The One Sucky Thing About Game Events
This year's PAX Australia was easily the best ever - congrats are deserved for ReedPop and to all the contributors to the show. Radical activations, quality pre-release games and super fun community initiatives all combined to make this potentially Australia's best ever pop culture event.
But it was actually something else that had me hyped - call it the event nerd in me but I had to stop when I saw this.
I've had a problem with long queues at games events for some years. In my unique position with the Mag Nerds, I get to spend time at multiple brand activations across multiple shows. And I've been seeing queue times grow, most recently reaching over 2 hours for some popular activations. And with the explosion in popularity and attendance to gaming events around the world, queues aren't going to get any shorter.
Theme parks have struggled with this problem for decades, and have had the luxury of time to experiment and innovate with queues. Park operators identified a long time ago that excessive waiting does actually impair the experience the guest has been waiting for.
Also, importantly - and this is the golden egg I think game event exhibitors are slowly coming around to - while people are waiting in your queue, you can demand their prime attention very easily. A marketers dream.
But convention queues are in a funky space right now - is it the responsibility of the exhibitor, or of the convention organiser?
In this author's humble view, it’s the responsibility of both. And I'm starting to see promising signs that event organisers and exhibitors are starting to give a shit about long queueing.
The Hitman 2 barber shop is just one example, but it is one of the coolest. Getting a cut and shave while you wait is just so good, and it is wrapped in the brand. Agent 47 famously has a clean shaven, top and bottom, look, so everyone gets why there is a barber shop in the queue. Sure, its not exactly big scale, but, as an innovative thought about wait times, it’s a good one.
Our client's GameSpot also thought about their queues, installing 2 Nintendo Switches in TV Mode in their queue while people waited for the theatre. And a big shout out to Bethesda ANZ, who activated the entire convention queue with Country Road - I'm still trying to shake the song out of my head, but it was pins and needles stuff for the people in the queue.
Brands need to be thinking of their presence at a convention as a funnel. The guest experience doesn't start on your booth. It doesn't start in the queue. It doesn't even start when people first see your booth. It starts with your socials leading up to the event. Reverse engineer from there, and weave every touch point so that it's part of a story. When you look at it holistically like that, queues become an opportunity to tell a part of that story. Your activation will be epic, and we can see an end to sucky hours spent in sucky queues. Gamers will respond to that.
And, the future is bright - with the immense talent amongst Aussie games marketers, I can't wait to see how this all evolves!