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Gen Con, hobby industry hit record growth in 2014

Gen Con crowds
Gen Con crowds
Michael Tresca

As the economy recovers, the hobby industry continues to grow with it. During the recession, families found themselves going out less with gaming providing more bang for the buck as an alternative entertainment choice. Two data points indicate that this trend continued in 2014: ICv2's hobby game market study and Gen Con attendance numbers released yesterday.

As reported previously, ICv2's study of the hobby game market estimates that retail for 2013 is now $700 million. Broken down by category, that covers collectible games ($450M), miniatures ($125M), board games ($75M), card game ($35M), and RPGs ($15M). This trend continued into 2014: WizKid's Dice Masters and a resurgence of interest in Magic: The Gathering helped in the collectible games category, while Star Wars X-Wing and Star Trek Attack Wing led the miniatures category. ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp said of the numbers:

A $700 million market is a significant geek culture market segment. With the growth it’s been experiencing, a billion dollar market is within reach in the next few years, and hopefully this kind of industry analysis will help us get there. I cannot thank enough the industry insiders who helped us compile these estimates. Without their willingness to speak frankly with us about their own estimates of market size and the reasoning behind them, we would have been unable to complete this project.

As further evidence that things are looking bright for the hobby industry, Gen Con grew for the fourth consecutive year by more than 10%, reaching more than 14$ year-over-year growth with a weekend turnstile attendance of 184,699 and unique attendance of 56,614. This break's the 2013 record of 49,530 unique attendees, and is double the attendance of 2009. Gen Con also expanded its exhibitors (370+) and events (14,000+). Despite this, Gen Con and attendees are feeling the pinch -- attendees couldn't get nearby hotels or even tickets for events. Adrian Swartout, CEO and owner of Gen Con LLC said:

Gen Con 2014 is a testament to a more than decade-long relationship between Indianapolis and the game industry, which has culminated in the best attendee experience yet. Gen Con is a massive yearly adventure that would not be possible without the collaboration and support of our show sponsors, exhibitors, event organizers, volunteers, local business partners, the Indy community, and of course, our attendees.

Can Indianapolis handle Gen Con's growth? ICv2 commented:

The show appears to be using the entire capacity of the convention center, so in order to grow there’s going to have to be more energy devoted to managing the traffic flow, especially in the exhibit hall, where aisles are getting tight at times.

Vice President of Marketing and Communications Chris Gahl said the event is committed to Indianapolis through at least 2020, and may eventually move from the Indiana Convention Center to Lucas Oil Stadium.

It wasn't all bad news for future attendees: Gen Con raised more than $40,000 for Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana’s BackSacks program, which provides weekend food to children at-risk for hunger. Gen Con 2015 will return to Indianapolis July 30 - August 2, 2015, which will be earlier enough so that more children and teachers will attend.

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