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Links: Thoughts on Virtual Conventions, and Game Sales During a Pandemic

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
• Having experienced both Virtual Gaming Con and Gen Con Online, designer Gil Hova details what didn't work in these virtual cons and what he hopes to see in the future. An excerpt:
This gets to my biggest issue with virtual conventions, as they're implemented right now: they are too decentralized. A convention is, at its lexical and literal heart, a place where people convene. It's a place where we serendipitously bump into people we haven't seen in years. It's a place where we meet old friends and make new friends, where we go out to dinner at local restaurants to catch up and talk about stuff.

None of that stuff is possible at a virtual convention right now.
The big thing is that the whole convention must be in the same Discord server. This is vital for the convention to work — it's what makes the convention feel like "convening," instead of just a place to organize games.

I think this is where the Gen Con experience didn't work great for me. Gen Con forbade gaming on their Discord server (with one exception, which I'll get to). Instead, everyone who ran an event was responsible for running it on their own platform — Discord, Skype, Tabletop Simulator built-in chat, etc.

This meant that as you moved from text channel to another in Gen Con's Discord, you gaming. People talking about games, maybe planning games, asking for help with games, but no gaming.

This is so far removed from the in-person Gen Con experience, it's almost breathtaking. Gen Con is predicated on gaming. Gen Con Online kept gaming very far out of sight, almost as if it was a shameful, unsavory thing.
I didn't participate in VGC, and I'm still not sure what to think about Gen Con Online. I was as tired afterwards as I am following an in-person Gen Con and I played no games (which is typical), but I did appreciate the short travel distance I had to navigate to reach my broadcast space...

Board Game: Catan
• On August 4, 2020 on NPR, Rob Schmitz highlighted a 144% sales increase of Catan in the first five months of 2020, crediting folks looking for things to do indoors courtesy of the coronavirus.

• Along those same lines in late July 2020, People magazine spotlighted "12 Board Games to Keep You Occupied and Entertained at Home", including Azul (best new board game), Splendor (best strategy board game), and Codenames (best for adults). Lots of old-school mainstream titles on that list, too.

Board Game: Fluxx
• On July 24, 2020, designer Andy Looney posted his original design notes for what become Fluxx, with those notes being twenty-four years old. Short description: "I have an idea for a completely wacky and unpredictable card game that would be the ultimate in easy to learn."

• On July 27, 2020, Hasbro reported Q2 2020 revenue of $860.3 million, "down 29% on a pro forma basis" from Q2 2019 when revenue was $1.2 billion. This announcement led to Hasbro's share price falling 8% that day.

That said, Hasbro Gaming revenues for Q2 2020 were up 11% compared to the previous year. Two excerpts from its Q2 2020 financial report:
• Hasbro's Gaming revenues grew 11% and gaming point of sale was up globally over 50% (Note: Point of sale does not include Wizards of the Coast brands). JENGA, CONNECT 4, BATTLESHIP, MOUSETRAP and TWISTER were among the top revenue increases in the quarter. Supply chain disruption led to in stock levels below normal thresholds and limited shipments in the quarter.

• MAGIC: THE GATHERING revenues declined as expected in the quarter, reflecting a difficult comparison with a major release in the second quarter of 2019 and the previously disclosed accelerated shipments into Q1 2020 to minimize disruption from COVID-19. Digital revenues for MAGIC: THE GATHERING, including Arena, increased slightly in the quarter. Strong analog and digital releases are expected to support the brand in the second half of 2020.
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