I was glad to see that great security was provided by GameCity. We only had one minor "quit-to-desktop" incident (none of the "sneakily opening Steam and running Half-Life 2" which was happening over at the IndieCade event though!). I was really surprised that no members of the public messed around or tried to destroy anything -- I think that was a tribute to the friendly, calm atmosphere which GameCity had managed to create, more than anything else.
In terms of our setup, it worked well. We didn't need to pay for a huge amount of branding stuff: a single good-looking professional banner was fine. We had a lot of flyers everywhere, so people did know the name of the game and would have seen some branded stuff if they came anywhere near our tables.
The best thing about the banner is that it can come with us to every single event we do, spreading out the cost: always look for things that can be re-used if possible.
Getting out went fine, until a beyond-my-control hiccup with transport meant that we had to lug all of our equipment into a taxi using a long caterpillar-like line of stewards!
This was fine, but it really brought home to me how much you have to take care of event aspects that are within your sphere of control: be a total perfectionist even if it starts (but only starts, mind) to wind up other people!
Overall, the event was a success. Having a presence at the festival, meeting press and other devs, doing interviews, getting design feedback, motivating the team and gaining some new committed fans was fantastic. Our activities there generated some interesting data and directly led to a few further opportunities, including appearances at other events, that I'm still following up.
I felt that numerically, if we'd spend the same amount on CPC advertising we would have had a better return in terms of sign-ups -- we only generated 40 mailing list sign-ups in the eight hours. This was a disappointment: I think I would have put better sign-up mechanisms in place (people had to write their address on a piece of paper) had I anticipated this problem. It's definitely something to watch out for.
I did wish that we could have been selling something at the event to recoup some costs: developers like The Behemoth use these opportunities to market their brilliant merchandise, for example. A lot of people were pumped about the game and would have wanted to take things away with them.
In terms of scale, I think we were slightly over-the-top. This was the way I'd planned it, but I think a lot of the benefits we experienced could have been derived from a smaller presence with fewer people and machines.
Having said that, if more stewards and machines were available, the event could have been run with just one of us there. This is something I'm currently talking to the organisers about providing. It's understandably quite a difficult issue. If you are running a festival, then having demo stations available for indies to install their games on would be an amazing carrot to bring some really talented people your way and add a lot of color to what you're doing.
In future, I'd like to do more regular events tied in with our other marketing: it's a good way of getting into people's faces and pushing your game. Working out a schedule for these is difficult when you have limited resources, so we're planning on targeting bigger ones and then squeezing in others when we have time.
You really need every advantage you can get, and if people get excited about your game at a show then that can only be a good thing. Be careful though, it's easy waste money and, like all marketing, you need to think about each activity in the context of the whole effort, rather than as being the one golden ticket to promoting your product.
I believed we proved that tiny companies can run successful events, provided they're planned correctly. I would urge other indies to get out there and do something adventurous: it's becoming increasingly difficult to get noticed and so going out on a limb is often best.
Support large-scale events like GameCity which are worth believing in and make the games industry a good place to be: use your influence as creators to help all of us get more opportunities to connect with the public.
Strong companies that think in the long-term prize every point of contact with a customer or potential customer: it's an opportunity to show people that your products are worthwhile because you care about their needs and desires.
This doesn't mean that you have to spend huge amounts of money: it just means that you have to treat people nicely and create an interesting environment for them. Meeting your fans and people interested in your game face-to-face is invaluable. I thoroughly recommend it.
Thanks to Bin, Ian, Tristan, our sponsors and the entire GameCity team and everyone who came to our event for making it a success!