What it was like to exhibit at our first convention

This year we exhibited for the first time at PAX East 2022. This was our first experience exhibiting at a convention and we had no idea what to expect. We were, for the first time in real life, showcasing our new Proteus Controllers, a modular, accessible and customisable video game controller, basically like Lego for video game controllers. Our booth was located in the indie section, and for the most part, everyone was exhibiting their digital games.

For almost 2 years we had been developing the Proteus Controller. We designed the controller for disabled gamers so that they could build their own way to play. We had done a lot of user testing with disabled gamers from around the world, our first 25 Beta units served over 10 different disabilities. Up to that point (April 2022) we had really only put the controllers in front of disabled gamers, with a few exceptions, and while we had gotten a great response from the amazing community, we knew that it was time to really put idea out there into the greater gaming world, and what better way than to exhibit at PAX! We had no idea what to expect, but were super excited to see what people thought!

Travelling to Boston

We flew from Dublin to Boston on the Saturday before PAX so that we would have a lot of time to prepare, as we had never done a convention before, we wanted to make sure that we would be over prepared. We had some connections in Boston and so we were able to ship our pins and TV stand to their house prior to the event, which saved us some time and money. We spent Sunday walking around Boston, the Boston Marathon happened to be on that Monday, which we did not realise (and it suddenly made sense why all the hotels were booked out, and why they were so expensive), but it was very cool to see all the hustle and bustle of the Marathon.

On Monday it was back to work, so we watched the Marathon on the TV from our hotel. We had a lot to prepare for, mainly updating our website and making it ready for attendees at PAX to make pre-sale pledges. 

Moving into our Booth

On Tuesday we were able to move into our booth. It was really cool to see the exhibitors hall before everything was set up and see all the work that goes into some of the booths. It was super inspiring and we cannot wait until we can have big epic booths in the future! Our favourites were definitely Larian, Dead cells, Devolver Digital and Tiny Build Games, which you can see in our Vlog on our YouTube channel.

We found our booth and realised that the booth beside ours was not labelled and we thought we lucked out and got a corner booth for free! We had one problem though…we had originally booked a 10×10 booth, and we had nowhere near enough stuff to fill out such a big booth. So, we headed to Best Buy and Target to look for cool stuff to put in our booth. We were very disappointed by Target, it seemed like just a Penneys (or Primark) with a food section, American YouTubers had led us astray! Best Buy was pretty good however, and we found some Nano Leaves and decided to use them as a display for our controller modules. The Nano Leaves actually worked really well in the end and definitely made a big difference to our overall booth traffic as it caught people’s attention. 

Our booth looking pretty empty with a few signs up.

Too Good To Be True…

Because we thought we were having a giant booth we decided to get TWO giant 70” TVs. It was a major operation getting the TVs from Best Buy, to the convention centre about 20 minutes away, but we found a very kind Uber driver to help us on Wednesday to bring the TVs to our booth. This is when we realised it was all too good to be true. We did not in fact get a free corner booth, our neighbours were arriving that evening, and we had to move our things back over to our side. So, now we had two giant TVs, and a lot less space. We decided that there was no point even trying to fit Two TVs in our booth, so we only ended up using one.

Designing Our Booth

We had come with one double sided pull-up banner and a cloth fabric banner for the back wall. The double sided banner was a great call because we had two slightly different versions to test out. One side had most of the information at the bottom of the banner, and the other side had the information at the top. Due to the layout we ended up with for the booth, we actually used the banner with the information at the top, which was our second choice of sides originally. We were able to check the banner onto the plane and it made it there and back with no issues. The cloth fabric banner was great for travelling and the quality printed really well. It ended up being very wrinkled, so a steamer would be a good thing to bring next time.

Our kind neighbours Kickstarter offered to print on the back of their wall for free for us, since it was technically too large for the space they were in. This was a pretty good deal for us! We were doing pre-sales so being beside Kickstarter was very beneficial, we also did not have a big budget or a lot of time, so a giant wall would really make our booth stand out! This wall upped our booth value by a lot and really made us stand out, what kind neighbours, thank you Kickstarter!

