The Beast That Cannot Be FedSeptember 7, 2018
A bunch of PAXs happen year-round, but the original, PAX West, is my annual excuse to travel to a city I don’t have much fondness for and hang with some great people I don’t get to see very often. Between some great meals and fun games, I attend one of the biggest gaming events in the world and see some cool things.
After each PAX, when we’re sore and tired, reflection sets in. There’s always some bitterness about not getting to do what we wanted or finding out about an event we would have liked had we known of it. There’s just so much to do. This year, the fear – or, rather, the reality – of missing out was particularly pronounced. Barring scheduling conflicts or lack of foreknowledge, what really put a downer on our experience at PAX West was simple math.
So Many Mouths
The problem plaguing PAX, which makes attending the primary attraction not only unenjoyable but unengageable, is throughput. As the exhibition hall is open for a finite amount of time, the number of people who can play a demo is a function of how long a demo takes to complete multiplied by the number of stations available.
Two marquee titles showcased this problem: Marvel’s Spider-Man and Kingdom Hearts III. By quick napkin math, Spider-Man could accommodate 1,280 players each day with its 40 stations, while a maximum of 352 players could play KH3 with its paltry 11.
Compounding this is the issue of space in the expo hall. Sony’s single KH3 station could fit only ten people in line before either mashing into their PSVR demo booths or spilling out into the high traffic thoroughfare of con-goers. The tenth person looks at a two-and-a-half hour wait while the line is capped. Enforcers direct people to move along and not block the walkway, but check back later for their chance.
Square Enix, as well as Ubisoft and Nintendo, among others, scheduled appointments instead of hosting a line. As they were in front of the main entrance, every slot was spoken for within seconds of the expo hall opening at 10am each day.
Now consider that PAX West caters to between 80,000 and 100,000 attendants. If even 1% of them wants to play Kingdom Hearts, easily half of them are going to walk away disappointed.
A Numbers Game
This math problem affects all conventions and fan events, and not everyone can leave satisfied, but in this case with this venue, that number continues to rise. ReedPOP, which runs PAX and other fan conventions, has expanded PAX West out into the city to alleviate pressure, but only so much can be done when the show is ideologically pinned to Seattle and that’s the largest venue available. Plans exist to double the space of the Washington State Convention Center, that may be fulfilled by 2020. There’s still plenty to do there beyond the scope of video games, but it just feels like bailing water with a sieve.
While it sounds like sour grapes (and, to an extent, it is, even if we got in a KH3 demo with an hour to spare in the show), it’s just tiring. If I don’t want to go, a hundred others can’t wait to take my place.
The numbers just keep going up.