That having been said, the pressure to have early access for me has come way down now that Paizo doesn't seem to do convention pickup any more and Fantasy Flight no longer has a store. Avoiding the huge lines there was my primary early access motivation.
The swag bag is still fun to go through, even if half of it ends up at my local half price books. And of course the early hotels are still the big prize right now. Also, the VIG staff in the lounge are fantastic every year.
From my understanding as a VIG for a good amount of years, it went away for multiple reasons. But the main two were as follows.
1. Some of the Vendors complained because it basically meant they had to be ready to go an hour early, everyone had to be there, and fully setup, and some of them wanted that extra hour in the morning to finish prepping, or to eat or to make sure their staff was all there etc.
2. VIGs would enter the hall and swarm a lot of places with convention exclusives or limited early-release products and things like that. So when the non-VIG people came running in they would encounter a line already, or a booth where the person shrugs and told them they were sold out for the day or in some cases the con already.
Now I know for a fact this early buying still happens. People inside the Vendor halls will often want something and will A. Allow their staff to head off to the booth they want and get the idea right before the doors open or wait till they open and grab the item and come right back to their booth. I know this because many have told me they have done it and I have seen it happen. So VIGS no longer do it, but Vendors still do to a lesser degree. But it's not as bad as it used to be when VIGS had early access.
And yeah the Swag bag has very much gone down in quality over the years. But that is due to many reasons aka. Way too many new VIGs have been allowed to join the program mostly starting in 2021 as means for a large cash boost for GenCon after 2020, so they need more swag to hand out, as well as rising costs for the companies. I am not sure if they donate the swag or if GenCon buys it at a discount, but either way, the swag quality, and quantity have gone down.
I still think the swag quality is not that different overall, though I am sure some years are better than others. I know I have only been a VIG for two years now, but I was a Companion in the early 2010s and the stuff in the bags had similar vibes. "Oh a cool goblet, oh a shirt, oh a game I will never play, oh a poster," et cetera. Always going to be some good and some that you do not personally find interesting. I use my insulated lunchbox and messenger bag from 2021 all the time, and everyone seems to love the blanket from last year!
IIRC the vendor hall access was removed due to vendors complaining and the ViG's ended up taking all the blame. As someone who has helped set-up in the vendor hall early sales happen from the time boxes hit the floor (even though this is against the rules). Lines started prior to doors opening for those with "extra" vendor badges last year, this has been slightly mitigated due to less and less exclusives being offered though.
All in all I think there may have been some bad apples in the program causing strife in addition to some unreliable complaints from certain vendors who refused to sell to ViG's but sold to other vendors.
Way too many new VIGs have been allowed to join the program mostly starting in 2021 as means for a large cash boost for GenCon after 2020,
This is my feeling and I want to believe it, but given the email we received in December (assuming it was split into two) the numbers just do not math up, since we know the number in 2019 and there isn't much difference (when doubled and not counting companions)
After 3 years of VIG, I decided to drop it this year in lieu of saving the almost $600 difference.
Yes, the lounge was good. Yes, the mixer and dinner was fine. And if your planning on staying at the hotels attached to the convention center across the street, it’s great to guarantee that.
The swag bag thing is awful though and they are always either run out and wait for more or they never have it when you show up.
Is it worth it? Obviously in my opinion it is not. $600 buys a lot of games :)
The 2 things that would easily make it worth it do not exist or exist anymore - early access to the dealer hall and early access to events. Gen Con could easily charge alot more for VIG by adding both these things. Probably double…
Vendors have to get set up and ready to go by Thursday.
It's a lot of work. Plus very long days Thursdays - Sunday. Then they need to break down and get out of the hall.
They need to hire extra staff to work their booths. If they are a smaller operation this is more of a burden especially.
Making them open earlier for a vey small section of the attendees is just not worth the time and effort.
This does not take into account what Gen Con must do to open the Exhibitor hall early as well.
Even as a VIG myself who would be able to benefit, the thought of it gives me pause given how unfair it would be. I have had as many as 12 friends make the trip to gencon in a given year and buying all of them tickets for up to 50 events then multiplying that by the number of VIGs...I can easily see why it isn't a thing (and honestly likely to never be a thing in my opinion).
Perhaps I am wrong, but I don't think that VIGs have ever had early access to event booking. However, there are a few situations where VIGs are allowed to enter events first... usually the events in Room 500.
They do get exclusive access to VIG events that are held in the lounge and preferred seating in most large venues.
I will be publishing the VIG Events schedule and sending all of you an email about that when my head clears from the housing weekend...
I have never used the preferred seating perk. How do you know what events offer that perk? Do the Gamers Live events offer preferred seating?
Yes, Gamers Live offers it. VIGs are seated between the 'preferred' seating (that guarantees onstage participation) and general admission.
When you enter the 'waiting' room for Room 500, just tell them that you are VIG and they will show you where that line is located.
I should definitely try to remember that this year and see if I am interested in anything taking place in a VIG special seating room. I will also make sure to bring my top hat and monocle and complain about the riff-raff (I do this everywhere I go though, nothing new here)
Also, does the preferred seating in Room 500 apply to both VIG AND VIG Companion?