Each booth gets a table and two chairs for free, as well as carpet and one electrical plug. As we thought that we were going to have a bigger booth, we decided to order another set of tables and chairs. We did not realise how expensive this would be at the time however, and ended up costing over $500 just for the table and chairs! It was ok in the end as the layout worked very well for us. We also ordered two 27” monitors, which were also crazy expensive and ended up being pretty bad quality and one of them had a line of dead pixels.

We decided not to even use the screens in the end. We would definitely not order anything again from the companies that provide items at PAX, it is so much cheaper to either bring your own items if possible, or buy your own and either sell them or give them away. Some people return items back to the store, they even told us at Best Buy that they would collect the returns from the convention centre, which we thought was crazy! We decided not to do that as it would have been more hassle than it was worth. We ended up giving away one of our TVs to a group that we knew and we raffled one of them to an attendee who pledged towards a controller. 

With all this, we had finally set-up our booth and we were ready for PAX to begin!

Big blue wall - Text on wall reads 'BUILD YOUR WAY TO PLAY' Big blue mascot doing a peace sign
Our big blue wall with our big blue guy
Posing at our booth
Ready to go!

Exhibiting at PAX

Deciding to exhibit at PAX was a bit last minute for us and we only had about 6-weeks to prepare. It was also about 6-weeks before our 95% prototypes would be ready. We of course had functioning prototypes, but they could be buggy and the final connection mechanism was still being manufactured so our current prototypes did not always stay together as they should, which led to some issues. We did not want to risk them deciding to not work, as technology tends to do. So, we decided just to demo the Proteus Controller modules alone, without allowing people to actually play games with them, a risky decision, but it paid off in the end. 

We decided that PAX would be the best way to test out our pledging system. When we launch our controllers they will retail at $249 (price subject to change). If anyone pledged anything from $1 all the way 30% at $175, they would get that towards their controller and they would be locked in at the PAX price of $175, but would not have to pay the rest until the end of Summer 2022. Pledge $1 and get a free sticker, pledge $15 and get a free pin and pledge the full amount and get a free t-shirt and be in with a chance to win a TV. 

We were overwhelmed with the amazing response to the controllers and the amount of pledges that we got! We were worried as we did not have an entire kit to demo and the prototypes did not always connect together great. We hoped that they would get the idea across and that people would think the idea is cool, but we worried that attendees would believe that the prototypes were too far from completion to buy into at the time.

Fortunately, the prototypes were more than enough to convert a lot of people to pledging! We also had some renders of controllers that our community had built in the past which helped get the idea across. We did not get any negative feedback for the controllers and most of the people who pledged did not have a disability. Even those who did not think that they would use the controller themselves still thought that they were really cool. This was major for us as it proved that the market for our product went beyond disabled gamers and assistive technology and could be used by anyone who wants an alternative to the standard controller. Kids especially loved building controllers and their parents had to drag them away from the booth or they would have stayed building controllers all day long. 

Visitors to our booth posing with Proteus
Person drew the Proteus Cube on a whiteboard!
Brandon showing off the Proteus Controller Prototype
Our exhbiting booth
The winner of our 70 inch TV raffle!

Our Takeaways from Exhibiting

We ended up going a bit over budget for this convention as we didn’t really know what to expect. However, with all of the information we gathered, for the next convention we can definitely reduce the cost and increase the sales. Overall it was definitely worth it for us as we got loads of pre-sales and a lot of validation from the market. We were able to test our messaging and how we explain the product to customers, which is so beneficial for us at this stage of the business. We are super excited to be back next year and we plan on going to many more conventions and conferences this summer!

We have always used universal design principles when developing the controller. But at PAX, it really proved that if you design for disabilities you design for everyone!

Thank you to everyone who visited our booth this year, and we hope that everyone who pledged enjoys building their own way to play!

Make sure you check out our vlog on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1Lvkd9CFhU&t=30s

See you soon!

Brandon, Eibhlin & the ByoWave Team.

We did it!

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