As you all know, I recently exhibited Dare the Monkey at a major UK games expo. I know what you’re all thinking: “Didn’t that cost you a small fortune?” Well to be honest, I too had always assumed that the expo scene was way out of my league but as it turns out it’s more than possible to show off your indie game at these public events even when you’re on a very tight budget. Here’s my very quick guide on how to be cost effective when exhibiting at a games expo.
It might not cost as much as you think and is sometimes free
Many UK games expos have Indie Showcase zones and you might be surprised to find out that slots are available at these events for as little as £100. There’s also a shed load of indie showcase events up and down the country that cost next to nothing to exhibit at. Check out Date to be Digital, which is one of the UK’s premier indie showcase events if you don’t believe me.
Indie devs have very little money and the event organisers know this. They don’t always fill their available slots and it’s always worth trying to haggle over price. If you can’t afford the initial asking price then hold off and see if there are any unsold slots nearer the time of the event. You may just get lucky and get something at a vastly reduced price.
Don’t Spend a Fortune On Your Stand
When I showcased Dare the Monkey at Play Expo Glasgow I kept my costs to a minimum by bringing only what I needed. So no massive TV screens or high-end PCs to try and attract the attention of the public. Instead I opted to take just my laptop and two iPads borrowed from friends and family. I ran some gameplay trailers directly on the laptop to grab peoples attention and that was it. It might sound like a fairly modest setup but it was more than enough to get the punters interested in my game.
I did actually spent some money on promotional material for Dare the Monkey. Again it wasn’t much but it did help. I got two Dare the Monkey t-shirts printed (£6 each), two enormous A0 sized posters (£20 each) and 250 double-sided A6 feedback forms (£20). I was going to attach the posters to fold-up banners but considered them too expensive to justify. Instead I simply pinned the posters to the stand I was exhibiting at. They looked great and caught the eye of people on the show floor. Job done!
There was one final thing I spent money on and I consider it to be a master stroke: sweets! I bought a drum of chocolate coins (£18) and a box of candy bananas (£9) as a thank you to all those who played Dare and provided feedback. It was a simple, and fairly inexpensive, way of drawing people in. As you’d expect, the kids who dropped by to play Dare seemed to really appreciate it. And the good thing is, I still have enough sweets left over to take to my next expo!
What surprised me was that none of the other indies showcasing at the event did something similar. On the surface, the sweets were just a silly little thing, but they really did make a difference especially with the kids. When presented with a number of games to pick from, they naturally went straight to the booth offering free candy!
My final cost to exhibit Dare the Monkey at a major UK games expo was just shy of £200. I know this is still a fair chunk of money but the promotional material can be used again for future expos, and the chocolate coins will probably last for one or two of those. For my money I was able to exhibit Dare for a full weekend and to several thousand people. Money well spent if you ask me.