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Disney Lorcana launch brings out the worst in Gen Con attendees, with reported shoving and verbal abuse

The first day of sales was a public relations disaster

Elsa casts a spell from a floating book, spires of ice rising behind her, in a card from Disney Lorcana. Image: Ravensburger and Disney
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.

The launch of Disney Lorcana at this year’s Gen Con convention in Indianapolis was marred by chaos, as long lines and poor crowd management led to alleged unsafe conditions for attendees on the first day of the event. Many social media users reported pushing, shoving, and verbal confrontations with other fans. While things ran more smoothly on the second, third, and fourth days of the con, both Gen Con and publisher Ravensburger clearly could have done more from the outset.

The formal launch of Disney Lorcana, a novel trading card game akin to Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon Trading Card Game, isn’t until Aug. 18, when it arrives in retail stores and with online vendors. But a special pre-sale, including starter decks and other accessories, was promised beginning Aug. 3 at this year’s Gen Con. Ultimately thousands showed up, with historically long lines that wrapped around the massive Indiana Convention Center by the end of the week. But the situation inside the ICC was fraught on the first day of the convention, and it seems both Ravensburger and Gen Con staff manning the doors were largely unprepared for what occurred when the convention opened.

An archival image of the first day of Gen Con 2015.
Photo: Charlie Hall for Polygon

Compared to other gaming conventions, entry into Gen Con is a fairly casual affair. Traditionally there are no lines, no bag checks, and only a handful of convention center staff and Gen Con volunteers on hand telling people not to break into a run. Thousands of fans sort of gather in a big clump a few hours before the gates open, and then disperse into the vendor hall to do their shopping.

The Disney Lorcana fans Polygon spoke with showed up a lot earlier than other Gen Con attendees on the first day of the convention. Perhaps they were driven by the hype surrounding the game, which mines Disney’s back catalog of animated classics for characters, items, and even songs to power the competitive collectible card game. Maybe they were concerned that a pending lawsuit by Upper Deck would stop its release entirely. But speculators have also taken note of the game’s potential, driving the price of components sky high on eBay and other similar marketplaces. Several were in attendance at this year’s Gen Con: One scalper Polygon spoke to later on in the week bragged they flipped two sets of starter cards for $500 each.

Nevertheless, fans tried their best to self-organize in the early morning of Aug. 3. One group that Polygon spoke with showed up at 1:00 a.m. with chairs, snacks, and breakfast to make sure that they got product on day one. They and others helped to form an unofficial line in the early morning hours before the larger Gen Con crowd showed up. (Ravensburger acknowledged the situation later that morning, stating on Twitter 30 minutes after gates opened that it was “working with Gen Con staff to improve the current line situation.”)

But when the Gen Con gates were opened, the fan-made line was not honored by security. Instead, it was broken up. The mix-up put Ravensburger’s most dedicated fans at a sudden disadvantage, with many having to get back into a new line with hours of waiting still ahead of them. That’s when the alleged pushing and verbal confrontations occurred. One attendee even reported a wheelchair was overturned in the crush.

Later that same day Gen Con issued a statement to attendees.

Throughout the rest of the convention, things could be seen running much more smoothly. Lines were clearly marked, monitored by both Gen Con and Ravensburger team members, and attendee badges were permanently marked to prevent fans from making multiple purchases. Ravensburger announced accommodations for those with disabilities, and the publisher even brought out coffee, donuts, and other snacks starting the morning of Aug. 4. But it still doesn’t make up for that poorly run first morning.

“Gen Con have been excellent partners and we greatly appreciate their efforts in working with us to find a line management solution,” said Mike Ritchie, Ravensburger North America’s head of marketing, in a written statement issued to Polygon on Monday morning. “They worked quickly with us and the Indiana Convention Center to figure out a solution that worked incredibly well throughout the rest of the weekend. We have not started conversations with Gen Con about 2024 but we will do everything we can from both sides to ensure attendees at next year’s convention have a great experience.”

Polygon has reached out to Gen Con for a statement on what occurred as well, and will update this story if we receive a reply.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the timing of Ravensburger’s statements on Aug. 3. Additionally, the statement made on the official Gen Con account was made by Gen Con alone, and did not constitute a joint statement. We have amended the story.

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