09/29/2010

PAX Prime, SPX 2010, Wrestling Rings, & Broken Arcade Sticks Part 1

by Matthew Hawkins

Oh Jesus, Tokyo Game Show is already old news, and I’ve yet to file my PAX and SPX reports! Time to fix that…

PAX Prime 2010

So, how was it? Truth be told, the whole shebang was a fairly mixed bag. For starters, I’m glad I can finally say that I’ve been to the new mecca for gaming dorks across the United States (with the previous one being E3, which I’ve still never been to, but considering all complaints about what it’s become, and not just from whiny game journalists, I’m no longer interested). But I was there primarily for Attract Mode related business, and on that end, things were not so rosy. Given how amazing Adam and I did in Boston, at PAX East, aka the B show, it only made sense that we’d do even better in Seattle, at PAX Prime, aka the A show. Well…

For a variety of reasons, sales did not meet expectations, with location being the prime culprit. In Boston we were right next to the performance area, which attendees couldn’t possibly miss on their way to the exhibition hall, even if they tried. Whereas this time our spot was some distant corner; still relatively close to where the action was, yet far away enough to not be noticed. Making matters worse was how there was literally 17 different entrances and exits to the expo space, meaning there was zero flow-through as it pertained to foot traffic. Better yet, the maps provided made absolutely zero sense; I can’t tell you how many friends and colleagues flat out could not find our table and simply gave up after a solid day or two of determined searching. It was impossible to locate anything overall; I wasn’t the one who kept going around in circles on the expo floor, at times desperate to find an exit (despite the aforementioned abundance of them) and panel attendance from was apparently abysmal as well because they too were difficult to find. Though maybe no one wanted to deal with the two hour wait for one, which seems to be the minimum at any convention these days. It just so happened that everyone thought the same thing!

Ultimately, the real nail in the coffin was the overall situation in bandland (home-base for all the musical acts, to sell merch and stuff, which we were part of). Most of our profits at East was made during the evening hours, when the exhibits were closed and the music was happening. Since we were once again right next door, Adam and I caught everyone who was milling about, especially those not into whomever was playing at that moment. Each night we were up till 2am doing business, and expected history to repeat itself. Meanwhile at Prime, because the show as a whole had become so big, all music moved off site to an opera house several blocks away. It would have made sense to be relocated as well, except for one reason: that other venue wanted a 33% cut of all revenue generated, highway robbery to say the least. So everyone decided to stick around the main convention center and see how that would go; Adam and I ended up closing shop around 8pm both Friday and Saturday nights, far earlier than planned (sure the console and pen & paper free play rooms were jam packed with folks till three in the morning, but those were even further away location-wise). At least one fellow exhibitor thought about setting up a tiny table outside the venue, on the street, yet nothing came of it I believe.

Well, since our evenings were free, did Adam and I try catching some of the performances then? Not really; aside from having the exact same line-up at Boston, that new performance space was tiny as hell, and because it was a place for “classy” music (it’s an opera house), all the seats were bolted down, making that party atmosphere everyone was trying to achieve almost impossible. Then you had all the technical issues, which were persistent throughout the convention; our only consolation was how almost everyone else directly connected to the event had an equally frustrating weekend. Still, in the end, we did okay, mostly due to the fact that our table was literally bursting at the seams with so much awesomeness, most of it brand new…

Highlights included the first Attract Mode related appearances of both my latest zine and Mathew Kumar’s, as well as the long-awaited North American debut of two from Japan, 8bit Love and 8bit Fighters… that brand new print by Katie, along with one for Canabalt, plus a pair from Corey Lewis… and let us not forget the ultra hawt Killer 7 shirt from Cory Schmitz! Which was the very first thing sold on day one, by a dude dressed as Travis Touchdown!

Watching the eyes bulge out of Grasshopper fanboys and fangirls when they first laid eyes on the tee and went “Wait, is that a Killer… OH MY GOD IT IS!” never got old.

So the show definitely had it’s heartwarming moments! Once again, Adam and I were the gracious guests of Two Player Productions, and we were more than happy to hock their wares, including the super fab, and just released on DVD, Reformat the Planet! It also meant a chance to hang with Paul Owens, along with Jenn De La Vega

… She had with her a brand new, white DSi and man was I ever jealous. If not for the fact that I’ve purchased so many DSiWare games, and how they are not transferrable at all, I would have dumped my black model ages ago. Anyhow, back to cosplayers, despite our table being somewhat hard to track down, they still managed to find us. Highlights from day one include Leeloo…

Cloud from Final Fantasy 7 (not Advent Children or Dissidia, but most definitely the PSone original)…

Guile!

