Rightside does PAX West 2016

Every year at the end of summer, tens of thousands of gamers, developers, exhibitors, and journalists descend upon Downtown Seattle for the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX West). In just over a decade, PAX has become one of the premier gatherings for gamers. It is essentially a dozen conventions in one, with dedicated areas and tracts for PC gaming, console gaming, virtual and augmented reality, tabletop games, diversity, indie games, game streaming, and everything in between.

Thousands of avid gamers line up in the rain to get in the doors at PAX West
Thousands of avid gamers line up in the rain to get in the doors on Opening Day

PAX West takes up the entire Washington State Convention Center for four days (even spilling out into Benaroya Hall, Paramount Theater, and several surrounding hotels), and just happens to be a short drive from Rightside’s offices in Kirkland. The timing of this year’s expo is perfect because it coincides with the launch of the .GAMES TLD into General Availability on September 21st. So several Rightsiders, including myself, headed down to PAX to meet with developers, exhibitors, and a throng of enthusiastic fans to spread the word about .GAMES. Here are some of our reflections on the convention, and how receptive gamers are to new domains.

The line into the convention center was enormous
No, really, thousands. That wasn’t an exaggeration

James Gallagher, Senior Director of Sales

It was nuts to actually see how big this community is in-person. The gamers here are fanatical and were willing to wait in tremendously long lines just to test and play games that they could play at home.

Thousands wait to get into Benaroya Hall for one of many panels at PAX
Another big line, this time at Benaroya Hall

We focused on interacting with exhibitors to educate them about .GAMES and .LIVE. They seemed to understand quickly how those extensions could be used for their specific games or for marketing their brand in a different way.

It is worth noting that having a conversation for more than 20-30 seconds was very challenging given the noise, the crowd, and the fact that those working the booths were not in business development/networking mode. I have been brainstorming some better ways to reach exhibitors than working the floors during the show.

Gamer in a dot games shirt standing next to a Bugatti Veyron
Wholesale standard .GAMES domains = $12; Bugatti Veyron = $1.5 million

Sean Ottey, Technical Evangelist

PAX was BUSY. Being there at the very start of the event (3 hours early on the first day, in fact) was a great way to experience it for the first time. From the slow trickle of people into the queue to the moments before opening with thousands lined up to get in, it was a constant thought of “Okay, so it can’t get BUSIER can it? Oh, I guess it can.”

I had the amazing opportunity to spend the day chatting with people and checking out the sites with the always awesome @MissDestructo, Amber Osborne of Meshfire, who simply knows everyone in this space.

Selfie with Sean Ottey and Amber Osborne, @missdestructo on Twitter
Thanks, @MissDestructo, for not allowing Sean to wander the premises unsupervised

The reception to .GAMES was a good one. It is a clear “best fit” for game studios, gamers who want their own domain to link to their gamer space, etc.

Huge flashy jumbo displays found throughout the exhibition floor at PAX
Bombarding the senses on the show floor

Brandon Swanson, Senior Domain Name Consultant

I went there on Day 1 and it was ridiculously packed and every booth was jammed. This was the first Gaming conference I’ve been to, so it was good to see that world. I had some great conversations in the smaller booths, as there were a lot of smaller companies who had interest in .GAMES, but mainly for their own names and “exact match.”

Banner above the indie mega booth an exhibition space for independent game developers
Dozens of smaller developers and games are found at the Indie Mega Booth

I think that .GAMES aligns with how we’ve been approaching the gaming industry: They don’t have the same attachment to .COM as other industries. It seemed like most of the people I talked to quickly “got it” and the conversations were easy.

I get the feeling that a lot of weird names that are chosen for their game titles are a direct result of not being able to find a .COM that works, so if we can successfully get the word out to the market, there is a ton of potential here.

Christina Holding, Senior Business Development Manager

PAX West is massive, but once you connect with a few people, it’s less overwhelming and you start picking up interactions that you might not have otherwise been exposed to. I managed to connect with brands like BBTV, Twitch, Revelmode, and met a whole lot of developers and gamers.

It’s been a great place to gain awareness for .LIVE and .GAMES, and “very cool” was the most common response to our new TLDs. The cards for free domains went quickly, and people really loved our .GAMES t-shirt.

The design for the dot games t-shirt
Rightsiders sported these dapper retro shirts while at PAX

Michael Anderson, Inside Sales Representative

PAX was awesome. There is so much stimuli you actually get physically tired from being there!

There were several exhibits that really stuck out to me: the Bugatti (Spacewars), the dinosaur (Drop Zones), World of Warcraft, aliens (Earthfall), Rock Band Rivals, AMD (for the sheer volume of people crowded around their booth), the Logitech keyboard wall, Magic: the Gathering (which had the entire Paramount Theater rented out), and Shadow Warrior 2.

Magic the gathering exhibited at the Paramount Theater next to the convention center
400,000 square feet of convention center can’t hold the entirety of PAX; surrounding theaters and hotels were also enlisted

Drew MacPherson, Research Manager

Going in, I didn’t really appreciate how much of a consumer show this is, and wasn’t prepared for the number of AAA titles being showcased/featured. It was very cool, and very overwhelming.

While I was aware of how quickly virtual reality has been picking up steam, the scope and scale of it at PAX West, in conjunction with major games launching this year was pretty crazy to see. I predict in the next year or two, we’ll start to see a major round of investing in haptic feedback systems, to make the experience even more immersive.

Gamers experiencing the Star Trek Bridge Crew VR demo
In less than an hour, the Star Trek VR experience was booked for the entire day

The game that caught my eye the most was ‘The Rabbit and The Owl’ – it’s a puzzle/platformer with a beautiful design. In general, I love seeing the indie games that come from small teams of 2-5 people. The idea of new domains and .GAMES was well-received – I believe it would go over very well at events more focused on developers, like GDC (Game Developers Conference).

Gamer in the Vive World War 2 simulation, one of many immersive VR experiences
Virtual reality promises to drop you directly into the game

Myke Okuhara, Copywriter

My first PAX West (then known as PAX Prime) was almost ten years ago, back when you could still walk up to the convention center the day of and get in the door. This year, badges basically sold out in minutes, months ahead of time. The crowds keep getting bigger, and the exhibitors respond in kind with flashier, impossible to ignore booths and installations each year.

Between a street fair, giant T-Rex, and a real-life Tiger tank running over a drum set, the industry is clearly prepared to spend money getting eyeballs on their products. So I have no doubt that the resources are there to invest in a less flashy, but probably more impactful marketing tool: domain names.

Fans line up to meet members of Youtube gaming channel Funhaus
Youtube gaming channel Funhaus is already on board with new TLDs, using Fun.HAUS to redirect to their homepage (some content/language NSFW)

I look forward to coming to PAX in the coming years and seeing more and more developers (both AAA studios and indies) using .GAMES and other new TLDs in marketing their product and connecting with their audience.

More sights from around PAX West 2016:

Tiger tank getting ready to crush it

Opening presentation for Magic the Gathering at the Paramount Theater

Gamers experience interactive "smell" technology for the new South Park game

One of the biggest displays at PAX, this giant dinosaur

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