PAX (originally known as Penny Arcade Expo) is a series of gaming culture festivals involving tabletop, arcade, and video gaming. PAX is held annually in Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, and San Antonio in the United States; and Melbourne in Australia.
|Genre||Gaming (video game, tabletop, CCG, role-playing)|
|Inaugurated||August 28–29, 2004|
|Most recent||December 6–8, 2019|
|Next event||January 17–19, 2020|
|Organized by||Penny Arcade|
PAX was originally created in 2004 by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the authors of the Penny Arcade webcomic, because they wanted to attend a show exclusively for gaming. Defining characteristics of the shows include an opening keynote speech from an industry insider, game-culture inspired concerts, panels on game topics, exhibitor booths from both independent and major game developers and publishers, a LAN party multiplayer, tabletop gaming tournaments, and video game freeplay areas.
The first PAX, known at the time as the Penny Arcade Expo, was held on August 28–29, 2004, in Bellevue, Washington, at the Meydenbauer Center, and was attended by approximately 3,300 people. The event was then held annually in August, at the same venue, for the next two years. Attendance grew rapidly, with over 9,000 attendees in 2005, and over 19,000 in 2006.
By 2007, the event had outgrown its previous venue, and moved to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, with a total attendance of 39,000. Attendance continued to grow to 58,500 in 2008, and 60,750 in 2009, and 70,000 in 2011. The show stopped reporting attendance numbers in 2011, citing difficulties in tracking attendance in a multi-day event.
PAX Prime 2013 was the first four-day PAX and took place from August 30 to September 2, 2013. Passes for PAX Prime 2013 sold out within six hours.
Expansion to additional cities
In 2010, Penny Arcade hosted its first event outside of Seattle. PAX East was held in Boston, from March 26–28, 2010, at the Hynes Convention Center. With an attendance of 52,290, PAX East rivaled the newly-dubbed "PAX Prime" in Washington, which saw 67,600 attendees in 2010. This venue was moved to Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in 2011. An agreement reached in early 2012 committed Boston as the home of PAX East until 2023.
2013 marked the first international expansion for PAX. PAX Australia 2013 was held July 19–21, 2013 at the Melbourne Showgrounds. The following year it moved to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, where it has been confirmed to remain until at least 2019.
In 2011, Penny Arcade launched PAX Dev, a new event exclusive to the game developer community to "speak freely and focus entirely on their trade".. Differentiating itself from other game developer events like GDC, PAX Dev does not allow press. 750 people attended in 2011.
At PAX South 2017, Penny Arcade and ReedPOP announced that a new event type, PAX Unplugged, would be held on November 17–19, 2017 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, in Philadelphia. The event was designed as a tabletop-exclusive convention, a gaming segment which was only incidental in other PAXes.
Name of PAX in Seattle
PAX was originally known as the "Penny Arcade Expo," a Seattle-only event, but quickly became known by its acronym "PAX". As part of an expansion into new cities, Seattle's PAX was renamed "PAX Prime" in 2010. On November 18, 2015, it was silently confirmed that PAX Prime was being renamed to PAX West.
- Freeplay, further broken into: Console, Classic Console, Handheld, PC, VR, and Tabletop.
- Tournaments, further broken into: Console and Tabletop. Some PAXes feature additional tournaments hosted by vendors.
- "Bring Your Own Computer" or BYOC, a LAN Party.
- Panels, talks, signings, and similar events.
- PAX Arena, an eSports tournament.
- The Omegathon.
- An Exhibition Hall, which includes game studios, merchandise, and the Indie Megabooth.
Each PAX features an event called the "Omegathon," a festival-long tournament consisting of a group of randomly selected attendees competing in a game bracket for a grand prize (which has varied from a large game bundle, to a trip to Japan, to a trip to any PAX in the world). The final round of the Omegathon makes up part of the closing ceremonies of PAX. Past games for the final round of the Omegathon have included Tetris, Pong, Halo 3, and skee-ball.
