WOTC just doesn't seem to understand the importance GenCon has for them and how bad it looks for them not to be in attendance.
I think your memory is a little fuzzy. Their attendance was 13,980 in 2004.
::picture of Grumpy Cat::
I think a lot of people are looking to origins as gencons growth changes the event. I haven't been to origins, but I suspect they will have some growth issues of their own over the next few years.
Back to the original topic, it seems like WOTC just isn't interested in supporting D&D. It's not the revenue stream that magic is. I am sort of hoping that they sell it off to a smaller company that is more interested in supporting it. Sometimes being under a big corp umbrella helps a nice product, but I don't that that's working out here. Magic, yeah, works like a charm. D&D, not so much.
With attendance scaling up, my friends have been concerned that GenCon will start to feel like San Diego Comiccon (something none of us want to experience again). Origins is definitely on our radar.
I for one hope that Hasbro changes their minds and DOES do something to have an official presence @ GenCon. This will be my first trip to it. Sure, from what I hear Paizo & Pathfinder have a big presence... but I've played a ton of 5th ED D&D; it's a solid game and there are tons of people who agree and will be very disappointed that a game they love is not being supported (officially). I actually only found out by reading these forums; many may be in for a rude awakening... expecting an official D&D presence and finding none. Seems like a very poor decision to me...
We will still welcome you in the 5th edition AL area for games, @aehrlon :)
Aehrlon, even without a direct Wizards presence D&D will still be there and fun. Wizards disappointingly didn't have a direct presence last year and it was my first time doing it as well. It was still totally worth it.
I recommend trying to get into the Epic games. They have hundreds of smaller quests simultaneously doings parts of a larger campaign, and what happens in one area may affect another. It's something that can only be experienced at a con like this.
For example from one of the epic games last year: my band of five lvl 1s and two level 3s were trapped in a city during a siege when we came across a three story tall siege tank. Against advice, we took it on and managed to stop its advancement from the inside. Because of that, it didn't invade another table's game during their final encounter.
Non-corporate gaming is always better anyway. What does Wizards being there really add to any game that you're going to play?
I can honestly say I didn't notice that much of a difference last year. But I can also say that no one company holds such a huge hold of my life that going to a convention the size of Gen Con and not having them participate would really affect me.
If you were talking about Gencon from fifteen years ago, then yeah, them not being there would be big.
I've been running the D&D at Gen Con almost since they moved to Indy (13th year this year) so for 99% of the people playing they are not going to notice one single difference. We have tons of premiere/exclusive content, some of the best DM's in the business, a new quieter location, a revamped VIP program, and plenty of bald people milling about.
We once again have more premiere content then you can actually play during the show (some will try though). There will be a surprise Wotc person or three wandering around during the show as well (and maybe even signing stuff from time to time). Dice will be rolling and smack talk will be plentiful (and sometimes followed shortly by crying). All said and done we will run thousands of people from 5 to 75 through a game of D&D and everybody will have fun.
I can understand a company NOT having a presence at Gen Con since I'm sure D&D is a small portion of Hasbro's overall income. But there is an argument to be made in saying Gen Con EXISTS because of D&D (TSR, not WotC or Hasbro). But still, with all that is going on, D&D not being there will have a relatively small impact on the convention. Personally, I would love to see them have a presence there, only because I personally want to see it. If I worked for Hasbro and was involved in the decision making for this, I would push for it.
WOTC said they won't officially even be attending Gencon. Don't expect Crawford and crew to show. Hasbro outsourced running cons to Baldman. Last year was a hideous flaming train-wreck (I paid for all-access/VIP and it was still terrible). Nothing like playing in games starting an hour late with DM's who are sleeping 5 to a room while DMing 10 hours a day - I'm certain that by their 5th session, they aren't engaged anymore. Baldman owned up that it was the worst RPG event run at Gencon and promised to make it right. Sending a free book to the people who got shorted was a start. What we really wanted was to see a substantial change that would mean better events.
Baldman did move into a new space but rather than one in the center, it is in a nearby hotel. They also cut back to a grand total of 9 new slots of events (of which you can only do 3 since they conflict with each other). No epic this year (not that anyone understood what was going on either either of last year's epics - having the lights turn off on us seemed fitting). Dave is trying to make the case that there are 200 events!!! 197 of them are ones already scheduled to be offered in DMsGuild available at your local games shop (where your DM likely won't be on hour 30 to get his free floorspace in a hotel room with 5 other people and where you might be able to hear the DM and the game might start on time).
D&D was what created Gencon - it was part of the fabric of the con for decades. Now, they are a skeleton of what they were. Baldman's take on Dark Sun wasn't bad - hopefully their new trilogy isn't bad either but definitely don't plan your attendance around it.
Dave - seriously consider changing your system for getting DM's for the games (volunteers who only DM one module 2 or 3 time in exchange for unique certs, etc would be far better than tired DMs who aren't able to focus anymore). Charge more for games so that they can be offered in a decent space with the right set-ups. Have the D&D experience/all-access be in a different room where it is more comfortable. Tap the RC's for AO adventures and pay for them to travel to GenCon to run them. Lastly, lean on WOTC to have Mearls and Crawford, at least, run a panel to discuss the game.
Yes, D&D is second fiddle to Paizo now. That's true whether WOTC shows up at Origins or Gencon. Paizo cares about the Pathfinder brand. Hasbro doesn't care about the D&D brand (amazing since they hope to develop a movie - you'd think they could understand the relationship there).