From the cost effective savings to the opportunity to do more with very little, this is a look at why VR studios should be focused on local and mid-tier conventions.
As convention season begins to return, numerous communities and fandoms are ready to gather for either a day or weekend of fun. For the entertainment industry, these are great marketing opportunities to reach out to their audience. VR game studios are no exception but it has been having trouble reaching out to a greater audience. Part of the reason is that most studios have been promoting their work at major conventions while ignoring the local and mid-tier ones.
By ignoring these conventions, they are missing out an opportunity that is not present at the major conventions. As someone who has attended numerous conventions professionally, this is a look at why VR studios should be more focused on the local scenes to better promote their work.
5. It’s Cost Effective
To understand why betting on a major event is a gamble, one has to look at the financial cost. The cost for a simple booth at a major convention will go between $5,000 to $10,000 just for the space alone. Then one has to factor in the cost of passes ($100 to $900) for each member of the team. Finally there is the traveling expenses, which will include the cost of bring the gear, the team and the hotel rooms.
If a small studio is investing that much for one event, it’s going to limit what they can do in the future.
Attending a local convention is far more cost effective. The average convention in the Bay Area is going to charge at most $2000 for a good booth but the price could be negotiable. Most events will also offer complementary or discounted passes to vendors. Meanwhile a good chunk of the traveling cost has been eliminated by staying local. Since the event is local, traveling expenses will be focused on parking and gas.
4. Better Access to Fans and Media
The reason VR studios have been gambling on major conventions is because of the high volume of attendees and the presence of major media outlets. In theory, this should be the ideal spot due to the high volume of attendees along with the presences of major media outlets and industry leaders. In practice, major fan conventions have way too many people to the point that LineCon becomes the norm while the major names get all the attention.
Local conventions will allow VR studios to better reach out to their target audience without having to deal with LineCon or compete with major studios. Besides the guest, most of the vendors are going to be local comic book and indie video game shops (who could provide other marketing opportunists). Also they offer easy access to a more diverse media (mostly indie news sites but with a solid readership).
3. Organizers are Flexible
Anyone who has worked with a major convention will know how serious they are about the deadlines. If you fail to submit a form, attend a Zoom meeting, or fail to respond to any of the five confirmation emails then you’ve lost your spot. Then it’s the day of the convention and someone form the team needs to show up at 5am to start setting things up or your spots gets forfeited. Plus, many major conventions will limit what you want to do (unless you’re willing to pay more).
Organizers of local and mid-tier conventions tend to be more flexible when it comes to working with vendors. Signing up is easy and they are not too harsh with missing a deadline (because it happens). Most of them could be reached with a simple phone call or a chat on social media. Sometimes, a panel might be planned or asked at the last minute. Also they will be more open to a VR studio doing something special just to make the convention stand out.
2. Attend More (Niche Focused) Events
Why gamble on going to one events a year when you could attend seven local ones in the same time frame? Not only does going to a major event drain resources, it also limits where one could go. By focusing on local and mid-tier conventions, a studio could reach out to a number of different groups. For example, why limit yourself to San Diego Comic Con when you could plan for four conventions in your own area.
Major conventions will also be broad in who they attract, while there are more mid-tier conventions that focus on a niche community. By focusing on local conventions, a VR studio could also attend events that are hyper focused on a theme that is similar to their game. 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.
1. Kill the “VR is a Fad” Discourse
Anyone who has read my coverage of any VR convention will know that I’ve embraced it as the future of video games. When it comes to talking about it, but it always becomes one of two conversations (depending on the moment). If I’m at an event like GDC, the conversation is about how amazing a game is and how we can’t wait for other titles to embrace VR. If I’m at an event like FanimeCon, the conversation becomes about how VR is a fad that needs to die.
It’s easy to dismiss such ignorance but given where I encounter this, the problem has more to do with how so many VR studios are promoting their titles. They are too focused on major events and industry expos that they ignore most of their potential target audience. Not everyone can afford to attend Comic Con or Anime Expo, while those that go are interested in what they are familiar with.
As Facebook works to make quality VR available to the massed, studios need to break from this bubble and have a presence at local conventions. By attending local conventions, they have the chance to showcase their work to a more diverse audience. At the same time they are killing the discourse that VR is a fad or that it’s a privilege enjoyed by those with a high powered PC.
8Bit/Digi is an independent media outlet that provides an insight into the video game community and industry of the San Francisco Bay Area.