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How a scaled-down PAX West in Seattle was still a success for some indie developers

Fred Wood at PAX West 2021
Fred Wood at PAX West 2021. (Photo by Tim Ellis)

Although PAX West was dramatically scaled-back this year in Seattle due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, indie game developers that came to the expo to show off their games still counted the experience a success.

The main expo hall at PAX West was a shadow of its usual spectacle of huge booths, giant screens, and sensory overload. The show still had the PAX name, but it definitely felt like a different convention altogether.

To get a sense of what it was like from the game developer’s perspective, we spoke with Fred Wood, who was showing off his upcoming game LOVE 3 at the show this weekend.

“It was impossible to have any rational expectation for what PAX would be after a year and a half of a pandemic, so I’d say they were cautiously very low,” said Wood. “Still, I was surprised that there were so few exhibitors here this year.”

The last convention Wood attended was PAX East in late February 2020 in Boston, just before most of the world shut down due to COVID-19. After such a long break from interacting with gamers, Wood was excited to make the trip from San Antonio to Seattle for PAX West, even though he knew it would be very different from usual.

Part of the reason that the expo hall at PAX West this year was so sparse was a near-total lack of “big” game developers like Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and Ubisoft. But even the indie presence was extremely subdued. None of the typical smaller game developers from overseas made the trip, and PAX West staple the Indie MEGABOOTH is still shut down, so the usual large collection of indie games that they bring were missing as well.

However, all of this turned out to be relatively good news for indie devs like Wood who did make the trip.

“The upshot of having fewer exhibitors at PAX West this year is that the attendees are hungry for games, and this year they’re able to actually see everything,” Wood explained. “It also meant that as a smaller developer we were able to get a premium location on the expo hall floor, right next to the skybridge and one of the main entrances.”

After the show, Wood plans to head back home and quarantine for a few weeks while he works on his next game and prepares for the launch of LOVE 3 later this year. All in all, he considers the show a success, and shared on Twitter that “this was one of my favorite PAX’s ever.”

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