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Best Video Game Conventions: The Definitive Guide

Published by: JJ Hendricks on June 09, 2019

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Video game conventions let gamers play the newest games, see beautiful woman and crazy cosplay, have fun with fellow gamers, and play hours and hours of video games (and other games too).

What are the best video game conventions?

Below is a list of the best mega video game conventions in the world and the best regional conventions too.

Best Mega Video Game Conventions

Mega video game conventions have tons of floor space, tens (sometimes hundreds) of thousands of visitors, and top end production values. They're professional organized and major game publishers will announce big news and show off their latest games.

Below is a list of the best mega game conventions.

E3 - Electronic Entertainment Expo

The Electronic Entertainment Expo is an annual trade show for the computer and video games industry presented by the Entertainment Software Association. Almost every new game and hardware release in the USA shows up at E3 first. Limited numbers of paid passes are available to the public after years of being an industry only event. Industry insiders can still free admission if they can document their job in the gaming industry.

Days before E3, publishers will host huge press announcements to unveil their titles for the coming year. Games are shown, celebrities pranced out on stage, and inevitably some huge annoucements are dropped. The E3 press events are watched by millions of people online.

The show floor has playable demos and sneak peeks of all the latest announcements from the days before. E3 is usually the first place anyone gets to play many of the games and some games will have lines 4-5 hours long to try them out!

Where: Los Angeles, California
When: Annually in June
Website: E3

What Makes E3 a Great Convention?

  • Big game announcements
  • 100's of playable demos from every major publisher
  • Tons of swag for attendees
  • Booth babes and more booth babes (if your into that sort of thing)
  • Lots of the convention can be seen online

E3 Images


E3 Girls E3 Lines E3 PS3 Booth E3 Blizzard Display
 


Tokyo Game Show

Tokyo Game Show (TGS) is the mother of all gaming conventions and boasts annual attendances near 300,000 people every year. Every Japanese game publisher (except Nintendo) and most western publishers too, show off their latest games. TGS is the best show for RPG fans because it's usually the first place people get to play new Japanese RPG's.

Within the show are many different areas that target specific aspects of video game demographics. The General Area houses pavilions and booths for most video game companies like Capcom, Sony and Square Enix as well as overseas companies. Mobile gaming is huge in Japan so there's a large mobile game area where the newest games for iOS and Android are announced. There are also areas only for VR games, family games, indie games, and even romance simulation games.

The first two days are industry insiders only but the last two days anyone can pay 1,000 yen (less than $10) and play games at more than 170 booths. That’s right, this show is open to the general public at an affordable price. So get on a flight headed to Tokyo to experience one of the longest running and largest video game conventions on the planet.

Where: Tokyo, Japan
When: Annually in September
Website: Tokyo Game Show

What Makes Tokyo Game Show a Great Convention?

  • Open to the public
  • Best video game costumes in the world
  • Lots of cute Japanese girls
  • First playable versions of RPG's
  • It's in Tokyo

Tokyo Game Show Images


TGS Girls in Costumes Tokyo Game Show Crowd Tokyo Game Show Line of Girls TGS Costumes
 

PAX - Penny Arcade Expo

The Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) is an annual gamer festival originally held in Seattle, WA. Founded by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, PAX was created as a weekend-long celebration of gamer culture. Features include a keynote speech, game-inspired concerts, panels on game industry topics, exhibitor booths, after-hours parties, tournaments and freeplay areas. It has since grown into one of the biggest game convention brands in the world. Multiple locations have been added over the years including PAX East in Boston, PAX South in San Antonio, and PAX AUS in Australia.

One of the cooler things about this convention is Omegathon, three-day elimination game tournament. Twenty "Omeganauts" are chosen from those who pre-order PAX passes and compete in games from every category throughout the convention. During the PAX closing ceremonies a live championship match between the top 2 Omeganauts is held to crown a champion. In year’s past, championship matches included Pong, Combat, Tetris, Halo 3, Excitebike and Skeeball. Previous winners received an all expenses paid trip to Tokyo for the Tokyo Game Show (see below)!

