Setting up complete LAN centers inside of conventions was never in our wildest business plan ideas. Anyone that has built a LAN center knows that it takes months of planning, purchasing, construction, assembly and testing to open your doors for customers. However with a convention set-up we have a total of 2 days to do the same thing.
Just like any other project the more times you go through the process the better you get for the next time. This year was not our first rodeo for Gen Con 2015 and the only way we pulled off what we did was because of our previous experience building LAN centers at conventions and our fantastic staff and volunteers.
Monday, July 27th we loaded our 24 foot enclosed trailer and our 26 foot rented Uhaul with equipment at our Terre Haute location and drove to our Indianapolis store. At that store we finished loading all of the remaining equipment we needed and then drove downtown Indianapolis to stay the night near the convention center. The next morning, Tuesday, we began unloading everything around 9 AM.
Through Tuesday until around 10 PM and then again starting at 8 AM on Wednesday morning we built the eBash Game Zone in just about 6000 square feet of space. The final layout had over 100 PCs, 8 Xbox One, 8 PS4, 4 Wii U and 8 racing simulators to give us enough seating for just over 150 simultaneous players.
Surely enough playing room for 150 players at one time would be enough room right? Wrong.
We opened our room Thursday morning at 8 AM about 2 hours before the Exhibit hall opened right next door. We were extremely busy all day but we survived. I remember then looking at the trends from 2014 at Gen Con for our room and realizing that Thursday was the slowest day of the four days for us. That is when I started to realize we would be blowing away any kind of old attendance records.
Friday was insane. I am not sure at what point during the day we were informed that our room was over capacity, but I feel like the entire day no one could hardly move. While we had 60-70 players all of the time in the hourly area, we were packing in hundreds more for our tournaments. My biggest mistake this year was scheduling a Hearthstone tournament at the exact same time as a Heroes of the Storm tournament.
Looking back I still have no idea how we pulled everything off. There were nearly 100 players in just those two tournaments, while there were 48 players in a Smash tournament, 40+ players waiting for League of Legends Randoms and 20+ players in a Call of Duty tournament. Top that off with hundreds more wanting to just watch the tournaments on our giant 50 foot projectors on the walls.
With Saturday being the busiest day of the four we had no choice but to have people posted at each doorway and only allowed players that were participating in the events into the room. We had thousands of people turned away at the door that just wanted to walk through the room and check it out. I felt bad for our partners in the zone such as Visions of Zosimos and Extra Life, but they were both always busy the entire time and couldn’t handle much more traffic either.
Gen Con is still processing all of our tickets and the final sales numbers are not calculated but we know that we nearly doubled our sales from 2014 and that was a really GOOD show. Our estimate is that over 15,000 people came through our room and we had over 5,000 people play in our events. We gave out over 150 trophies, over 200 medals and saw over 7500 hours played in just 4 days.
Our Extra Life Indy guild signed up over 150 new members in 4 days in the zone. They were invaluable helping us at the front desk with hourly players, at the door answering questions and helping administrate tournaments. The Visions of Zosimos team were fantastic and they told me that they had more new downloads during Gen Con weekend than the entire total of downloads in the first year of their alpha!
So what does the future hold for eBash at conventions like Gen Con? In 2014 we set-up at two conventions. This year in 2015 we set-up at three conventions. Next year in 2016 we are going to look for 6-8 conventions to set-up. Our potential partner and sponsor list has been growing from outside inquiries. It seems like in the next few years we will be known throughout the Midwest as the premier video game event organization and perhaps even throughout the entire US.