3 “boots on the ground” takeaways from PAX East 2018

PAX East, one the western hemisphere’s most most heavily-attended gaming events, is centered on fans instead of media or industry professionals. That said, there were plenty of notable business storylines that played out on the bustling show floor.

AAA publishers choose not to participate

The big three console makers had large booths, as did companies like Square Enix, Blizzard, and Bandai Namco. However, others like Ubisoft, 2K, Warner Bros., and Bethesda were noticeably absent. This stems from a growing trend of games shortening the time window between their announcement and release. In 2015, Fallout 4 was released only five months after its reveal and proved that games from popular franchises do not need three years of marketing and PR in order to build hype. There is little reason for publishers to invest in a booth at a gaming convention when most of their big games are still under wraps. Once it is time to unveil these games, companies like EA prefer to throw their own events to get the full attention of media, gaming video content creators, and the public.

Fewer AAA games at PAX East means small and midsize publishers have more opportunity to get the word out. Companies like Intrepid Studios (makers of Kickstarter-backed MMO Ashes of Creation) need to start building buzz as early as possible, since they can turn that into crowdfunding dollars or early access sales.

Facebook and Microsoft are spending aggressively to try and catch up to Twitch and YouTube

Gaming video content (GVC) is slated to generate $3.7B this year, and Microsoft and Facebook want to take a greater share of the pie from revenue leaders Twitch and YouTube. Mixer and Facebook Gaming both had prominent booths featuring live streams from the show floor. However, the Twitch booth, situated in a prime (no pun intended) location, still drew the biggest crowds. Amazon’s streaming platform has first-mover advantage against Mixer, and Facebook still has to resolve issues like discoverability for new live streams.

Streaming platforms want to turn more viewers into broadcasters

Brands like Twitch and Mixer are taking steps to cultivate future talent because GVC audiences care just as much about the personalities as they do about the games being played. The Twitch booth held frequent classroom sessions breaking down features and strategies for prospective creators. Mixer organized a panel on “Building Your Stream Community.” Community-run panels like “How to Handle the Heat as a Female Streamer” and “How to Broadcast Safely as a Marginalized Streamer” were held in an effort to bring a broader range of streamers into the fold. Steps to draw in a wide variety of streamers and viewers will help grow the GVC audience by 5% to 701M unique viewers this year.