Bumbershoot isn’t the only outrageously huge entertainment event happening in Seattle this weekend.
The annual PAX Prime game conference will be filling the convention center to capacity starting Friday, with perhaps 85,000 gamers making the pilgrimage on the last long weekend of the summer. It’s now nearly as big as Bumbershoot, which draws about 100,000 to Seattle Center.
Tickets to PAX went on sale April 17 and sold out in six hours, with some buyers waiting more than two hours on online queues. Organizers believe there’s demand for up to 150,000 attendees, but there’s only so much space available.
PAX has become an industry mecca since it was started by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, the Seattle-based creators of the online Penny Arcade comic. The name is short for Penny Arcade Expo.
The show was such a success, it spawned sister events in Boston and Australia, plus a game-developer event taking place this week in Seattle. But Seattle remains the biggest PAX of them all, according to Lance Fensterman, vice president of ReedPop, an event organizer that has run the show since 2009.
“It will be the largest PAX we’ve ever had,” he said. “We’ll start to spill out in the city a little bit more.”
In addition to filling “every corner of the Washington State Convention Center,” the show has spread to the Paramount Theatre, Benaroya Hall and several nearby hotels.
“It’s moving like a virus across the city,” Fensterman said.
In addition to providing a wide open bazaar for people to explore and play video and tabletop games and catch a few live music shows, the event is also a marketing extravaganza. About 150 exhibitors are using PAX to showcase and announce upcoming releases and build buzz for current and upcoming games.
Microsoft and Sony will use the event to showcase the upcoming Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Sony is showcasing PS4 games, including its Seattle-based “inFamous: Second Son,” and working with Amazon.com to take pre-orders on the show floor.
In addition to running 60 Xbox gaming stations at PAX, Microsoft and sponsor Virgin Gaming are using Benaroya Hall to host the finale of a “Halo 4” championship with a $200,000 grand prize. Microsoft is also hosting a pre-show meetup for Xbox fans — with demos of the Xbox One — Thursday night at its University Village store.
Nintendo will provide the first U.S. opportunity for people to play the upcoming “Pokémon X” and “Pokémon Y” games. ArenaNet is hosting a “GuildWars 2″ fan event at the Renaissance Hotel ballroom. And Ubisoft will provide T-shirts and other swag to people pre-ordering its new “Assassin’s Creed” game and other titles at PAX.
Depending on your perspective, it’s one of the best weekends of the year in Seattle, or one of the best to leave town.