So, unfortunately, I wasn’t available to attend all 4 days of the convention this year. However quick first impressions from my two day experience are that 2019 was a fairly mellow year on the expo floor. Perhaps this had a negative impact of my perception of the convention this year, or perhaps it had something to do with a sleeping toddler napping while I carried her through the expo hall every day from 2pm to 5pm. But in any case, I’ve tried to shift those opinions off and give a mostly objective observation.
So I’ll briefly summary the whole article here in the overview and if there’s anything that you’d like to hear more about continue to scroll.
Not only were Thursday badges on sale still, but Sunday badges were also still on sale when the convention started, which was an amazing change of pace compared to the past 8 years. This was very exciting as I convinced several first timers to go on Thursday and give it a try, which was a great roaring success.
As usual there was a wonderful assortment of companies and featured gaming spotlights on the expo floor in the Indie Megabooth. My impressions of the panels and shows this year remain the typical high quality content that PAX East attracts and pulls into the show. I really enjoyed the details revealed about Acquisitions Inc.’s upcoming book and how it’s designed to help solve problems in most gaming groups.
However, unlike previous years when walking on the expo floor would have revealed a large 30 foot monster statue, or an iconic video game reference being announced, or a super secret playtest zone containing an unannounced remaster which gets unveiled on the last day, there was no iconic eye catching display to represent a video game. Instead, there was an interesting series of semi-transparent cubes with people trying out Oculus games, and while this wasn’t as impressive at generating hype, it was a brilliant move on a marketing forefront and genuinely inspired interest in me purchasing the new Oculus.
The other quick impression was that esports were more present as arenas and streaming zones were located in several different spaces in the convention center, which would be very cool if I watched more steamers.
This year felt a little flat compared to some others in my recent memory through no fault of the PAX Staff. I’m still very pleased with the things I found and the new board games I bought.
Yes! An official D&D book partnered with Penny Arcade! Contained inside these mighty pages are not only content to create your very own Acquisitions Inc. branch, but how to structure your employees!
For the uninitiated, many years ago Wizards of the Coast teamed up with Penny Arcade for what started off as a podcast of a sketch comedy presentation of D&D sessions. This overtime evolved into live shows at PAX West (Then known as PAX Prime) and eventually at other shows as the convention expanded to multiple regions.
They’re adding a new race, several new classes, some spells, NPCs, monsters, and very interestingly, a new level 1-6 adventure where you can meet the wonderful cast of Acquisitions Inc. What’s extremely interesting about the class design is they created what are essentially team jobs to fit the group and take a lot of the problems out of different skills. So there’s a cartographer whose job is literally to find the path, getting rid of potential friction when the party debates what roads to take to get where they want to go. There’s a ‘decisionist’ who’s vote always counts as two in the event of a tie. There’s also a ‘documancer’ who is the skilled negotiator for the group when creating contracts with NPCs. There are a few other jobs but the core idea is that these roles remove friction in your group.
Pre-Orders ship on June 18th. There’s a delightful quality and humor that was sampled in the book at the panel about it and, as anticipated, Kate was a phenomenal panel host.
For more details or to pre-order look here!
Twitch Link: Checkout the full panel at 1 Hour and 47 minutes into this stream.
Oculus and Facebook Gaming:
So the immediate presence that stood out was that Oculus and Facebook showed up big. Stacking several playrooms with glass walls let everyone know Facebook announced the new Oculus and it was ready for play. Most popular game I saw by line was the beat saber cube, which frequently filled up.
It was a great move to showcase how the new Oculus was ready to go for gamers.
MTG and PAX Arena:
Most notable to me was that esports arenas were front and center in a majority of the show floor. The North American Super Smash Open was held in the PAX arena and part of it in the Nintendo booth. The Wizards of the Coast booth was hosting some very intense MTG Arena coverage that was also very proudly on display. I saw several fans sit on the skywalk eating their food and watching the matches on the big screen.
No Show Stoppers:
What was almost as equally of note about PAX this year was who wasn’t here. And just to be clear, I don’t want to be too disrespectful here, but the show floor just didn’t have the same feel as the prior years where there was a massive 30-ft monster statue.
While this is a very subjective and crude measurement, here’s a shortlist of booths missing:
Some companies had small fan events nearby instead of setting up in the expo hall, and for those people who went looking perhaps that’s fine with you but to me one of the major hallmarks for cons is being pulled to watch something that either went under the radar or to light the hype train on it.
Honorable Gems on the Expo Floor:
Tekken 7 had a decent foothold but they were still dare I say shallow?
Yoshi in the Nintendo booth was cool, including their 3D rotating display to highlight that this upcoming Yoshi game has 3D play in it. Having seen some playing of the demo, it’s much like a Paper Mario foreground and background interaction to it. There’s a section where you trigger it to exit the sidescroller “normal” Yoshi play, and then launch eggs at a small duck hunt. I hope the full game has a large variety of these moments.
There was a cool booth that really appealed to me conceptually. The game is Splitgate; it’s a hybrid of gameplay from the two very popular gaming series Halo and Portal. This game looks extremely interesting. However, since it’s only on the PC for the immediate future, my XBox playing self will just have to wait.
There wasn’t anything unusual this year about the Tabletop area from my quick walkthrough, I picked up new games that I’ll be happy to write reviews for them at a later time. I longly eyeballed the delightful, new, pretty woods at Wyrmwood and their tables as always provided a very comfortable option for a brief interlude seating while on a quest or meeting up with people.
The only thing that was majorly improved was that the number of individual round tables was dramatically reduced and instead a much more significant volume of straight bar length tables were arranged to maximize seating.
I’ll also comment on some very unusual results from the PAX Gaming library checkouts though: UNO was one of the most checked out per copy having over 20 checkouts for 1 copy of the game! UNO! What is that about, some people were feeling nostalgic??? What is this madness?!
On the overall most checked out games, the top three spots go to Root, Azul, and the mighty Dragoon, all of which are delightful in my experience. I’ve been eyeballing Root for a very long time but haven’t pulled the trigger yet.
Hope you enjoyed this summary and if you went what were your favorite things at PAX East this year!