On April 12, 2004, the authors of Penny Arcade announced PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo. PAX 2004 was a two-day event held at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Washington from August 28–29, which they hoped would turn into an annual event. Several exhibitors, including Warner Bros., Microsoft, Rooster Teeth and Ubisoft, showcased videos and playable demos of their upcoming games at PAX 2004. Microsoft allowed attendees to experience a multiplayer level of Halo 2 months before it hit stores in addition to a number of other Xbox games, while Ubisoft showed Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Ghost Recon 2. Warner Bros. brought all of its E3 assets for The Matrix Online to the show as well as several hands-on stations for the game. Included amongst the events of the first PAX were live musical performances by bands including The Minibosses, panels featuring Penny Arcade creators Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins as well as others in the video game industry, and the Omegathon, a contest where twenty contestants played a series of games for a chance at winning an excessively large video game collection worth in excess of $25,000. The contestants competed in a tabletop dice game called Diceland, Halo, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Dance Dance Revolution, Doom and the original home version of Pong. Sean Celaya defeated Kevin Potter in the final round to take home the grand prize becoming the PAX 2004 Omegathon champion. Penny Arcade claimed that precisely 1337 (or "leet") people pre-registered, to which Holkins mused, "though I ordinarily shun leet-speak that number clearly implies the blessing of gaming deities." Roughly 3,300 people attended the event.
PAX 2005 took place from August 26–28 at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Washington, where the first PAX was held. PAX 2005, unlike its predecessor, occupied the entire center, effectively doubling the usable floor space. Sponsors included Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft and NCsoft, among others. Musical guests included the rock groups Minibosses and The NESkimos, self-professed "professional hardcore gangster rapper" mc chris, pianists Martin Leung and Connie Lin, nerdcore hiphopper MC Frontalot, and rap/funk group Optimus Rhyme, who performed live in two separate concerts in a massive theater. Events from PAX 2004 such as Pitch Your Game Idea, Red vs. Blue, a screening of the 1989 film The Wizard, and Penny Arcade Q&A made encore appearances. New events included Beat The Pros and industry panels on online gaming, the video game marketing process, and controversy in the industry. Omegathon II was an even more elaborate affair than its predecessor. Krahulik said that, "[At PAX 2005] we will deliver an even bigger prize to the winner of the Omegathon." It was revealed that prize would be the complete NES video game library, with a claimed value of at least $10,099.99. The prize was locked in a large cage in the exhibition room and also included two Star Wars-themed Alienware gaming PCs, one of which would go to the winner and the other to the runner-up. Contestants competed in the tabletop game Diceland, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Katamari Damacy, Karaoke Revolution, Quake, and the Atari 2600 game Combat. In a four-round match, Luke "Coreside" Armstrong defeated Will "LeRoy" Garroutte by a single point to win the best-of-three series 2-1-1 and take home the grand prize. In total, more than 9,000 gamers attended PAX 2005, almost triple the previous year's attendance. In response to Hurricane Katrina, Penny Arcade auctioned off the original pencil sketch of the PAX 2005 program cover on eBay with the profit to be given to the American Red Cross. It was sold to Christian Boggs for the final price of $8,700. Mr. Boggs also placed the winning bid of $20,000 on an auction to appear in a Penny Arcade comic strip at the 2005 Child's Play Charity Dinner.
PAX 2006 was held from August 25–27. The Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue was again used as the venue, although the Tabletop Gaming area was moved offsite to the ballrooms at the nearby Red Lion hotel. Exhibit space at PAX 06 completely sold out in less than three months, with exhibitors including Nintendo, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Turbine Inc, Technomancer Press, NCSoft, Rooster Teeth, Creative Labs, Wizards of the Coast, and nVidia. According to Krahulik, there were 19,323 attendees. In the Omegathon, returning Omeganaut Will "LeRoy" Garroutte defeated David "Davertron" Davis in the final round of the Omegathon: head to head Tetris. LeRoy took away a brand new Scion car fully loaded with custom wheels, custom sound, LCD TV, Xbox 360 Premium, wireless controllers, and more. Davertron left with an Xbox 360 Premium and $500 Best Buy gift card, and returned as an Omeganaut in 2007. Holkins and PA business manager Robert Khoo led the way into Omegathon Round 5, Guitar Hero II. After playing through "Trippin on a Hole In a Paper Heart" on expert, Holkins smashed the guitar on stage. Krahulik and Holkins announced the first ever Penny Arcade video game titled On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode One (which has since been released) and that the game would feature PA characters in episodic adventures. Details were few; when asked what the game was about, Holkins replied "Gabe. Tycho. And Cthulhu." Krahulik and Holkins also announced a Penny Arcade annual scholarship, wherein one applicant with an intention to work in the game industry will be awarded $10,000 toward tuition expenses. Several game companies ran large prize tournaments and giveaways, including ArenaNet ($10,000 prize tourney), TableStar ($2,500 prize tourney), and Nvidia (several thousand dollars' worth of video cards).
