A couple of weeks back, Michael Erb made a post on his blog entitled “I’m a little worried about Origins…” where he talks about some of the changes at Origins Game Fair over the last couple of years, and how that makes him worried about the future of the con. I replied in the comments the following:
Completely unfounded prophecy coming up:
Origins as we know it will cease to exist in the next 5 years. GAMA will drop it as it seeks to save itself. The game play part of it will continue–Origins is THE play event of the big con season for many–but it will morph into something else, while everything else that makes it one of the big shows will evaporate. In essence, it will become a very big local con.
My prediction was picked up by Fred Hicks and mentioned in the latest episode (Season 2, Episode 1) of That’s How We Roll podcast (at the 40-ish minute mark). Fred and Chris Hanrahan go on to talk about the future of Origins, going back to my line about it becoming “a very big local con” as they wrap up. I’d like to expand a bit on my “prophecy,” if I may.
Caveat #1: I have not been to Origins, so my impression of it is based solely on anecdotal data gleaned from a bunch of people over the years in person, on the internet and on podcasts.
Caveat #2: Speculation and punditry follow. Bring your own salt.
First of all, me saying that Origins will become a very big local con is not a negative remark. When I say “local con” I think of socialization, of a level of camaraderie and community usually exemplified by small groups, and especially of a show where play is THE thing; not sales, not hawking, not unveiling the latest doo-dah, Play. Local cons tend to feature these qualities because they serve small-ish geographic areas, so if there’s a dealer’s room, it’s usually a few local stores (maybe a local publisher as well?), with the rest being ruled by games, games, games. I know this is the case in my local con down in Miami, The Summoning: it’s all about games, of as many types as possible, with a couple of vendor tables at most. I know this is a model repeated in many geographic areas across the world because I constantly see/hear reports from these cons online. So this is what I conjure with the term “local con.”
Based on what I know of Origins, it already fulfills this function and displays these qualities. Over and over I read/hear how Origins is the place to go play (in contrast to Gen Con, the other big show) and socialize. Fred and Chris sing Origins’s praises in this respect in the very same episode, as a point of example. So Origins is already the “local con” (in terms of vibe) of the big summer shows. I don’t believe that will change.
That said, I do think that in the coming years, Origins as we know it now, the “other” big con, will change. Michael’s post summarizes well the various events of the last few years that already show that Origins is in a state of metamorphosis from what it used to be, say, a decade ago. I don’t see that trend changing. In many ways, that change will be fueled by whatever GAMA decides to do with Origins.
At this moment in time, I feel GAMA is struggling to find ways to remain relevant in the Hobby Gaming Industry. They run GTS, the sole industry trade show, but one which continues to see declining numbers in attendees and vendors exhibiting (I am honestly not qualified to speculate on the reasons, but to my untrained eyes it seems the show needs to decide which segment of the industry it really wants to cater to, or do a much better job of offering value and worth to all segments equally) and they run Origins, and I can’t help but hear Sesame Street’s “One of these things is not like the other things” song when I see those two shows listed under their banner. I’m just not gonna be surprised at all if I read that GAMA sells Origins away to concentrate solely on being the Hooby Gaming Industry Trade organization they profess to be.
Do I see Origins going away completely from the big summer con schedule? Not at all, not even if sold off by GAMA or if more and more vendors stop buying booth space. Origins has claimed its stake in the summer con lineup by being the play-first choice for a lot of dual-big-show attendees, as well as for many others that choose to only attend Origins and not Gen Con. If anything, I see this feature gaining strength in the coming years, becoming the main draw of the show. In essence, a very big local con.
Hope that explains my “completely unfounded prophecy” better.
This episode is going out on both The Gamer Traveler and The Digital Front feeds; my apologies if you get them both.
I had the opportunity and fortune to fly out to Las Vegas, Nevada to attend the GAMA Trade Show 2008, April 20-24 (though I was there April 22-24). There I was able to see a lot of the new games coming out this year, demo some of them, and talk to a lot of industry folks about the current state of gaming and the future of our hobby and industry. I hope you enjoy the report.
