Boston shows PAX East some love, secures long-term deal

I’ve been covering and attending the Penny Arcade Expo, better known as PAX, since it was a humble curiosity at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center back in 2004, started by the guys from the Seattle-based Penny Arcade webcomic.

Since then it has grown into one of the biggest events on the video-game calendar, regularly drawing more than 70,000 people to the Washington State Convention & Trade Center.

And yet I’ve always been surprised that Seattle-area economic development officials haven’t been more vocal or proactive in their support of this homegrown gem. No, the economic multiplier per gamer probably isn’t on the level of individual spending by business conventioneers, but it’s a signature event for the region that cements Seattle’s place in the center of the video-game world.

A small part of the gigantic crowd at PAX Prime 2011 in downtown Seattle. (Annie Laurie Malarkey photo)

That contrast was driven home this week as the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority announced a 10-year deal for PAX East, the Boston-based spinoff of the original Seattle event (which is now known as PAX Prime.) As part of the deal, PAX East will contribute $25,000 a year to the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute.

They’re planning to grow PAX East attendance to 100,000.

“We’re thrilled to host PAX East for at least 10 more years,” said James Rooney, executive director of the MCCA, in a news release. “Hosting an event for the next decade that draws gamers from around the globe to Boston is fantastic, but the international attention it brings to the incredible technological advancements coming out of the Commonwealth is a win‐win.”

Also check out the video above, which they put together to celebrate the deal.

So where’s the love, Seattle?

I reached out to Robert Khoo, the Penny Arcade president of operations and business development, and shared my observations on the contrasting Seattle and Boston approaches. Is there a risk of them taking PAX Prime to another town?

“We’ve looked at doing PAX elsewhere, but honestly, it would be really hard for us to leave Seattle, especially since it’s our home turf,” he wrote back. “That said, does Boston put more effort in keeping our business in Boston? Yes. Absolutely. But we still love Seattle.”

PAX Gallery: The Characters of Penny Arcade Expo 2011

(Thanks to Isaac Alexander for pointing out the Boston deal.)