Following each event, it is customary for the President of the Pittsburgh LAN Coalition to deliver a “State of the LAN” address in which he informs Pittco attendees and staff about the results of the LAN party, providing a retrospective of things which went well and areas of improvement from the organization’s viewpoint.
Ladies and gentlemen,
“LAN parties are dead, long live LAN parties” is a phrase one of my staff used to describe our event this past weekend, Iron Storm XII. I think it is an accurate statement describing not only our organization’s events, but those across our community.
Our attendance for the past several events had been on the decline. In fact, we even had to cancel one event because of so few pre-registrations just two weeks before the event. “Not IS12,” we said. “We’re going to pull out all of the stops.”
We adjusted our pricing, offering huge discounts to incentivize what we believe is the very core of LAN parties: group gaming. We offered as much as a 20% discount for group registrations. We offered several other discounts and contests throughough the registration period, and several of our registrants took advantage of these offers, from a Valentine’s Day special, to a comic book giveway, to a video game giveaway, to discounts for attendees of other LAN parties in the region, to a healthy discount for folks registering not 8 hours before the event started!
We also turned to far, far more effective advertising. We leveraged Facebook ads to more than double the size of our Facebook page and drive traffic to our site. We also advertised throughout the Internet via Google Adwords, and displayed our advertisement on two popular comics, HALOLZ and Questionable Content, for several days via Project Wonderful.
Several of our staff and regular attendees walked the streets of Pittsburgh for several nights, hanging flyers and talking to people to introduce them to our organization and our event.
We secured a mind-blowing 31 corporate sponsors from throughout the world.
We were relentless in building Iron Storm XII into our best event yet.
Ladies and gentlemen, we succeeded. Iron Storm XII was the second largest event in the history of the Pittsburgh LAN Coalition. More than 156 gamers, staff, spectators, and sponsors descended upon the Castle Shannon Fire Hall for a fantastic weekend.
We gave away more than 100 prizes worth more than $5000. Our sponsors GameHuddle and Heroes of Newerth developer S2 Games provided $1550 in cash prizes, and the winning team of our Counter-Strike: Source tournament walked away with $75 from its buy-in pot.
The lovely Eleine casted our StarCraft 2 tournament, and we look forward to perhaps recording and publishing her casts of the latter matches on our YouTube channel. This was a first for us, and we hope to have this and more tournaments casted during our future events.
Our Counter-Strike: Source tournament ended with one of the closest matches in Pittco history, coming down to the very last round.
Our console tournaments were well attended: two had 32 participants and another had 24. Our Super Street Fighter 4 tournament had a lower participation rate than usual, but we attribute that to its being scheduled during the heart of the CS:S tournament.
Areas of improvement
Keep in mind that we are always looking for ways to improve the LAN party experience for our attendees. We see things from a staff angle, so we need your input and commentary to know in what areas we can improve. That said, here are a few things we think we could have done better.
Internet. We apologize for setting expectations for Internet higher than we were able to deliver. Extreme miscommunication between Pittco and the Castle Shannon VFD, combined with higher than expected bandwidth needs for applications other than games (e.g. Dropbox, Windows Updates, antivirus updates) crippled our 15/5 Verizon FiOS fiber connection. We were forced to disable Internet access, even for staff, throughout most of the event. We enabled tournament games which needed it to use it, but general web browsing was disabled. We regret needing to do so, but as more and more games rely on Internet-based servers even for local play, we must prioritize that Internet-bound traffic. As for a resolution, we already have met with the CSVFD about the issue and have in place an action plan to address it before our next event. We are adamant about providing the resources necessary for our attendees, and anything less is unsatisfactory, unacceptable, and inexcusable.
Jackass tournaments. Pittco prides itself on the variety of real-life tournaments we offer during the event. These are things such as karaoke, musical chairs, drag races, chugging contests, foot races, can stacking, and so on. We didn’t offer as many of these during Iron Storm XII because we were fully applied running our tournaments. It also didn’t help that the person generally in charge of our jackass tournaments, Executive Manager Nik “Saberwolf” Parenti, was admitted to the emergency room at a local hospital Friday evening following an injury earlier in the day! We hope that, in the future, we can space out our tournaments a little more or bring on more staff to handle the rapid-fire tournament structure we’ve adopted while preserving one of the things which makes Pittco unique.
Public servers. We didn’t offer as many public servers as we normally do. We opted to focus on tournament servers and hoped that attendees interested in playing a game would themselves spearhead efforts to bring up a dedicated or listen server for the games they’d like to play. We were wrong. We’ll work closer with community volunteers to offer servers for unofficial tournaments and perhaps provide an area for attendees to place servers they’ve brought.
Many, many people helped this event come together. First and foremost, I’d like to recognize some of my staff who went above and beyond. Nik “saberwolf” Parenti, our executive manager, is the man whom you can thank for securing our main cash prize sponsors, S2 Games and GameHuddle, as well as several other sponsors. Nik has also coordinated with the Fire Hall for years and will continue to act as our Venue Coordinator for future events. Jeff “thejaeffect” Adams, one of our pair of Console Administrators, doubled as a sponsor manager, too, securing all of the prizes for the console section. Jonathan “Shinary” Daniel, our web programmer, stepped into the design role for some streamlining and updates to our site in February. These, along with keeping our web site up and running, were indispensible to our appearance on the web. Dan “jungleralph” Motles, our operations manager, furthered his Pittco Roulette format and kept gamers busy throughout the event with constant supply of small tournaments in familiar games. Kyle “Wild Turkey” Turk for providing our network connectivity and a neverending supply of echoing humor via his DJ equipment. Our other staff is indispensible, too, providing various functions related to their jobs: Pat “p47r4ck” Degnan, Aaron “Aalienator” Maricic, Matt “Lanman” Malesky”, Bob “Delta” Kelley, Jordan “BigJ64″ Retterer, Justin “erad1cate” Ritter, and Dave “cHip” Auria. Also, please welcome our two newer staff members, Josh “SovietKitsch” Bialek and Ben “Stalker” Brown.
We staff members also thank our significant others for letting us do the crazy things we do for the video game community. I must especially thank my girlfriend for taking oodles and oodles of pictures during IS12 and putting up with me in the weeks leading up to the event.
I also thank our gracious sponsors for their generousity and support. We were pleased to host in person representatives from GameHuddle, Classic Game Room, Red Bull, Computer Connections, Club Conflict, and ThinkComputers.
Most of all, though, we must thank our attendees: it is you, gamers, who make our organization what it is. Without you, we are but a dozen and half video game nerds playing games together. Thank you for your continued support of our organization, and we hope to see you at our next event.
LAN parties are dead, long live LAN parties. We thought the LAN party community, at least in the Pittsburgh area, to be dying. You, IS12 attendees, have shown us otherwise, and resoundingly so. With renewed spirits and renewed momentum, we look forward to hosting the next LAN party event and making it even better!
update: forgot erad1cate in the thank-yous!