For more GTS audio reports, check out Pulp Gamer: Out of Character, Pulp Gamer: Inside Track with Anthony Gallela, the OgreCave Audio Report, and the combined episode of 2d6 Feet in a Random Direction and That’s How We Roll.
Check out photos of GTS and Las Vegas on Flickr.
I got back to Miami this morning after my very first red-eye flight. If I can help it, I’m not doing that again, seriously. I mean, above you can see how tired I was at 2 PM while I was still loitering in the hotel halls, imagine how I was by the time my flight was about to leave at 10:45 PM!
I recorded some stuff in Vegas which I’ll use to do both a GTS Report special episode and a Las Vegas episode of The Gamer Traveler (I must warn you up front, I did not really care for Vegas).
Right now I’m tired and I have a lot of things to do before Shabbat, but I am glad to be home after a great GTS.
Hey all. Just sending a quick hi from GTS in Las Vegas.
Yes, those are slot machines in the airport, right outside my gate…
What a weird place this is; so fake, so constructed, so artificial. Everything is AN EXPERIENCE!!! But it’s just a facade, and honestly, a very thin one, too. I’ll have more to say once I get back; right now I have to use the most of my time here for biz stuff (and I start my Day 2 account with a quick trip to Kinko’s to print business card, since I left mine in Miami – doh!).
The trade show is going good, and Pulp Gamer has been kicking ass in getting awesome podcasting coverage. Today I will be doing some interviews as well (hopefully). Fear the Boot’s Dan Repperger is here as well (schmoozing like a pro), as is Ed Healy from Dark Whisper (or as he is better known, the Kobold Quarterly Ad-Pimp Master), Fred Hicks from That’s How We Roll, The Butcher Block and Evil Hat, Chris Hanrahan from 2d6 Feet in a Random Direction, and Allan Sugarbaker from OgreCave Audio Report. A podcaster takeover could very well happen; watch the gaming news just in case.
WotC is being tight-lipped about the 4e GSL and its ramifications, Paizo is secretly dancing the fandango, Green Ronin is cursing WotC for out-staging their press release about the True20 open license, and the World of Warcraft pre-painted minis are OMG incredible.
More later. Have fun.
The GAMA Trade Show in Las Vegas is the main industry-only conference for the Hobby Gaming Industry. It’s four days of seminars and exhibits where manufacturers, distributors, retailers and freelancers can mingle and talk, present the new games for the year and make deals and plans for the future. I wanted to attend (actually, I’ve wanted to attend every year since I went for the first time in 1998, the infamous Miami GTS, but that’s another post) but I wasn’t going to be able to do so due to the financial problem incurred by my job situation from earlier in the year (see Scammed). Bummer, but oh well.
Until a couple of days ago. I won’t go into all the details, but the fact of the matter is that, due to the incredible generosity of someone (I won’t say who it is so as to not embarass them), I am going to GTS in a couple of weeks. I will be rooming with friend and fellow podcaster Dan Repperger of Fear the Boot and we’re both looking forward to an amazing show where we can get to meet and talk with fellow industry folks in a calm atmosphere geared precisely towards this, as opposed to the hectic summer shows, such as Origins or Gen Con.
For me this will be a bit tricky because GTS falls in the week of Pesach (Passover) so it means that I will have to take most of my own food and be incredibly careful while in Vegas so as to not break the Pesach laws; if regular Kosher is complicated and strict, Kosher for Pesach is ten times as much (or in gamer terms, regular Kosher is D&D, Kosher for Pesach is Hero System).
I’ve never been to Vegas, and to be honest, it has never called my attention as a destination. That said, I am curious to see the place, if only to say I have seen the city in the desert. I won’t be able to do the other two things I would have gone to Vegas for (Star Trek: The Experience and Cirque du Soleil’s O) so maybe, just maybe, there might be a return trip one day (or a future GTS).
So if you’re going to GTS, let me know so we can meet up and say hi. And many thanks to the person who made this possible; I am eternally grateful.