Where: Multiple locations in Europe and USA
When: Varies by location
Website: PAX

What Makes PAX a Great Convention?

  • Open to the public
  • Created by gamers for gamers (not just for industry insiders)
  • Omegathon video game tournament
  • Cool keynote speakers

PAX Images


PAX Omegathon PAX Lan Party Pax Line Pax Crowd
 

Gamescom

Gamescom is the youngest of the big game conventions (the first was held in 2009) but it is already the largest and most attended European gaming convention. Drawing 240,000+ visitors, more than 4,000 journalists, and 450+ exhibitors, has already earned Gamescom comparisons to E3 and the Tokyo Game Show.

Gamescom is like a carnival for video games. There are hundreds of new game demos available from every major publisher, a section devoted to retro games, plus there are climbing walls, soccer courts and even a miniature skate park. There's even an outdoor area, which offers live music, entertainment, a makeshift beach, and sports so visitors can take a break from the hustle and bustle of Gamescom.

Where: Cologne, Germany
When: Annually in August
Website: Gamescom

What Makes GamesCon a Great Convention?

  • Biggest game convention in Europe
  • Carnival rides and video games in one place
  • Live music and sports arenas too
  • Every major publisher is there
  • Open to the public

GamesCon Images


GamesCon Booth Babes GamesCon People GamesCon Crowd GamesCon Convention
 

DreamHack

DreamHack is the world's largest LAN party and a huge eSports competition. In total, there are 11 events in 6 different countries and more than 310,000 visitors. Each festival allows attendees to bring their own computer, setup on the show floor, and play their favorite games with an awesome internt connection.

The convention also include live music, console gaming, tabletop gaming, cosplay competitions, and eSports competitions. And they are eSports competitions on a massive scale. DOTA 2, Overwatch, Counter Strike, Rocket League, and FIFA in huge stadiums with lights, lasers, massive screens, and thousands of screaming fans.

Where: Multiple locations
When: Varies by location
Website: DreamHack

What Makes DreamHack a Great Convention?

  • Huge eSports compeitions
  • Tons of LAN gaming space
  • Festival atmosphere

DreamHack Images


DreamHack LAN Play DreamHack eSports DreamHack Cosplay DreamHack Stadium Photo
 

QuakeCon

QuakeCon is the largest LAN gaming event in North America. Thousands of gamers bring their own PC and frag their new found friends for hours and hours on end. It is every first person shooter fans dream to attend QuakeCon and meet some of the masters of the trade, talk to developers from id Software, and compete in tournaments. And best of all its free.

id Software sponsors QuakeCon every year as a "thank you" to their fans, but the entire convention is organized by volunteers and fellow gamers. Everyone brings their own PC so you get to see some amazing mods (like the toilet PC) and completely tricked-out systems with all the bells and whistles - the kind you dream of playing on but don't have the money to afford.

Where: Changes yearly
When: Annually in July
Website: QuakeCon

What Makes QuakeCon a Great Convention?

  • Free
  • Largest LAN gaming session in the USA
  • Tournaments for most major PC games
  • Community organized and supported

QuakeCon Images


QuakeCon Booth Babes QuakeCon LAN QuakeCon 2010 Hotel QuakeCon Beer PC Mod
 

BlizzCon

First organized by Blizzard Entertainment in 2005, Blizzcon is an annual gaming convention held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. It celebrates Blizzard’s many popular franchises such as Warcraft, Diablo and StarCraft.

Fans in attendance usually receive bags full of various items related to Blizzard’s franchises. In 2005 a code was inside each Goodie Bag that could be exchanged for a free in-game pet from World of Warcraft (a baby Murloc). At other times there have been passes for closed beta copies of upcoming Blizzard games. Of course no MMO convention would be complete without a chance for guests to play games in a LAN Party, and BlizzCon has PC's everywhere for attendees to play.

Where: Anaheim, California
When: Annually in November
Website: Blizzcon

What Makes BlizzCon a Great Convention?

