October 8, 2020 – It was announced today that the popular board game convention PAX Unplugged has been canceled for 2020. This is, as you would expect COVID-19 related and is only effecting this particular convention that was set to take place Fri, Nov 20, 2020 – Sun, Nov 22, 2020.
They just had PAX online September 12 – 20th so it doesn’t exactly make sense for them to shift to an online-only convention. According to the official PAX site announcement, the reasoning is “with safety being our number one priority, we are unfortunately canceling this year’s PAX Unplugged. The next PAX Unplugged will take place in 2021.”
When discussing the future of other shows, PAX also went on to say “Right now we only have details for Unplugged but we promise we’ll communicate info on other shows as soon as we are able. We are consistently monitoring every situation in all of the cities that a PAX event takes place.”
The State of the Board Game Convention
The last real in-person convention held in 2020 was SaltCon, Utah’s largest board game convention, on March 5th – 8th. The world came to a screeching halt after that. Cons vary dramatically in size be these babies will bring out anywhere from 15,000 all the way up to 200,000 people. The five biggest board game conventions are the UK Game Expo (May in Birmingham, UK), Origins Game Fair (June in Columbus, OH), PAX Unplugged (November in Philidelphia, PA), Gen Con (August in Indianapolis, ID) and Spiel (October in Essen, Germany). They have all bit the dust in the wake of the pandemic.
Some gaming conventions have done online versions but it is just not the same. Cons are about bringing everyone together and forcing them to participate 100% with whats in front of them. You just do not get that level of core engagement. Gencon and PAX have both done online conventions that had stuff going on but were very small in comparison to their live counterparts. Other online conventions have also sprouted up, such as Castle TriCon which happened in September and was sponsored by Czech Games. Some, like Hasbro, have done their own private online events to showcase their product.
Gaming lends itself well to online, but then there is nothing special about it. The act of going out and doing something not everyday is what makes these things such memorable experiences. We look at screens and are bombarded by new exciting content all day, these companies are going to have to do something to fight through for attention.
No one has announced the return of any live events in the future. Everyone is just taking it by year. We will have to wait and see.