PAX West 2018: Media, Exhibitors, And The Problem With Conventions

PAX West 2018: Media, Exhibitors, And The Problem With Conventions

I’ve been attending PAX West (Known as PAX Prime in the earlier years) since 2010. With the exception of one PAX, I have attended the event as Media every single time. Not because “I can,” but because having that media badge can present different opportunities of it’s own, such as an hour earlier access to the expo floor, to get great 1-on-1 time with some of the developers and PRs. This time is invaluable to the press.

Public opinions is that media with priority access cause issues at events such as PAX. With privileged access, exclusive swag, and the potential to cause issues for public attendees it is no wonder this opinion is so popular. An example is given during PAX West 2018, where an attendee stood in line to get their hands on Devolver Digital’s GRIS. They stood in line for a long time, got their hands on the controller, and started playing the game. That experience was short-lived, because after only two minutes, they were asked to leave so Media can play. I put myself in that attendee’s shoes. You have been waiting for longer than an hour to play a game you are excited for.

While we attend as Media ourselves, we see this happen at many different booths. Usually, if it were to happen, we try to let the attendee finish their demo before we step in and take control. The way we see it, the attendee paid money for their badge so they can play this game. We, did not. Yes, media outlets have a job to do, but I feel it should be at the responsibility of the booth and the press to take action and let attendees finish their game demo before strapping in. However, this brings another problem. The Lines.

Nintendo’s booth was one of the worst at PAX West 2018.

The lines have gotten notoriously long in recent years. Booths like Valve’s and Nintendo’s were capped so long as you weren’t one of the first one’s through the expo hall doors. Even if you were, lines were almost full due to the Exhibitors having full access to the expo hall. This is a huge problem. It caused many frustrations with booths in the past, and at PAX West 2018, made getting into Nintendo’s and Capcom’s booth almost impossible. Some booths managed to get around that issue by refusing people with Exhibitor badges access to their booth before the general public. Square Enix even did things right by providing attendees with cards, asking they come back at a select time to try out games like Kingdom Hearts III.

We had an interview lined up with a particular booth before the show floor opened and we observed something quite odd. There are a lot of people getting in lines with exhibitor badges. After glancing around the floor, I noticed there are booths, completely open, but with hundreds of people already in lines trying to get their hands on some PAX goodies. By the time the show floor opened, these exhibitors maintained their position in line, making it next to impossible to enter these lineups when the show floor opens. Because of this, many attendees were denied access to these lines as they were “capped,” causing frustration upon attendees. This isn’t right.

I understand that there are exhibitors that want to check out the show floor, but I also believe that they shouldn’t get “priority access” to these booths. If you are an exhibitor, get in line like the rest of the attendees. If you are given “Exhibitor access” to a particular booth, these booths should clear the line once it opens up to attendees to make sure it is fair for everyone. The same goes to members of the press, or other “Special guests”.

End story, I know I sound “Whiny,” but I didn’t run into a lot of these issues due to pre-existing appointments at particular booths. That said, I think there is an opportunity for expos and conventions to make their queuing system smarter. Over 70,000 attendees came to Seattle for PAX this year, and each one of those attendees purchased a badge with their own cash. I believe the attendees should be the priority at any event, and if they are going to accommodate special guests such as Media or Exhibitors, have something off-site for them to play the game, rather than clogging the lines. With that said, I think the responsibility falls on both the Exhibitors and the convention organizers to create standards for what is acceptable in a booth, and what isn’t.

What are your thoughts on this? We always welcome discussion in our comments below. Feel free to let us know what you think!