How social media is helping grow Gen Con

Gen Con

From August 16th to 19th, I attended Gen Con, a hobby game convention held in the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. The four-day convention was attended by over 41,000 unique individuals this year, which marked its most successful year to date. Started in 1967, Gen Con is one of the world’s first gaming conventions. Unlike the NY and CA Comic Cons, or E3, Gen Con is mainly focused on tabletop games, like Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, and board games like Settlers of Catan.

Attendance numbers for Gen Con peaked in the mid-90s at around 30,000 unique visitors, fell a bit during the subsequent decade, and regained its popularity during 2010, when it once again reached 30,000 unique visitors. 2011 and 2012 both resulted in the unique visitor count being shattered. In my opinion, part of the success of Gen Con in recent years is due to the proliferation of social media. According to Senior Marketing Communication Manager Jake Theis, “One of the most potent things we’ve seen for marketing outreach has been social media. We had 600,000 people check the Facebook site this week for information.” Thesis also attributes Gen Con’s growth to a couple of different factors, including the emergence of “geek” culture in mainstream media (see comic book movies), the growing popularity of hobby games and local awareness of the convention in Indianapolis. However, the impact that social media has had on Gen Con cannot be discounted.

Gen Con’s fan base was built largely off of word of mouth, which is something that social media can help amplify. Twitter was bustling with activity from individuals using the #gencon hashtag, including popular media outlets like G4TV and celebrities like Wil Wheaton. The majority of the conversation was positive. Attendees, panelists, exhibitors and sponsors all contributed to the dialogue on social media. Will Gen Con have another record breaking year in terms of attendance next year? All signs point to “yes.”

Written by Sida Li

Sida Li is the Social Media Director at fishbat, a digital marketing agency. He has managed social media accounts for brands in multiple industries, including baked goods, convenience stores, beauty products, apparel makers, jewelers and tourism boards. Sida is a published poet and writer. His other hobbies include blogging and maintaining his YouTube channel. You can find his digital footprint at

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  • Eileen M

    I love that Gen Con is being grown by word of mouth, which is, to me at least, the core of what social media is all about.

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