Reflections from PAX East 2016

By Jodie Huang, Senior Associate, Insights, Mindshare NA

When you first enter the Boston Convention Center, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of PAX East. It was difficult to know what to focus on first – from the former NBA players to the music stars to a life size T-Rex to the giant inflatable Pikachu and more. And on top of that, there were thousands of cosplayers, ranging along the spectrum of effort, from lazy costumes to lifelike, intricate designs.

But once you’ve become acclimated, the great thing about PAX is that there’s something for everyone (as long as that something is gaming). Tens of thousands of fans waited in lines for hours just to try out the newest games and tech from the industry’s heavy hitters (PlayStation, Microsoft, Blizzard, Twitch, Oculus, etc.), but PAX had also set up areas for indie game developers, board games, and even an area for people to bring their own computers and play with other attendees. The panels, talks, and tournaments helped ensure that this was a complete gaming expo and not just another place for companies to push their newest products.

Here’s some of what we took away from PAX:

This community is very diverse. The crowd ran the gamut; every gender, race, and age group was well-represented. There was even a booth for military veterans in gaming. The one commonality is that everyone was here because of their love for gaming.

Given that wide-ranging diversity, companies will fail if they use old stereotypes to shoehorn these vastly different people. It’s also a mistake to lump everyone into one gaming target; each game, platform, and genre garners their own unique group of fans.  Companies have to understand these nuances in order to connect with them.

Gamers want brands who are authentically integrated into this community – they can easily spot those who are disingenuous and just there to push their products without understanding this audience. Brands have earn their trust slowly before they are accepted in.