  • New content announcements for Blizzard franchises
  • Previews of upcoming games
  • Q&A sessions with Blizzard developers
  • Playable demos of new and existing games
  • Amazing cosplay

BlizzCon Images


BlizzCon Girls Blizz Con Crowd BlizzCon LAN BlizzCon Costume
 

Best Regional Game Conventions in USA

Mega gaming conventions can be exciting and full of announcements and high production values, but they lack a personal feel and they're so big that you can easily get lost in the chaos. There are tons of great, smaller, regional gaming conventions that facilitate gamer interaction, meeting gaming personalities, and playing different types of games.

Below is a list of the best regional video game conventions.

Replay FX

Replay FX us run by the Replay Foundation, a non-profit preserving pinball technology. The foundation thinks one of the best ways to do this is through a giant gaming party where people can play more than 1,000 pinball machines in 250,000 square feet convention. The convention has grown to be much more than just an overgrown pinball hall. There are arcade cabinets, console games, cosplay contests, live music, and esports competitions too.

The convention features the world's largest pinball tournament ("PAPA") with more than $100,000 in prizes and 1,000 competitors from all over the world. It's a who's who of pinball competitors with world record holders in multiple games. If you like pinball, Replay FX is definitely the best gaming convention around.

Where: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
When: Annually in August
Website: Replay FX

What Makes Replay FX a Great Convention?

  • World's largest pinball tournament
  • Huge collection of pinball machines
  • Massive convention floor filled with games

Replay FX Images


Replay FX Arcade Replay FX Prizes Replay FX Cosplay Replay FX Overview
 

Portland Retro Game Expo

The Portland Retro Game Expo (PRGE) is the biggest retro focused game convention and swap meet in the world. They don't have any of the newest (PS4, Switch, Xbox One) consoles available at all, just retro. There are hundreds of TVs hooked with every gaming console you remember from your youth plus some you didn't even know existed.

The show floor is full of vendors buying, selling, and swapping retro games with each other. Vendors come from all over the country with vans full of video games in order to fill the 600+ tables with retro games, hardware, accessories, and merchandise. PRGE is a mecca for video game collectors

The annual Classic Tetris World Championships are also hosted in conjuction with PRGE. Every year the best Tetris players from across the globe converge on Portland to compete at the title of original Tetris player.

Where: Portland, Oregon
When: Annually in October
Website: Portland Retro Game Expo

What Makes Portland Retro Game Expo a Great Convention?

  • Total retro games focus
  • Huge selection of consoles to play
  • Tetris World Championships
  • Hundreds of retro game vendors in one place

Portland Retro Game Expo Images


Portland Retro Game Expo Hall Portland Retro Game Expo Swap PRGE Tetris Championships Portland Retro Game Expo Couch
 

MAGFest

MAGFest started in 2002 with an emphasis on gaming and video game music, "MAG" stands for "Music and Gaming". Many game conventions have live music now, but MAG was one of the first and they emphasize it much more. The main stage has video game cover bands, original compositions played live, chiptune artists (the instruments are the games), DJ's remixing game music, and bands inspired by video games. The show has spaces for jam bands to form and encourages people to start playing in the hallways if they want. Music runs through the heart of the show instead of just a sideshow.

There is plenty of room for gaming though too. Tabletop games, arcade games, LANs, and console games fill the convention hall. The show has grown from 300 people the first year to 25,000 per year.

In addition to the main MAGFest event, the MAGFest non-profit who runs it, also helps organize gaming music for other conventions like PAX, Otakon, and AnimeUSA.

Where: Alexandria, Virgina
When: Annually in January
Website: MagFest

What Makes MagFest a Great Convention?

  • Gaming music at heart of convention
  • It's the E3 for gaming music fans
  • Great location on the East coast

MagFest Images


MagFest Concert MagFest Hall MagFest Crowd MagFest Jam Band
 

TooManyGames

TooManyGames is a large, regional gaming convention in Philadephia. There are tons of gaming console, arcade, and tabletop games filling the hall. The show has lots of big name gaming personalities and developers at the show recording shows, talking on panels, and doing signings. There are also tournaments, cosplay contests, concerts, and a charity LAN gaming event.