And because we were right next to Anamanaguchi, there was of course a steady stream of female admirers. Like this trio of Eva from Snake Eater, the new female protagonist from Persona 3 Portable, but as a cat, and her random catgirl pal…

Though easily the best part of the weekend, one that made up for any disappointing sales numbers, were all the awesome new friends I made! Had the intense pleasure of hanging and banging with Cory Schmitz, Jacob Ferguson, Corey Lewis, and Mar? Odomo pretty much the entire time. Here I am with the later two, aka my new b-fries…

Both Corey and Mar? were Attract Mode’s special guest artists; they autographed their awesome wares for customers, plus drafted promotional materials to help let everyone on the expo floor know where the hell we were…

In addition to sketching Pokemans in his mini comic, Mar? would also give you a tattoo upon request…

Easily the hardest sell was the hand-woven Eliss scarves, which cost about $80 a pop (but trust me, they are SO worth it). Here’s what it looks like (outside of its rather phallic looking container)…

… And here it is being modeled by Mr. Lewis…

Oh, so early on, there was this big box of donuts just sitting out in the open, on an empty table nearby. It was from Voodoo Donuts, which I’ve long heard of from small press pals who do Stumptown. How it randomly appeared at a video game convention in Seattle is anyone’s guess! Anyhow, we all helped ourselves and it most definitely lived up to the hype. But that was in the morning, as things were winding down in the PM, I rediscovered the box, underneath a pile of junk destined for the trash heap, and how there was still a few left inside…

… Which we all once again indulged in. Never-mind if it was essentially garbage, they were still fresh! And delicious. BTW, another food item that would also blow my mind that same trip was… hot dogs! Believe it or not, the best dogs can be found in Seattle, hands down. Previously, it was at assorted spots in Jersey; as excellent as some stands might be in NYC, for the most part, hot dogs here are fairly overrated.

Well, once Adam and I decided to call it a night (again, way earlier than expected), we continued our tradition established at Pax East by decompressing to some Disney Channel sitcoms at our hotel room. Afterwards, we rejoined our brethren at a nearby water hole; another fun part of PAX was constantly running into familiar faces that I normally only see at press events but in the wild, like Seth Killian from Capcom and Jennie Sue from 2K! Plus I finally got the chance to meet face-to-face Patrick Klepek from EGM (aka my new boss over there) and Jake Kazdal (aka the only gaijin to work on Rez, and whom I interviewed for Gamasutra, gosh, five years ago).

The highlight at the bar was Cory’s Dingoo, which he had fetched from home after hearing that I once thought about picking one up. And I still might! Then it was off to Anamanaguchi’s after party, at their hotel room. For whatever reason, running on a MacBook Pro was looping footage of Ary from band, shirtless and playing his guitar, from earlier that morning/afternoon…

… And thus was day one. Onto day two! Here’s both myself and Adam in the morning, ready for some action…

As expected, there were tons more cosplayers to be found on Saturday. Here we have a little sister from BioShock…

… With the best part being this…

Has there ever been a more unusual pair? Wicket the Ewok and Faith from Mirror’s Edge…

So another pal that was made at PAX was Andreas Tekus, who runs Greightbit, a Game Boy modification and circuit bending shop. He was brought onboard courtesy of the two Pauls, and was the perfect fit…

A look at some of the modded Game Boy and related hardware he had for sale…

… In all my years, I have yet to encounter a modded Game Boy Player! And as already noted, DMGs are not his only game….

… And here we have Jonathan Coulton checking out the Jedi keyboard…

Another popular item was the Loud Object‘s Noise Toys; folks simply couldn’t help but wonder what in the heck they were all about. Like this dude, who also was kind enough to share with the whole world what he was hearing. Or something like that…

Guess now might be a good time to hit the show floor? Truth be told, really didn’t test drive all that much, mostly due to the fact that I was having far much fun with the rest of the Attract Mode posse! That and how virtually everything was a two hour wait in line to play. Plus most of the offerings were not my cup of tea; you can forget about asking me what I thought about Duke Nukem Forever, since I didn’t care about it before, and sure as hell didn’t care about it then!

