author: Giancarlo Saldana
Is PAX The Future of E3?
With the fate of the classic trade show up in the air, will PAX East soon replace E3 in relevance and necessity? Developers say maybe but fans say yes.
Going to PAX East this year felt awesome. Sure, we still had to wear face masks all the time, but seeing the gaming community come together again—fans, developers, publishers, cosplayers—meant that things are getting back to normal. The pandemic put a stop to PAX for a year, but 2023’s sold-out show means fans were hungry for it.
As is the case every year, indie games seemed to dominate the show floor. Each day, you could see long lines to various booths that let fans play a few minutes of a demo or try out a game that was still being made. PAX is a great way for developers to showcase their games to fans and for fans to provide feedback before a game is completed. But even beyond just that, it also provides gamers the chance to try out games they normally may try out on their own.
PAX East 2023 Roundup
One such company that I met with trying to help gamers decide what to play next was Crit-Rate, a gaming recommendation service that puts you into a house with like-minded players where you can discover what games would fit your style. Think a Myer Briggs personality test mixed with a bit of Harry Potter.
Based on your answers when creating your profile, you could be joined to a house that focuses on the social aspect of video games and see that other fellow gamers in your group favor games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV where relationships and connections are one of the perks of playing those games. There are other houses for different types of gamers so you will always belong somewhere you can fit in, but your individual profile will also show if you have qualities from other houses and offer you more recommendations as well.
It’s win-win system for developers and gamers since more people will be playing the games they want instead of spending money and time on a game that ends up being forgotten or backlogged for far too long. The founders of Crit-Rate mentioned the idea for this type of system was sprung up after reminiscing of school time cafeteria conversations where friends would gather and just talk about the games they were playing. Launched during PAX East, Crit-Rate even set up a special PAX edition of all the games available during the convention to encourage members of all of their houses to play and recommend games to each other. And based on my experience during that weekend, I have to say it worked and also gave me the chance to check out games I didn’t even realize I would like.
One such game was Wrestle Story, a colorful RPG by Tic Toc Games that also mixes in wrestling themes to let you play as the wrestler you want and lay the smack down on evildoers. Funny enough, just last year I played WrestleQuest so seeing another game that is based around wrestling without being the typical WWE game you see out there was quite refreshing. You can level up your wrestlers, add new friends to your team, and partake in these cool turn-based battles that mix Paper Mario mechanics with the elemental qualities of Pokemon.
On the other hand, Undisputed, Steel City Interactive’s upcoming boxing game, gives fans the first realistic boxing game in years. An impressive emphasis on footwork and punches makes the game feel like you are in the ring alongside some notable boxers like Mohammed Ali and Tyson Fury. In the time I had with the game, I was able to quickly learn the controls, but the layered attacks, various movement combinations, and multiple ways to land a hit on your opponents makes this game truly a robust experience that is sure to get even better after its time on Early Access.
Whitehorn Games was also at the show to offer some demos for some of their upcoming games. If you were a fan of Lake or want games that will relax you as you play, look no further than Botany Manor, a puzzler that teaches you a little about plants throughout its calming gameplay that challenges you to grow various types of flora. It’s not as straightforward as it sounds since you will need to add the proper soil, explore your surroundings for additional ingredients, and figure out the right conditions to make certain flowers bloom.
Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island was another calming but enthralling title that puts you on a mysterious island that is home to Greek gods who can’t remember who they are. In an effort to make it home, you will need to help them complete quests, befriend them to unlock the way forward, and solve various puzzles. I was only able to meet Hermes during my playthrough, but the potential to meet more of the Greek pantheon and discover what makes them tick makes me look forward to its full release.
Those of us who grew up playing games on floppy disk, will remember System Shock when it came out back in 1994 so the upcoming remake takes what made the original so unique and modernizes it. In the demo I played, you could still feel the eeriness of exploring the classic space station alongside a soundtrack that enhances its original survival horror elements. Its updated art style also gives the game a visual twist that combines both 2D and 3D elements that look really good in action.
Speaking of retro games, I also got my hands on Outcast 2, a sequel that many thought wouldn’t happen. The build I played reminded me a lot of a Just Cause title but takes place on the alien planet of Adelpha where you can explore an open world via your jetpack and fight off alien creatures, complete quests, and discover hidden temples and dungeons. During my playthrough, I got to fight off this giant worm-like monster by flying around him, dodging his attacks, and shooting him with two different types of ammo. The world promises to be big so here’s hoping we get to see more of it in future updates.
PAX East is also a space where companies that make gaming products get the chance to show off their wares for gamers that may need them. You will often see companies at the show geared for PC gamers and various vendors that sell gaming paraphernalia, but what caught my eye this year was a company that makes a pillow especially designed to relieve the strain that playing games can have on someone’s body.
The Valari pillow looks like a crescent moon and goes around your torso when you sit down to provide your forearms and hands a place to rest while you are gaming. Just trying it out for a few minutes, I enjoyed how it felt and wondered why nobody else had thought of this type of pillow before.
Present at the show was also Audio Technica with a set of headphones that will make it easier for any streamer to go live and connect with their audience. Their new aptly named StreamSet combines the quality of the ATH-M50x headphones with the clarity of their 20 Series microphones to give you a complete package that immerses you into your games while your audience can pick up everything you say.
PAX Vs. E3
Because PAX targets fans, the show is literally a gamer’s paradise where they can try out games that are still in development as well as rent consoles to play classic titles with their friends. Among trying out all the new stuff, attendees can also partake in tons of panels or simply hang out and trade Pokemon with new friends or partake in tournaments during the show. It’s a space where gamers can go to express themselves without being judged, but it’s also an easy way for developers and various gaming-centric companies to go and make contact with the community to showcase their games and products. It really is a win-win for everyone involved.
E3, on the other hand, has always been a show geared towards the media where companies go to showcase their games, yes, but in a more professional environment. It’s a trade show and not a convention so you won’t find fan-centric panels or entertainment, but you do find publishers and developers trying to get their games out there for the media and the public to experience.
Here is where various consoles from the Sega Genesis to the Wii U were announced years ago, and you often found companies competing with each other in an effort to “win” E3 each year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the show was cancelled for the first time in 2020. It later went online in 2021, but was cancelled again in 2022 and now in 2023. What became the show everyone wanted to attend has now become something people wonder can still survive in today’s market.
The chances of E3 happening again don’t look so promising as many companies now do most of their announcements and reveals online whenever they want. It’s a lot cheaper than planning a whole trip to Los Angeles every year and still gives companies and their games the exposure they want. Perhaps the days of going to a trade show like E3 are in the past as PAX, GamesCon, and various other smaller, local gaming conventions have popped up in the last decade that offer the same thing E3 hoped to provide.
It’s unfortunate the future of E3 is still up in the air while the future of PAX and all of its iterations are once again featuring sold out shows. The fans have a space to be themselves and enjoy the best the community has to offer. Developers and publishers also have a space where they can show off their games in a more public setting while still meeting with the media throughout the weekend so the show does offer them the business exposure they are looking for.
PAX may not necessarily replace E3, but alongside social media and online announcements, it does offer the community a supplemental way for everyone to get the news and fun they want. Plus, PAX happens various times throughout the year so it gives everyone even more chances to show off their games. E3 may have set the stage for gaming conventions and trade shows, but in today’s market, it doesn’t have the same strength it did anymore. It’s sad to say goodbye, but it will surely live on in spirit across every gaming convention that pops up from here on out.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com