The fourth annual Penny Arcade Expo took place August 24–27 and experienced its first year within the confines of the 130,000 square feet (12,000 m2) of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, more than doubling the space used to house PAX 2006. The massive Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) was heavily downsized in 2006, which allowed the growing Penny Arcade Expo to become the biggest gamer festival in North America. Headliners for 2007’s PAX included Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, as well as others such as Ubisoft, NCSoft, THQ, Wizards of the Coast, Namco-Bandai, Vivendi, Konami and 45 other game publishers and developers. The 2007 keynote speech was delivered by Wil Wheaton. Attendance was reported at 39,000. For the final round of the Omegathon, Ryan "Accalon" Zack and Ben "MNC Dover" Gray competed on never before seen levels of Halo 3. Accalon won the grand prize, $5000 and a trip to the Tokyo Game Show. While the convention was housed on three of the floors of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, the exhibition hall was certainly a busy place, featuring educational, video game and tabletop exhibitors, as well as retailers. The layout of the exhibition hall allowed visitors to peruse through a variety of displays, offering places where they could win their weight in Ramen noodles or enter the World's Smallest Dungeon, as hosted by Technomancer Press.
PAX 2008 was held from August 29–31 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, Washington, United States. The pre-show attendance estimate was 45,000, but this was soon thought to be a low guess. The final count of tickets sold was reported as 58,500, including 45,000 pre-registered tickets. The 2008 keynote was delivered by Ken Levine. The exhibition hall space was doubled from that of 2007, and tabletop gaming and an additional panel room was located in the Pike Street Annex of the convention center, the first time this space has been used for PAX. Despite the large increase in convention space, overflow still occurred at some events. New for 2008 was the PAX 10, a judged selection of self-submitted independent games on which attendees voted for a favorite. PAX 10 selections include Chronotron, the Maw, and Schizoid. To account for crowds, one empty exhibition room was explicitly reserved for the purpose of holding queues for the popular events in the main theater and other queues as needed. PAX 2008 came to a close with Fallout and Geko playing Vs. Excitebike, again for $5000 and a trip to the Tokyo Game Show; Geko was victorious.
PAX 2009 was held from September 4–6 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, Washington, United States. The total attendance of the convention was 60,750. The keynote speaker was Ron Gilbert. Musical guests included previous performers Anamanaguchi, Freezepop, Jonathan Coulton, Molly Lewis and MC Frontalot, along with first-time PAX appearances by Metroid Metal and Paul & Storm. For the first time, PAX occupied the entire convention center to accommodate an increase in attendees. Despite the increase in capacity, two days before the start of the show, PAX passes were sold out for the first time. Penny Arcade then announced that no passes would be sold on-site, however circumstances allowed on-site sales of 1,000 extra one-day passes each for Saturday and Sunday. After many attendees reported feeling sick, an H1N1 outbreak was later confirmed. At least 100 cases of H1N1 virus infections were confirmed in attendees after the convention.
PAX East 2010
The first PAX East was held from March 26–28 at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. A partnership was arranged with Reed Exhibitions to handle the logistics of the expo. This event, first announced in August 2008, was the first Penny Arcade Expo outside Washington state. On December 23, 2009, Mike Krahulik announced that the number of pre-registrants indicate PAX East Coast may exceed the number of attendees of any previous PAX. It was later announced in January 2010 that tickets for PAX East were close to selling out, and that attendance would most likely be capped as the previous PAX 2009, leaving little-to-no tickets being available at the door for the event. On February 3, 2010 Penny Arcade Expo's business head Robert Khoo updated his Twitter page with word that 3-day badges had sold out for the event. Later in February 2010 the lineup of exhibitors and panel discussions were announced for the full weekend, along with the announcement of the musical guests planned to perform at the event, such as Anamanaguchi, Metroid Metal, MC Frontalot, The Protomen, the Video Game Orchestra and Jonathan Coulton. The keynote speaker was Wil Wheaton, who had previously given the keynote at PAX Prime 2007. The final attendance count was revealed to be 52,290 attendees for the full weekend of PAX East. Plans have been confirmed to use the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) for future PAX East conventions, likely due to complaints of overcrowding and cramped event halls at the much smaller Hynes Convention Center. Penny Arcade has signed an agreement to keep the show in Boston through 2013.
