Don’t be overly alarmed if you see suspicious characters milling around the convention center in downtown Seattle this weekend.
Some 30,000 gamers are expected for Penny Arcade Expo, an exhibition and playfest running Friday through Sunday.
The annual event was started in 2004 by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, Seattle based creators of the online Penny Arcade comic.
Unlike most industry shows, this one’s open to anyone interested enough to pay $30 a day and battle huge crowds for a chance to see and try the latest video, PC and tabletop games.
It’s also a schmoozefest, since so many big game companies are located in the Seattle area.
That will spill into PAX parties that game companies are holding around town. The most decadent may be a World War III theme bash with “authentic military machinery and weaponry” that Vivendi’s hosting to launch its new PC action game “World in Conflict.”
Here’s a sample of launches, unveilings and other PAX-related announcements:
— Among other demos, Nintendo will provide hands-on play of its upcoming “Metroid Prime 3”: “Corruption for the Wii and Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass” for the DS.
— Seattle’s Flying Lab Software will provide hands-on play of “Pirates of the Burning Sea,” its upcoming multiplayer online game.
— PAX hosts Krahulik and Holkins will show off “Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode One,” a game they’re developing with Vancouver’s Hothead Games.
— Wizards of the Coast will be talking up its digital ventures, including its Gleemax social networking site, “Magic Online” and “MapleStory.”
— Seattle’s WizKids will be previewing its new “Halo ActionClix” tabletop game, including “Halo 3” content.
— Sony will show the latest version of “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune,” a cinematic adventure game its releasing this fall.
— Games for Health, an organization promoting healthful aspects of video games, is hosting a mini-conference tied to PAX on Thursday in Seattle. Health researchers, game producers and others will discuss games with health benefits such as “Dance Dance Revolution.”
— In one of the larger booths, the U.S. Army will give the first hands-on demo of its upcoming “America’s Army: True Soldiers” game for the Xbox 360. It’s also hosting an America’s Army LAN game in its booth, and bringing Silver Star recipient and game consultant Sgt. Tommy Rieman.
— Gamecock will show its upcoming “FURY” for the PC, “Dementium” for the DS and “Insecticide” for the PC and DS.
— D3Publisher will be offering previews and play of “Dark Sector” for the PS3 and Xbox 360, “Dead Head Fred” for the PSP and Wii titles “Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution” and “Dragon Blad: Wrath of Fire.”
— Even old-school arcade games will be on display, such as Betson Enterprises’ “Fast and the Furious: Drift” and “Big Buck Hunter Pro.”