Surviving & thriving @ PAX Unplugged
Updated: Jan 11
The Pirates Dragons Treasure crew just wrapped up a successful weekend at #PAXUnplugged in Philadelphia, PA. It was our first go at it, and we got a lot of things right, and a few things, well, wrong. In this post, we'll outline 8 things we learned and wish we knew as new exhibitors heading into preparation for PAX Unplugged.
1 - Get extra badges with your exhibitor space
When you sign up as a PAXU exhibitor, your booth comes with three passes. You pay the same price for additional badges as the weekend pass (~$35), BUT you get these as exhibitor badges, not normal passes. These badges allow for easier access to the expo floor at different times and additional street cred.
2 - Move in on the first move-in day
Getting there early, two days before the con feels excessive, but it makes move-in an absolute breeze. You'll be able to quickly get your vehicle onto the show floor, and unload and set up in peace. We were able to set up in about 25% of the normal time by arriving on Wednesday instead of Thursday this year.
3 - Bring a chair
This seems like a no-brainer, but we literally didn't think to bring one and had to stand for 8 hours+, three days in a row. Consider the height of the tables in your booth, and bring at least one chair or stool for your team members to rest their feet from time to time.
4 - The dream team size is 4 people
We found this would be the magic number. It allows a couple of team members to get lunch, explore the con, and run errands, without other folks being stuck at the booth too long. We found that two people were needed in the booth at any given time, one to facilitate demos, and the other to handle checking out customers. With four people in the booth, someone is always getting a break and the team's spirits and energy will remain high.
5 - If you have a game, have a demo table
We (unwisely) hadn't originally planned to demo the game at PAXU this year. In the first hour of the first day, it was clear just about everyone was demoing and customers expected it. It's an amazing opportunity to see your product in the wild. You'll never have a more concentrated, perfectly segmented audience at your disposal. Take advantage and watch your customers using your product firsthand!
6 - Be ready to accept cash and credit cards
If you plan on selling products while at PAXU, make sure you can accept credit cards, and be able to make change for cash transactions. We saw about 90% of our sales go through credit cards and the other 10% were cash. We came prepared to accept Venmo and Paypal as well but didn't have a single buyer looking to use these methods of payment.
7 - Merch, a nice bonus, not a necessity
We like to think we have a pretty cool logo and so we expected to be able to move a fair amount of hoodies and t-shirts at the con. We did move a few dozen, but mostly as incentives and upsells to our core game/product offering. The merch we carried (shirts, hoodies, hats, flags, art prints) ended up being a great bonus to wow our customers but didn't create a meaningful revenue stream in itself. Don't blow your budget on merch and additional swag before the con -- you're better off using those funds for additional booth materials or core product inventory.
8 - Make time to enjoy the con!
It's easy to get caught in the booth working the whole time. Make sure to build in time to travel the floor, grab lunch, and take a break for all the members of your team. You'll learn so much from the show floor, and get tons of ideas for future booth setups. You'll meet great people with lots of experience to learn from, and you can even grab a new game you didn't know you wanted.
PAX Unplugged is an amazing experience if you're a game developer and we highly recommend making the effort to attend. The info above is based on our experience at PAXU in 2022. It's possible that future years guidelines and structure change the impact these insights can have. We hope they're useful to you in your first PAXU if you decide to join us at the con someday. If you do, stop by the Pirates Dragons Treasure booth! We'd love to meet you and hear how your con is going.