The Penny Arcade Expo, Game Developers Conference, and Gamescom are a few of the many huge trade fairs small developers dream of attending. Who wouldn’t want thousands of people checking out their game, especially as it’s preparing for release? There are plenty of gamers out there who would probably love your game, but they may never know it exists unless you exhibit it.
If you’ve been to a trade fair before and have seen all the different booths, you probably didn’t notice all the hard work that went into attracting your attention. We’ve offered advice before on preparing for an event like this so everything goes smoothly. The following are a few more tips to help you get the most out of your next trade fair:
1. Make Your Booth Easy To See
If you’re at a massive event like the Tokyo Game Show (more than 268,000 attended in 2015), it means lots and lots of people are going to be walking by your booth. Knowing this, the biggest mistake you can make is designing your booth so that they can’t see easily see it. This includes making walls around your space so that it feels more enclosed and personal. The problem is that some people will see walls and not your game.
It’s also a good idea to face your booth toward where you think (or know) the most people will walk by. This of course doesn’t apply if your booth is against a wall, which means there’s really only one direction you can face your booth. But if you’re somewhere in the middle, try setting up your booth so that the “back” of it is facing an area where the least amount of people will walk by. This way, more attendees will catch a glimpse of what you’re showing off.
2. Be Unique
As we’ve mentioned already, the biggest challenge that comes with exhibiting at a big event is getting the attention you know your game deserves. But with so many booths surrounding yours, how is this possible? One thing you can do is refrain from doing what all the other booths are doing, even if it looks like it’s working for them.
Instead, try making your booth unique and appealing. If everyone else has neon lights and bright colors, go for something darker yet intriguing. This might be tough since trying to put something together at the last minute is a very bad idea, so it’s hard to react to what other booths near yours are doing. Use your brain and come up with designs, shapes, and colors that you think no one else will also try pulling off.
3. Make Your Booth Approachable
Your game should of course be the biggest reason why anyone approaches your booth. However, there are small things you can do to entice walker byers to spend time in your “area.” The longer they hang around there, the more likely they are to finally pick up your controller and play the game you’ve worked so hard on.
One small tip is to have some kind of seats, even if they’re metal folding chairs that no one finds comfortable. But to someone who’s been walking around for several hours, they’ll look very inviting. Sometimes it’s also a turn-off seeing a dev standing next to their setup with the same “please try it” look as the people giving samples at Costco. There are those who like talking to devs, but some people will only approach a game if they don’t think someone’s going to distract them by talking.
4. Prepare for Problems and Exhaustion
We touched on this before on our last five tips. Exhibiting at shows means staying active for more hours in a row than you’re probably used to. This means you need to make sure you get plenty of rest when the doors are closed and stay well nourished during the event. Bring snacks you can munch on whenever you get the chance, such as when there’s a big event elsewhere and so there aren’t a lot of people in your area.
It also helps to go in knowing that something can (and probably will) go wrong. This way, you won’t panic when a disastrous bug that renders your game playless pops up precisely when you have a line of people waiting to play. If you stay calm and tackle one issue at a time, you’ll eventually sort things out and get back to demonstrating your game.
5. Set Up An Event Or Two
The truth is, video game trade shows often boil down to a competition for attention. Perhaps this is why Nintendo has reduced their presence at E3 each year and instead focused on their own Nintendo Direct presentations. To get people to look your booth’s way and not the one nearby, setting up fun events might do the trick.
Since people love free stuff, frequently contests where the winner gets swag. This can include your game, such as seeing who can get the highest score out of X amount of participants, or something random and silly like a pie-eating competition or who can twirl a hula hoop the longest. People show up cosplaying so you can even set up a cosplay contest. The goal is to capture their attention and hopefully engrave your game’s name in their minds.