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Gen Con is back with an in-person convention this September

The country’s largest tabletop gaming convention peaked in 2019 with 70,000 attendees

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A drone view of the food carts at Gen Con in Indianapolis.
The view of the food truck pavilion at Gen Con in 2019.
Image: Gen Con
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Gen Con, the United States’ largest and longest running tabletop gaming convention, will host an in-person event this year. Originally scheduled for early August, the event has been pushed out to September and will include a limited number of attendees. The announcement was made Wednesday on the official Gen Con website.

The new dates for Gen Con will be Sept. 16-19. It will be a hybrid event happening in-person at the Indianapolis Convention Center in Indianapolis, IN. There will also be a livestreaming element, with content being broadcast live worldwide. Additionally, local game stores around the world will be able to participate with related pop-up events.

“Based on guidance from the CDC, recent announcements by the federal government, and the projections of public-health experts, we believe there is significant cause for optimism for a mid-September convention to be held with reduced attendance and some smart modifications,” wrote co-owner Peter Adkison on the Gen Con blog. “If that changes and the experts tell us we need to shift course, then the plan will change.”

The Gen Con FAQ, updated along with the announcement, states that social distancing and other safety requirements will be in place. “Priority for attendance will be given first to attendees who donated or rolled over their 2020 badge,” organizers wrote, “and then available to all. If we believe that we can safely hold the convention for additional attendees, we may offer additional waves of badge availability.”

Gen Con is the largest convention held annually in Indianapolis and generates an estimated $70 million for the local economy. As tabletop gaming has grown in popularity, so too has Gen Con. The event peaked in 2019 with more than 70,000 attendees. Gen Con regularly strains city facilities, booking hotel rooms for miles around and filling its massive convention center with round-the-clock events. Those range from organized tournaments to open gaming. For the last several years the action has even spread out into Lucas Oil Stadium, home to the National Football League’s Indianapolis Colts.

Most importantly, Gen Con’s vendor floor is the epicenter for industry announcements and new releases in the board game, role-playing game, collectible card game, and miniatures gaming industries around the world. Its return signals a light at the end of the tunnel for many publishers who have been struggling due to the pandemic, the Trump administration’s trade war with China, and with matters related to Brexit.

Badges will go on sale soon, Adkison said. Those interested in attending are being directed to sign up to the Gen Con newsletter.

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