About the Author: Aloha and Konnichiwa! My name is Jason Sio and I’m the founder and CEO of Apartment 507, which is a startup company based in Japan that focuses on investing and publishing indie games. We recently partnered up with an indie game studio that we met in Tokyo and are ready to show off our first mobile iOS/Android game called Fluff Eaters. We will be debuting at this year’s PAX South event in San Antonio, TX. Please come visit us at Booth #15055.
Ask anyone who is into gaming, and that person might have heard of PAX. Each year the PAX event invites more people than the last. For any game developer hoping to get their games noticed, this annual event is a potential gold mine of opportunities to connect with the right type of people who come for only one reason: games.
Let’s face it, for any indie developer looking to attend a PAX event, you know it’s not going to be cheap especially if you’re on a tight budget. This is where partnering with a publisher really helps with the cost of attending events and paying for marketing ad space. But what if indie developers don’t want to partner up or just want to take a financial risk? Just exactly how much does it cost to attend a single PAX event? In this article, I will break down the basic marketing cost as a startup gaming publisher and attempt to reason why we decided on the things we did and did not.
First and foremost, you need to rent a booth. By having a booth, you allow people to interact with your game, collect leads, and connect with people in the gaming industry. The cost of renting this year’s booth at PAX South cost a reasonable $1,250 for a 10’x10’ booth. This is the smallest and cheapest booth that a PAX South event offers. If you want to go bigger, you must have some serious cash to burn. The cost to hang with the big boys can go as high as $45,000 dollars, which is no longer classified as a booth, but an island. As luck would have it, we got moved to a new spot at the last minute to float near the big boys.
When it comes to exhibiting at an event as big as PAX you have to stand out from the rest of the crowd. We decided we needed a way to reach the eyes of attendees and renting a booth was not enough to have over 60,000 visitors notice our game. So that’s where paid advertising comes into play. When it comes to advertising, PAX offers various options. Options include everything from having your logo on the lanyard ($6000) to becoming the official bag sponsor ($10,000). Since money isn’t growing on our trees, we opted for an ad space in the official PAX pamphlet. We had two choices, a half page ad or a full-page ad that would fit within our ideal budget. A half page ad cost $1500 and a full-page ad cost $2000. We decided to go with the full-page ad so people are more likely see the ad while flipping through the booklet.
Three out of five members of our team (including me) will wear a purple cat onesie ($38.95 each), which were ordered through Cosplay Shopper. We originally wanted to have one of our fully-grown bearded men dress up as a Japanese school girl outfit, but decided against it after talking to the organizers of the event saying that might violate their “no booth babe” policy.
The purple cat onesie outfits will sure turn anyone’s head when passing our booth. Not one, but three purple cats at our booth will allow us to bait unsuspecting prey to come to our booth.
We could have stopped at the one-page ad and not spend any more money on marketing materials, but we didn’t. We wanted to make a presence at the show and felt that we needed some free swag so visitors will remember us afterwards. In my past experience at gaming conventions, the things I actually keep from shows are unique stuff that I collect. Those things are buttons and beautifully printed posters. When it comes to having things printed, early planning is key. Most organizers that handle events will have an early bird printing discount for various types of print jobs. We jumped in early on having our vinyl poster printed at $19 per sq. ft., which saved us from having to pay a standard price of $28.50 per sq. ft.
We also decide to print 200 A3 sized posters ($54.95) at a local print shop. We called a few places and the prices varied greatly. It pays to do some research first. For the postcard, we went to Vista Print. They were the cheapest place for postcards. For buttons, we ordered them through Wacky Buttons in two designs, 1000 each, for a total of $352.31.
When all is said and done, we’re looking at around $4500 in total cost to setup our booth and prepare the necessary marketing materials. The cost maybe hard to swallow for an indie developer, but we believe it’s worth the initial investment for any indie game studio to show off their game. It’s also worth noting that travel and hotel cost has not been factored to the breakdown. In a sea of competitors vying for the attention of guest, it is utterly important that game studios reach as many people as possible while staying within their budget.
10’x10’ Booth: $1250
Full page PAX Ad: $2000
Purple Cat Outfits x 3: $116.85
Vinyl backdrop poster: 256.50
200 Posters: $54.95
5000 Postcard hand out: $335.98
2000 Buttons: $352.31
Renting one extra table and two chairs: $60
Snacks and drinks: $50
Miscellaneous (markers, duck tape, clips): $50
Grand Total: $4526.59