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PAX West and Nintendo Live: The Good and The Bad

PAX West is a gaming convention about all things, well, gaming. It has many of your favorite developers showing off their newest game, giveaways, tournaments, and more. I set out on a journey to Seattle to see for myself if this is a convention worth attending.

The Good

PAX West has a quite a few interesting things to do. Once you get into the convention you can start playing games immediately. There is a plethora of games to play, from Tekken to Persona 3 Reloaded to indie titles. Some games are unreleased, so it’s fun to get one of the first looks at a game. In addition, you can speak with the developers! They are often at their booths (especially at indie booths), and it’s super cool to have a conversation with them about their creation.

There are also many major developers at PAX West. You have everything from Atari to Sega/Atlas to Steel Wool. These larger booths often hand out freebies and teasers for their new games to generate hype. In addition, their convention booths were both massive and intricate. They were decorated in huge statues, complicated sets, and staff dressed in cosplay of the characters from their games. It makes the experience immersive and fun.

There was also some fun showcases, including the Art Of Nintendo Museum, which showcased concept art and cells from various Nintendo Projects, and some strange ones, like the booth giving away free microwave oven cheesy potatoes. Some vendors selling expensive PC products apply discounts for their product if you bought it at PAX West, so it can be a great place to stock up of PC supplies.

Bandai Namco’s Tekken 8

The Bad

PAX West has a bit of an identity problem. It wants to be a gaming convention like Gamescom or E3, with high-profile companies and new game announcements, but wants to also have the benefits of a gaming community convention, with cosplayers, merch, and celebrity guests. The problem is that they cannot do both. Between time, space, and money, they must choose one to keep the tone of the convention consistent. PAX West, unfortunately, tries to double-dip. It wanted cosplayers and panels for the Comic-Con fans, but games and game announcements for the Gamescom fans. What results from this is a confusing, inconsistent convention that isn’t really built for gamers or fans.

There was only one cosplay event, and that one was cancelled and had to be transformed into a parade so that cosplayers had something to do. Because of this, PAX West ended up having very few cosplayers, as opposed to other events like Sakura Con or Emerald City Comic Con. In addition, PAX did very little to advertise the few celebrity guests that would be attending. The only ones there were a handful of Genshin Impact voice actors, while Sakura-Con had 50+ celebrity guests ranging from voice actors, to artists, to writers. Plus, at Sakura-Con, there were multiple panels with these guests, on top of getting autographs and talking to them. So, once again, PAX West did the bare minimum to advertise that they had guests.

On top of all that, PAX West is missing a key component to make this convention a “must-see”: An Exhibition Hall/Artist Alley. These are staples of classic conventions, and usually take up two floors of convention spaces. They are basically giant shopping areas. Exhibition Halls have branded merchandise, such as comic books, stuffed animals, games, consoles, and figures, while Artist Alleys have local artists selling their art. This art can be posters, prints, acrylic stands, custom dice, pins, and more.

These two components are more important to a convention than you may think. For one, they slow down your progress through the convention. This, believe it or not, is a good thing. It means that you will spend more time at a convention, so it makes it worth it to buy entrance to more of the convention days. In addition, people enjoy supporting local businesses and artists, so it makes them feel good while they spend money in the Art Alleys. Conventions charge for booth spaces, so  PAX West wouldn’t be losing money to get more shops onto their show floors.

So, the event isn’t really for the average convention-goer, but it must be perfect for gamers then, right? Nope. Most of the convention is the show floor stocked full of computers and consoles to play games. However, many of the games, like Among Us, Doki Doki Literature Club+, and PUBG, have been out for a while. They weren’t showcasing new content, they were just…there. So, of course, nobody wanted to stop by those booths. Instead, the booths that were showing new stuff, like the Persona 3 Remake and Tekken 8, were overrun by people. This got to the point where they capped off the lines, so you couldn’t even wait in line to play the games. So, what’s the point of going to a gaming convention that’s mostly old games and where you can’t play the new ones?

Persona 3 booth at PAX West

Nintendo Live

PAX West wasn’t the only convention in town that weekend. Nintendo Live 2023, the first Nintendo Live ever held in the United States, was advertised alongside PAX West. The only way to get a ticket was to purchase PAX West tickets and be automatically entered into a raffle.

