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Penny Arcade Expo 2008: 58,500 attendees

Penny Arcade Expo 2008 is now history and Big Download has learned exclusively that the fifth annual fan-oriented games convention brought in a whopping 58,500 attendees over the three day event, according to Penny Arcade biz guy Robert Khoo. This blows away both the 2007 attendance number of 37,000 and also was much higher than estimates before the show of between 45,000 and 50,000 attendees. Those numbers are now just a few thousand less than the attendance numbers of the old trade-show version of E3.

Big growth can also mean big growth pains and there were some reports of people complaining of overcrowding at the convention center in downtown Seattle. Some also complained that they waited in line to attend panels and game demos only to be turned away because the theaters were full.

When asked about this, Khoo told us, "Regarding the overcrowding, it was definitely a symptom of the popularity of the show, but not one that can't be overcome. At 2 or 3 of the main theatre events 3-4% of the line wasn't able to make it, but we hear those 3-4% loud and clear. We have a few ideas to manage that problem for 2009 including wristbands for popular events or just a straight-up hard count of people in line. The worst thing is if people line up for something and end up not getting in."

Khoo added, "Overall it (PAX 2008) was a huge success. The challenge each and every year is to keep the community and cultural feel of the show intact, and I really think we pulled it off. We finally stopped doubling our attendance, but lord I'm not sure if we could have handled any more people if they showed up. Key learnings for next year? Better line management and more space!"

Penny Arcade sales man Mike Fehlauer gave his own impressions, stating, "On the whole though, the show was a huge success. The exhibitors loved it. A bunch said it was their favorite show of the year, but I encourage you to contact them directly for those kinds of comments."

He added, "One particular thing I noticed was that more and more exhibitors are bringing their dev and product manager staff. We've got an option on the order form for regular 3-day attendee badges, and a bunch just went ahead and sent entire teams to the show--or, in the case of some Seattle devs, the entire company. And besides expressions of love for the Enforcers (the PAX volunteers), the most often-heard comment I heard from exhibitors was that they had a blast just meeting and talking to players."

Exact dates for Penny Arcade Expo 2009 have not yet been announced but the show is once again expected to be held in late August. Just seven months later, PAX East Coast is scheduled to launch in late March 2010 in Boston.

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