,The last major convention we attended supporting Clout was GenCon SoCal last November. The World of Warcraft CCG was being launched, and unsurprisingly they took most of the collectible gaming crowd away from the rest of us. Obviously those folks wanted to play the new 'hot' game. It was easy for the rest of us publishers, who were working just as hard as Upper Deck, to get a bit jealous. I know I was.
Since then I've had a lot of time to consider what makes company sponsored tournament and demo events successful for collectible games at conventions. The format is basically set in stone. Have as nice a booth as you can afford, running demos as quickly as you can for as many people as you can. Run full games in the provided gaming area as frequently as you can, keeping them as full as you can.
The formula is so standardized, the conventions themselves resist breaking out of the format (NO DEMOS IN THE TOURNAMENT AREA!)
If you are a small game publisher, I want to start by writing off the convention gaming areas. They are often crowded, often hot, designed to hold the maximum number of people at a minimum cost. The big players usually have fancy structures, props, and huge banners. The smaller companies have table and floor mounted signs, and sometimes...sometimes...their own tablecloths. If your a small company, you might as well advertise..."Our game is just like theirs, only with fewer players and less cool."
Smaller games need smaller venues. Better venues. Conventions are amazing at bringing gamers together. For standard games (cards, board, and rpgs) they utterly fail at providing a upper-tier game play environment. The average living room is far more comfortable. As a game-publisher, finding or creating an environment that is even better than a player can manage at home should be a priority. If anyone manages to combine a quality game with a quality setting, the results will be staggering.