TooManyGames has a big indie game showcase with lots of curated games on the show floor with playable versions. The show has a huge marketplace space with vendors from across the country selling their games and gaming merch.

Where: Philadephia, Pennsylvania
When: Annually in June
Website: TooManyGames

What Makes TooManyGames a Great Convention?

  • Tons of games to play of all types
  • Lots of famous gaming guests
  • Great selection of indie games

TooManyGames Images


TooManyGames Crowd and Cosplay TooManyGames Competition TooManyGames Merch TooManyGames Tabletop Games
 

Midwest Gaming Classic

Midwest Gaming Classic has 150,000+ square feet of gaming goodness in the heartland of America. There are console games, tabletop, card, board, arcade, modern, classic, pinball, computer, and even crane games. If it's a game, its probably represented somewhere at the show.

Like most high quality regional conventions, Midwest Gaming Classic has lots of other gaming activities at the show. There are presentations from game developers and historians. Game competitions with new and retro games. A game marketplace with vendors buying and selling. And lots of gamers having a great time together.

Where: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
When: Annually in April
Website: Midwest Gaming Classic

What Makes Midwest Gaming Classic a Great Convention?

  • 150,000 sq feet of games
  • Games of every type in one show
  • Great location in midwest

Midwest Gaming Classic Images


Midwest Gaming Classic Hall Midwest Gaming Classic Pinball Midwest Gaming Classic Cosplay Midwest Gaming Classic TVs
 

Classic Game Fest

As the biggest retro gaming convention in Texas, Classic Game Fest is a huge collection of retro games to play on every console there is. Even old iMacs, Apple II's, and old PCs are setup so you can play games on the original hardware.

The Video Game Museum setups up an exhibit showing every console in chronological order. So even the rare, niche consoles without games on the floor are still on display. Classic Game Fest has a very vibrant vendors space too. It's a great place to trade games or buy a new one for your collection.

Where: Austin, Texas
When: Annually in July
Website: Classic Game Fest

What Makes Classic Game Fest a Great Convention?

  • Focus on retro games
  • Every retro game imaginable
  • Biggest retro show in Texas

Classic Game Fest Images


Classic Game Fest Walter Day Classic Game Fest Table Classic Game Fest PCs and Macs Classic Game Fest Museum
 

Salt Laking Gaming Con

More than 35,000 people visit Salt Laking Gaming Con per year and play games of all types including console, arcade, table top, and card games. There are twelve different eSports tournaments held at the convention including Overwatch, Rocket League, Counter Strike, and Smash Bros Ultimate. The show has lots of gaming guests including developers, voice actors, and youtube streamers.

SLC Gaming Con has been growing rapidly. It recently moved to a larger convention hall in downtown Salt Lake City wih more space for games, cosplay, and more tournaments.

Where: Salt Lake City, Utah
When: Annually in June
Website: Salt Laking Gaming Con

What Makes Salt Laking Gaming Con a Great Convention?

  • Video game tournaments
  • Board game tourneys
  • eSports prizes

Salt Laking Gaming Con Images


Salt Laking Gaming Con Screens Salt Laking Gaming Con Screens Salt Laking Gaming Con Cosplay Salt Laking Gaming Con Smash Tourney
 

Playthrough Game Convention

Playthrough Game Convention celebrates all things gaming - video games, board games, role playing games like D&D, card games, VR games, and arcade games. There's even a free escape room setup for everyone to try. The show works really hard to get everyone to experience new games they've never tried before.

The most unique part of Playthrough Con is the Civilization 6 autoplay event. Every attendee is assigned a civilization in Civ 6. During the show, a large screen shows the Civ 6 battle on autoplay. You can cheer on your own civ and open up conversations with other attendees based on the results. If your civ wins you get a chance to win prizes too.

Where: Raleigh, North Carolina
When: Annually in March
Website: Playthrough Game Con

What Makes Playthrough a Great Convention?

  • All kinds of games included
  • Civ 6 autoplay event
  • Focus on people trying new games

Playthrough Images


Playthrough Convention Hall Playthrough Magic Tournament Playthrough Cosplay Playthrough Role Playing
 

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