At PAX South on Friday in San Antonio, Penny Arcade creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik announced PAX Unplugged, a new convention focused purely on tabletop gaming that will take place Nov. 17-19 this year in Philadelphia.
PAX Unplugged will be Seattle-based Penny Arcade’s sixth convention, and their first not to feature video games.
Why create a whole show just to focus on tabletop gaming? “There was already another convention inside PAX that was bursting at the seams,” Holkins told GeekWire in an interview. “No matter how much space we added, it filled up.”
There’s also a somewhat selfish motivation, similar to the genesis of the original PAX in 2004. “I’ve tried unsuccessfully my whole life to make it to one of these (other tabletop) conventions,” Holkins confessed. “This will be my first chance to attend a convention like this.”
The formula for PAX Unplugged is pretty much identical to previous PAX conventions: An expo hall with new and upcoming games, “game-inspired music concerts” in the evenings, and loads of tournaments and panels throughout the weekend.
The addition of PAX Unplugged to the PAX lineup does not mean that board games and tabletop gaming will be removed or downplayed at the rest of the PAX shows. “We will continue to have tabletop games at every PAX,” assured Holkins, “but Unplugged will focus on stepping away from the TV, monitor and phone to foster face-to-face multiplayer experiences.”
The third weekend in November has become a very crowded weekend for fans of board games. Both BGG.CON in Dallas and the Chicago Toy & Game Fair take place over the same weekend. Having so many choices spread around the country is great for gamers, but could be stressful for game creators as they try to decide which shows to spend their limited resources on.
PAX organizers are not too concerned about conventions with overlapping schedules. “They are all so far apart from each other, there’s room for everyone to do well,” said Holkins. Given each convention’s limited reach, he even expressed an interest in possible cross-promotion, citing similar moves PAX made when the debut PAX South in 2015 overlapped with MAGFest, a large music and gaming festival in Maryland.
Penny Arcade Director of Events Ryan Hartman explained why this newest PAX will be held in Philadelphia, telling GeekWire that the PAX team “scouted lots of venues and locations, and many variables come into play. We spoke to exhibitors and fans, indications pointed toward the Northeast as a good home thanks to the close proximity of eight major metro areas.” Of course it also doesn’t hurt that Hartman is originally from Philadelphia. “I’m super excited to be able to go home back to Philly,” he admitted.
Attendees and exhibitors should expect PAX Unplugged to feel very similar to other PAX events. “It will be more focused, drilling down one level deeper,” Hartman said, “but it’s still going to have the same vibe, the same culture.”
Tickets go on sale in a few months. For more information you can visit the official PAX Unplugged website and sign up to be notified of future announcements.