PAX East from the eyes of the consumer

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Back from Pax East, a behemoth of a con considering it's organizers. Besides a vast presence of developers (lots of indie and some major), booths demoing the latest and greatest titles, there were plenty of retailers on-site prepared to bait and hook attendees as they walked past. Corporate giants like Microsoft took advantage of their broad target audience by showcasing their newest Outlook, specifically designed for Windows 8. Lovers of table top games were tempted with stunning, high quality wooden table tops distributed by Geek Chic. For retailers, Pax East seemed to be just the place for gold mining but were the mountains of consumers prepared to surrender the gold? 

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According to Thinkgeek, it seems that Pax East attendees were prepared to do just that.

"We are throwing out cardboard boxes aplenty. We are already out of some merchandise"

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Despite the devastating economy, retailers particularly those that cater to a niche market (*hint* *hint*), are still in business. All the while, video game studios are throwing in the towel, losing both funding as well as fan support. On my way to the convention, I couldn't help but notice some unfortunate locals holding signs up in 40 degree weather. One particular sign read, "I'm a single mother of two daughters...", the message ending on a beggar's note. Instantly, Pax East attendees came to mind, myself included. Inside the con, a $15,000 table top awaits one wealthy gamer or one die-hard table top player that has it (a savings plan) all figured out.

Now that "Gaming" is categorized as a general interest, no longer a special hobby, Corporations are quickly joining the fray in hopes to gain fresh profits by introducing new "Gamer" themed product lines. Turtle Beach had this to say on the topic:

"We launched the first gaming headset category...when people come into the gaming headset category, we're like, "Oh! Come play in the sandbox that we built!""

Plenty of  high-end and low-end headsets were available for purchase at the Turtle Beach booth, prices ranging from $79.95 to $279.95 (lower end sets are available on the website). Confident of their firm grasp on the gaming market, claiming a current market share of about 53%, the manufacturer seemed unaffected by contenders who were stationed nearby. Sennheiser (who analyzed it's competitor's products at the Turtle Beach booth), Gunnar Optiks and Skullcandy also featured their latest headsets hoping to nab a piece of the market share. For consumers, this made shopping for a solid handset much easier since multiple manufacturers were available for show and tell.

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Unusual products like Rohto's eye drops that relieves redness of the eyes with a  cooling (burning) kick found it's place at the convention. They handed samples generously to passersby hoping to hook in gamers who spend way too many hours staring at their screen. Even religion found a place at the con this year with the presence of GameChurch's booth who's presskit came packaged in a wooden cross necklace. Their cleverly captioned and tastefully designed tee-shirts were difficult to ignore. Asus showcased their newest tablet which packed one massive punch as Super Street Fighter IV, configured for coin-op play via tournament joysticks, ran smoothly via the device's dual display. Under the con's spell, you'd feel it necessary to own many of the items there. Yet, is the consumer in need or is it the product that beckons to be owned? 

Nvidia's Shield showed off it's Android support by featuring games like The Conduit, which is currently free to play in the Google Play store, while sharing it's booth with developer High Voltage who is now developing original IPs specifically for the Android market. Both company's, one of which showcased it's hardware and the other it's software, transparently washed each other's backs so to speak by collectively promoting their wares capable of success individually or conjointly within the same space. Their tag team strategy was a smart move, one that possibly helped better their chances at winning over some consumers during an extremely competitive season which stood on unpredictable foundation. They need us just as much as we need them. 

For gamers, Pax East is a place filled with glorious presentations, innovative products, fresh content, hands-on demos (if available), developer insights and fantastic panels. However, one shouldn't forget that as a "Gamer", you are automatically categorized as a "Consumer". When making your purchase, bear in mind this fact: You were targeted. In the same light, remember why.  You have the power to make or break, shift or bend the purpose of entities hungry for wealth or attention, whether it be for the best or worst intentions. With that said, Conventions/Expos are a consumer's playground so game on!

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Ashley Alfaro
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