Quoted from toyotaboy:
Correct me if I'm wrong, isn't there at least one vendor every year that makes a claim of something walking off? Not sure to this magnitude but still. It's no wonder vendors stay in that room around the clock.
Vendors are kicked out just after "close" and let back in an hour before "open" after setup day as far as I know. If some vendors are allowed to be in the room around the clock and those people let others steal - then I am even more disgusted by the situation. Theft from vendors at Expo has been something that I have heard about many times during the 14 years I've attended. This year may have been the worst - and why not - seemingly little or nothing is done to stop it so they get bolder.
I heard that in addition to at least two Stern artists, at least one other vendor was robbed for sure. Actually one vendor was robbed while they were at dinner Friday, then again early Saturday morning during the main heist. Since many vendors have small items or stacks of similar items, several stated that they couldn't be certain if any items walked off. One stated that they thought some product had walked off, but couldn't be sure yet. The story I heard is that some scumbags got into the Vendor Hall after it "closed" at midnight, turned on games, played for a while, then stole a bunch stuff including one of Franchi's 41" x 41" canvas Batman prints! If it was your show and there had been repeated reported thefts over the years, and the Vendor hall could not actually be secured, wouldn't you install surveillance gear (fairly cheap, right?) and have at least one guard in the Vendor Hall when it is supposed to be closed? I heard that at least one victim reported their theft to Mike whose response was one of indifference.
I talked to several vendors that stated due to the thefts and/or the decrease in attendance/revenue that they would not be returning to Expo. Comments that I heard from vendors ranged from (paraphrased) 'within a few dollars of last year but way down from two years ago', 'off 2/3 from last year', 'not worth coming', and 'sales weren't enough to pay for the gas'. To me it already *felt* like there were far fewer vendors and less vendor diversity compared to even last year. Games in the Vendor Hall were spaced out a lot (seemingly to take up more space) compared to prior years and there was open space.
This was perhaps my final Expo especially from an attend all days point of view. From a purely game:attendee ratio it was indeed a pretty good year - because of the drop in attendees, not an increase in games. I heard Berk brought a bunch of games to make up for some of the expected decline in attendee brought games. I feel that game quality was down, as many games were off/dead by Thursday evening. The ease of getting on a game at any time this year was comparable to how prior years would have been at say 4-6am. Normally you can't see from one end of the Game or Vendor Hall, but this year you could see everywhere at any time and probably walk around with outstretched arms without bothering anyone almost anywhere at anytime. My *impression* was that attendance was down 65-80%. Oh, another ancillary benefit - one could leave and return to the same parking spot - MULTIPLE TIMES, even Saturday! For me pinball shows are increasingly about the people and less about the games - perhaps in part because over the years I've met some great people at Expo that happen to have massive collections and there are few games that I can't play just by going to visit them.
The only game that I saw a long line for was Total Nuclear Annihilation (#TNA). I would say that TNA drew similar attention to JJP Pirates, AP Houdini, and Stern Star Wars, but since there was only 1 TNA at Expo compared to maybe 4 Pirates, 3 Houdini and 5 Star Wars, TNA often had 4-12 people waiting instead of 1-4 on the other "new" releases. I enjoyed all four "new" titles - perhaps far more than my wallet wanted me to.
Speaking of game quality - contrasting the 'dead by Thursday night' crowd was Phoebe (@ButterflyGirl24) with her great looking and still playing great Saturday evening games. I love that Joust - and now that I know that the objective is NOT to get the balls to the other side I do WAY better! Thanks to all of you generous folks that brought good working games.
The only Expo organizer/owner that seemed to show outward concern over Expo's direction or appreciation for its attendees (including the vendors) was Bridgett, who walked around from person to person (I believe Friday night) and personally thanked people for being there. I've heard many people comment that Rob has to know that Expo is in decline; Rob has attended Texas Pin Fest and other shows and can't possibly not notice how vibrant and growing many other shows are in comparison to Expo; how willing people are to bring good games. One especially compelling notion that I heard was that Expo should limp through next year and then announce that Expo 35 would be the last Expo and try to go out with as much bang as they can. In prior years, I suspect that Rob and Mike have made money hand over fist on Expo regardless of any other factors so there has been little incentive to change or improve materially. I would hope that Expo's cost structure and profit margins are not so great that this year did not hurt them financially. If nothing else has sparked material change and improvement, maybe little profit or losing money will. Maybe direct competition will spark change, although if that's what it takes then my well wishes are with the newcomer. Competition has sparked significant change at Stern albeit not to the degree or pace that many would like. Time will tell - interesting times for this hobby for sure.
I would readily support a competing show in the Chicago area, even if (perhaps especially if) it was at the same time as Expo. Chicago needs a show that cares about attendees - especially game bringers and vendors, and that knows how to evolve, innovate, and solve problems - if that is not Expo ... OK then. I suspect that a great number of the Expo attendees also attend to reunite with their pinball friends. A new show in Chicagoland may allow people to see their friends when and where they are used to but in a more thriving environment.