I was riding on a Press Pass for PAX, so I was ineligible to go to Nintendo Live. However, my father won a ticket, since he had bought his own PAX ticket. The rest of this section will be his own recount.

“It was lines on lines on lines.” – Ryan Raber

 

After getting through the initial 1 ½ hour wait, he was given his bag of goodies (more on that later) and was directed to the second Nintendo Live line. So, he waited another hour in that line. Now is a good time to mention my father does not do well in crowds, so he is an absolute champ for getting though this next part.

Once he got in, he was met with a massively over packed showroom. The only attractions in Nintendo Live were photo-ops with various Nintendo characters. Besides the orchestras playing Nintendo OTS’s, that was it. If you wanted to get a Photo-op, you would need to wait in another line. Over 3 hours of waiting just to wait another hour to take a picture with Pikachu.

Pikachu promoting Pokémon Scarlet and Violet at Nintendo Live (Ryan Raber)

But my dad had but one goal. He was determined to get me a Nintendo Live hoodie from the Merch booth. So, he stepped into that line. Another hour-long wait for him. Keep in mind, the wait for the merch booth was so long, it wrapped to the outside of the building.  My father waited the entire time, battling his own PTSD, to get to the front of the Merch booth to get me that hoodie. He was hell-bent and determined. So, he gets to the front of the line, and asks the clerk for the hoodie.

They were sold out. There weren’t even any other sizes.

Keep in mind that most conventions will relay this information to those waiting in line as soon as they run out of stock, so people won’t bog down the line waiting for products that weren’t even there.

My dad got out of there as soon as he could.

Once he met back up with me at the hotel, I got a look at what was inside the goodie bag Nintendo handed out. It was mostly junk, like an “activity book” like children’s menus at restaurants and a cardboard cutout of Luigi’s hat. There was a cool metallic coin, like the Nintendo Points on the Nintendo E-shop, but that was it.

Link Statue at Nintendo Live (Ryan Raber)

For some, this may not seem like a huge deal. It’s just a small convention, no harm done. But you must remember, this is Nintendo fans we’re talking about. People likely flew out just to attend Nintendo Live, hoping to catch a glimpse of games to come or meet developers, like the rest of PAX West. People spent a lot of money to attend this convention, and for what? An out-of-stock merch booth and a picture with Mario?

It seems that Nintendo wanted to do a convention in Seattle, but didn’t want to put in all the money, effort, and time that comes with a full-scale convention. So, they limited it to one floor (For over 1,000 attendees) and did the bare minimum to consider it a “convention.” As a Nintendo fan, this is disappointing to say the least. All that money and time wasted on a convention that Nintendo doesn’t even care about.

If Nintendo Live were to return to Seattle, I would recommend a few changes. One, make it a full-scale convention, with paid tickets. This way more people can attend. Two, I would add WAY more attractions, with a higher variety. This is very plausible for Nintendo, who recently held a full-scale festival for the Pokémon World Championship. This could be shops, themed areas (such as a full floor just for Legend of Zelda stuff) or interactive areas.

If you are thinking about attending Nintendo Live next year (if there is a next year), as a Nintendo fan, Convention fan, and reporter, I cannot in good faith recommend it. You’d be better off with most other conventions that feature Nintendo products, such as Sakura Con or Emerald City Comic Con.

Final Thoughts

PAX West and Nintendo Live are not conventional conventions. If you enjoy conventions like Sakura Con or Emerald City Comic Con, I cannot recommend these conventions for you. If you enjoy gaming and seeing new games, these aren’t necessarily bad conventions to attend. You could knock out the entirety of PAX West within a day, and a few hours for Nintendo Live. You walk home with a few unique experiences, not necessarily great memories or memorabilia. But you have to stand in line for hours for a few minutes of gameplay and be treated like a walking wallet. There is no sense of community, just corporations and brands desperately trying to get your money, while shoving the indie developers to the back. Personally, I will not be attending PAX West or Nintendo Live next year.

PAX West Rating: 4/10

Nintendo Live Rating: 2/10

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