A video report of this can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_paL1QpzQM
I myself am a RECENT transplant to San Antonio from Houston, and before Houston from California’s Inland Empire, also called “the Greater Los Angeles Area.” But that’s the key right there “from California”—With the tech bubble ever expanding, and Silicon Valley ever imploding over politics, price and cost of living, Texas has become a hub of tech development.
PAX South is obviously trying to cash in on this development by raising the awareness of the industry in the Texas. For this reason, San Antonio is a pretty good choice for a venue. San Antonio is central in Texas. It’s close enough to Austin, Houston and Corpus Christi for a weekend travel to a convention, and if you’re a vendor, a trip down from Dallas wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to manage.
An additional factor to recommend San Antonio’s appeal, besides the awesome food and obvious tourist spots, is its makeup of young families. Game developers always know their target audience, and that will vary from game to game, but San Antonio’s demographics give it two key groups that developers love: children under 18 and adults 25-44. Both of these groups in the Alamo city are at over 28% of the population. Plus, when you factor in all the military aged adults that sweep in and out of the city because of the half dozen or so bases, you’ve got a nice additional market to sweeten the deal.
Whether PAX did that sort of research, or just knew enough people in San Antonio to get the convention going, it seems to have paid off this weekend.
There were plenty of big-name vendors: Capcom, Microsoft, Western Digital, blah blah blah, and that kept the lines on the main floor to demo video games long and steady. There were also a lot of smaller game developers, including the local feature: Wenches and Loot, that encouraged future game development in the area. A panel featuring the local chapter of the IGDA, International Game Developers Association, encouraged people to join, participate and generally socialize with their group to ramp up the industry in Central Texas.
Some of the downsides of the weekend for PAX South was their lack of on the floor programs. There was one table of programs after the initial rush, and they were clear on the other side of the VERY LARGE BUILDING. Walking a full city block just to find a program for the days events is kinda stupid. Have it by your entrance next time, guys. Everyone has to go through the front door for security. You had an entire front lobby for a program table.
Another problem was the lack of links, descriptions and information on the website. Don’t know who the game developer for this new release is? Too bad. Can’t stay to ask who he is and what the websites name is because you want to catch another panel? Too bad. PAX isn’t going to give you a link or share his website. In fact, they aren’t even going to tell you who he is on the kiosk.
That leads to, and magnified my last gripe. is that instead of using posters, signs or digital information systems/ announcements, etc, they had their staff holding tiny (8 x 10 at the largest) whiteboards penned with red dry erase ink to give announcements, direction, and information. Most people aren’t even going to know or notice that any more than they’d notice someone holding a piece of paper.
It’s a gaming convention, you have THOUSANDS of digital screens in literally every corner and every floor and dry erase boards is what you came up with for announcements? What pencil pusher came up with that idea? I bet he doesn’t play games. But… maybe I’m just being a little hard on a budget pressed venue. I don’t know. It just looked silly, unprofessional, and was ineffective for relaying most necessary information.
Something that I’ve seen other conventions do and that I really encourage for PAX, is to put nameplates (or folded cards with the names) of the people in front of them as they were speaking. I encourage links and twitter handles if the speakers are okay with it—and what developer is going to turn away feedback from potential customers? At the very least they should have the information, if available on the kiosk or banner out front for the busy convention goers to look up later.
My husband is a board game player, so we went to check out the board games, and the library PAX had to offer for that was excellent. They had tables and tables of games to try out. There were rows upon rows of people playing. Some standouts seemed to be Azul and anything that looked vaguely like Settlers of Catan or Ticket To Ride. The board game companies had vendors demoing some of their new products. One that caught my eye was from the makes of Pandemic called the Fall of Rome. So I guess I found his Valentines Present.
Of course, it’s not a gaming convention without Magic the Gathering and the obligatory competition. There was plenty of that, and it got loud and exciting by Sunday evening.
All in all, PAX was a pretty typical gaming convention. It was pretty light on the vendor side, with hardly any toys, comics and very few accessories, let alone apparel. It’s a modest, but clearly growing convention that looks to have a solid market in Central Texas. I suggest going next year, but go outside of downtown for your BBQ or Mexican food. Trust me.