This past weekend developers, content creators and fans came from all over the world to San Antonio for the first PAX of the year. As the main consumer facing gaming show in the central US, Woovit was there checking out what exhibitors had to offer and chatting it up with attending creators.
First off, there is no denying that PAX South this year was smaller which was in sharp contrast to the convention having grown every previous year. Contributing to this shrinkage was the lack of participation from previous notables like Twitch and Grey Box, who to date had both participated in all prior PAX Souths, as well as Nexon. (You can find the full list of this years exhibitors here) Additionally, Polaris (the YouTube MCN) pulled out of South this year which resulted in fewer panels, especially from prominent personalities, and far fewer scheduled autograph sessions. These factors mostly affected general attendees and fans but still had an impact on content creators’ ability to meet and network with game companies.
Even with notable companies being absent, fewer panels and less autograph sessions, the convention still ‘felt’ busy. We’ll have to wait for PAX to release official numbers but we can say that although three day passes sold out, as is the norm, none of the single day passes sold out. This could be that PAX allotted more single day passes than in previous years or it could be a sign that fewer people attended.
All is not doom and gloom though! There were some great games on display at PAX South and people were having a good time. Some notable standouts were:
Divinity: Original Sin II – Even though the game has been out for four months Larian took the time to come to South and in doing so, introduced a new style of booth layout than what we had seen from them previously. Their space was decked out with big screen TVs and loveseats pairing attendees up in groups of two or four to play Divinity with gamepads. Almost as if they’re suggesting that the game belongs in the living room just as much as on your PC…
Due Process – The developers describe the game as “a love letter to ‘classic’ tactical shooters of yore, like SWAT and the Rainbow Six series”  and I would say they’ve hit it on the mark. It is a round based 5v5 tactical shooter where the maps are procedurally generated and both teams have a limited inventory shared across three rounds. This plays out hilariously as the enforcers (cops) bring in their super weapons in the first round, die and drop that weapon on the ground, only to have the terrorists pick it up and use it on them the next round. Hopefully it will finally get a release date this year and you’ll be able to judge for yourself.
Rend – A survival builder from Frostkeep Studios that attempts to fix the bulk of complaints about the current roster of similar games. They use a timed “raid” feature to protect all faction bases until a predetermined time. No more random calls at 2AM from your friends telling you to get on because your base is getting destroyed. It’s also being built in the Unreal engine and looks gorgeous. This one will definitely be a game to watch.
At the end of the day a content creator’s time is precious and time spent at a convention is generally time spent not making content and connecting with their audience. Even with the surging popularity of IRL streams and with laptops getting more powerful, creators still have to contend with exhaustion and the need to unwind after a long convention day plus whatever parties they attended. All that being said, PAX South is still a great opportunity for content creators to get in front of the companies who do attend and make themselves known. If you can budget it in to your yearly travel expenses I’m still convinced there is value here, though we’ll have to see what PAX does to turn South around and hopefully continue their growth trend.