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What happened to Gen Con's hotel reservation system?

Back in August 2013, questions were raised about Indianapolis' ability to manage the human crush that arrives in the city for Gen Con every year. Those fears were realized today when Gen Con's housing system opened at noon, only to collapse under the weight of a massive influx of attendees looking for a place to stay.

Attendees attempting to log in to reserve a hotel room at 12 p.m. EST were put in a queue only to discover that there were no four-blocks of rooms available (Fridays were booked first), inaccurate reporting of room availability, and guests being kicked out of the queue entirely with an error message, pushing them to the back of the line. Frustrated attendees spent over a half hour just trying to get a room far away from the Indianapolis convention center, which is particularly inconvenient for cosplayers. The frustration was palpable on the Gen Con Facebook page. Bill Borshell summed up the sentiment:

33 Year Gen Con Veteran possibly unable to attend due to being kicked out of the hotel registration site 3 times and after 54 minutes and getting in, there are no hotels available within walking distance, how very sad for any attendee but for a veteran like me who helped make Gen Con what it is today is very dissapointing. [sic]

According to Gen Con's FAQ, the group responsible for the reservation system is Passkey/GroupMAX:

Passkey is the name of the organization that develops the GroupMAX reservation system software used to manage reservations. It is a robust system deployed by convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) and major-brand hotel franchises world-wide. Q-rooms uses GroupMAX to manage Gen Con hotel bookings, and when attendees book rooms using the online housing reservation system, they're actually interfacing with the GroupMAX software and databases. Attendees generally don't need to concern themselves with the system name, but from time to time, Passkey releases system upgrades that we may announce to explain new features available to online users (see next question).

The FAQ also addresses the concerns about the slow reservation system:

GroupMAX is constantly undergoing development as Passkey technicians roll out new features and performance improvements for its licensees. But Gen Con is atypical in terms of the immense activity volume on opening day. Each year Passkey technical support takes preventive measures to optimize the system, balance server load, and improve user experience. Ultimately, system performance depends on its configuration and user activity impacting load. The most prevalent problem occurs when a high volume of users open multiple browser windows to access Passkey and make numerous reservations at the same time. This behavior strains the system's capacity and causes noticeable lag time for all users. Now that GroupMAX supports real-time reservations processing and inventory control, we ask that users refrain from opening multiple windows at once. This should make the hotel reservation process much faster and less frustrating for everyone.

That turned out not to be the case, undoubtedly attributed to the massive number of Gen Con attendees looking for a room. Gen Con's growth has been meteoric, accounting for more than $47 million in yearly economic impact to Indianapolis, a figure that has only been surpassed by the 2012 Super Bowl:

Gen Con Indy 2013, completed August 15-18 at the Indiana Convention Center, experienced record attendance numbers and unprecedented growth. Weekend turnstile attendance of 159,364 and unique attendance of 49,058 grew the convention approximately 20% from 2012’s previous record of 41,000+ unique attendees. These metrics show continued growth of more than 75% over the past five years.

A request for comment back in 2013 to Chris Gahl, VP of Marketing Communications for Visit Indy, indicated that the city is well aware of the challenges:

We continue to look for ways to move Indy forward from a tourism standpoint.

It seems the message was received. MotoGP moved one week earlier, concluding on August 10. But even with the MotoGP on a different date, the Gen Con attendees alone were enough to overwhelm the downtown hotels. Gen Con responded to the concerns:

Only a very small minority of customers book one-day badges in January...Demand for housing has been much, much larger than in years past, and is off to an unprecedented start. If you need housing or changes to housing, please contact Our goal is to get as many people into the rooms that they prefer as possible. We're sorry for any inconveniences caused by the Passkey housing portal, and our team is looking into both short and long term improvements.

For attendees that still have issues, there are alternatives:

If the Gen Con housing block sells out or you are unable to find suitable housing, please add yourself to the waitlist using the online registration toolset. If you need help, call the housing hotline at 317-912-1420 or email In many instances, attendees opting to be placed on the waitlist can be accommodated later on as cancellations occur and/or additional housing is added. Whether or not you opt to join the waitlist, it is a good idea to reserve alternate housing at your earliest opportunity. You may conveniently book housing outside the Gen Con block by visiting the Gen Con Travel Support center powered by the Expedia Affiliate Network.

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