To those who don't know PAX (Penny Arcade Expo), it is a gaming convention run by the Penny Arcade team (which started as a video game themed web comic and has since expanded to a podcast, reality show, video game and more). PAX itself now includes the annual events PAX Prime (in Seattle), PAX East (in Boston). Now PAX Australia, held in Melbourne, Victoria, marks the first international PAX event.
PAX Australia ran from the 19th to the 21st of July. Tickets were fairly pricey at $50 for a day pass and sold out incredibly quickly almost six months ago due to limited space. Based on the number of tickets sold there was about 15,000 people in attendance each day.
I'll start with what I was personally able to experience at PAX. Firstly the enforcers didn't seem to have the same standards in "enforcing" the rules as I've heard they do at their US events; again, this can be partially put down to the fact that it was the inaugural event on the other side of the planet, and the enforcers were just as much fans and gamers as any of the other attendees. On the plus side this meant they were really enthusiastic and I could tell that as soon as I walked in to the showgrounds. However it also meant they didn't really know what they were doing and several times I was in a line and in an attempt to fit as many people in an area as possible an enforcer would break the line and get everyone to bunch up into a tight chaotic crowd of people rather than an organised line.
Unfortunately I didn't get to walk around the show floor as much as I would have liked but from what I did I could see that Booths had way more effort put into them than any other convention I had been to and they were able to use the space more effectively than other conventions that had been held at the same venue. On that note, and I think possibly as a side effect of being held while Comic Con was on, many of the larger game developers and studios that you would expect to see were not exhibiting. The only major games and companies that were in the Expo Hall were Nintendo (and it was all 3DS content, nothing particularly special), the Australian modified version of Saints Row IV, Ubisoft (although I didn't even notice them), and World of Tanks (which had way more space than seemed necessary). Smaller developers were much more prominent, with Halfbrick Studios (an Australian developer that created Fruit Ninja, and Jet Pack Joy Ride) being a major sponsor for the event, really impressing attendees. There was also a lot of emphasis put on Indie developers.
The main thing I attended for was to meet some of the RoosterTeeth staff (the creators of Red vs Blue, Achievement Hunter and more) including Burnie Burns, Jack Pattillo, and Gus Sorola. They were awesome as usual. About 1000 people attended their panel (so almost a tenth of the number of people attending PAX that day. They also released the first episode of their new anime style series RWBY that day, which I will most likely be covering in my own blog on the site at some stage. I was lucky enough to get into the line for their signings (but only just) and had to wait 3 hours if that gives you guys any indication of how popular they were.
I mentioned Wargaming had a massive World of Tanks area, and I may be biased due to the fact I was waiting in line next to one of the tanks they had on display, but it really felt unnecessary. I was also concerned that the rules from other PAX's weren't being implemented "down under" when I noticed the Wargaming area filled with what could only be described as booth babes (despite not being in bikinis) which is something PAX has already had a strong stance against. Not that I have a huge problem with it, but again its unnecessary and it would be far better if they just showed off great content rather than employing cheap tactics, and I feel like PAX's strict rules are one of the things that make the events run smoothly. I later heard that the women promoting their game were asked to cover up a bit.
League of Legends also took up a lot of space but it was all being used, with tournaments running on all 3 days of the event. Microsoft had a space dedicated to showing off the Xbox One, although it was only there in a glass case for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday, I've heard the reason for taking it in and out was due to the fact it was the only Xbox One in Australia at the time and it was being used for demonstrations at panels.
As I mentioned Halfbrick, developer of Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride, was a major sponsor of the event, and provided attendees with lanyards to keep their passes on. At their panel they announced their next iOS game, Collosatron: Massive World Threat. The game will put you in the role of a giant robotic snake from outer space causing destruction and mayhem on Earth. You can find the trailer here.
Overall PAX Aus was a good experience for a first year event, but there are definitely some kinks that need to be worked out for next year, and I think a different time of year for it would possibly help (or at least not clashing with Comic Con, and thereby hopefully encouraging more exhibitors). The best thing about PAX was how friendly everyone was, and it was pretty easy to talk to complete strangers simply because you had that connection as fellow gamers.
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