Friday, 18 February 2011

No Gen Con Oz in 2011

...but I'm sure you didn't read that here first.

In an announcement overnight, the Eventions team told the world that they will not run Gen Con Oz in 2011, having also cancelled it in 2010. This has made a lot of people upset and started calls for replacement events. I saw one levelled at Here Be Gamers to "just run the alternative events again."

I confess to being a little surprised at the announcement. After two years of running it, and then a year of not, there was a great deal of interest in bringing it back in 2011. Maybe I'm a bit optimistic. I'd like to think that we learn from the failures and find a way around them for the next challenge. At least this time Eventions hadn't committed so much as to accept registrations and payments, so that's evidence of a lesson learned.

Even though gamers are quite loud on the internet, I don't know whether that's actually a reflection of the total sentiment or the actual market size associated with Gen Con Oz. I'm leaning towards the former.

In the absence of Gen Con Oz, what will attendees do? The cosplayers are an enthusiastic bunch, and have lots of other opportunities for their hobby. They have events like Supanova, places like the Mana Bar, the everpresent photoshoot-on-the-internet, and plenty of meetups around the place. The computer gamers have everything from solo play at home, to online play at home, to private networks, to events like Supanova (again!). Board gamers? It's a similar story. Card gamers? Ditto. Miniatures gamers? Ditto again. And on top of all that is the upcoming Auscon. So who's missing? Story gamers (ok, ok. roleplayers). It's the most complicated of all the participation events typically seen at conventions, and the one that requires the greatest input from retailers.

My point with all this is that the Australian geek crowd has outlets in a dozen other places. So why are so many upset or disappointed? I think we love the name of Gen Con. It's a revered brand, made even more "sacred" because it's so far away. It's a kind of Mecca, or Shangri-la. Many of us know someone who slapped down the cash to fly across the Pacific to get to Gen Con. It's such a pilgrimage and shows a devotion. To have Shangri-la come down from heaven and land in Australia was such a treat. With projected expectations like that, it's no surprise that the disappointement is so strong. We love the brand, and that's what draws the crowd and what costs people like Eventions some extra money. Licensing brands isn't cheap or easy. The brand owners want to make sure that they put the brand into safe hands, so they make it too expensive for backyard operators.

The hard work will be to create something as beloved by Australian gamers (et al) to meet a similar recreational need. There are plenty of smaller conventions out there that currently do it for their cities or regions. Perhaps Australia cannot sustain a large convention like Gen Con Oz at all.
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