Gen Con is the largest annual consumer fantasy, electronic, sci-fi, adventure, and hobby game convention in North America. Gen Con celebrated its 50th convention this year, and the milestones did not stop with the Golden Anniversary for the original, longest-running gaming convention in the world.
The show didn’t officially start until Thursday, but the downtown area and convention center were buzzing with people arriving, checking into their hotels, and picking up their badges. The doors of the Indiana Convention Center were plastered with signs stating that the show was sold out, a first in Gen Con history. Gen Con targeted an approximate attendance of 60,000 unique attendees, with its ninth consecutive year of record turnstile attendance, reaching 207,979, an approximate 4% increase over 2016.
This year’s show featured approximately 500 exhibitors, over 19,000 ticketed events, and more than $26,000 raised for local charity partner Child Advocates. This was also the show’s first year branching outside the walls of the Indiana Convention Center, over to Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. Over on the field level of the stadium were the 24-hour games library, additional event space, and a special museum exhibition, “Horticultural Hall” (named after the venue where the convention’s 50-year history began), which highlighted 50 years of gaming artifacts, tributes to early Gen Con events, and information about eras of gaming history. Gen Con 50 also held a special concert by Grammy winning recording artists They Might Be Giants at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Gen Con CEO, Adrian Swartout, said:
Our team is thrilled to continue setting new records…. We made a decision early in planning Gen Con 50 to optimize the attendee experience while still continuing to grow the convention to new attendance levels… By adding the field level of Lucas Oil Stadium, improving space planning, and carefully restructuring attendance thresholds by badge type, we realized record gains, while maintaining a world-class experience for attendees.
GenCon has signed a multi-year deal with the Indiana Convention Center, with the next several years’ shows continuing at that locale, with the 2018 show set for August 2-5.
Erik Mona from Paizo Inc., a leading publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, board games, and novels, had this to say about the Gen Con 50 experience:
Gen Con 50 proved to be one of the most remarkable and enjoyable events of our year, but that’s no surprise . The real surprise this year was that even though the show keeps adding more and more attendees, it never felt ‘too’ busy or crowded thanks to expansion into Lucas Oil Stadium and other venues throughout downtown. Here’s to 50 more years of Gen Con. Heck, let’s make it 100!
I agree… Gen Con is definitely The Best Four Days in Gaming™.