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Monaco And SpyParty, On The Road To PAX
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Monaco And SpyParty, On The Road To PAX

August 20, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

The PAX Decision

After GDC this year, we began talking over email about various game design and aesthetic similarities between SpyParty and Monaco. Comic-Con was approaching fast, and PAX was on the horizon, and the topic of sharing a booth came up.

To be honest, we did not do a careful analysis of whether Comic-Con or PAX would be better for our games; we talked to the Comic-Con people and they said they had a four-year, 600-deep waiting list, while PAX had space available immediately.

The PAX folks were really cool about letting us share the booth and helping us through the available options. We got the expo floor map and chose a booth near some other cool indie game developers, like TwistedPixel, Klei, and The Behemoth (you can see a map of our local area here).

We asked them to hold booth #3004 for us while we deliberated on whether to spend the two grand for a 10' by 20'.

The first thing we did was gather information from other indies who had been to PAX before. In our experience, game developers are almost always open with information, and this was no exception.

People sent us their budgets from previous years, gave advice on what they'd do differently, and gave pointers to other resources. Gamasutra also ran an article by Nathan Fouts about his experience with PAX East that is packed with detailed information and advice.

Once we had a rough understanding of what our costs would be, we decided to go for it and put the deposit down on the booth. We did not do a detailed budget breakdown at this point because there were still way too many variables, but from talking to other more experienced indies and the PAX folks, it seemed like we could keep the costs to the low thousands if we were careful.

At this point, we're going to break things down in the logistics preparation, the game preparations, and our goals for the show.

Preparation: Logistics

Covering all of the various logistics decisions for the booth would require more than just this article, so I'll just go over the highlights. We'll have to check back in after PAX to see how it all worked out in the end, but hopefully this will help others considering getting a booth. This is going to be a grab bag of information.

Exhibitor Guide. After you sign your booth, they send you the Exhibitor Guide, which is an utterly terrifying 73 page PDF chock-full of sentences like, "Off-target freight and equipment may be refused and/or rescheduled and will be subject to an additional charge of 25 percent." What the heck is "Off-target freight"?

It turns out you can ignore most of this document, since it's for the bigger booths with real setup and hanging trusses and whatnot, but it took a phone call to the helpful PAX folks to figure this out. The other scary thing about this document is the prices... renting anything from the show contractors is incredibly expensive. Luckily, there are alternatives.


Moving Your Stuff. A lot of trade shows have very strict regulations about what you can and cannot carry and install yourself, and when you have to pay for the expensive labor from the show contractor. It turns out PAX is very flexible on this front, which is great for indies. They have specific times during which you can carry your own material in, and even allow you to pull up any vehicle smaller than a full-size van for loading and unloading. This alone can save thousands of dollars over more strict trade shows.

Monitors and Stands. We got a great piece of advice early on from Eitan Glinert at Fire Hose Games: "At PAX East we had the TVs on tables and no one could see them because of the crowd. By lifting them up to six or seven feet, I think a crowd will be able to watch."

We knew we wanted a couple of 50+ inch HDTVs for displaying the games to the people who were observing, and Eitan's comment led us to looking into monitor stands. The show AV contractor will rent 7' monitor stands that will support giant HDTVs, but they're twice as expensive if you're not renting the HDTVs from them, and as I said above, the prices in the Guide are incredibly high.

However, it turns out the answer is often to call people, and after talking to the AV contractor, it was revealed that the higher price is because they have to ship all the different mounting brackets if they don't know which kind of HDTV you have, but if you can tell them early enough, they'll give you the cheaper price. This is just one example out of many of how the trade show business is still a "get somebody on the horn and negotiate" type of thing. There is no substitute for interacting with live people, and they've all been reasonable in our experience.

The combination of the ability to move our own materials in and having the stands available at the lower price made it possible for us to use Rent-a-Center for the HDTVs, which are one quarter the price of the show contractor, and we can pick them up early to test them out.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

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