viernes, 13 de mayo de 2016

A Brief PAX East 2016 Post-mortem

Hi folks!

As many of you probably know, we were presenting our game Breaking Fast during PAX East 2016. It has been the first time that we have attended this event, and it has been actually the first time that we have shown Breaking Fast in any game event and in front of such a huge game audience. Without further ado, I am going to summarize our experience during PAX.

Pre-PAX story

Back in the end of February, we were considering whether it would be feasible to attend this event. By that time, the game was in a very raw state, but we did want to take advantage of any opportunity to promote the game, so I filled out the contact form that was available on the PAX website, 'just in case', I told to myself. Some time later, a PAX sales manager contacted us via e-mail to request more information about the game. We sent him what we had at that time: a brief description of the game, a link to our website, and a video where the game was succinctly introduced, shown below.

Some time later, he responded that the game seemed really fun, and he encouraged us to contact him again when we had something more solid. In an outburst of optimism, we told him that we would reach out to him again in two weeks with a playable demo of the game. Of course, we understimated the effort that this goal would entail.

After a month of intense work, by the beginning of April, we had the demo and we had recorded some new gameplay videos in which some friends were playing the game. We had lost our hope to attend PAX because the event would take place in just three weeks. Since I wanted to keep the contact with the sales manager, and also with a view to have some chance for next year, we sent him the demo and the new gameplay video. A big surprise arrived in the form of a reply to our e-mail: "Awesome! I have a 10x10 available at East for you guys if you’re still interested in exhibiting. I know the show is coming up fast.".

At that point, we were a bit in shock, because we really had lost all hope to attend the event, and now we had to decide quickly whether we wanted to make a sudden moderately high investment. Of course, as you may have followed our tweets and Facebook posts, you know that we took the offer.

In two weeks, we had to make all the arrangements. Fortunately, flying to Boston is not too expensive (not at least as expensive as New York), and we found a good offer for a really nice hotel, which turned out to be excellent. However, we still needed to make lots of preparations for the event, including all the material that we would be taking: tee-shirts, posters, x-banner, business cards, flyers, and plenty of electronic devices that we could not afford hiring there. As you can guess, our luggage was kind of heavy...

As part of the registration in PAX, we received a huge list with press contacts that would attend the event. We attempted to reach as many as these contacts as we could, although we knew that it would be difficult to make appointments with such a short antipication. In fact, we only received around 8 replies to the burst of e-mails that we sent.

And of course, and more importantly, we needed to polish the game and we wanted to add more characters. Actually, Manuela (the artist) sketched and designed the bacon during our flight connection in London, and it was the most popular among all the characters!

Bacon, the popular!

During PAX

For those of you who have had the chance to attend PAX, you surely know that it comprises a huge expo floor. We were really amazed while admiring the stands that big companies were setting up upon our arrival. 

Survival of the Fittest featured an awesom T-rex that people could ride for a nice picture. 
When there is budget...

The set-up of the booth was smooth, except for an unfortunate setback: we had taken three PC screens with the idea of using one of them for looping a teaser of the game, and the other two for playing. However, one of the PC screens had apparently suffered a stroke during the flight and was broken. I was a bit irritated, but fortunately, we realized this on Thursday evening, not too late, and we had some time to buy a new one, which was cheaper than it is here in Spain, and which was better; every cloud has a silver lining.

Breaking Fast Teaser

Our general experience during PAX was great, with lots of people willing to play our game and to rate it as "very fun" or "addictive". Some of them were certain that the game would be a hit and were disappointed to know that the game was not available yet. We collected as many e-mails of potentially interested buyers as we could.

There is an important issue that we overlooked at first but that we fortunately corrected soon: the booth distribution. On the first day, Friday, the booth was organized with the table perpendicular to the surface, as you can see below.

Original booth distribution

This seemingly normal distribution turned out to be a psychological barrier for many people who were curious about the game but were reluctant to "come into" the booth to try it. Changing the distribution in such a way that the game was available to any passer-by made a big impact: even when on Friday lots of people played the game, on Saturday and Sunday (days on which we had already changed the distribution) there were peak moments with people linining up to play and watching how others played. This was an important lesson for us: make as easy as possible for players to play your game; don't assume that people who want to play the game will actually do it if they have to engage in a close relationship or a conversation.

Changed distribution: passers-by could play directly the game without entering the booth

As a final note to my PAX experience, I want to boast about something: I could introduce myself and talk a little bit with Ron Gilbert, the creator of a masterpiece known as Monkey Island. He was there presenting his own game called Thimbleweed Park, which is really promising, especially for those lovers of old-school adventure games.

Post-PAX, now what?

Watching hundreds of people playing your game provides an invaluable feedback and you get a good sense of what people like the most and the least. We intend to release the game by the end of summer, and therefore we still have time to improve over the weaker points of the game and to polish the stronger ones.

There are other events coming up and we plan to present the game there; these events include Retromiranda Baydevs, Mallorca Game, and Gamepolis, although we do not discard attending other international events. In the end, we are just seeking the biggest possible feedback as well as to raise awareness of the game so that potentially interested people learn about it before the release.

If you have any specific question about our experience in PAX, do not hesitate to leave a comment.

Thanks for reading and see you!

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