Found out about PAX East a few days ago, so I grabbed a bus ticket from Utica and headed to Boston for the weekend. Crashed at my brother’s place, snagged a 3-day badge off Craigslist (thanks Peter!), and walked to the conference. This had quickly become our first real investment in marketing at $155. (Side note: On the way to the conference, 6 different print shops failed hard to make up some business cards. Pop Copy truths?)
Once in the door, I spent 30 minutes being overwhelmed by Halloween in an airplane hanger being broadcast on a thousand screens.
Eventually I realized that marketing needed to be done, so I started sitting around high-traffic areas just playing the game, thinking that the movement would attract attention. That worked okay: A couple people asked me what I was doing. A fair number of people just stopped, stared, and walked away. And most people just ignored me.
It later occurred to me that many people thought I was just trying to take a picture of myself. That’s when I decided to make some signs. So I setup shop below a pair of escalators, right near the indie booths (the closest to my target audience, I figured), with a couple of the crudest signs possible.
For 3 hours on Saturday, and another 2 hours on Sunday, that worked pretty well. I talked to about 30 people – kids, students, indie supporters, casual gamers, & developers – and got a lot of great feedback. I got really lucky that it also attracted Jess at Joystiq’s attention, who posted about me turning tricks Sunday morning (something I found out about from some conference goers, actually). Thanks again to everyone who stopped by.
Eventually, the PAX enforcers asked me to leave the expo hall around 1:30PM Sunday, so I shifted out to the entrance hall for a few more hours, which didn’t attract anymore than a couple stares.
Without even seeing the download count, I walked away from the conference saying that the effort was worth it for the people I got to meet, their feedback, the nice bit of publicity, and the experience of trying to physically grab eyeballs. And did I mention that I got my photo taken with the legend of Spaceteam, Henry? Jealousy starts… now:
- There are a lot of people who like games, and PAX is a great place to find them.
- No statistics, but I saw a lot more Android phones and talked to a lot more Android gamers than iOS gamers.
- Only the really curious will ask you what you’re doing. You need to provide as many reasons for a person to stop and talk to you as possible.
- Basic marketing: keep the friction as low as possible for people to look you up. Handouts like business cards are great, or just encourage people to take photos of a web address or something.
- We could have made life a lot easier by setting this thing up on Kickstarter a couple months ago. Marketing, feedback, and money in advance while the game’s being made is a no-brainer. (If I decide to move this onto Android, we’d almost definitely go that route.)