelled is an example of why they need to promote their work at local conventions.
The Financial Risks of a Major Expo
In response to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak and numerous industry titans pulling out of the event, the GDC Event Team made the difficult choice of cancelling* the 2020 event. With the event being only a few weeks away, many have been put in a very difficult position.
Many major publishers and studios could easily take the finical hit given their resources. PlayStation, Facebook, Unity and EA got it easy as they are based here in the Bay Area. However it’s not so easy for indie studios who are now put in a difficult spot. With their limited resources, they were hoping that GDC would be the perfect opportunity to showcase their work. Instead they have the choice to either cancel their plans and take the hit or come to the Bay Area regardless.
It has been the major cost burden that I have advocated for indie studios to focus more on local conventions. Major events like GDC and E3 are a finical burden on indie studios. Worse is that they are force to compete against other studios along with industry titans. By shifting their focus on their local conventions, they eliminate a majority of these burdens while better connecting with their target audience.
* They’re calling it a “postponing” but I’ve covered enough conventions to know when they are cancelled for the year.
Local vs. Major Conventions
Metropolitans that are a center of technology, arts and culture will have a rich indie game industry. These communities will also have a rich fandom culture that works to organize numerous conventions and gatherings. The San Francisco Bay Area alone will have four fan conventions a month. The same could be said about the Los Angeles area (without counting E3, WonderCon or Anime Expo).
Unfortunately, indie studios will too often attempt to promote their work at major conventions while ignoring the local conventions. In doing so they are overlooking a means to directly reach out to their target audience. At the same time they are gambling away their resources in the hopes of being recognized. Sadly this is the marketing equivalence of finding financial success by winning the lottery.
This is not to say indie studios should avoid major conventions. If they have major support (like from Microsoft or Epic Games) then absolutely take the opportunity. If the choice is to go it alone then it’s better to be focused on the local conventions.
The Cost of Local Conventions
Indie studios need to utilize what they have to the best of their abilities. Working with local conventions is one of the best ways to reach out to their target audience.
By staying local, most of the traveling and lodging expense have are eliminated. Local conventions will be more flexible when it comes to accommodations and cost. Some will either greatly reduce or waiver the table fees (in exchange for other services). The reduction in cost also means that an indie studio could attend numerous events during the year.
It doesn’t even have to be a standard convention, there are numerous conventions that focus on a niche community. Bay Con dedication to science fiction and fantasy while Sinister Creature Con focus on horror are just a few examples.
If the worst case scenario does present itself, then it won’t be a major hit for the studio. Hypothetically; if a local convention has to cancel, it won’t be a financial burden. There were no travel expenses and the booths fee is often quickly refunded.
Lower Risk / Higher Reward
With the coronavirus outbreak still ongoing, GDC may not be the only convention that will be cancelled. Indie studios looking to promote their project should consider bringing it to a local convention. The most obvious reason is that it won’t be a major financial burden on the studios limited resource.
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