Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Purpose of GenCon

The truth is I believe Gygax. I would not be the least bit surprised to discover that TSR lost money on every GenCon up to this point in history – and likely for many years to come. By the summer of 1981, when this interview appeared in the first issue of Polyhedron – or, if you wish to be technical, the newsletter of the RPGA, since it wouldn't become known as Polyhedron until issue #5 (May 1982) – GenCon was still quite small, having no more than 5000 attendees (and wouldn't regularly break 10,000 until the '90s). I think it's very plausible that the convention was not, in itself, a moneymaker but rather served an evangelistic purpose.

Equally interesting is Gygax's admission that "this is a company run by people who like games. We have some people who don't play games, we have professionals." Again, this is very plausible, especially when one considers the subsequent history of TSR throughout the 1980s. Dungeons & Dragons was such a runaway hit that TSR likely grew very quickly, far beyond the expectations of anyone involved. In a previous section of this interview, Gygax boasted of Chainmail's being one of Guidon Games's best sellers. D&D was orders of magnitude more successful – and lucrative – and I doubt that anyone involved in it was prepared for that. It's one thing to write and sell a little set of miniatures wargames rules that are bought by a few hundred people, another thing entirely to produce the world's first RPG and sell hundreds of thousands of copies. Had they been, TSR's future – and Gygax's – might well have been different.

No comments:

Post a Comment