Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pre-Registration: Hot or Not?

Our little LARP, Exiles, just launched a pre-registration program before our last event.  There's a whole 'nother series of why and how, but it occurs to me that I've seen such systems come and go in other places and I wonder why?

The benefits for the game runners are that they know who's coming, so they can plan encounters, logistics, and even food.  For the players, they can streamline their check-in process, don't have to worry about bringing cash, and give Staff a heads up that they'll be attending so that everything is ready for them.  All great, things, right?

I've seen games offer rewards for prereg.  Sometimes it's money off the event fee, sometimes it's goblins or their equivalent.  Even better!

But just based on casual observation, it seems that the system isn't used as often as I'd think.  A lot of people don't know until the last minute if they can make it.  Or they can't scrape together the money to pay in advance.  Or they just don't feel like pre-registering :)  The rewards, where they're the goblins or equivalent, are set at a level to be fair, and that fair amount doesn't seem to be enough to really tempt people. Even offering a discount for the event fee didn't seem to work as well as I'd expect where I saw it at WAR.  People just have situations where they can't commit to a hobby in advance, and pre-registering isn't something that works for them.  If they do it, it looked like it was more for the convenience than the reward in a lot of cases, especially if the game doesn't offer that game fee discount (which can be hard to do for smaller LARPs).

On the back end, setting up the system can be a bit of a pain, as it requires a little more effort from your financial person to monitor everything coming and going at all times.  And it might even cause unnecessary work for Staff who prep logistics or plot, only to have the player not make it.

Financially, using something like PayPal incurs a fee for every transaction.  For your average event of $40, it's actually around $2 that is lost.  Add that to any discount, and games can lose a considerable amount.

So then, is pre-registration worth it?  Maybe it wasn't, and that's why games have dropped it! 

I like the idea of knowing who's coming, especially at a small game where every individual can make a big difference to our plans.  But I wonder the best way to make a system effective.

What do you think?  Does your game use a pre-reg system?  Is it effective?  Do you use it?  What do you like about it?

I'm curious to see how things work at other games!!


  1. I'm struggling with this right now. Right now, we have a prepayment discount, which you get if you pay before the event, but I think we need to move back to a week-ahead preregistration.

    The biggest problem is that we can't afford to continue to lose money on events, and it's hard to commit the chapter's money to an event that may have low turn-out.

    At this weekend's event, unless 5 non-prepaid people show up to PC, we will lose money on the event because of the low turn-out. If we had known this a week ago, we could have cancelled the event, and only lose a small portion of our campground reservation fees.

    In addition, before an event there is a large amount of work gathering info on players and characters to make sure we have the best game possible and that everyone gets rewarded for attending. Nothing irks me more than when an out-of-chapter player shows up to PC, but hasn't preregistered and doesn't have his or her character sheet. We don't have internet access at the campground and there's just no way to get the sheet.

    We offer a $9 discount to prepayers (it would be $10, but our NPC fee is $10, and having that $1 payment helps us record the player's intention of coming to the event), and I find that PayPal's fees are pretty negligible (less than $2/PC registration, $0.03 or something/NPC registration), and the convenience is worth it. Some chapters add that fee to payments via PayPal, but I find that being able to gather all our info via the PayPal form and tracking the money-flow through PP really helps.

  2. Other than giving a discount, I think that the benefits of pre-registration need to be more unique to make them worthwhile for the players. I know that some games actually offer character experience awards for pre-registration, which gives more of an incentive than the normal service awards that can be earned by donating baby wipes or bottled water.

    Unfortunately for NERO, local games aren't permitted to give out that kind of reward. That's one of the issues with running a chapter based game with characters able to travel anywhere.

    As Matt said, there are definite benefits to having pre-registration numbers, from knowing when it makes economic sense to pull the plug on an event, to knowing if you need to bring more food for players or tenting in the case of primitive campsites. But if those don't necessarily apply to your game, it might not be worth it.

    What I think would be cool is if a game found a way to intergrate the pre-registration process with social media like twitter or facebook. Give players benefits for not only pre-registering, but also for posting that they're coming. That way, the game gets a little advertising/publicity in exchange for whatever pre-registration benefits are offered.

    1. Two things I've seen done fairly successfully at some NERO chapters are a free BGA (with no XP blanket; just plot interaction) and extra production items for those who pre-register and pre-pay. Neither of them were likely huge factors, but I know that both did sway some people to go ahead and lock in before the event.

  3. We added a door fee, which we didn't enforce for a long time. Our pre ref is not a pre pay, because as Karin pointed out, it costs money to use patty pal and the goal is to know who is coming nor get money in advance. I found that players were much more willing to simply let is know by post, email, or pm.
    We eventually had to send a message and actually charge the for fee, I would say we now get a 95% pre reg success now.
    We put up a thread on ore forums, then pepper potential players with reminders to let is know they are coming and warn them of the for fee.
    I always include links to the forum on reminders. Make it as easy as possible for people to pre reg, give an incentive, and I believe you can have success.

  4. At one of the LARP's I staff the plot tends to be very granular and focused. It also tends to be very integrated, with nearly everything is some way touches something else if you trace things back far enough. Some of the plot is developed without any particular characters in minds, but a significant amount is written with some specific character involvement in mind. Also, for game site and staffing reasons the game has a player cap of 60 people. For that LARP a pre-registration process is an absolute must. We would be incapable of creating a quality event without it.

    The other plot I staff tends to have a much looser plot and story. While there is some plot that targets individuals or groups the majority of the plot is presented to the player base as a whole. Some of it is big scale battles or grand announcements to one and all. Others are written to be smaller in scale but not with any particular target in mind. When they go out they can be picked up by any of the players and still run successfully. The player base is a bit smaller and there is never a danger of having too many PC's for the site. At that LARP pre-registration is much less of a requirement, and most of the advantage is in making the cash flow process for the owner easier.