Without a doubt PAX Australia 2015 was the biggest and best show by far, at only three years old you might be convinced that the show is still growing and adjusting to things, but for what was on show everything just seemed to click.
This year, things were different thanks in part to the ESL, e-Sports League setting up shop in the main hall, there presence reduced the queue room size somewhat, but the crowd that was gathered in front of the stage was really enjoying what was going on, so no one really cared about the shrinkage. The main floor once again played host to a range of options, the publishers and hardware makers were on hand showing off their latest and greatest, the PC space after the dividing wall still pulled in lots of people both for the BYO and tournament spaces, even the console freeplay and retro sections drew crowds more and more.
The one space that seems to have grown year on year though is the Table Top and Card game space, with more booths on hand and more people sitting down to enjoy the games on offer. I myself don’t get a lot of fun out of card games, but a board game or two is always a nice way to change things up and with the number of people I saw sitting there this year, it seems other people are thinking the same way. I wonder if it will be expanded next year, hopefully so.
Another space that saw expansion this year was the video game space, which even though it was the same size, still managed to pack more in that last year. PlayStation and Bandai Namco made their first showings at PAX Australia and if the lines for their booths were any indication, people were happy. Nintendo and Microsoft had their usual booths with their games on show, Nintendo even had some indie titles on display with Fast Racing Neo and Might No 9, Xbox had Cuphead among others, which drew a line for its own. Right in between the two booths was Bethesda and Fallout 4, which had some of the biggest lines of the show and rightly so, they were even showing off new footage, which had people pretty happy.
Across the way was PlayStation and while their booth was pretty big, it was partly dedicated to that storied franchise that happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars had a double showing with Star Wars Battlefront taking the biggest space and right next door was Disney Infinity, showcasing off the Star Wars playsets, perhaps the best part of that section of the booth was the archway you could walk under to scope out all the figures that are out and even some new ones coming to the game soon. Another game that drew lines, though you might have missed it if you were not looking for it was Unravel, the game about a guy called Yarny who is made from red yarn as he attempts to bring two people together.
PlayStation did score a massive win with the double whammy of PlayStation VR and the Uncharted 4 video presentation and by early morning on all three days, the VR slots were all taken, which left some fans checking it out through the window. Uncharted 4 drew some really long lines on the Friday, but PlayStation Australia kicked things into overdrive come Saturday when they managed to score direct from Paris Games Week the Uncharted 4 Multiplayer mode, which meant local fans were among some of the first in the world to go hands on with it, truly something fun.
Ubisoft had longs lines for two of their upcoming games Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege and Tom Clancy’s The Division, both offered up different takes on the multiplayer genre, Assassin’s Creed was also on show, but the game had just come out, so the lines were not as busy. Just Dance was also on hand, with its lure of tempting players with the chance to dance their hearts out to a random song, even the Master Chief was spotted doing just that. Bandai Namco were showing off two games that a lot of people are excited for Dark Souls 3 had a mass of people around every time I walked past and on the other side of that was Just Cause 3, which also drew massive lines.
Wargaming were back in force, with their recently released World of Warships, they were showing off Master of Orion behind closed doors to media, but they also had the crowd excited for everything they showed on their big stage. Razer, Hyper X, MSI, Nvidia, Intel and more were all around showcasing off their goods, with each booth having a lot of people hanging around to see what was worth checking out. Alienware also went big again this year, they even brought in a smaller version of Zero Latency, the VR game that is out in North Melbourne and like the PlayStation VR, it booked out really fast. There were quite a lot of people checking out VR wherever they could, including a few indie booths.
Yet again, PAX Australia proved itself to be the home of indies in Australia, with countless booths showing games ranging from platformers themed to cute gothic all the way through to 8-bit inspired retro. There were shark games, western games, Zelda inspired and horror re-invented, each game on show had people checking them out almost all the time and the developers on hand were wearing weary smiles by the Sunday. For the games that I personally played from the indies, they all offered up something new or new takes on something, but they all were different, which was nice.
The panels are the one thing I missed out on, again, which seems to be the case as I usually have an appointment that has me missing half the panel or not being able to line up for them, but from all reports they went over really well again this year. Warren Spector was the opening panel for the show and like the ones in years past there was quite a line, even as the main floor was opening. Other panels covered mobile games, to large games like Uncharted 4 or Just Cause 3, there were also panels for gender roles in games and game development, some people even spoke about mental illness amongst gamers, there really was something for all.
I concluded my PAX Australia 3 day run with a mix of exhaustion and elation, there were times when all I wanted to do was sit down and relax, but they were always outweighed by checking out something new or catching someone dressed in awesome cosplay. PAX Australia has once again proven why it is one of the nation’s best shows for anyone who is interested in the word game, no matter the experience they are after.