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BoardGameGeek» Forums » Gaming Related » Conventions » WBC

Subject: WBC 2016 Overview - Year One of the New Era! rss

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Joel Tamburo
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WBC 2016 was in many ways year one of a new era. We not only are starting life in a new location, we have a new Convention Director (welcome Ken Gutermuth!) and the convention itself has a longer length and simplified structure (no more pre-cons). For ease of reading I am going to break my report out into sections on the facility, the staff and the gaming.

#1: The Facility

Seven Springs is an interesting choice for a convention venue, as while it does possess conference facilities its primary activity is as a mid to high-mid volume ski resort. So, how does it work as a convention center?

To me, it is fantastic.

The place is clean, well lit and in good repair. Every space I played games in was like this, and the wooden log motif appealed to me as well. Chairs were all comfortable and the tables stable and of good quality too. Temperatures seemed well maintained, and the one place they had a real issue emerge (ski lodge early on) they jumped on it and fixed it VERY fast.

Our room (slopeside lodge) was also nice. It was clean, well maintained and again had the log cabin ceiling that looked very nice. It also came with a Keurig (nice cleaned for us) and an HDTV with proper multimedia connections. Combined with the in room Wifi being fast and stable we watched movies on streaming all week.

My understanding is that the Wifi was not as good everywhere, but also that it is up for renovation before we return next year. More on this in the “staff” topic.

Our group ate mostly onsite and principally at Slopeside and Timers with a visit to Emo’s thrown in. All of the eating places were comfortable and pleasant to eat in, and the food was really quite good. I liked both the omelets and the French Toast in Slopeside, and in Timbers the Free Range Chicken and the Salmon were also very good. As to Emo’s, I tried the grilled Kielbasa and not only did it taste great it was huge! I actually had to cut it in half and give half away as it was way too much food!

On to food prices. Compared to my food cost spend last year the increase was smaller than expected. I wound up spending about $5-$10 per day more than last year. To me that is in the acceptable range, especially as I was experimenting on different food items.

#2: The Staff

The staff of Seven Springs were plentiful, very pleasant and very helpful. They had people providing directions, answering questions, working immediately to address issues and so forth. The servers in the restaurants were likewise pleasant and also their jobs very well (shout outs to Amanda and Morgan in Timbers). Housecleaning also were efficient and went the extra mile to be helpful.

The clear message coming across from everyone was that they want us to succeed and will adapt as they learn our patterns. We saw this constantly during the convention as the staff adapted to issues as they arose, and fixed them. Not that there were lots of issues in the first place as there weren’t. But it showed their level of commitment.

#3: The Gaming

Perhaps this should be #1 – after all this is WBC. As with every year the gaming was great, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. While falling JUST short of the wood in Fire in the Lake was disappointing, I loved the experience. Likewise playing in games like Tin Goose, Atlantic Storm, Galaxy and Churchill while helping to teach people Empire of the Sun and learning Pericles (great upcoming game from Mark Herman). And that doesn’t include the good times in Open Gaming!

This is really the place where WBC separates itself from other conferences. It is not a trade show. It really IS about playing the games. And don’t let the emphasis on tournaments lead you to think it is a pool of sharks, as in most of those tournaments the format makes them essentially Scheduled Open Gaming. Really this is the place to learn new games.

So, overall this is a HIGHLY successful change of venue that had to happen. Now we have a fantastic place to play for our fantastic convention.

Come on in! The water’s great!
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Bill Dickerson
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Joel is on target when he talks about the tournaments being scheduled open gaming. People are still being competitive, but not to the point that they won't guide a new person. I personally reached the elimination rounds in 2 games (SF in Kaiser's Pirates and QF in Baseball Strategy) having never played them before.

Special shout out to Joel for working with myself and my opponent in Empire of the Sun. He is an excellent tutor.
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Eric Guttag
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Hey Joel,

Great report on the first year of WBC at Seven Springs. Loads of fun every day in a very nice facility

Eric
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Joel Tamburo
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Now we come to the next step - go out there and extol the merits of WBC and get more people to attend next year! We have the quality play experience and now a facility to match.
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Osprey
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Did anybody hear what the attendance was and how it compared to last year at Lancaster?
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Joel Tamburo
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Depending on the source it was down 15-25%. Which was completely expected and nowhere near as big as some had predicted.

