US board game convention Gen Con is cancelled for the first time in its 50-year history

Online event announced in wake of COVID-19 concerns.

Gen Con, the US board game convention founded by Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax, has been cancelled for the first time since it began more than 50 years ago, with an online event taking its place this summer.

Gen Con 2020 had originally been due to be held from July 30th to August 2nd in the event’s home city of Indianapolis. The event, which has taken place every year since 1968, is generally considered the largest board game convention in North America and the second-biggest board game convention in the world after Germany’s Essen Spiel games fair. Last year’s show saw around 70,000 unique visitors attend.

In an announcement, Gen Con’s organisers confirmed that the 2020 show had been cancelled due to the health and safety concerns surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, particularly with regard to large gatherings.

“The safety and health of our attendees, exhibitors, and staff are of the utmost importance to us, and we cannot in good conscience host a gathering of thousands while doing so could threaten the health of so many,” the statement said.

“We hope that the world will look different by August, but after closely following the development of the COVID-19 outbreak, having discussions with our partners in Indianapolis, and in keeping with guidance from the CDC, we can’t see a clear picture of how soon it will be safe for all of us to gather again. The only responsible choice is to cancel the convention this year.”

Gen Con confirmed that visitors who had already purchased a badge for Gen Con 2020 would automatically have their ticket rolled over to Gen Con 2021. Customers would optionally be able to request a refund for this year’s show, the company said.

In place of the cancelled show, Gen Con announced a virtual convention, Gen Con Online, which will be held from July 30th to August 2nd. Further details on the digital event are yet to be announced, with Gen Con simply saying that Gen Con Online will include events, programming and the chance to “connect and play games together”.

Gen Con joins major tabletop gaming events such as Essen Spiel, UK Games Expo and Origins Games Fair in being delayed or cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. All four shows have since announced digital counterparts - Gen Con Online, Spiel.Digital, Virtually Expo and Origins Online, respectively - that will replace the affected conventions.


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Matt Jarvis

Editor-in-chief

After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.