If you follow my articles, you know that last year I wrote about attending GDC. This year, I returned to GDC, as an exhibitor. While we've already been an exhibitor at other events (PAX and EGX), the focus of GDC is very different. Here I briefly describe our adventures and misadventures, and hopefully you can learn from our experience if you ever decide to go there.
Long story short, last year in late 2015 we won a government grant to develop and market a video game project. Since our video game is for PC, we were required to make a demo to look for a publisher or investor that would take us through the rest of development (although self-funding and self-publishing is also an option).
Our booth was at this area called GDC Play. GDC Play is a "business exhibition area" (well, all of GDC is a business exhibition area, but the normal exhibit functions more like a trade show, while GDC Play is more of a pure-business area). The cost of a 8' wide per 6' deep booth varies from around $3500 to $4500 depending on how soon you order. The setup includes a table, two chairs, electricity, a monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers. The setup does NOT include a computer, so you need to keep that in mind.
You can rent a computer, but renting a computer at the event costs as much as buying a new computer. We decided to bring our own computers to run the game (we have laptops, so it was not so difficult to take them with us). I've read some people buy the computers and then return them after the event. That's another option that you may want to consider, if you want to "rent" a computer from BestBuy or something like that.
There's an option to get your banner printed, but it can also be very expensive (over $100). Since we are a third world country, some prices here are really low compared to the US (but our salaries are also very low, compared to those in the US), so we could get a huge banner printed for around $13. I am not familiar with the costs of printed banners in the US, but I am inclined to think they are higher than $13 :)
Something that we needed to consider is noise. The exhibition floor can be very noisy most of the time, so speakers will be useless in that environment. Luckily, we have good noise-cancelling headphones that people could use if they wanted. However, these were useless during meetings because the other person would need to take them off to hear you as you speak. Still, having them is the best option.
We really refrained from having any kind of complicated setup, as some require third party workforce (for example, if you want to hang something on top of your booth), and those things can quickly raise the cost of the booth. The upside is that the simple setup is something you can do yourself. For example, we didn't require someone to hang the banner for us on the back drape.
So, if there's another thing to learn is to keep your setup so simple you can mount and unmount it yourself. Banners hanging from the poles on the back of the booth, or standing banners are a good option. More screens on top of the table are also a good option. Screens with a special vertical stand may not be a good option, unless you mount and unmount that yourself.
At first, we had planned a lot of different promo materials, including flyers, mouse pads, pins and things like that. Unfortunately, we were unable to make all of those, so we just made flyers and business cards. If I could go back, I would have made those pins, because people really like them and some even want to collect as many as possible (I have tons of those in my USB things I wear around the neck).
Our entire setup was fairly "cheap" since we didn't even spend $100 on any kind of promo material (including the big banner and flyers). This is something to consider, as the booth space itself is a fairly high investment by itself. When we got there, someone gave us a code for the wireless internet. This wireless internet was a private network just for exhibitors. It sounds good on paper, but if need a reliable connection for your booth because your game needs it, this connection will not be enough. We found that this connection was very unreliable, so I ended up activating the roaming on my phone (it was less expensive than getting a local data plan).
Now everyone at GDC gets access to the meeting app. This is like a web portal where you can find people you'd like to meet with. Basically, you search for specific criteria and the results are displayed. There you can invite people for a meeting. We used that one a lot, and it was really useful to get new contacts. Whether or not you're attending GDC as an exhibitor, but you're there on business, you should really take advantage of this app.
Exhibiting at GDC was obviously exhausting, but I'd dare say it was worth it. We've met a lot of really interesting contacts and we're seeing a lot of opportunities in the horizon. Traveling from abroad can be difficult, but if you manage to do it, it can be very useful for your game development career.
Sergio Aris ROSA
Sr. Staff Writer