New York Comic Con, also known as NYCC, was possibly the largest convention in the US in 2015, by some accounts beating it’s closest competition in San Diego. Crowds aside, the biggest complaint about the event is ticketing. Prices run high from the start, the highest this writer has ever spent on a US convention, and they sell out fast. As in, within 2 hours after the digital sale begins, 3-day, 4-day, and Saturday tickets are sold out. The most problematic symptom of this demand is scalpers, who attendees will see selling tickets on the street during the event for inflated prices. Passes and tickets can also be found online on sites like eBay, Craigslist, and ticket-specific venues for triple or more the original price.
NYCC claimed they were seeking to remedy the issue of resales by creating “Fan Verification.” Basically, to-be attendees, fill out a basic profile with a few vague personalized questions about their interest in the con. A window opens for a few weeks for potential customers to register for fan verification. The window closes and a few weeks after that tickets go on sale as usual. Each customer can purchase up to four passes or four sets of tickets. A few weeks after that, customers who were able to get tickets must insert their registered email into the purchased tickets, and any over-purchased or otherwise unverified purchases will be refunded. Sound conflated? It is! Here’s a flow chart, because this sloppy concept requires the use of a flow chart.
However, this creates an issue. Because people are permitted to purchase up to four tickets for each day, it means there will inevitably be duplicate purchases. This means tickets sell out faster. It also means that many of those tickets will later go unverified and unsold. Here’s an example:
Say I have three friends (probably an accurate count). Two of them are able to purchase tickets, the third can’t sit online for more than two hours waiting or was unable to get them prior to selling out. I was able to get them. We all purchase the maximum tickets because there is no downside; we will be refunded if they aren’t assigned. We offer the tickets to each other, finding only one of us need a ticket. That’s 3×4=12 tickets purchased, and 4 assigned, creating 8 unused and unsold.
This creates two problems.
- People are upset that they couldn’t attend.
- NYCC has excess tickets.
I doubt, based on their treatment of attendees, NYCC cares about the former as much as the latter.
So, fan verification was reopened. When tickets were unsold, they were made available without verification, but only single day tickets were available. Since many passes likely went unsold, it seems that only selling individual day passes was done to increase profit generated. Here’s a second chart to include this new layer of insanity.
This frustrated many attendees, and despite the effort, didn’t seem to stop scalpers. Why would it? It simply added additional work and effort for everyone, not making it more difficult for people who didn’t plan to attend to purchase many tickets. For a scalper, all it required was additional time and email addresses. It didn’t mean any extra work than a normal attendee needed to put in to simply attend a convention.
Having received my pass in the mail, I can say two things: The Walking Dead has been featured for the sixth year, and there is another step in using your pass. Passes must be registered online before use. While only mildly irritating, it doesn’t benefit anyone outside of NYCC and their affiliated corporations by collecting data from participants, as it asks for a name, phone number, and email (which isn’t on your physical pass meaning it won’t deter resale or limited misuse). What it does do, however, is opt users in for Audible, something that must be unchecked during registration. Come on.
As many struggle to find specific days, NYCC has an abundance of Thursday passes. They create a video posted on Twitter to promote Thursday attendance. Basically, the message was “stuff happens on Thursday.” It is filled with cosplayers, as cosplay is a draw for many, and for a visual ad, cosplay is a cheap way to produce good images. A few days later, the con posts their updated prop policy. Based on this new information, much of the cosplay in the promotion would not be allowed. Keep in mind, this is a month before the event, and as one of the largest cosplay-oriented conventions in the country, some people have been building their props months ahead of time and putting a good amount of cash into the effort. The announcement is almost casual, but the information is a strict change to the previous policy: no props made from anything but cardboard and foam will be permitted.
Outrage was immediate. In less than a day, NYCC posted an updated update to the policy. It is now at the discretion of the person at the door.
Having attended the event last year, this is similar to the previous guidelines. While there are some hard rules, much of the decision is up to the person at the door, and the confusion resulted in props that fit within the guidelines being thrown away in bins outside and weapons that might be questionable being inside. Personally, I was told my prop wasn’t permitted as I was leaving, having carried it all day. Discretion isn’t a great idea when the policies are somewhat vague, the staff is untrained, and authority inflates importance. The concept of leaving a prop you spent time and money on outside is difficult to accept for many. It’s even more frustrating when vendors inside are selling swords, knives, and other actually dangerous items that would definitely not be permitted at the door while plastic toys are being taken away.
Many attendees are saying that this will be their last New York Comic Con, while others are still struggling to get tickets. With an event this large, you would think that getting inside wouldn’t be so difficult, and the planning and regulations would be worked out. A 16-hour drive away, DragonCon 2016 went smoothly. Incredible props and costumes were tagged and made safe, getting a ticket took less than ten minutes, and no one was stabbed with a mechanical pencil.
What has your experience been for some major conventions? Have you attended NYCC, SDCC, Emerald City, or DragonCon? Let us know your experience in the comments.