I attended PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) West 1 for the first time in 2014, and back then tried to be generous in consideration of my newness to the event. This year I attended again, and have no such qualms: PAX is a mediocre convention that is as oversubscribed and is it oversold. The lines were worse than ever before; there isn’t a single booth, panel, or event that you won’t be lining up for.
The most popular items like the live session of Acquisitions Incorporated will necessitate a commitment of 3+ hours of standing in line. More elaborate publisher-driven events like BioWare’s “escape from the room” style challenge are also 3+ hours. Bethesda’s Dishonored 2 Sunday night after party at Seattle’s “Center for Wooden Boats” had a line up around the block of hopefuls praying to get in, many of whom never saw the inside of the building. Pokemon fans waited over an hour for the privilege to pay for overpriced plushes with an official tag. Standard booths with a few demo consoles often had to cap their line after it had encircled their entire installation. And forget about attending an even reasonably popular panel unless you got there an hour before its listed start time.
A pretty standard strategy for most attendees seemed to be to choose a single event for the day and get up early to get in line for it. A normal itinerary would then shake out as follows: mornings spent in line nursing a Starbucks coffee, 1-2 hours around the early afternoon in the event itself, and then spending the afternoon on the expo floor itself, searching for “swag” that amounted to branded pens and key rings, and opportunistically looking for any demo lines that looked to be less than an hour long.
Between ticket price multiplied by hugely oversold quantities, and what publishers are paying to be there, Penny Arcade must be making a killing off of PAX. And beside that, you have to appreciate their acumen even more given that these same downtrodden fans who spent the majority of their weekend in line, love the abuse.
1 Now renamed “PAX West” from “PAX Prime” in an attempt to make this main PAX event appear less prestigious so as to redirect traffic to its “PAX East” and “PAX South”, its less attractive peers.
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