Hope is on the horizon. Most restrictions on businesses and public gatherings have been lifted while the number of people vaccinated continues to rise. Numerous conventions have also announced they will be having a live event either in ate 2021 or early 2022. We could expect life to return to normal by middle of July.

There will be a huge demand for events, conventions and expos being no exception. These are also great marketing opportunists for indie studios to promote their titles and reach out to the media. Indie studios aren’t the only one who understand these opportunities, every studio and publisher knows this. Thus, an indie studio will be competing against major studios who have a marketing budget and a team.

The Race for Attention

Communities that are a center of technology, arts and culture will have a rich indie game industry. They will also have a rich fandom community that works to organize numerous conventions and gatherings. Both the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles area alone will have four fan conventions a month (pre-COVID). This is not even counting major ones like SiliCon, Crunchyroll Expo, WonderCon or Anime Expo.

Unfortunately, indie studios will too often attempt to promote their work at major conventions while ignoring the local ones. In doing so they are overlooking a means to directly reach out to their target audience. In theory, it makes sense to go all in at a major convention that attracts over 100,000 visitors and brings together the media along with industry leaders. In reality, they are competing against other studios and could risk gambling away their resources in the hopes of being recognized.

Betting everything on one event is the marketing equivalence of finding financial success by winning the lottery.

Defining Local Conventions

Before getting into why indie studios should promote their work at local conventions, it’s important to set a definition of local conventions. For this opinion; I will be defining a local convention as a weekend event (1 or 2 days) that attracts between 500 to 3,000 guests. They are usually hosted at a hotel, community center, fairground or small convention center.

An Untapped Market

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 without investing too many resources.

For starters, most of the traveling and lodging expense have been eliminated (one might have to just pay for gas and parking). Many smaller cons will either greatly reduce or waiver the table fees in exchange for other services. Many orginizers really want to have an unforgettable event and are open to working with indie studios. The reduction in cost also means that an indie studio could attend numerous events during the year. Even if a convention does make the studio pay for a table, at most you might have to spend $1,200 for the best spot.

An indie studio could also be more selective and attend a local convention that is focused on their genre. While major conventions will be broad in its target audience, there are smaller conventions that focus on a niche community. For example, Bay Con is dedicated to science fiction and fantasy (perfect for a fantasy or sci-fi themed game). This means you will not have to look too long just to find your target audience because they are all present for a single event.

Besides better reach to the audience, studios also have easy access to the media. You won’t see major video game news outlets but there are a lot of reporters from the indie news sites. Many of them are involved in the local community and are willing to hear about your game or introduce you to someone who has a better understanding of your work.

Investing in the Community

For an indie studio to invest in local cons allows them to better promote their games and reach out to a greater audience directly. This is not to say indie studios should avoid major conventions. If they have major support (like from Facebook or Microsoft) then absolutely take the opportunity. If the choice is to go it alone then it’s better to be focused on the local conventions.

8Bit/Digi is an independent media outlet that provides an insight into the video game community and industry of the San Francisco Bay Area.

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