There have been smattering of posts here on IGM about SUPER! BitCon 2015, showcasing a few indie games in development, as well as some neat historical tech. The convention itself, however, hasn’t been discussed in much detail. The reasons for that vary (one being that we focus on indie games, and a great deal more than indie games occurred there, as is usually the case), but it all boils down to this: SUPER! BitCon is only in its second year. Normally, there’s a sort of cautious optimism to new conventions, as the navigation between “success” and “failure” doesn’t so much hinge on finances, but more on attendance and vendor quality. SUPER! BitCon (S!BC) has managed to turn cautious optimism into an early success story, while raising money for charity. If you’re in the Midwest and feel like you’re missing out on the convention scene, there are a number of reasons why S!BC should be on your radar.
There’s a kind of common knowledge that any venture in the first few years isn’t going to be profitable to the extent that an organization will do more than break even. In fact, “break even” can be a goal in itself. The more successful ventures involve a lot of networking, and in part that’s what happened with S!BC, but the market was also ready for a convention in the Midwest. The team that put this Oklahoma City convention together is the Oklahoma Retro Gamers Society (RGS), a group of close friends and game aficionados who meet monthly, and decided that it was high time for OKC to have a place for vendors and fans to meet up and have fun. In addition to the social and gaming aspects, a decision was made that RGS’s pet charity, Hot Dogs for the Homeless, would receive donations raised from holding a charity bazaar. As a result, SUPER! BitCon is already known as the largest gaming convention in the state of Oklahoma.
The numbers speak for themselves, really. In 2014, attendance was a healthy 2,000 people, not including vendors. In 2015, that number nearly doubled: Over 3,900 people arrived to play games, view panels, and browse vendors and exhibits. The charity raffle in 2014 raised $1,000, while this year’s raffle raised just over $2,000. The only number that didn’t completely double, but came close, was the number of vendors and exhibitors: 2014 had 41 exhibitors, while this year’s number was 71. Part of the reason for this swell in attendance was the price for entry; S!BC was $10 for a two-day pass, a far cry from the prices commanded by larger conventions like PAX South, which is held not terribly far from where S!BC is located. One-day passes were available for those who were just curious, allowing a larger number of people to attend, without them feeling obligated to do more than have a look around. The environment was very low-stress, and many of those who’d purchased one-day passes actually did come back for the second day’s festivities.
An informal survey named the top perk of the convention as the wide variety of things to see and do. There was a very large section of the convention hall devoted to those who wished to play tabletop games, and the number of participants rarely wavered. A wall of pinball machines and arcade games loaned by Cactus Jack’s Family Fun Center had a steady crowd, and RGS’s own standalone console/arcade machines commanded quite a large audience, as well. A cosplay contest that attracted a large crowd occurred on Saturday, with many cosplayers returning the next day with the same level of care taken in their appearance. Representatives from major software developers mingled alongside smaller trade shops with tables full of retro-gaming and sci-fi wares (the full list of vendors present this year can be found here). The variety in such a small space was impressive, and if next year’s numbers reflect the change in the first two years, there’s very little doubt that SUPER! BitCon stands to become a major player in the world of gaming conventions in the United States.
Those interested in learning more about SUPER! BitCon or the Retro Gamer’s Society can follow them both on Facebook (SUPER! BitCon, Retro Gamer’s Society), and follow RGS on Twitter. A hashtag, #iamsuperbitcon, was set up for those who wish to share their photos and links. Plans for 2016’s convention are in the works, and details will be posted via social media as they become available.