With the birth of my twin sons not seven months ago, the chances of attending GenCon this year seemed rather dismal. Fortunately Best Buy Canada, my day job employer for the last 20 years, found itself in a need to attend. When they learned of the existence of GenCon they knew it was a great opportunity to meet publishers face to face in order to get them aligned with the upcoming launch of board games on bestbuy.ca. Having no contacts in the board game world aside from the distributors they deal with, they remembered a fellow employee who might know a thing or three about the board game world. Enter Jay Cormier!
I was asked to not only set up meetings with the Best Buy buyer and key publishers, but also attend with him to make the introductions. So this is how Jay Cormier got to attend GenCon for free!
We spent the greater part of the first day of GenCon with Asmodee. We were given grand tours of all things Asmodee, including Fantasy Flight, Z-Man, Plaid Hat and Space Cowboys. We got to play a couple games – like Numbr 9 and Century: Spice Road – both great gateway games. We were also given some free time to wander the hall. I took this opportunity to introduce the Best Buyer buyer (let’s call him Kevin, because that’s his name) to several publishers that I didn’t have a meeting scheduled. We got to meet with Gamelyn Games, Green Couch Games, Kids Table Board Games, Perplext, TMG, Grey Fox Games and more. These meetings were impromptu and each publisher seemed happy to talk to a mass merchant with amazing online presence and 136 stores across Canada.
Thursday night we went to dinner with Asmodee and got to relax and also understand more about the inner workings of Asmodee. Later on that evening I met up with Sen and others as we got to catch up!
Friday started with a meeting with IDW Games where Sen and I discussed the future of our Powers game that we were asked to make 2 years ago. We handed in the game one year ago and now we’re figuring out the next steps. Some interesting developments and we’re all excited about it again! 🙂
After that it was back with Best Buy and meetings set up every 30 minutes. We met with CMON, Renegade, USAopoly, R&R Games, Stronghold, Upperdeck, iEllo and Breaking Games. In between those meetings I was still able to introduce Kevin to even more publishers. The publishers all seemed grateful to have the opportunity to talk to Best Buy and Kevin was more than pleased to have met so many publishers and learn about their biggest games firsthand.
Once Kevin left at around 4, then it was Jay’s turn to shine! I had an impromptu meeting with Foxtrot and showed them my new Fanimals game and they seemed really interested in it! After that Sen and I had a meeting with Oni Press. They are looking to make more board games based off of their comics (they started with Scott Pilgrim which was released – and immediately sold out – by Renegade Games). They were telling some of the favouritest game designers of all time about this to see if these so-called (and, more than likely, self-titled) amazing game designers could make some games for them. So they won’t be the publisher but they want to be the conduit between the creator and the designer and the publisher. Seems cool and my brain is already spinning!
Next up was a meeting with Big Kid Games. He’s a new publisher but we really like the guy and we showed him our SimpliCITY game via email a few months ago. He expressed interest in it but wanted to play it through with us and then discuss possibilities. The game went great and he ended up realizing how much depth the game had once he finished a full game. His main challenge with the game was the marketability of a city building game. While that trope does seem like it has a constant place in a gamer’s collection (a city building game), it just didn’t click. So we brainstormed and thought that it could easily take place on a fantastical planet instead of boring old earth. We could also change the title to Complex City…which is funny since that’s the exact opposite of what it was before but we all like it and it feels like it fits better with a fantastical world. By the end he agreed that he wanted to make this game! Huzzah! Expect a Kickstarter in Q1 2019. Expect it!
After a quick bite with some friends, then it was time to meet up with my favourite comic book creator, Matt Kindt! We have been talking for awhile about making a game based on his comic, Mind MGMT, and we had a rough alpha prototype ready to show him. We played it for about an hour and then brainstormed for another couple hours on how to improve it and where it should go from there. Super productive and super amazing to be involved in this project! We finished the night playtesting a game designed by indie comic creator, Chris Schweitzer! It was a racing game around a track with some neat twists. It was also an alpha so we provided some ideas to help him out.
All day Friday I had to carry around my satchel and my luggage (only carry-on, thankfully) because my Best Buy free train was over so I had to check out of the hotel I was at and then meet up with my friend and co-designer on some other games, Shad, as he had an Airbnb I could stay at on Friday night. Whew! Got in bed by 1:30am.
Saturday morning, up at 7 and out the door for a breakfast meeting with Zev from Wizkids. We showed him our progress on the Rock Paper Wizard expansion and he seemed pleased with the direction and progress (well I think he would have been more pleased if it was 100% ready though!).
