The Penny Arcade Expo hit a few road bumps this year, discovering that their exponential growth, while slightly slowed, is still enough to cause problems with line-management and space issues.
But that's a problem easily solved, and the PA folks are all over it.
The bigger problem, as I see it, is in the expo's name and its association with Penny Arcade.
Penny Arcade Expo has the potential, the very likely potential, to become the one preeminent video game show in the country. It has the exuberant backing of developers and publishers, it has more than enough willing participants to go around and it has the blessing of the many folks who cover the gaming industry for a living.
But what it doesn't have is a neutral jumping off point. PAX has the words Penny Arcade in the title and while for me, and tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people like me, that's a bonus, there are still lots of people out there who hate the strip, the people associated with it and anything whatsoever that has to do with Penny Arcade, Gabe, Tycho and, yes, even Fruit Fucker.
What this means is that they have a fractured potential audience. While most PAX attendees are unified by their love of gaming, they're more unified by their love of Penny Arcade. Sadly I think that means the show's potential audience will remain fractured as long as Penny Arcade is the central theme, preventing PAX from becoming the Games Convention or Tokyo Game Show of the United States.
There are some solutions. I think that it would be easy enough, especially with a second, east coast, PAX looming a few years away, to just change the name of the show and let it grow into its own entity. Another option, presented to me by one of many industry types I talked to about this during the show, is to just officially rename the show PAX. In other words remove the meaning behind the acronym and have it take on a meaning of its own. In a few decades, maybe just a few years, people would wonder what PAX stood for and why the show is called that.
While most of the people I spoke to at the show eventually came around to my way of thinking, acknowledging, no matter how grudgingly, that yes there are PA haters out there and nothing will ever get them to the show, I do wonder how true that really is.
How many among you didn't attend PAX strictly because it's the PENNY ARCADE expo as opposed to a video game expo? How many of you would have gone if it was called something else?
What I think everyone can agree on is that the U.S. needs a single video game show for the public, and not the many that now litter the gaming landscape. We need a TGS, a Leipzig. The real question is will E3 get it's act together and fill that shrinking void or will a show like PAX become the show to rule them all.