PAX Goes Prime Time!

My family and I are still beaming from our first PAX (Penny Arcade Expo), Seattle’s gaming convention featuring games for console, computer and table top games. For three action packed days reaching 70,000 attendees, it was the largest PAX ever and one of the biggest gaming cons in the world!

With attendees literally spent hours lining up trying to get into the Seattle Convention Center, then lining up again to play the newest beta launches of the biggest blockbuster games (while receiving plenty of terrific swag so you’ll remember to buy the game later!) it seems fairly obvious that the gaming industry is growing.

StarCraft 2 Lan Fest

As you could imagine,  as in any entertainment convention, there were plenty of cosplayers (fans dressed in amazing detailed costumes as their favorite game character); hardware vendors, so you can decide what components to put in your next gaming computer; multiple gaming tournaments and indie game developers to talk about their latest releases. It was an all out two-way geek-fest where fans get to share their giddy appreciation for the games as well as the game producers chatting up the end-users and learning what they think of their product. The passion from both attendees and exhibitors was electric.

I wondered after speaking with the Christopher Erhardt, director of  AIE (Academy of Interactive Entertainment) could this huge gaming community be an anomaly since, after all, we do live in Seattle where there are at least 150 game companies? Perhaps, but lets look at the facts. The gaming industry is growing leaps and bounds, in fact, three quarters of all U.S. families play games and 72% of those play computer or video games according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Here are some surprising stats: Consumers spent $25.1 billion on video games and peripheries in 2010 and the average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 41 years old (Surprised?). 76% of all games sold in 2010 were rated “E” for Everyone, “T” for Teen, or “E10+” for Everyone 10+ (It’s family affair, just like ours, we’re the prime demographic!)

“Entertainment software is now one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. economy. And video games are driving technological and societal advancements that serve gamers and non-gamers alike. From education, to health, to business, the computer and video game industry is helping Americans lead healthier, happier and more productive lives.”

In my opinion, Firefall had the most impressive exhibit with plenty of big screens for visual stimuli and dry ice extending the experience of demo play. Firefall also has a pretty clever social media campaignfeaturing ‘Daily Missions’ involving pictures and videos to be taken in front of specific locations then uploading to your social networks (Twitter/Facebook). Don’t have a smartphone…meh, you’re out of luck! (I guess they figured their demographic as a heavy smartphone user and judging by the laggy to non-existent ATT 3G service at the convention center on the first day, they’re right!)

Ubisoft launched Assassin’s Creed Revelations, their fourth installment of the epic historical third-person action video game; The plot and the artwork of the game is striking as it takes place in Ottoman Constantinople in 1511 AD. The story integrates real historical figures and geographic locations  with a Sci-fi twist.

Assassins Creed 2 Facebook fan photos

The PAX Prime ’11 fans were lining up to take photos on their ‘green screen’ booth so that you could see yourself with the Assassin’s Creed background. They gave me a card to visit their Facebook fan page.  Several PAX Prime exhibitors required folks to register either on Facebook or Twitter before  entering a drawing or participating in a game. I’ve never been to a conference like that before, but its smart, guaranteeing fans new updates while increasing their fan base and monitoring their engagement.

Despite all the “smoke and mirror” of these bigger funded top brand games, I’m drawn to the innovators, the developers of indie games. PAX Prime seems committed to exposing gamers to fresh ideas and in an effort to attract exposure for certain indie games, PAX allocated 10 free booth spaces (that’s really cool). These indie game developers often don’t have the funds to promote their hard work but are fueled with passion and interest. They want to change the world with their storytelling and drive interest by creating a perfect game.

Matt Gilgenbach’s exhibitor persona, with his yellow miner hat, sticks out from the hungry indie game crowd. As co-founder of 24 Caret Games, he has developed an interesting story where the game must be played, in reverse, in order to save the space time continuum. His team has created a stunning and engaging visual game called “Retro/Grade” (soon to come out on Playstation 3). We are excited that there’s a game that involves musicality (to the extent that we can use our guitar controller!). Now with Activision’s Guitar Hero no longer being manufactured at least there’s something new I can do with our guitars besides gather dust!

PAX Prime 11 interview with multi-talented creator of Universe Sandbox, Dan Dixon, tells us how he started this project and what makes his video game so unique.

Universe Sandbox is an interactive space simulator for Windows based PCs. It’s a powerful gravity simulator  and an open ended game where the user can manipulate stars, entire galaxies and change variables for to see vivid graphic animation. As a parent & former home-schooler, I think this is an great way for families to satisfy their curiosity about astronomy combining different “what if” scenarios.  You can buy it here for $10.

Ryan Maclean, founder of DrinkBox Studios talks about their new followup game to About a Blob, entitled Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack during PAX Prime 2011. (Platform: PlayStation Vita)  Check out their site: www.mutantblobsattack.com

The blob grows as he devours through each level! Younger kids will love it, and it just reminds me how a big bolus of food will track down an esophagus during digestion! (ok, so it’s not a biology game, but it can easily be conceived as one!). Nice job guys, great to meet you at PAX Prime! Here’s the trailer, its a lot of fun!

The G155 is what Gaems is calling a “Personal Gaming Environment”. It caught my eye because it’s a lot like a Pelican Case but specifically designed for portability for gaming consoles. As earlier mentioned, three quarters of U.S. households play some type of computer game and this demographic includes not only the mobile young adults ready to go off to college, but adults well into their careers who travel for business. Disposable income or a necessity for the gamer, who’s to say the value of the ‘Personal Gaming Environment’, all I know is that when we travel for any length of time, my teenage kid packs his Playstation in a floppy gym bag where equipment can get damaged.

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PAX Prime 2011

Although video game sales over July dropped over 25 percent and has fallen to the lowest levels since 2006 according to the market research group NPD Group, you wouldn’t be able to tell by the growth of PAX, the video gaming conference happening now in the Seattle convention center, Aug 26 – 28th.

The Republic of Gamers demonstrates what its like to have extreme gaming power by overclocking. It was explained to me that normally overclocking can not be done without damaging your computer but by pouring liquid nitrogen into the CPU & GPU, they demo’d software games at PAX Prime to show extreme performance. The 3D detail was extraordinary  (Features Mars II GTX 580 Video graphics card)

Here’s the schedule for  PAX.

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