Comic-Con International: San Diego, colloquially known as San Diego Comic-Con, or SDCC, is a yearly pop-culture convention that seems to have a life of its own. What started as a small comic book convention with 145 attendees in 1970, has grown to a massive gathering that now sees roughly 126,000 on its show floor. There’s just one problem, much like the space travel frequently found in the stories attendees love, not everyone gets to go. But not for lack of trying.
Tickets for this year’s SDCC sold out in about an hour, creating a new record. And that’s with a brand new member ID system that perhaps cut down on initial demand. Whether you were a fan, professional, or press, you had to create a personalized member ID long before the tickets actually went on sale. If you didn’t, you definitely weren’t attending SDCC this year. But although this system was a vast improvement over years past, it still had issues. For one, SDCC’s own link did not work how links are supposed to work.
Let me explain. There was a get-ready type of email sent out before tickets went on sale. It explained that the special link included would go live when they were ready to sell tickets. The email warned you not to spread this link around because they didn’t want those who neglected to sign up for member IDs clogging the waiting room for no reason. Fair enough. But what the email did not warn of was that their clickable link might not work if you clicked on it. Weird, considering that’s what links are supposed to do. Some people discovered that if you copy and pasted the link into your browser instead, it would work just fine. Others did not. And those poor souls not only walked away without SDCC tickets, some of them also walked away with a big F-U from fans that did.
I saw a lot of people online talking down to those who weren’t able to get tickets because of the link issue. They claimed it was an “easy fix” and that anyone who planned to attend SDCC should have been technically savvy enough to know to do that in the first place. But you know what? Not everyone’s mind works that way, even if they are technologically literate, and when you’re frantic already about whether or not you’ll get tickets, that added pressure couldn’t have helped. SDCC also made a statement saying that the link worked just fine after user volume decreased.
So what’s the fix here? Well for those who were shut out due to technical difficulties, or didn’t get tickets because they were sold out by the time their number came up, you only have a few options. As attendees plans change over the next few months, SDCC will release returned/refunding convention tickets through their website. Obviously, there’s an even slimmer chance of scoring those than the original tickets depending on how many try to grab them. There’s also the random contests websites will be holding to promote both themselves and the convention but that’s the luck of the draw. Other than that, it’s try your luck next year.
So is that it? All’s fair in fandom and Comic-Con?
Let’s think about other options. Obviously the fairest system is first come first serve but what if the system were to evolve slightly? Some people have been attending SDCC since the very beginning and are proud to have attending each and every year, but what about those who’ve never been able to go. Could SDCC set aside 25,000 tickets or so for first-time attendees? I’m not sure how their records are going back a few years but with the new member ID system, that’s definitely an option here on out. Another option is not selling all of their tickets in one go. Not everyone can make the increasingly smaller time window to purchase the tickets on one day. What if the ticket sales were done in fourths instead with the sale dates spread out over a month?
Selling only one ticket per person sounds good until you consider the families that want to attend. Obviously children aren’t going to be responsible for purchasing their own badge. What if you only sold badges for certain portions of the show and then combination badges that would include two, more, or all of the show? Tickets just for Hall H, tickets just for panels, tickets just for the show floor, tickets just for the cosplay masquerade. Or a mix and match combo ticket. I’d also recommend implementing a badge trading post of sorts where those who were only able to get tickets for certain single days can switch their pass, legally, with another fan who got a day they didn’t want or can’t use. I know siblings and friends who got opposing day tickets and now can’t attend together. It’s something that could probably help with the scalping problem, which will still happen regardless. Even with the new ID implementation, there will still be passes scalped on Ebay, other sites, and in person. Once a badge is picked up with the proper photo identification, it can then be passed off to anyone because ID is not checked at entrances to the con.
Would a bigger venue help with ticket availability? It’s something that’s been discussed a lot of the last few years, especially when San Diego’s contract to hold onto the show was about to run out. They came to an agreement to keep the show in the city so long as the convention center expanded. Can you blame them? The show is fantastic for the local economy. The San Diego Convention and Visitor’s Bureau says SDCC creates about $163 million worth of economic impact for the area. But I’ll be honest, unless the show takes place in an open field the size of Texas, no. No matter how big a venue, this show will still sell out. Honestly, so many people want “in” at SDCC by this point, the demand for tickets will just increase exponentially to the venue size. Unless it’s moved somewhere like Las Vegas where the entire con would have to be split up into 100 different areas, I just don’t see that as a all-in-one fix.
If you weren’t able to get yourself a ticket this year, there are still a few options. You can always go to San Diego during Comic-Con but not actually go into the convention center. Really, you’ll still have fun. The entire city is enveloped by SDCC and events are held all over town that do not require a badge to get in. And from experience I can tell you, it’s the atmosphere that really makes SDCC what it is, not the show itself. Hundreds of thousands of people with like-minds, walking around the city just buzzing with excitement. It’s definitely something to experience.
And of course, there’s always other conventions to attend, but I can absolutely understand how heartbroken those who had their heart set on going to SDCC were (some for the first time) when they didn’t get a pass. In my opinion, it’s definitely an event worth going to. If for nothing else than crossing it off your Nerd Bucket List, but it’s not necessarily worth going back once you’ve experienced it. Of course, there are some (like myself) who become addicted to attending after the first go. But don’t worry, I’ll be one of the many complaining about what they’re missing this year. At least you’re not alone.
Read more of Jill’s columns at the Hey, That’s My Cape! topic page!