So, now that we are stable in our new home its time to spread the word for 2017!
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Kaarin Engelmann
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Somewhere around 1,500.
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Osprey
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I know Kaarin was there cause she pulled the fire alarm.

How many did we have at Lancaster last year?
 
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Marty Sample
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I recall somewhere between 1800 and 1900. I don't think its cracked 2000 yet.
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Joel Tamburo
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Which would put the drop in the 20% range. Even at 25% it is not a bad drop for a relocation involving a 160+ mile move.

So, how best to get the word out for 2017?
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Kevin C.
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Quote:
So, how best to get the word out for 2017?


Isn't the assumption that the 25% of the people that didn't come already know about the convention and choose consciously not to come?

I don't know any sort of advertising will get them to make the trip if it was the added travel time that caused them not to show up just for a day.

I don't know that we can ever get a significant drop-in number again. Seven Springs is just too remote for that, to my mind.

I think we could, however, get more full-week people by advertising during Origins and reaching out to the CABS people to be sure they know what the WBC is all about.

(Maybe we already do this...I don't know. Just seem logical to make a push for people more to the west to come.)

I think if we just talk about what a great time we all had and how much of an upgrade Seven Springs was, people that were on the fence might give it a go.

I think some were waiting for doom and gloom reports and when those didn't come in, some people might rethink their reluctance come this year.

I think we were the canaries in the coal mine for a lot of potentials, and now that we have survived with tales of glory and success, I expect attendance will be up next year as a matter of course.

But, again, I think we need to give up on day-trippers. I met one guy in the vendors that came up just for Saturday and said he wouldn't do it again next year. I can see that for most people that might go for a 2 hr drive but now have a 4+ hour trip.

Kevin

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David desJardins
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I don't know if this is a ridiculous idea, but what about arranging bus transportation from some populous area to Seven Springs? Maybe from Philadelphia. We could possibly fill up a couple of buses with people who can get to Philadelphia (e.g., by train or plane) much more easily than to Pittsburgh. It's a four-hour bus ride, not too bad. The times could be scheduled well in advance. I don't know how much a charter bus would cost but the cost per seat might come in to be pretty reasonable.
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Kaarin Engelmann
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I think the bus one is a good one. It could also be from the Washington, DC, area. The drive to Seven Springs is only about 3 hours.
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Kaarin Engelmann
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In terms of daytrippers, they don't have to come from Philly. They could come from Pittsburgh or farther west :-)

Daytrippers are welcome and coming up for a shorter period may provide enough of a taste to help people realize what we have to offer and increase the desire to attend for a longer period. They are not, however, our focus. I think the real goal is to convince people who would enjoy our convention to come up for a longer period!
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Joel Tamburo
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kengelma wrote:
In terms of daytrippers, they don't have to come from Philly. They could come from Pittsburgh or farther west :-)

Daytrippers are welcome and coming up for a shorter period may provide enough of a taste to help people realize what we have to offer and increase the desire to attend for a longer period. They are not, however, our focus. I think the real goal is to convince people who would enjoy our convention to come up for a longer period!


I pretty much agree. In fact, I would go so far as to say we made a mistake years ago by creating a system where the single day tripper was given equal priority as a full week attendee, despite the fact that the full week attendee put at least triple the funds in the coffers plus if they stayed in the conference hotel they were contributing towards filling the room block.

Don's statements a few months ago that it is the full attendees who pay the freight are completely accurate, and in the real world we were in a position where we finally had to prioritize one of these groups (onsite or daytripper). I think we have made the right choice.
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David desJardins
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Joelist wrote:
the full week attendee put at least triple the funds in the coffers plus if they stayed in the conference hotel they were contributing towards filling the room block.


