PAX Australia 2013 Reflection

For those of you who weren’t aware, PAX came to Australia in 2013. Specifically to Melbourne. It was the first time such an event had been held in Australia. While we have events like EB Expo, it’s not the same scope or reputation as PAX. For the local industry, it was a fairly big deal that PAX was coming to Australia – it would give Aussie developers a chance to take part in a big event that gets lots of media coverage.

The expo itself was fantastic. The indie section is the best that we’d ever seen, attendance was good and we got to showcase our game to plenty of people. It did have its share of issues – for instance, the facilities left a bit to be desired, but that wasn’t unexpected due to the venue it was held at. While there was a bit of miscommunication during the organisation of the event, overall it was pretty successful and well run.
For Pub Games, this expo was something a bit special. We’re not strangers to exhibiting at all – we’ve been to both PAX events in the USA, as well as GDC and EB Expo. But not only was it being held in our home state, not 25 minutes from our office, but it was the first time that we got to showcase a released title. This meant that we could get far more information on the impact and success of the event in regards to download numbers, social media “likes” and website hits.

I’d like to mention that the Crabitron did a short analysis of how their sales changed during PAX. You can check it out on their website. In short, they did have a spike in sales during PAX weekend, as well as a decent increase in their rank on the App Store.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for BlastPoints. Our new installs per day during PAX pretty much stayed the same. Our social media “Likes” only increased when we ran a competition to win a MOGA Controller.
It is a fairly small sample size – one event, covered mostly by local media in a location that was awfully hard to try to get people to download the game on the spot. On reflection, we did some things wrong:

  • We didn’t make it obvious that the game was free-to-play;
  • Our signage with the Google Play and App Store logos was designed poorly in that the icons weren’t even visible due to monitors and a TV on our table;
  • We didn’t have a flyer or card with information about the game.

These aren’t things that had really occured to us in the past because the game had never been released at any other stage, and they’re definitely things that we will be keeping in mind for the future. Its the first time any of us had shown a released product at an expo.

So what does this really mean?

Its difficult to say much based on just these numbers. The first question is “What do you aim to get from your marketing dollar?”. Companies such as Riot Games and Wargaming invested big amounts of money in their booths and swag at PAX Australia, and one suspects they wouldn’t recoup that money in direct sales in the week after the event. What it does get them is exposure in the media. From interviews to their booth being in photos shared across social media, its all about exposure rather than a direct return in sales and download numbers. PAX got us a few interviews with various media outlets, helped us further build relationships with companies and, most importantly, strengthen the Pub Games brand.

The second question is “Should you still attend these expos if you don’t make back what you spend?”. The answer to that question is absolutely – no direct spike in numbers doesn’t mean we cut our losses and stop attending exhibits. This information is just another tool for us to use in the future on how we can do better. We can now ask ourselves how we can try to get more people to get the game on the spot, and how we can better promote our game and the company. Crabitron got a spike by discounting their game to 99c. Other companies often give away vouchers for free in-game items. These are steps we can look at taking for future events to help get a better bang for our buck.

One of the best aspects about PAX is that it was the first time I’d helped exhibit a game at an expo. I can tell you for sure that I definitely did not expect it to be as tiring as it was. By the end of the first day, I’d lost my voice. By the end of the second day I was definitely sick and ended up taking the third day off. But its something thats a great experience – having people walk past and take an interest in what you’ve crafted. Having people genuinely interested in your story, how the game came about and where you plan to take it. In the end, as a developer, you want to see people enjoying what you’ve made. And while it was an exhausting experience, I’m genuinely excited about the next opportunity that we get to showcase what Pub Games is about.

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