By Cameron Mattern
FISHERS, Ind. — When Gen Con starts Thursday, Tom Anders will be in a small booth surrounded by hundreds of dice and 3-D miniatures that he’s created with the opportunity to reach thousands of customers.
Anders owns Impact! Miniatures, a business he runs out of his home in Fishers.
Tom Anders stands in the shipping area of his home in Fishers, surrounded by products being prepared to be shipped to customers. Anders is the owner of Impact! Miniatures, a company that specializes in creating 3D metal miniatures and dice for tabletop board games. Photo by Cameron Mattern, TheStatehouseFile.com
Creating miniatures for role-playing board games wasn’t always a full-time job for Anders. Eight years ago, during the recession, he was making six figures as a statistician and creating fantasy game pieces was simply for fun. Suddenly, the company he worked for outsourced his entire department to India and Anders found himself unemployed.
“I went to my wife and said, ‘We can either have me go find another job or we can try and take the hobby business and make it work’,” Anders said. “The deal we worked out was that if I could ask the customers to buy enough stuff in that month to pay off both our vehicles then we would make a go of this full time.”
Fast-forward to today and his company is bringing in a $250,000 annually. Anders sells the products on his online store, Amazon, directly to game stores and at gaming conventions — including the upcoming Gen Con in Indianapolis.
“[Gen Con] is always a nice shot in the bank account,” he said.
Two years ago, Anders sold $11,000 during the four-day convention. Last year he sold $9,000.
“There are people who make twice, three times, four times easily if they’re the more known companies that people are looking for,” Anders said.
Gen Con, which heralds itself as “the best four days in gaming,” is the largest tabletop game convention in the country. This year the convention is celebrating its 50th anniversary. More than 61,000 people are expected to attend this year, according to Visit Indy. By Monday, Gen Con had, for the first time, completely sold out.
“The community has really embraced this event,” said Lisa Wallace, senior communications manager of conventions and meetings for Visit Indy.
Restaurants near the convention often join in the fun by offering gaming-themed menus. Sun King releases a themed beer.
The convention has become so popular they have had to expand beyond the convention center and into Lucas Oil Stadium.
Gen Con has taken place in different locations in the U.S. and around the world, but Indianapolis has been the most successful so far. This will be the 15th year that the Hoosier capital has hosted the phenomenon.
“The Midwest tends to be a gaming hotbed, in my opinion,” said Steve Board, general manager of Game Preserve.
The Game Preserve has been open for 37 years, beginning in 1980, specializing in miniatures, role-playing and tabletop games. The business has locations in Bloomington, Indianapolis, Greenwood and Lafayette.
One of the many 3D miniatures that Anders prints on his 3D printer in his basement in Fishers. Anders owns Impact! Miniatures, a company that specializes in creating 3D miniatures and dice for role-playing tabletop board games. Photo by Cameron Mattern, TheStatehouseFile.com
“Indianapolis definitely has the hotel space and businesses to support a large convention like Gen Con,” he said.
In addition to Indianapolis having one of the largest, most accessible convention centers in the country, a shopping mall, hotels and many restaurants are within walking distance. Food trucks line up along Georgia Street to feed hungry gamers.
Gen Con brings in visitors from all 50 states and more than 60 countries, but the majority are within driving distance.
“There isn’t really anywhere else you can hold this convention, in my opinion, where you will end up having the benefits of Indy,” said Anders.
For the more than ten years that Anders has attended Gen Con, he’s loved getting the opportunity to interact with customers and get inspired by other vendors and the events.
Anders knows that by making his hobby a thriving business, he’s living the dream of doing what you love and getting paid to do so.
“This is truly one of the instances where I do something that I don’t mind working 15-16 hour days because it’s fun,” he said.
Cameron Mattern is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.