The only big publisher game that I was truly interested in was Rez 2, aka Child of Eden, which meant dealing with Ubi Soft’s stellar PR team (otherwise known as the Frag Girls, lulz). And as noted in the past, they all seem to hate my guts. Here’s an actual conversation that went down between myself and Boobie Soft Bimbo #34:

me: “Hi there! I heard that Child Of Eden could be found here?”

Frag Girl: [in a very annoyed toned] “Excuse me?”

me: “Child of Eden?”

Frag Girl: “Never heard of it.”

me: “Really? Because, you guys are publishing it.”

Frag Girl: “What?”

me: “You know, the new Q Entertainment game? By Tetsuya…”

Frag Girl: [starting to sound pissed off] “Who are you again?”

me: “Umm… I’m a game journalist…”

Frag Girl: [sounding like she wants to flat out punch me] “Who do you write for.”

me: “Gamasutra, GameSetWatch, Heay.com, EGM…”

Frag Girl: [sounding like she doesn't believe me] “It’s not here.” [then makes a phone call on her Black Berry, pretending I'm not even there]

… In the end, someone did indeed miss their flight or something, hence why it wasn’t on-hand as advertised and she wasn’t lying like I thought she was. But can anyone blame me for thinking otherwise?

Moving on, and regarding the big name games that were indeed on-hand, I certainly had fun watching people play the new Mortal Kombat…

I’d be far more excited over Yakuza 4 if not for the feeling that Sega will gimp the domestic release, once again…

Front Mission Evolved was a game that I had been interested in, since I’ve been getting into mecha games as of late, though a trusted source tells me it blows. Looked nice at least…

Final Fantasy 14 was also playable, and I have to wonder if every attendee was trying to create very Italian looking women on purpose or if it was a huge coincidence…

Not surprisingly, Disney’s set-up for Epic Mickey was quite grandiose, with actual Disney animators doing caricatures for attendees…

They also had this impressive light cycle display for Tron Legacy!

… Too bad the game itself looked like pure shit…

Another title that I was actually interested in was Marvel Vs Capcom 3, but the crowd was so big that I couldn’t snap a good pic. Instead, here’s a look at the Ghost Tricky display…

… Unfortunately, no one could confirm for me if those will be pre-order bonuses or not. And here we have Okamiden headphones, which one can actually purchase this sec according to one Capcom rep (though the vendor’s name escapes me)…

… Too bad they pale in comparison to the earbuds that they’re getting in Japan.

Hey, Lost In Shadow!

In one of the far corners of the expo was Pink Gorilla, Seattle’s biggest indie game specialty store, which deals heavily in retro and import goodness, plus assorted knickknacks like toys and figures. It’s basically the Pacific Northwest equivalent of Video Games New York, which is a staple of any fan convention here in the east coast…

… I casually mentioned to Corey how I bought a copy of Twin Bee Collection for the PSP from them while in San Fran two years ago, at Wonder Con, and he said how it could have been him who handled the transaction! He used to work for them, which explains why they host Seedless on their site!

And on the other side of the show floor was the always amazing Fangamer guys and gals. Here’s their prototype E tank mug that got a bunch of folks all hot and bothered…

Though what personally got me all excited was their iPad app that was used for credit card sales, as well as to keep track on inventory! God, Adam and I are SO jealous of how well they do things!

… Alright, I’ve hit my quota for pics for one blog post. To be continued (for the lazy types, or those unaware of the forward arrow at the top of this post, part two can be found here)!

  • http://www.wadjeteyegames.com Dave Gilbert

    Awesome write-up, Matt. SO wish I could have gone, especially since Puzzle Bots was a PAX10 finalist.. Janet and I booked tickets to go to the UK several months in advance and didn’t check the date. Next year for sure!

    And you’re so right about your table’s placement at Pax East. I still use my space invaders ice cube tray.

  • http://theshortsleeves.bandcamp.com Jenn

    Hahah love that shot of my bulbasaur tattoo :D

  • http://theshortsleeves.bandcamp.com Jenn

    Also, those donuts were like crack. I was so hungry.

  • Slonie

    E-Tank Mug is awesome! It’s the only thing that could possibly replace my “Satisfy your Grunty Thirst” mug from E3 2003.

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