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PAX 2021 dates announced, pending COVID-19 ‘improvement’

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Gaming conventions could return in June, organizers say

A photo of the crowd attending PAX East 2015 Photo: Boston Globe via Getty Images

Organizers for the PAX gaming conventions say they plan to bring the annual events back in 2021, pending positive developments in the COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, ReedPop and Penny Arcade announced dates for PAX East in Boston, PAX West in Seattle, and PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia, but said PAX South will not take place in 2021.

In a news release, the PAX organizers said that depending on the state of COVID-19 infections and “with the support and guidance of local governments and health officials,” PAX East will return to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center from June 3-6; PAX West will return to the Washington State Convention Center from Sept. 3-6; and PAX Unplugged will return to the Pennsylvania Convention Center from Dec. 10-12.

Information on another PAX convention, PAX Australia, is forthcoming, organizers said.

“While we look forward to hosting shows in 2021, we are first and foremost members of the local communities in Boston, Philadelphia, and Seattle, where we call home,” said PAX event director Kyle Marsden-Kish in a statement. “We care deeply for the health and safety of our amazing attendees and industry partners who have brought PAX to life for 17 years. We are cautiously optimistic about improvements in the global COVID-19 situation next year, but we are carefully monitoring the situation to make sure PAX only proceeds if deemed safe to do so.”

On the official PAX website, organizers said they announced next year’s dates at this juncture “to help partners plan for the upcoming year on how they might attend as well as provide a chance to start conversations about how to bring attendees, panelists, exhibitors, and our broader community together with these events that are 7 months away.” The organizers said that “safety is always our highest priority” and added that “if COVID-19 remains a major barrier to safely gathering at one of our shows, we won’t do it or we will take it virtual. As much as we miss, even crave, the togetherness and magic of a PAX, we will not put attendees, exhibitors, or our guests at risk for the sake of an event if things aren’t on the up and up.”

ReedPop’s announcement comes one month after the convention and events organizer announced new dates for 2021’s Emerald City Comic Con and the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. The two conventions, which normally occur in the springtime, are scheduled for Dec. 2-5 and Dec. 10-12, respectively.

Organizers went ahead with this year’s PAX East in Boston in February, despite growing health concerns and a cancellation from a major attendee, Sony Interactive Entertainment. Subsequent PAX 2020 gatherings — PAX East, PAX Australia, and PAX Unplugged — were either canceled or reimagined as online-only events.

ReedPop and Penny Arcade’s announcement comes as the U.S. is breaking records in the number of daily coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations, and as the Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue emergency-use authorization for multiple COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. But the rollout of immunizations in the U.S. will be staggered, with health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities expected to receive the vaccine first. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it expects that all adults should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021.