by Mike Brodeur

We do indeed live in interesting times.  To simply refer to them as turbulent is grossly inaccurate.  The current times are potentially catastrophic, at least some are espousing the idea.  Me?  No fucking clue…

All I know is that my world took a gut punch.  It’s not like I’m on the floor in the fetal.  I’m on my feet, though still a bit shaken.  None of us know what the world will look like in six months.  How could we?  Well, here at the Influence Foundation we deployed our most potent assets.  Up to, and including, our fabled Divination Division!

The Divination Department deployed a robust recipe of: traditional journalism, a dash North Korean espionage doctrine, esoteric ritual methods, and a pinch of techno-paganism have led us to a number of astonishing conclusions.  However, the focus of this article is the potential cancellation of Gen Con 2020.  Note that I did not imply rescheduling.  We here at The Foundation do not believe that is a viable option for the majority of the businesses involved.  

Gen Con means a lot to the fans.  The show provides an opportunity for the tribe to congregate in mass, to celebrate its love of the hobby.  I mean show.  Gen Con is a glut with spectacle.  Whatever aspect of the hobby that may be.  We game, we commune, we reenergize long-distance relationships.  We are exposed to games and concepts that we likely would not have been exposed to otherwise.  The collective’s new hotness, perhaps?  A unique personal passion?  A special thing that we can only find there.

We consume…

We consume books, art, games, toy soldiers, t-shirts, costume bits, blades, etc.  Some of these things are frivolous garbage that we don’t need, which we may never use.  Some will stay near and dear for a long time.  Selling us these products is necessary to the livelihood of the vendors offering them.  This is how they pay their mortgages and feed their kids.  This IS their job.  Not the volunteers, but the people actually drawing a paycheck from the company named on the booth’s banner.  For the average fan attendee, not having the event will blow, but whatever.  What does no Gen Con this year mean for industry professionals?

Set aside, for the purposes of this article, the impact no Gen Con would have on the larger picture that is Indianapolis.  Forget hotels, restaurants, bars, and the Red Garter.

A cancelled Gen Con means no opportunity to put products directly into the hands of the end user.  The benefits are many.  For starters, no distributor and/or FLGS taking a cut.  The vendor can sell you product at a discount on SRP (Suggested Retail Price) and still make a greater profit than selling the same item through the Status Quo’s tiered system.  Coincidentally, Gen Con is the place where many companies release new products significant to their respective brands.  For many consumers it’s a place where you get access to that one special thing, or company for that matter.  It is an opportunity for companies and creators to proselytize their brand, for fostering relationships with hobbyists, and to make some extra cash.  And to party.  A lot of drinking.  Despite the silver lining of unimpaired liver function, the situation is more dire. 

Friendly Local Game Stores are not doing business as usual.  It’s been brought to the attention of The Influence Foundation that many gaming retailers are branching out into online sales for the first time.  Is that enough to keep them afloat?  Is it too little too late for the lot?  That’s a different article.  What if they don’t get all those big new releases from Gen Con because there is no show this year? 

Many distributors are not operational, and word is that none is operating at full efficiency.  The few still actively shipping product are running out of stock.  Alliance Distribution, in particular, is in a strange state of flux right now.  They have very close-knit ties to Diamond Comics Distributor and all their COVID baggage.  Asmodee broke up with Alliance and started dating ACD Distribution.  That has to chafe the old billfold.  

What about The Next Big Shiny?  If there is a Gen Con this year, will vendors have new product?  Shit, will they have restocked product?  Is product even being manufactured?  How long will it take to reach stores?  Will product make it to normal channels?  Will Asmodee (this includes ACD) and Games Workshop be reserving stock for themselves to sell direct online?  What kind of deals will Amazon and Miniature Market work out?  Oh, I forgot Barnes & Noble, Target, and Walmart.  You think your FLGS is getting Catan in time for the Holiday Shopping Season before gods and titans?

The uncertainty is the real pill.  No one knows anything for sure.  I reached out to the Indianapolis Convention Center, and spoke with some helpful people that had no information to disclose. Meaning I got the impression that no one knew much of anything regarding cancellation or rescheduling of Gen Con 2020.  I did get a nice quote from VisitIndy.com Senior Vice President of Marketing & Communications, Chris Gahl:

“We’ve proudly hosted Gen Con since 2003, an annual event that has grown in size as the city has grown. Gen Con’s 2019 event generated more than $74 million in economic impact over its four days, with more than 70,000 attendees from more than 40 countries.  We work with Gen Con’s team nearly weekly year-round to ensure each-and-every year is healthy and growing. We’ve stayed in constant communication with Gen Con’s leadership team specific to the current crisis. What’s paramount for Indy is the health of our residents, visitors, and the long-term health of Gen Con.”

This is essentially the same thing I got from the Marketing Department of the Indianapolis Convention Center.  Not verbatim, but damn close.   

Yet very little information is being disseminated about the event itself.  As of yesterday, Gen Con event registration has been delayed, as has the release of the event catalog.  I was, however, able to give them $134.30 of my boss’s money for a 4-Day Badge plus shipping this afternoon, 90 days out.  Here’s a link to Gen Con’s current COVID-19 statement https://www.gencon.com/press/updates-gen-con-covid19

Beside the inspired art of The Influence Foundation: Divination Division’s very own remote viewer and quite talented artist, Nina Marlotte (above), several whispers from the Outside have been transcribed, secured, and translated.  Check the sidebars.

Whatever happens, I will be in downtown Indianapolis July 30th through August 2nd, 2020.  I have to see this for myself.

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