How to plan your game convention booth – PAX East

So, last week we got back from Boston tired but happy! This is the third year Zoink has visited PAX East, and we’ve learned a lot on the way. In this post, I’m gonna share our thoughts on how to make the best use of this rather cramped space!

To plan the perfect booth is a challenge, and we’re still not quite there ourselves. But we believe we are getting better each year, learning on the job and getting inspired by booth designs we see online and when visiting conventions (take photos of designs you like, it comes handy when trying to decide on your own setup later!).

So, let’s dive into this. Below you can see our booth from 2016, showing Zombie Vikings, and 2017, showing Flipping Death.

2016 vs 2017

Quite the difference, huh? Our 2016 booth worked fine and did it’s job, but we really wanted to crank it up a notch this year, and I believe we succeeded in that.

What we improved:

  • Better backdrop This year, instead of a fabric backdrop hanging from the wall, we bought a flex wall in vinyl (measuring 290x225cm). It was great. It’s easy to assemble, comes in a neat bag and doesn’t get wrinkly. We made sure we got one that was opaque so that the colors would really pop.
  • Focus on the game We also changed the Zoink roll-up for a Flipping Death one. This really helped tie the booth together! Our logo was still there as well, but on the bottom of the wall and roll-up and on the flyers we handed out.
  • Easier to spot A big chunk of our budget went to buying two tall TV stands, but boy did that turn out to be a great decision. We mounted two 40″ tv’s at 84″ (a little more than 2 meters) height. These screens mirrored the big 50″ tv and this way people could watch the game even if there was a crowd in the booth.
  • Multiple ways to play Since Flipping Death is being released for Nintendo Switch, we had the option of showing the game in handheld mode. So we had three game stations in the booth – the big screen one (PS4) and two Switch consoles. A lot of people actually tried the game just because they wanted to hold a Switch and then really enjoyed the game – win win situation!
  • Better profile clothing This year, in addition to our Flipping Death t-shirts, we wore hoodies with the Zoink logo printed on the back. This made sure people knew who we’re working in the booth!
  • More Zoink staff Last year, we were one person from Zoink and two awesome helpers. This year, we reversed that to be able to better cater to the press.
  • From the creators of  Since our first big title Stick It to The Man was a PS+ game, a lot of people played it! It also has great reviews and shares a lot of similarities with Flipping Death, so it just made sense to print a sign letting people know that both games are made by us.
  • Printed beforehand Last time we printed our flyers in Boston, and they didn’t turn out well. This year we printed everything at home in Gothenburg (using a company we’ve worked with before) and brought them with us in an extra bag on the plane.

After the first day we hung Switch signs from the TV to draw people.

What could be better?

  • Double sided roll-up Double sides, double exposure! If people arrived from a certain aisle they couldn’t see what gamed we showed before passing the booth.
  • More lightning We used two small spotlights, but it wasn’t enough to really light up the booth.
  • Usable giveaways Pins, keychains, coasters, lanyards… This year we brought standees, but next time we’ll try to buy giveaways that can be used in some way, to make sure they serve as a reminder of the game.
  • Think about the signs  We had to rush to the Feddex center upstairs to print some Nintendo Switch signs when we realized that people (of course) was very drawn to Switch titles (it being so new and all). We also had to do this with some controller guides we forgot to print at home. This took unnecessarily much time. Time we could’ve spent talking to people in the booth.
  • Happenings A lot of booths held contests, had a photo prop or arranged other events. It looked like a great way to draw a bigger crowd and getting noticed (and having pics of your booth shared on social media).
  • Giveaway table Our giveaways and flyers were placed in front of the TV. That meant you had to go in front of the people playing to reach them, which people were hesitant to do. A small side table for this purpose would’ve been great.

We won a prize!

Other stuff

  • Put this baby on the corner We really like having a corner booth! That way, people can see you from multiple directions and enter the booth from two aisles. It also gives you a little bit more space, since you don’t have walls taking up room on three sides.
  • Neighbors are important This might be out of your control, but the booths surrounding yours can make a lot of difference. One of our next door neighbors had quite a big booth that didn’t draw a lot of people. Because of that, people weren’t drawn down our aisle.
  • Buy and return Something we’ve realized (being Swedes and not used to it) is that it’s super common to “borrow” stuff from Best Buy when doing conventions in the US. So we bought tv’s, made sure we didn’t scratch them and then returned them to the store. Since it’s super expensive to rent stuff from the convention center, this saved us a lot of money.
  • Deliver to a friend It can be quite expensive having things sent directly to the convention. If possible, send stuff to someone living in the area or the place your staying instead.

Booth costs

Here comes a breakdown of the cost for the booth. Of course, we had other costs as well (flight, etc) but since that differs so much depending on where you’re situated, I’ll focus on costs directly connected to the booth. As previously stated, the stands was a big investment. Good thing is, we can use them again next year, so we can have just as nice a booth for less money!

Booth (10″x10″) 1700
TV stands 900
Flex Wall 400
Roll-up 75
Electricity 105
Booth signs 136
Giveaways 694
Total 4010 (USD)

Final thoughts

Going to conventions like these will cost money. It might be less or more than we spent, but for an indie dev it’s quite the investment either way. So if you’re gonna have a booth, make sure it looks nice and makes it easy for people to come in and play! It should draw people’s attention, feel inviting and also be special enough for people to remember you when the weekend is over. Also, try to plan quite far ahead since stuff you order might take longer to be delivered than planned (this happened to us and was super stressful).

I hope this post was useful to you! If you have any questions about booths, PAX or anything at all really – just post them in the comments below!

Cheers,
Alexandra Dahlberg
Community Manager
@thatsgreatalex