PAX East 2020 Breakdown: PAX vS the Coronavirus
Last weekend’s PAX East convention was set to be one of the best gaming conventions of the year. Nintendo, Square Enix and Sony were all going to be in attendance with their biggest unreleased games. Then with less than two weeks before the show amidst the growing concern of the Coronavirus Sony announced that it would be completely pulling out of the show. Even with pleas written by the Mayor of Boston himself things only got worse. Following suit with Sony high profile companies began to pull out. By the time PAX East officially started on Thursday the 27th Facebook gaming, Capcom and Square Enix had all either backed out completely or cancelled some of their planned events due to the Coronavirus. Through it all the PAX organizers kept a cool public stance of understanding the companies’ decisions and believing that the convention would still be great for all attendees. Now that it’s all over the only thing left to do is assess the situation a determine if PAX East was able to deliver this year.
The lineup of games is critical when it comes to putting on a great gaming convention and there is no denying that Sony’s presence was missed. Through conversations with others that were in attendance it was clear that the Last of Us Part II had been high on a lot of convention goers’ “things to look forward to” lists. Fortunately The absences of Sony and the other companies that cancelled didn’t stop those participating from bringing their best. With Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Baldur’s Gate 3 present PAX had some of the year’s most anticipated releases. Along with the main three that were already mentioned, everyone had access to plenty of other games with some clout to their names like Doom Eternal, Fuser, Disintegration, Kerbal Space Program 2, and Predator: Hunting Grounds. The complete roster of games displayed at the event was an eclectic mix consisting of indie games, sequels to cult hits that had flown under the radar, crowdsource funded projects, completely new titles and just about every other type of game possible from all kinds of developers and studios. PAX East can absolutely say it delivered a great lineup of games for the convention attendees.
PAX events always offer some of the best panels among the gaming panels out there and this year was no different. Part of what makes the line up of panels PAX usually has so good is how open they are to accepting varying experience. You can find panels ranging from full on AAA developers showcasing content for new projects to smaller workshops hosted by locals or unknown gaming enthusiasts. PAX East did not break that trend, with entities like UPUPDOWNDOWN, IGN, Gearbox software and Gamespot all hosting panels there was plenty of name recognition that pulled you in as well as thoughtful and interesting discussion topics across all kinds of gaming subject matter. There were also panels and spaces to reflect PAX’s focus on diversity and inclusion. From the dedicated space of the diversity lounge to panels discussing Latinx characters, LGBTQ gamers and minorities in the gaming community there was a clear effort to showcase diversity. Earlier this year the blerd.com team had the chance to be panelist at PAX South, so we can speak to the efforts PAX has made to be diverse and inclusive. PAX’s panel organization and selection process is something that could become a standard for other conventions of its size to follow.
The Set Up and Crowd
To go along with the very solid game and panel line up PAX East had to create an attention grabbing set up for the massive convention space. The show floor had more than its fair show of eye catching and massive displays to attract people. There were full scale recreations of castles under siege, carnivals with carni-games, space satellites, EDM style music fest stages and iconic vehicles like Cloud Strife’s motorcycle. Along with that there were plenty of jumbotron sized screens for displaying the various e-sport live streams at the event. Just walking around and looking at the spectacle of all the setups built by exhibitors was a fun experience. The crowd and actual number of people that turned out may be the only area where the impact from fear of the coronavirus was felt. While the main days of Friday and Saturday were sold out inside the convention center did not feel that way. With the exception of a few spaces it was easy to move through the convention floor without running into the huge masses of people shuffling shoulder to shoulder at some popular game space or bottleneck point that are usually found at these kinds of events. Instead most of the lines were reasonably sized and moved at a pretty good pace. Admittedly for the experience of the attendees these were more of a plus than anything but for the PAX attendance trackers it probably was a concern and besides if you are not crowded into a space where you have to smell the con funk of other people is it really even a convention?
The Final Word
It is hard to imagine that anyone that was actually at PAX East this year would have much to complain about. Yeah Sony and the other companies and games pulling out stung but PAX did just what they said they would do and put on a great convention for those that attended. They delivered on all the fronts that should matter to the gamers that showed up great games, panels, and displays. Given the struggling state that many of the other large conventions are in these days it’s not guaranteed similar events would have been/ will be able to handle the challenges that the Coronavirus created. Instead of PAX East 2020 being an event that could have been looked at as a failure of epic proportions now it can be seen as an example of winning even when dealing with uncontrollable forces working against you and just another example of how PAX events can be looked at as the standard of gaming conventions.