Utah Games Guild

Salt Lake Gaming Con 2015 Recap

EventsJosh SutphinComment

So we finished up the inaugural Salt Lake Gaming Con late Saturday night, and after spending the entirety of Sunday being a borderline-comatose couch-lump (I watched so much Gilmore Girls, you don't even know) I finally feel like a functional human again... so let's recap!

We featured 12 Utah-made indie games at the show:

Based on our experience with Salt Lake Comic Con last year, we expected Thursday to be slow, Friday to be better, and Saturday to be insane. What actually happened was Thursday was surprisingly steady, Friday was weirdly up-and-down (but absolutely crazy with new business contacts; see below), and Saturday was at least as intense as we expected, if not more so.

Day Zero: Pre-Show Setup

Lyle and I arrived at the South Towne Expo Center around 10am Wednesday to start setting up. We were maybe the third (?) exhibitor on-site; the place was a ghost town. Advantage, us: we were able to drive the truck straight into the expo hall and park directly next to our booth, which made unloading a breeze!

Salt Lake Gaming Con contracted with JP Display to handle the show logistics: tables and chairs, drapes, power, etc. This was our first time working with JP Display, and they were amazing. We've worked with a couple different trade show companies now and these guys were the best and most efficient by a mile.

Since this was our biggest show yet – we covered more than 1600 square feet with a totally custom layout – we ended up working literally the entire day to get everyone moved in and squared away. We didn't know it at the time, but it was about to become so worth the effort.

Day One: Thursday, August 6

We got underway on Thursday at 1pm, the shortest day of the event. We decided for this event to put a big Utah Games Guild info booth right out in front. We'd never done that before and had no idea what to expect, but it became apparent within just a few hours that this was a very, very good idea. Not only did our 60" TV looping interviews, gameplay, and trailers from our featured indie developers draw people into our space, but having someone at the "info desk" encouraged all kinds of people to ask questions and learn more about the Utah Games Guild itself. That brought us in contact with tons of new developers, press, and potential business partners that we may never have met otherwise.

The crowd on Thursday was larger than we expected, but it was still lots more manageable than the absolute craziness we had at Salt Lake Comic Con last year. That enabled us to give each player a lot more individual attention, which resulted in higher-quality interactions across the board. We also had a surprising number of YouTubers all throughout the day shooting impromptu interviews with many of our developers.

Lyle's game Together: Amna & Saif picked up a preview from Geeks With Beards, and those guys seemed to enjoy the whole showcase too.

We also got some awesome personal shout-outs from the managing editor of the Salt Lake Tribune:

Finally, in the late afternoon we had a brief live segment on KSL News. (We're the third segment on that page.)

So yeah, Thursday was a lot busier than we expected!

Day Two: Friday, August 7

Friday was a surreal day. To begin with, I had to get up at 4am to do our second live TV segment on the KSL morning show.

Then I discovered that not one, but two of our developers very bravely decided to make changes to their demos during the show.

Foot traffic on Friday was weirdly "spiky". We'd get these crazy rushes for an hour, then it'd die for an hour... wash, rinse, and repeat. Still got a lot of players and a ton of great feedback though!

Remember how I said our Utah Games Guild info booth was a smashing success? Friday was the day that became the most apparent. We barely had time to man our own booths for most of the day as we were constantly being pulled over to talk to all kinds of interesting potential business partners, investors, and clients. We really didn't expect to do "business" at a gaming convention, but Friday sure felt an awful lot like GDC in that regard.

Highlights included an awesome indie dev relations rep from Intel, Salt Lake Comic Con owner Dan Farr, Metal Gear Solid composer Rika Muranaka, a couple different technology companies looking to get into games, and several experienced film/TV composers. We were even able to recommend several local developers for at least three potential work-for-hire projects! We'll be following up on these and other contacts over the coming weeks, and we hope to have exciting news to share later this year. :)

At 5pm several of us joined a panel on indie development success, organized by True PC Gaming owner Adam Ames:

From left to right: Jay Barnson (Rampant Games), Steve Taylor (Wahoo Studios), Lyle Cox (Mount Olympus Games), Josh Sutphin (Kickbomb Entertainment), Roger Altizer (University of Utah, EAE), and Adam Ames (True PC Gaming).

It was a good discussion about some of the challenges of running an indie business and techniques for meeting those challenges. We had a turnout of probably 30-40 people, and when Lyle set down a big stack of Utah Games Guild business cards at the end, they were gone before I could even say "Hey, that was a good idea!"

By the time the show closed for the day (at 8pm) our heads were spinning. This day was packed with almost too much awesome. And we still had one day to go!

Day Three: Saturday, August 8

We met some cool indies called Fourth Axis who drove in from Denver. This is what the booth for their in-development Oculus Rift game looked like early on Saturday, and they weren't an outlier. Saturday was busy, busy, busy!

We spent our biggest chunk of time Saturday talking to press, and we got a ton of them coming through. I personally talked to Gamers Haven, Enemy Slime, Dungeon Crawlers Radio, PlayStation Universe, From Beggar's Canyon, Quarantine Media, The Game Fanatics, True PC Gaming, Big Shiny Robot, and a handful of others I didn't get business cards for so of course now I can't remember who they were. :(

I think my favorite anecdote from Saturday, though, was Legacy of the Elder Star artist Erik Exeter making this kid's day:

Salt Lake Gaming Con ended with everyone very tired, but very happy. We never expected a first-year show to bring this much activity, and we especially never thought it would bring us the new contacts and business opportunities that it did. To be honest, I think we're all still going to be processing the results for another week or two. It was crazy.

The date for next year's Salt Lake Gaming Con is already set: June 2-4, 2016. It will again be held at the South Towne Expo Center, and we'll be talking with the organizers about it over the next week or two. Keep an eye on utahgamesguild.com, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook, for future announcements!

(And if you'd like a developer's take on the show, be sure to check out Frayed Knights developer Jay Barnson's writeup.)