That seems like a non-issue now that demand for rooms greatly exceeds supply.
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Grant LaDue
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I would note that we had something like 1000 people there by Sunday evening, so to whatever extent that total attendance was down, attendance *hours* were flat at worst. A lot more people a lot earlier.
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Scott Saccenti
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I would say that one thing to stress, if we really want more people to come, is the Juniors room, and the family-friendly aspect of WBC. It is what got me here five years ago; it is what makes it possible each year going forward.

The idea of coming to a week-long convention and immersing yourself in your favorite pastime is, for most parents, an unthinkable indulgence. Nobody with kids Gets To Do That. It is--it is simply Not Done.

"We will get to treat ourselves to such a thing, oh, perhaps someday, when the kids are grown."**

At WBC, we get to do this. It is quite remarkable. There is nothing else like it that I am aware of.

Other cons actively dissuade parents from attending, with foreboding warnings about unattended youngsters (usually defined as 17-and-under!!!).

At WBC, for a nine-day family vacation, my kids had as good a time as I did, the younger ones doing their own thing in the Juniors room (thanks to Laurie and her crew!). That is an unknown circumstance at other competing Cons. Whichever competing Con you would care to name...


**This sentiment is likely one articulated by countless gamer parents who dream of going to GenCon or Origins or BGG.con, DiceTower Con, whatever. They know better than to consider these options as a possibility. These are not family destinations. These dreamy folk have probably never heard of WBC (or if they have, they have only heard it is some scary tournament-based convention). Shall we tell them about us? Are you sure? How big a crowd do we really want at Seven Springs? whistle
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Joel Tamburo
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Joelist wrote:
the full week attendee put at least triple the funds in the coffers plus if they stayed in the conference hotel they were contributing towards filling the room block.


That seems like a non-issue now that demand for rooms greatly exceeds supply.


Actually our hotel booked up issue this year was largely due to a glitch in releasing the condos for rental.

Don stated in one of his bulletins that Seven Springs has more than sufficient hotel and condo space for us at twice our peak attendance. And this year we have the condo problem fixed, and indeed the condos go up for rental first. So in theory the effect should be that we do not have people trying to book and finding no rooms like happened this year.
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Joel Tamburo
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ladue wrote:
I would note that we had something like 1000 people there by Sunday evening, so to whatever extent that total attendance was down, attendance *hours* were flat at worst. A lot more people a lot earlier.


This would be interesting to know - regardless of unique people how many attendee days did we have?
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David desJardins
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Joelist wrote:
Don stated in one of his bulletins that Seven Springs has more than sufficient hotel and condo space for us at twice our peak attendance. And this year we have the condo problem fixed, and indeed the condos go up for rental first. So in theory the effect should be that we do not have people trying to book and finding no rooms like happened this year.


I'm not optimistic about that. Too many people prefer the more convenient and flexible hotel rooms. If we really thought that wouldn't be a problem then we wouldn't need such a strict cancellation policy for next year.
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Rob Flowers

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I will note that we have a 3 year old and the past couple of conventions have been rough.

We were really disappointed when it was stated that the daycare idea had fallen through due to lack of interest, but in digging into the website we discovered that Seven Springs offers both kids programs and also a list of vetted babysitters.

We didn't end up using babysitters, but we did use the Kid's Camp program, and it helped to save our sanity, somewhat.
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Frank McNally
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Regarding day trippers this year, I did most of my open gaming with two first timers who drove in from Pittsburgh 2 days. Nice guys and they seemed to enjoy the con and were considering bringing family next year.

We had 3 kids at con, even the 5 year old managed to play 1 jr.event (sushi go). Having kids at a con is a challenge but between Jr.Room and now the on site activities and camps, WBC is likely the most kid/family friendly game con out there.
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Kaarin Engelmann
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Joelist wrote:
[q="ladue"]...regardless of unique people how many attendee days did we have?


I don't think that Don has ever published that number.
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Joel Tamburo
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kengelma wrote:
Joelist wrote:
[q="ladue"]...regardless of unique people how many attendee days did we have?


I don't think that Don has ever published that number.


I believe you're right. We've always looked at things in terms of unique attendees, which is a valid measure.

Attendee days is of more use in terms of figuring out whether we are moving to a model where the average attendee is attending for more days.
 
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