PAX South was a strange event, not because of the eccentric cosplay on display in the Henry B. Gonzalez Center. Instead, PAX South seemed to be an event where everybody was waiting on something big to happen.
Penny Arcade Expos, like PAX East in Boston and PAX Prime in Seattle, typically pack more virtual punch than the inaugural PAX South. There weren’t many notable game reveals or world premiere game demos to be had. It felt far closer to San Japan than the jaw-dropping PAX events seen in recent years. There weren’t many major publishers in attendance, a sign that the gaming industry as a whole was taking a wait and see approach to see if the convention would get enough buzz to justify their presence next year.
Due to the absence of major publishers, local game developers from across Texas were able to stand-out from the crowd, something that the presence of Ubisoft, Sony, Warner Bros and Microsoft would have stamped out.
Will Statecny, creator of San Antonio’s own Topwise Games, began selling his action-card game, “Monkeys Need Love Too,” at the event. With less competition from big-name game publishers, Statecny’s small company stood to gain tremendous exposure for their Kickstarter funded (to the tune of $14,000) game.
“Being in San Antonio helps a lot, my expenses aren’t so big,” Statecny said, indicating that PAX South coming to San Antonio was a blessing for the company.
Melissa Gaber, co-founder of Austin’s Escape Hatch Entertainment along with her husband, Garry Gaber, also reaped the rewards of PAX being in South Texas. They drove down from Austin to demo their upcoming PC strategy game, Starlight Tactics.
“We packed the car and drove down here,” Melissa told me. “We’re honored to be here, to be able to cut our teeth here at PAX. Several players today have told us that our game was the best game they had never heard about.”
Austin-based game publisher, Devolver Digital, participated in the “Six Secrets for Startup Success in the Indie Golden Age” panel. Co-founder Harry Miller advised aspiring game makers in the audience to “stay as lean as possible,” and to, “lower your overheads.” Not one to bum out a crowd with talk about financial constraints, Miller would brighten the mood by encouraging the idea of getting into game development.
“We are in an age of indie development. We can bring gaming to a much broader populace,” Miller said. “Cheap engines make it so people who would have never imagined making game can do so for one hundred dollars or for free.”
Austin, Dallas and Houston have seen a spike in game development start-ups in the past decade, so will San Antonio be the next Texas city to receive an influx of game studios? Melissa Gaber thinks so.
“Lots of game developers move to Austin and eventually branch out. As they branch out they move. Eventually [developers moving to San Antonio] will happen. The cool thing about video games is anyone can do it.”