A few hours ago, three-day badges for the Penny Arcade
Expo (PAX) East show went on sale, at the impressive price of $75. 35 minutes later, said badges had completely sold out. Despite limits designed to get more badges into more hands, there was still a rapid sellout, and this particular sellout says something interesting about the larger gaming environment.
Back in 2013, it took most of a day for the three day badges to sell out, though single-day passes—slightly more expensive at $40 per day, or $120 for the full three-day affair—were available for months after the fact. This time, it took only minutes, sufficient for Penny Arcade to offer a note of warning to those buying: “If we determine that you are ordering under different names and multiple addresses, all of your orders will be canceled immediately.”
Though there are already some wondering about the potential of scalpers afoot—somewhat augmented by the fact that hotel registration websites seemed to be down for extended periods—it showed quite clearly that PAX East, and by extension the original PAX Prime
event that takes place on the opposite coast (PAX East takes place in Boston), are catastrophically popular events. Why? There are of course a host of possible answers, but I personally assert that it's a matter of spectacle.
Granted, the PAX events are a lot more accessible than former show titan—now mostly media event—E3 ever was, but there's still something to be sad for checking out the newest stuff that's coming up. Actually getting to see the trailers in advance, going hands-on with such matters, and considering we're mere weeks away from kicking off a new era of the console wars in earnest thanks to the arrival of the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, there's likely to be quite a bit to see in 2014 when the show kicks off.
But it's not just about showing off the latest and greatest. Indeed, many attend E3 in a virtual sense by streaming. Blizzard recently showed off a kind of “BlizzCon
in a box” affair to encourage home viewing, complete with BlizzCon swag and instructions on how to host a livestream party. Showing trailers for games is the kind of thing that can be done any time; movies have been doing it for years, both online and on the videos themselves when said videos go up for sale. It's also likely about a sense of community. Gamers have been part of a community for some time now, and though that community has changed its face and its scope over the years, it's still a community. PAX is one of the greatest expressions of said community around.
It used to be that getting gamers together was done on a local level, in buildings stuffed full of video games known as arcades. Kids, ask mommy and daddy what “arcades” were; there are still some around, but trust me, finding an arcade isn't easy if you don't live near an amusement park or in Las Vegas. But with the rapid growth of home gaming, not to mention the advent of the Internet, talking to gamers that you never actually saw before became possible, even easy. Getting all those gamers together in one place, meanwhile, opened up something of an opportunity for things like PAX to arrive, and arrive said things did.
Building a community has never been so important, and when it comes to gaming, the basic elements of said community have been in place for a long time. Discussion, competition, comparison, and of course the willingness of game purveyors to show off the goods is all present, and it's part of what makes PAX the kind of thing that can sell out in about 35 minutes. It's a lesson that's well worth learning, for game makers and game players alike.