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PAX West 2016 Omegathon Finale - Jerry Holkins third from left
Penny Arcade co-founder Jerry Holkins, third from left at the 2016 PAX West Omegathon Finale, looking at Penny Arcade co-founder Mike Krahulik at right. (Penny Arcade Photo)

Penny Arcade co-founder Jerry Holkins sat down with GeekWire this weekend at the PAX West game convention to discuss the past, present, and future of Penny Arcade, as well as what he’s into lately.

Holkins is the writer behind the popular Penny Arcade webcomic that spawned a media and events empire, including the Penny Arcade Expo gaming conventions, better known as PAX. The original Seattle-area PAX, now dubbed PAX West, continues to attract a sold-out crowd of enthusiastic gamers to the Washington State Convention Center and other downtown Seattle venues over four days.

Speaking with Holkins at the event this weekend, the first question on our minds was about future expansion of PAX. There have already been two big announcements on that front this year: The addition of the tabletop-only convention PAX Unplugged and Friday’s news that PAX East, held in the spring in Boston, will be expanding to four days in 2018.

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So should we expect even more PAX events in the future? Probably not. “I am a finite person,” confessed Holkins.

An official PAX wouldn’t be quite the same without Holkins and his Penny Arcade co-founder Mike Krahulik. Holkins explained that future additions to the PAX event lineup will probably be limited to the “Powered by PAX” events, which kick off with GC Play in China next year.

Getting back to this year’s PAX, Holkins shared that his favorite part of the show is the Indie Megabooth. “You can spend all day in there,” he said. “No other part of PAX is as dense.”

Outside of PAX, Penny Arcade is just wrapping up their latest project, a live-action web series based on a story Jerry and Mike put on the site in 2009. They just delivered the finished project to the 5,000+ backers that pledged over $473,000 on Kickstarter in 2015, and are now working out how to distribute the series to everyone else. There aren’t any specific plans for this yet, and due to the complex streaming landscape, it may take a while to work something out. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube, Vimeo… “It is chaos,” Holkins lamented.

Holkins also spent some time talking about his favorite types of media to produce, and lessons he has learned over the nearly two decades that Penny Arcade has grown from two guys writing a webcomic to a major international player in gaming. Along the way he and Krahulik have worked on a huge variety of projects, including board games, web series, podcasts, and video games, to varying degrees of success.

“Failure is useful,” advised Holkins. “You learn by committing and doing, whether you succeed or not.”

In addition to launching a brand new tabletop convention in November and maintaining all their ongoing podcasts and other projects, Holkins revealed that Penny Arcade has at least three unrevealed projects they are currently working on that “will happen.”

Lines quickly formed to try out Nintendo Switch titles at PAX West 2017. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy)

Of course, the interview wouldn’t be complete without discussing some actual games, so we asked Holkins what he’s playing right now. Currently his most-played game is Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle on the Nintendo Switch. In fact, Nintendo Switch is his favorite console overall right now. Once we started talking about the Switch, he raved about it for at least a solid ten minutes, including a lengthy monologue about how perfect the system is for his 7-year-old daughter and her friends.

Holkins admitted that eventually he’ll get too old to keep up such an intense pace of media creation and convention curation, but he wouldn’t say how soon he thinks that might happen. Hopefully PAX and Penny Arcade will be satisfying their fans for many more great years to come.

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