PAX Prime 2010
PAX Prime 2010 was held from September 3–5 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, Washington, United States. Attendance was reported at 67,600, compared to that of PAX Prime 2009's 60,750. The keynote was given by Warren Spector. Musical guests included Anamanaguchi, Jonathan Coulton, MC Frontalot, Metroid Metal, Minibosses, Paul and Storm, Martin O'Donnell, and The Protomen. For the first time since occupying the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, PAX Prime 2010 included events at offsite locations. Instead of occupying just the exposition hall at the Center, the keynote speech, large panels, and concerts were held at Benaroya Hall. The Pike St. Annex (since renamed to The Conference Center) was used (as it was in 2007), as well as the registration and one panel room located at the nearby Sheraton. These changes allowed PAX Prime 2010's expo hall to double in size vs. 2009. Notable games included Star Wars: The Old Republic, Duke Nukem Forever, Portal 2, League of Legends, Guild Wars 2, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, Mortal Kombat, Sonic Colors, Epic Mickey, and Halo: Reach.
PAX East 2011
PAX East 2011 was held from March 11–13 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. The BCEC boasts a total area of 516,000 square feet (47,900 m2), over the Hynes' 193,000 square feet (17,900 m2) [289,100 square feet (26,860 m2) including the theater and meeting rooms]. The year's musical guests included Jonathan Coulton, MC Frontalot, Metroid Metal, Paul and Storm, The Protomen, and the Video Game Orchestra. The keynote speaker was Jane McGonigal.
PAX Dev 2011
Being held for the first time in 2011, PAX Dev is an event exclusive to the game development community. It took place on the two days prior to PAX Prime 2011, August 24 and 25, at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel. There were 750 attendees, all of whom are involved in game development. Press were not allowed to attend the event.
PAX Prime 2011
PAX Prime 2011 was held from August 26–28 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, Washington, United States. The event brought in over 70,000 attendees, breaking the attendance record set at PAX East 2011 and making it the largest PAX to date. The keynote was delivered by David Jaffe. Musical guests included the familiar performances of The MiniBosses, Metroid Metal, MC Frontalot, Paul & Storm, Jonathan Coulton. In addition, Supercommuter and the Video Game Orchestra made debut performances. Notable events included Halo Fest - a celebration of the first 10 years of Halo history.
PAX East 2012
PAX East 2012 was held from April 6–8 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. All of the passes sold out except for single-day Sunday passes (due to the event being held on Easter Weekend). The Exhibition Hall held over 160 booths, including game design companies such as Riot Games and Electronic Arts, hardware companies such as Alienware/Dell and Xbox (Microsoft), and other various companies. PAX East also held a console freeplay area, where attendees could play games such as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dance Central 2, Tony Hawk Ride, and Rock Band Blitz, and various console tournaments for games such as Super Smash Bros Brawl, Tetris Splash, and Halo Reach. There was a PC freeplay area, where games such as Battlefield 3, League of Legends, and Minecraft could be played, and PC tournaments for Magic Online, League of Legends, and Starcraft 2. There was also a tabletop gaming area, where many types of games were being played, and where tournaments for games such as Puzzle Strike, Dominion, and Penny Arcade: The Game. There were also handheld tournaments, for games such as Mario Kart DS and Tetris DS. Panels were held during most of the day in the various theaters. Concerts were held in the evenings, featuring performers such as Minibosses, Metroid Metal, The Protomen, Video Game Orchestra, Paul and Storm, Jonathan Coulton, Supercommuter and MC Frontalot.
PAX Prime 2012
PAX Prime 2012 was held from August 31–September 2 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, Washington, United States. Badges for the event went on sale April 25. However, due to technical issues, badge sales were halted on the same day. A week later, on May 2, sales resumed and within 5 hours all 3-day badges were sold out. The keynote was delivered by Ted Price. Concerts were held in the evenings at the Paramount, featuring The Protomen, Video Game Orchestra, Sam Hart, Supercommuter, Paul and Storm, Jonathan Coulton, and MC Frontalot. Special guests on stage at the Saturday night concert included Wil Wheaton, John Roderick, Aubrey Webber of The Doubleclicks, and Hank Green. Notable events included the League of Legends North American Regional tournament hosted by Riot Games, which took over most of the sixth floor and drew a crowd of thousands of fans and cosplayers.
