PAX West, the video game convention that brings tens of thousands of gaming fans to Seattle every summer, opened Friday morning with subtle signs of heightened security but no less enthusiasm from the crowds eager to get their hands on what’s next in video games.
Uniformed security personnel were more noticeable on the show floor at the Washington State Convention Center, alongside the traditional PAX “enforcer” guides, as were signs encouraging attendees to report unusual activity. A deadly shooting last weekend at an esports tournament in Jacksonville, Fla., prompted PAX organizer Reed Exhibitions to issue a statement addressing its security protocols.
“We have in place extensive proactive measures; some that are visible during PAX events and many that are not,” the company said in a statement. “We are always working to improve our security plans and, if need be, adjust them, to ensure that we are doing all that we can to make PAX West, and all PAX events, a safe and secure environment for the community.”
Organizers opened the exhibit hall 10 minutes early to accommodate what they described as overflow crowds outside, but the initial observation from GeekWire’s veteran PAX attendees was that the show floor didn’t seem nearly as full with exhibitors or attendees as in years past.
The biggest crowds during a media preview were at the Nintendo booth, waiting to play games including the upcoming “Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!” and “Super Mario Party” for the Nintendo Switch.
Facebook Games had a significantly larger presence than in years past, with a portion of its booth dedicated to games on its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
Virtual reality, game streaming and the blockbuster game Fortnite are big themes at the show this year. Amazon’s Twitch has a large booth, as does Microsoft’s Mixer streaming service. An entire section of the event is dedicated to virtual reality.
PAX West, previously known as PAX Prime, runs through Monday with panels, tournaments, concerts and many other activities. Limited tickets are available for the last day of the event, which is unusual at the typically sold-out event.
More than 70,000 people have traditionally attended the event in years past. PAX began in 2004 in Bellevue, Wash., as the Penny Arcade Expo, created by the company behind the Seattle-based Penny Arcade video-game webcomic. It has since expanded with PAX events held globally.