Penny Arcade Expo East Recap: 2015 Edition

Well, another PAX East is in the books folks. Thankfully, the bad luck this region has had over the past month didn’t affect this weekend at all and you could also say the show brought out the warmth as it hit 40 degrees yesterday as well. A welcome sight for any native New Englander.

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I know, I know, you’re not here to listen to me talk about the weather, you want details about the show! Happy to oblige, I am.

PAX East was chock full of good gaming content, from panels, eSports, tabletop games, card based games, and the ever popular expo floor, there was a massive amount of things to do. After spending the weekend at the show, I’ve put together of list of things I found worth talking about. Below the jump contains my thoughts on this year’s show, things I played, and also things I saw.

General Thoughts
I have to admit, the guys at Penny Arcade are always tweaking the expo hall floor each year and I feel like they finally really nailed it this year. Each show previous to this one has always felt like a meat grinder as bottlenecks and tight walkways alongside massive booths made navigating the show floor an absolute nightmare. I don’t know if it was due to certain booths not making a return (*cough*Riot Games*cough*) but this year’s show really made navigation a priority. The walkways were much bigger, there were a lot less bottlenecks, and lines were formed and maintained extremely well. I had no issues moving around the show floor, getting where I needed to go and it was extremely refreshing from year’s past.

Hey, Where’d You Go?
Surprisingly, many companies which have been staples in the past were curiously absent at this year’s show.

Ubisoft – Always a major presence at PAX East, Ubisoft was a complete no show this year (even though the lanyards handed out had their logo emblazed on them). Personally, I feel that this was more to them not having anything ready to show on a public scale. In the past, Ubisoft has typically set up theaters to show crowds their games rather than letting them go hands on with them. This was true for games like Splinter Cell Blacklist, Watch_Dogs, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Smaller games like Trials Fusion and Child of Light were always on hand and playable by the public.

Sony – This one is less surprising because it always feels like they could care less about PAX East. Typically, Sony either doesn’t show at all or pulls for a tiny booth that doesn’t really show much (like last year’s Community focused booth). They seem to have more of a presence at PAX Prime, though I’m not sure why they don’t bother with this one. You have fans on this side of the country to, Sony! Bloodborne would have been a perfect fit for this year’s show considering it’s releasing in a few weeks.

EA – Sure, Battlefield Hardline was playable on the floor this year, but it was firmly in the Microsoft booth so I’m not counting that. It seems EA always has some sort of booth at this show, but this year they decided not to bother. With Hardline releasing soon, perhaps EA just wasn’t ready to show anything. Seems like most of their stuff is due later this year and hasn’t really been shown yet anyway.

2K – Always a fixture at PAX East, they were a no show this year. In the past they’ve featured a ton of their games from Spec Ops: The Line, Max Payne, to various Borderlands games, XCOM, and last year with Evolve, I guess you could say 2K didn’t have much they wanted to show people. Looks like you’ll need to wait for E3.

Riot – This one was probably a major surprise mainly due to League of Legends being insanely popular and they seem to always have the biggest and loudest booth every year. I wonder if they were told to cut it down and the two sides just couldn’t agree. I seem to hear stories each year with the fire marshal being pissed due to the huge crowds of people that stand near the booth watching the matches. One thing is for sure though, the crowds flowed much better without Riot being here.

Bethesda – Always a major contributor with games like Wolfenstein: The New Order (last year), they were another no show this year. I believe there’s a good reason for that which may have something to due with their new E3 plans this year. Bad show timing I guess.

Stepping Up
With companies not coming back for this years show, others stepped in to fill the gap.

Microsoft – Taking up a huge amount of real estate this year was Microsoft who brought a ton of content with them from Fable Legends, Ori and the Blind Forest, Evolve, Screamride, Battlefield Hardline, and Halo 5 Guardians. Yup, the line for Halo 5 was pretty much slammed every day as I’m sure surprises you. Kudos for Microsoft for continually supporting the show each and every year like they do. Regardless of how you feel about them, it’s nice to see them engaging with fans and gamers alike.

Nintendo – Like Sony, Nintendo seems to save their best stuff for PAX Prime. I was happy to see them go with a larger booth this year and also show off some meaningful stuff coming to the 3DS and WiiU. For them, the hit of the show was the upcoming shooter Splatoon. The line was constantly capped and maxed out at a two hour wait. While I didn’t get a chance to go hands on with the game, I did manage to watch people playing and it does look downright fun. Nintendo also brought a million New 3DS consoles with them with a variety of games from Codename STEAM, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D and a bunch of other upcoming titles.

Blizzard – Always reliable and trusty Blizzard, the developer brought out it’s big guns this year with a playable build of Overwatch, and the very popular games Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone.

Competitive Gaming Storms In
One thing that I saw a lot more of this year was eSports. The ESL in particular had a major presence on the show floor, with an impressive stage, large screens, and a ton of seats helping to show off competitive matches for various games like Evolve, Guild Wars 2, and they also hosted the Halo Championship Series One finals among some of the biggest teams in eSports: Evil Geniuses, Str8 Rippin, Denial, and OpTic Gaming, to name a few. I caught a few matches and man, was it intense. Watching these teams go at it was a ton of fun and drew huge crowds around the stage. The skills and talent on display made for compelling matches that made you unable to take your eyes off of the action. Here’s hoping this trend continues.

Well, That Kind of Sucks
For as much fun as the show is, it’s not impervious to downer moments. It happens. This year was a theme which has been a familiar sight to shows previous. Lines. I saw more “capped” lines and huge wait times than ever before. It sucks when you really want to play something but can’t due to line issues. Frankly, I don’t know how to fix this and I’m not even sure it’s an issue that Penny Arcade is responsible for. Part of the time the issue seems to be with the demo length itself. I understand developers wanting to give gamers a good look at their title but is there a reason why it needs to be 20 minutes? Not at all. I believe 5-10 minutes is the sweet spot for these industry events and that should be enough time to allow the player to decide if they enjoy or dislike the experience. If it’s good, they’ll get in line again. Giving a 20 minute demo grinds the whole process to a halt. Spending 2+ hours standing in a line isn’t my idea of fun, sorry.

So that’s a wrap on another PAX weekend folks. Were you at the show? Let me know what you thought down in the comments. If not, what was your favorite announcement from this past weekend?

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2 Responses to Penny Arcade Expo East Recap: 2015 Edition

  1. Will_GSRR says:

    When I went to EGX in London last year, I really wanted to play Evolve. But the lines were huge and so slow because they basically let you play out a whole match. I get why they wanted to do that, but sometimes the match would easily last 20 minutes. We gave up in the end and walked straight in to The Evil Within.

    • Yeah, exactly what I’m saying. I was one of the silly people who actually stayed in line for Evolve last year. I had fun at the time so I don’t regret it but it did take a long time to actually play.

      Still, that’s a game where I’m not sure how you trim down the time to a reasonable level. It’s a problem without many solutions.

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