PAX East 2013
PAX East 2013 took place March 22–24 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. Passes went on sale October 8, 2012 and 3-day passes were sold out by the next day. All passes were completely sold out by February 28, 2013. At PAX East, Blizzard Entertainment announced Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Additionally, the console version of Diablo III was made playable for the first time. Dungeon Defenders 2, Marvel Heroes, Warface, Remember Me and Elder Scrolls Online were all playable in the expo hall. Many indie developers also came and showed off their games, including Guacamelee, Outlast, Castle Story and Super Time Force. Musical performances by Jonathan Coulton, MC Frontalot, Paul and Storm, The Protomen, Sam Hart, Those Who Fight, Video Game Orchestra, and the Video Game Music Choir.
PAX Australia 2013
The first PAX Australia 2013 was held from July 19–21 at the Melbourne Showgrounds in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia at the Melbourne Showgrounds and was organized locally by ReedPOP. PAX Australia was the first time that the Penny Arcade Expo was held outside of the United States. Holkins and Krahulik, as well as Victorian Minister for Innovation Louise Asher, announced that PAX Australia will return in 2014. The keynote was conducted by Ron Gilbert.
PAX Prime 2013
PAX Prime 2013 was held from August 30–September 2 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, Washington, United States. Badges for the event went on sale April 17, 2013. 4 day passes sold out within 23 minutes. All badges for the event were sold out entirely in five and a half hours. The keynote speaker was Peter Molyneux.
PAX East 2014
PAX East 2014 was held from April 11–13 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. Passes went on sale on October 23, 2013. Three-day passes were sold out in under an hour and all passes were completely sold out by November 7, 2013. An agreement reached in early 2012 extended Boston as the home of PAX East until 2023. Musical performances included The Doubleclicks, MC Frontalot, Metroid Metal, Anamanaguchi, Bit Brigade, and The Video Game Orchestra
PAX Prime 2014
PAX Prime 2014 was held from August 29–September 1 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, Washington, United States. Badges for the event went on sale May 28, 2014. The 4-day passes sold out within 15 minutes, and all badges were sold out within 75 minutes. The keynote speaker was Mikey Neumann, the writer of Borderlands: Origins.
PAX Australia 2014
PAX South 2015
The first PAX South was held from January 23–25 at the Henry B. González Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, United States. It set a PAX record for highest attendance for a PAX event's inaugural year.
PAX East 2015
PAX East 2015 was held from March 6–8 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. The event featured content for Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch. At PAX East, Blizzard announced a new adventure for Hearthstone, Blackrock Mountain.
PAX Prime 2015
PAX Prime 2015 was held on August 28–31 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, Washington, United States. The event featured tournaments for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Super Smash Bros. Melee, which were won by Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios and Jason "Mew2King" Zimmerman respectively.
PAX Australia 2015
PAX South 2016
PAX East 2016
PAX West 2016
PAX West 2016 was held on September 2–5 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, Washington, United States. On November 18, 2015, it was confirmed that PAX Prime was being renamed to PAX West.
PAX Australia 2016
PAX South 2017
PAX East 2017
PAX West 2017
PAX Australia 2017
PAX Unplugged 2017
At PAX South 2017, Penny Arcade announced a new annual PAX focused on tabletop games, to be called PAX Unplugged. In explaining the need, Holkins said "I've looked down from [PAX East]'s skybridges and seen what would be an entire convention right there, just of tabletop games!" while also joking that due to his schedule of annual events, the only way he would be able to attend a tabletop convention would be to found one himself. The first PAX Unplugged was held from November 17–19 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Rather than the traditional evening music concerts, Unplugged featured a live game of Dungeons & Dragons.
PAX South 2018
PAX East 2018
PAX West 2018
PAX Australia 2018
PAX Unplugged 2018
PAX Unplugged 2018 was held from November 30–December 2 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, with several areas significantly expanded over the inaugural year.
PAX South 2019
PAX East 2019
PAX West 2019
PAX Australia 2019
PAX Unplugged 2019
PAX South 2020
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