PAX East Minibooth 2017

It’s been a month since it happened, but Bleed 2 was shown in the Indie Minibooth at PAX East 2017! It was a ton of fun, so I thought I’d do a write-up about the experience and compare it to showing in the MEGABOOTH! They’re both a blast, but there are of course differences.

First though, I gotta get a huge thanks out of the way — the costs for showing in the Minibooth were heavily reduced by some extremely generous MEGABOOTH alumni. Showing at PAX — even the Minibooth! — can be a large expense, and the generosity of these devs really helped me and all the other Miniboothers get there. I can’t thank them all enough and I wanted to make sure that was front and center.

So! Showing at the Minibooth! For anyone not aware — the Minibooth is a smaller, more simple area you can show at with the MEGABOOTH. Instead of a 10ft x 10ft space with multiple setups and tons of equipment, the Minibooth offers a nice, simple, single kiosk to demo your game at! For reference, here’s a comparison of my MEGABOOTH space from West 2016 and the Minibooth space from East 2017.

So yes, it is smaller, but it comes with definite upsides! Being a single kiosk, the cost of renting the floorspace is smaller (normally around $1,200 I believe) and you dodge a lot of additional costs and/or hassles that would be unavoidable in a MEGABOOTH. You are provided with a computer, monitor and kiosk, so there’s no renting/transporting/worrying about equipment — the only extra hardware I brought was gamepads, headsets, and some audio cables. The only thing that needs to be set up is the kiosk and the game, and when I got there the kiosks were already mostly set up by volunteers — no constructing monitors on 8ft stands, no array of rented hardware with various port requirements to hunt and match cables for… you basically show up with a USB stick with your game on it and go! They even handle signage for you with a cool monitor topper that they print with your logos. All in all, it’s about half the money, and a quarter of the stress.

Another thing to consider is the social aspect. A Minibooth is a lot less to manage, so with my partner Lu helping out again, there was plenty of time for either of us to go take a little break, get food, and meet fellow devs! Of course everyone’s there to work, but they’re all really friendly and more than willing to say hi and let you play their games. This might sound like me going around goofing off, but I really enjoy meeting other devs and that kind of networking opportunity is a really huge benefit of going to events like this, even if it’s not the primary goal!

Of course, there are downsides compared to the MEGABOOTH as well. Most obviously is the size — there’s only room for one setup, so the number of people who can play your game is limited in comparison. You can’t customize your layout much, so you won’t be able to blast music or have large monitors or other things that demand attention and gather crowds. That said, the disparity might not be as harsh as you’d expect, depending on your goals. At both West and East, I came with 1,000 keys of the original Bleed to give out to people who came by the booth. I ran out on the last day of West (I probably could have done 1,500 keys if I had them) whereas at East I got rid of 700. So, not sure how meaningful the stat is, but “people-taking-free-shit” engagement levels only seemed to be reduced by half — I expected it to be much worse, at least!

Also, while the engagement of general show-goers wasn’t hit as hard as I expected, engagement with media was more so. This could be due to a number of reasons — my media outreach before the show wasn’t as dedicated as it was at West, and the game had already been out for a month (and so was “old news” to press, I imagine.) Conversely, Minibooth-mates with unreleased games did TONS of outreach (literally HUNDREDS of personalized press emails, one of them said!) and did get some big names at their kiosk! So it is definitely possible, but in general the number of random press (of all sizes, I mean) just dropping by seemed to be less than it was in the MEGABOOTH. That said, press did still come by! Other devs came by, publishers came by, all kinds of people were around to talk and play the game. I still met a bunch of Bleed fans and made a ton of contacts as well as new friends.

In summary, I’m not trying to say one booth size is better or worse than the other! Both are great opportunities for devs to show their work — they just have their own set of strengths. If anyone reads this while trying to decide between them, I hope it was somehow insightful to you. The MEGABOOTH people are rad as hell and I don’t think either size will be a bad choice for you.

Finally! I was asked on Twitter to compare my PAX experience with my GDC experience, and I think that’s an interesting idea. Buuuut after considering it, I also think it’s unfair or impossible to directly compare them. I mean, I personally got much more out of PAX, haha, but I attended one and showed at another. I approached them with different goals and expectations (I find GDC is practically mythologized among devs, whereas PAX is just “a great place to show your game”), and I don’t claim to know anything about showing at GDC. I can also only speak on PAX from the perspective of showing in the MEGABOOTH — they handle a ton of work for you, both Mini and MEGA, and I have no idea how much worse it’d be if I was going it alone.

Sooooooo… I wish I could drop some knowledge in this case, but I don’t think I can get into it in any worthwhile way… all I can do is heartily recommend the Indie Mini/MEGABOOTH if you want to show at PAX or other events! They’re a wonderful group of folks giving devs an amazing opportunity to promote their work.