I hardly feel like I have any sort of special insight, but just like I told people last year that they would regret missing Gen-Con if they wanted to remember what it felt like 20 years ago, I think this year will be the last time we will be able to revisit what it felt like 10 years ago before probably getting back to roughly normal numbers again next year ... probably
I was there in 2019 and it was too crowded.
You have to strike a balance between profits and being able to move.
I was very happy with the attendance / crowd from last year and would be happy to pay double for badge and events if that helped keep crowds at a decent level.
The smaller crowd size was great last year, but also remember they didn't even fill the hall with vendors. It was the first year ever where my friends and I had our fill of the vendor hall before the con was over. Another issue last year was many vendors didn't run demos due to Covid. In past years before Covid, we felt like we needed another 2 days to do everything we wanted to do.
I personally feel like this year could be the best year ever. We have a full vendor hall and a lot more going on over last year. It feels like a normal year as far as vendors and events go. However, we'll also have a smaller crowd which I do view as a positive. I'm not sure how the vendors will feel about a smaller crowd?
I absolutely hate the lower crowds at Gencon and it is purely from an emotional standpoint because it comes at the expense of others. I hate that the lower crowds are due to all the garbage from the last few years and that there is a subset that doesn't feel comfortable to go out and a subset that can't come (I'm not getting into their choices). So sorry, I can't celebrate or be happy about lower crowds because of that.
The best year ever will be when everyone that came in 2019 comes because they want to and are comfortable in doing so. If that is with 70K in attendance, awesome.
I remember many complaining that 2019 was too crowded, and several vowed not to return because of that. For them, it was not "awesome".
Would reduced crowds be nicer. Sure. If the pandemic never existed and Gencon stated, 70k is too much, we are trying to cap at 50k-ish to make it a better experience and they did something to cap attendance. Ok.. I get it (I might not agree with it, but I get it)
However, I'm not giddy at reduced crowds this year because of the nature at how we currently got to the reduced crowds. "Great we have reduced crowds due to the pandemic" is NOT something I'm happy with.
If you want a small, exclusive (whether by price, limiting badges, or some other means) convention with ample space and leisurely pace, Gencon is not the convention for you. They are a for-profit company. They want as many people who are willing to comply with convention policies to attend as possible.
They very well could go the luxury-niche route to make more revenue with less attendees by doubling or tripling+ the cost of badges (we're all VIGs now!), but I doubt they would do that. Gencon is already a good chunk of change for a lot of people, and making it even more of a luxury isn't really in line with their current emphasis on inclusiveness. Speaking for myself, if Gencon suddenly started charging $350 for a 4-day badge in 2023, could I afford it? Yes. Would I attend? No. I enjoy Gencon, but that is just more than I am willing to pay.
Reducing the number of attendees also reduces the economic impact in Indy. Even if those attendees have more money, less bodies means less hotel rooms and less money distributed throughout businesses.
I think one of the worst part about there being the mask mandate this year is that now it is up for debate next year as well. There is little on the horizon to say the overall state of things from a true health perspective will differ much next year from what we have this year. This just extended the time until Gencon gets their attendance back where they want it by having another year in 2023 where people threaten not to attend because there is or isn't a mask mandate. Basically I don't think this is the end of this and I think we will see low attendance next year as well.
I think AEG just canceled. I got a notification that they were not running my Trade Day event and I can no longer find Big Game Night in the event catalog. So even with all of these pointless restrictions, big vendors are still cancelling. Seems like it would have been better to encourage attendees to come, but it's too late to change things now.
It shows as sold out, so it might be hidden.
Looks like Magpie Games has a bunch of stuff recently cancelled this morning.
Now, granted, the TD crew are a hardcore bunch, and their fans are known to buy out entire runs on their out in the pursuit of treasure and control of the experience, but it's A data point, not the whole story.
People complain about reservations for dinner taking hours, etc.
There still being rooms available after the cutoff is noteworthy, sure, but I also have friends who decided to stick with their slightly further hotel slot because paying the penalty or whatever wasn't worth it to be a 5 minute closer walk. Plus, those of us who troll the forums (in all senses of the term) are the vanishing minority. I'm sure many attendees just get their badges, line up a hotel, and don't sweat it much until showtime.
That said, yes, a smaller crowd has a financial impact. Last year in person was nice, but the half sized or so crowd certainly had an impact on sales from the booths that I spoke to.
I don't think it's necessarily a 1 to 1 correlation, and obviously something the scope and scale of Gencon, all the effort and costs the exhibitors and attendees go through to make it there, all adds up in ways that don't necessarily scale down well (2021 numbers might not be sustainable, without heavy revisions to the experience), but I'm also someone who just started attending in 2015, so I respect the folks who saw it in decades past might have some thoughts on the matter that I lack context for.
But from a financial standpoint, it's definitely a bunch of stuff worth considering.