I'm holding Fantasy Strike Expo on June 7th - 9th near the San Francisco airport. It's a tournament and convention for my own games that includes the tabletop games Yomi, Puzzle Strike, and Flash Duel as well as the video games Street Fighter HD Remix and Puzzle Fighter HD Remix. June 7th is the "beta day" to play my two new card games in development, Pandante and Codex.
Registration is here (early bird registration ends April 15th)
Background on the Games
Before we get to why I'm doing this and how, it's helpful to have some background on these games to see who they are for. Yomi, Puzzle Strike, and Flash Duel are all tabletop games that take place in the Fantasy Strike universe, which is an IP I created. They are all asymmetric games, meaning there are different characters with different powers in each game that all have to be balanced against each other. Each game is intended to be tournament-viable. What I mean there specifically isn't even about tournaments though. The point is more that the games are the kind that are intended to be replayed thousands or tens of thousands of times by experts and not degenerate strategically.
Street Fighter HD Remix and Puzzle Fighter HD Remix are Capcom's games, not mine, but I was lead designer on both. Interestingly, Yomi was inspired by fighting games like Street Fighter and Puzzle Strike was inspired by puzzle games like Puzzle Fighter. So we have some video games and the tabletop games they spawned all at the same event.
Finally, the event is a chance for people to see two new games I have in development: Pandante and Codex. Pandante is a panda-themed gambling game that's based on lying, while Codex is my "answer" to Magic: the Gathering. It's a non-collectable card game that's been in development in one form or another for over 10 years, and this is the first chance the public has to try it out.
Why start my own event when there are so many other events out there? There's PAX Prime, PAX East, GenCon, Origins, and BGGcon just to name a few. These conventions all let game makers showcase their games, run demos, and even tournaments. I already do have presence at them and they are definitely great places to get more people interested in your games. This isn't an either/or choice, it's just that there are limitations when you're trying to show games at someone else's event.
What if you want to run a tournament that would take all day? This is not really practical at a place like PAX where people are trying to see about a hundred other things while they are there. What if you need a lot of space? You pay *dearly* for it. What if you want to stream the event? You're subject to all sorts of rules and astronomical costs. What if you want to have a big screen showing matches with live commentary coming out of speakers? You aren't really allowed to do that kind of thing at these other venues because it's too disruptive (unless you paid some infeasible amount of money, maybe).
There's even more reasons to do a separate event. Another is the kind of crowd you get. Existing conventions are wonderful for getting exposure with new players who are finding out about your games for the first time. By running demos at conventions and holding tournaments, you can get new first-time players interested. My games have enjoyed that benefit at PAX and GenCon, etc, but it's a very different thing than an event where all the hardcore fans show up. Doing a separate event allows all the focus to be on my games and can be specifically tailored to the fans and players so it's exactly what they want and has an intense crowd who are all really, REALLY into it.
Building off that last point, another reason to hold a separate event is the effect it will have on my community of players. I've helped run many fighitng game tournaments in the past, including the Evolution fighting game championships (the largest fighting game tournament in the United States). What I saw time and time again is that when fans of a game come together into the same physical space, it has all sorts of positive effects. They learn more about whatever game it is, they see they have common interests with other people and forge new friendships as well as new rivalries. And an annual, headliner event gives players something to look forward to and practice for, so that helps keep a game alive and going over a long period of time.
How? To Hotel or Not Hotel, That's the Question
First, you need a venue. To me, there's two kinds of venues: hotel, and "other." There's advantages and disadvantages to each. Running an event at a hotel allows you to attempt a great trick: you can get a luxurious ballroom for free. The way you do this is by getting lots of attendees to stay at the hotel. If you get enough of them, the cost of the ballroom / event space can potentially go all the way down to $0. You'll still have to pay for any A/V equipment (at ludicrous prices), internet access, and have hassles about how food is handled, but it's hard to beat a $0 event space. Keep in mind that if you even up not getting enough people to book rooms at the hotel during the event, you'll have to pay five figures in "damages."
Another bonus about choosing a hotel is the kind of atmosphere it creates. Lots of players will be staying in the same building, they'll have more chance to mingle and visit each other's rooms, bump into each other in the lobby, and so on. If you're trying to build a community, this can be a better situation than having everyone stay all over the place.
If you choose a non-hotel type of venue, one advantage is more freedom. Hotels have all sorts of rules and can either flat out tell you no to some things, or charge you astronomical amounts for trivial things like chairs if they feel like it. If you just rent a space somewhere, you can probably use whatever equipment you want, however you want, handle food sales (if any) however you want, and so on. You'll probably be bringing more equipment to the venue yourself than if you did it at a hotel equipped for events, but you might avoid paying outrageous fees in the process. It can also be less risky if your attendance is lower than expected. You'll probably pay the same rental fee no matter who does or doesn't show up, but if you went the hotel route and ended up not booking enough rooms…you'll pay through the nose for that.
I chose the a hotel venue for my event, the Marriott Courtyard San Francisco. It's near the airport and has a free shuttle from the airport, so this makes it as easy as possible for out of state and international travelers. From the airport, they can get to the venue for free, and won't need any other type of transportation during the event. They'll have all the camaraderie that goes along with staying in one building with passionate gamers who are interested in the same types of games that they are.
An official event like this gives the community something to look forward to, to practice for, and a way to finally meet each other face to face.
If you're interested in coming, sign up at www.fantasystrike.com/fsx
See you there!