From there it was off to see Repos at 10. I had pitched Skirmishes to them back when I visited them in their Belgium office in October and so much had changed that I wanted to show him what was new. He seemed to like the streamlined changes but still expressed interest to make it 4 player as well, so that’s something we’ll need to work on. I was also able to show him Fanimals and Mystery of Mister E. He really liked both of them and wants to check them out further. He passed on our word game, Word Bird (though we thought of a better title for it yesterday – A Word in the Hand!) since it’s so language dependent. That said I explained a game I’m working on with a different designer, Don, that’s a dungeon crawler that uses word games to move around and battle monsters! He said it’s so different that he’d like to see it at least!
While I was there he introduced me to the worldwide Asmodee game submission person who happened to be in the back booth we were in. I thought we were just going to say hi but he had time to see a game, so we showed him Fanimals and he loved it! He basically said that he wants it assuming his sales people think they can sell it. I’ve been tasked with making a short iPhone video explaining the game that he can use to pitch it to them. That would be huge!
At 11 Sen, Jessey, Scott and I had a meeting with JC from Foxmind. We couldn’t find a table anywhere so we literally sat on the ground and started pitching games! I showed him Fanimals and Mystery of Mister E and he seemed to really like both of them!
11:45 and I was off to show Helaina from KTBG my two family games. While she was intrigued by Mystery of Mister E, she didn’t think it fit her brand, but seemed more excited about Fanimals. She introduced me to Marc from Big Game?? As she thought he’d really like Mystery of Mister E!
12 and I had to be at the Pretzel booth, but halfway there and something felt off…uh oh – I did not have my carry on bag with me!! Yikes! I ran back to the floor space where I pitched games to Helaina and whew, there it was! At Pretzel it was time to discuss the new cities we designed for Junk Art. Sen and I ran through them all and he liked 6 out of 7. What was great was that he was not only open to the idea of including a punch board of new items, but it seemed to be his solution to everything! This was great as we didn’t know if we had the ability to add other components. It’s great because 4 of the cities actual would work better with another resource instead of confusing things with repurposing fans. After that we brainstormed a few more ideas and that really got our engines revving! Finally we pitched him a concept for a new game in the Junk Art line. This was a concept we haven’t even tested yet because we literally picked up a package of laser cut pieces the day before from an online friend who was also attending GenCon! Good news – he loved the idea! Lots to work with too! It’s a pretty unique idea with lots of room for different ‘city’ variants.
At 1 I met up with Shad again at the Mayday booth to re-pitch Skirmishes. We had pitched it to them at Essen but they hadn’t acted on it since then, and when I communicated to them earlier I told them that so much had changed since then. The pitch went really well as they really like the game. The biggest challenge for them is whether they want to do a 2 player combat game or not! They are starting to grow their brand into more strategic games…so maybe. They took the prototype!
My last meeting was with Ed from Toy Vault where we talked about the future of our Godzilla game. We have a contract for it, and we got the rights a couple years ago from TOHO to use the license, but then TOHO was bought by Warner Brothers and since then we’ve been stuck in legal circles. We just don’t know if and when they’re going to provide the license. So we have a choice – remove the IP and make it a generic kaiju battle game, or talk to Zev at Wizkids to see if he has the license and if he’d be willing to publish it! We walked to his booth and gave him the story and he’s going to check when he gets back if he does have the license or not, or if he can get it! Then we’ll have to pitch him the actual game!
After that it was time for Jay to leave to fly home and see his lovely but inevitably tired wife and super cute twins. But wait, there’s more (plug!)! I had emailed Fabio from CSE prior to coming about a game he was assessing, designed by Shad and I called Rack Your Brain. He’s had the game since last GenCon, but we really wanted the game with him as he could brand it as part of his Quartex family of games. In the email I asked if he wasn’t interested if he could bring the prototype back at GenCon. Well, I didn’t get a response to that email and Sen knew I was looking for his booth but couldn’t find it, but he did find Fabio. He told Fabio about the email I sent and Fabio checked his Junk folder and lo and behold, Jay Cormier’s email. Fabio emailed Shad and I on Saturday trying to find a time to meet up but I could t make it work since my schedule was packed and I had to leave at 2:30. So Shad volunteered to meet up with him and grab the prototype. I find myself on the plane and we’re just sitting on the Tarmac and I get a call from Shad and he said that Fabio didn’t want to give the prototype back…he wanted to sign the game! Woo hoo! They played it together and had a couple tweaks they’d like to make and indicated that it would be a 2019 release, but they like it! Yay! What a great way to end the con!
So 2 games signed, 1 game with serious interest from multiple publishers, including really serious interest from a big publisher, a 2 games with decent interest! Plus discussions on Rock Paper Wizard expansion, Junk Art expansion , Junk Art new game idea, Powers game and the playtest of the Mind MGMT game…plus all the work I did with introducing Best Buy Canada to all these publishers … I’d say that was a pretty successful GenCon!