Gen Con’s yearly Thunderdome combat arena for downtown hotel rooms started today at noon Eastern time. As usual, interested gamers logged into their account and a timer counted down until noon. At noon everyone received an appointment time to actually get a reservation. After years of attending Gen Con, I admire the elegance of the current lottery system. It is simple, fair and easy to implement for Gen Con’s IT staff. That said, it is rather like admiring Ebola for its efficiency and design…until you see its impact.
You remember when the Empire blew up Alderaan and Obi-Wan could feel, “thousands of voices crying out?”
This was worse.
I had no technical issues this year and the bugs reported last year did not seem to happen again. That said, the rate at which rooms disappeared astonished even my jaded crew of long-time Gen Con attendees. We had three of us online to coordinate our efforts and here is my report of what we saw.
Here were our reservation times:
Haaldaar: 44 minutes (in last year’s sweet spot, he should do fine)
Trask 1 hour 59 minutes (an outside chance for something)
Werlen: 2 hours 40 minutes (break out the lube)
At this point, I am feeling confident. After doing some analysis from Gen Con 2015 I expected us to have about 90 minutes from zero hour to score a decent downtown hotel room. Here are the results:
At 44 minutes, things were getting thin. All these screenshots are sorted by distance from the convention center.
Our first choice (JW Marriott) was gone! Arg. We got some tremendous luck a couple of minutes later, but before I go into that I want to show you the 1 hour mark.
Two miles out is the closest option 1 hour into the reservation period! By my estimates, downtown rooms sold out significantly faster than last year, somewhere around 40 minutes faster. Since we entered the system at 44 minutes that means the vast majority of downtown rooms were sold before that point. Our best guess puts it around the 30 minute mark to have any kind of choice downtown!
Yes, you read that right. Either you get an under 30 minute draw or your are fighting for scraps and outlying hotels. By “scraps” I mean rooms that did not show up in our initial search, but appeared later. Most likely they were temporarily claimed by someone in their shopping cart and released by to inventory when they cancelled or otherwise dropped their connection to the site.
That said, there is value in not giving up. The initial chaotic surge of reservations is your best shot at picking up scraps. Once things settle down the only rooms that will become available in the housing block are cancellations and Gen Con fans are dedicated. Only death and, well, death will stop a gamer once he commits to attending.
The good news is my gang are particularly lucky scavengers and we got a room in the JW, sadly with only a single king bed, but better than nothing.
The process went smoothly, but it did bring up a couple of questions. Did attendance shoot up to account for the downtown rooms selling out so fast? Did Gen Con increase the number of people allowed in per minute to book reservations? For instance were 25 people per minute let in last year and 100 people per minute this year? The attendance increase possibility particularly concerns me because Gen Con does not limit badges sold. If the number of attendees spiked that much getting into game slots and maneuvering around the vendor area might become even harder. A very dark thought.
I will see you all at Gen Con 2016!
Trask, The Last Tyromancee