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San Diego Comic-Con International 2014: To Badge Or Not To Badge?

SDCC 2013 Outside

The reaction to Comic-Con International’s recent announcement that it would only be selling single-day passes for this year’s convention has been, well, rather mixed.

Comments range from anger about what sorts of attendees the decision will attract to celebration that perhaps more people can attend. There were worries about about missing particular panels and a sort of at-a-remove approval because the end of full-event passes will mean fewer first-time attendees burning out by the last day. There are clearly pros and cons to the new approach, but is it really the best course of action?

Some people clearly thought it wasn’t:

https://twitter.com/Lor_Gon/status/421477094745309184

After the initial announcement last week, Comic-Con responded to some direct complaints and offered up an economic line of reasoning for ditching the four-day-plus-preview-night pass:

The decision to move from a 4-Day badge option to single day badge options was to give each attendee more flexibility when purchasing. Since we no longer offer a discount for purchasing all four days, the 4-Day option was repetitive and often led to people purchasing a 4-Day badge despite not needing to attend every day. We hope this change will allow attendees to purchase only the days they truly need and maximize the number of people who can get a badge to attend Comic-Con.

Organizers also explained that the registration process shouldn’t be as needlessly complicated as it originally seemed it would be. Rather than going through the entire process of buying a badge five times, it’s simply a matter of checking five different boxes on the same page.

 

 

That’s a relief. (Twitter seemed to have pretty much the same thing, so don’t just take my word for it.) Going through the registration process is hard enough once. Trying to do it multiple times is one of the lower rings of Hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy, if I remember right.

But convenience isn’t the only factor. There’s the matter of bang for the buck. Anyone who has attended a convention outside their hometown (and sometimes even in their hometown) knows there are tons of expenses beyond the ticket price. There’s the plane ticket, the hotel room, the on-the-ground transportation, food, and other incidentals.

If people who want to go to the show all four days get the opportunity, then that won’t be a problem. But I can imagine a scenario where a couple days — probably the days that start with “S” — sell out very quickly, while tickets for the weekdays and Sunday are available for a little longer. That presents people with a dilemma. Is it worth the travel and the other expenses for just two days?

Then there’s the issue of scheduling. Say you’re a huge Arrow fan. Your top reason for attending Comic-Con is to see an Arrow panel. In fact, you don’t really care all that much about the other stuff; you don’t even go to the show floor. But you have to register before the panel schedule comes out (this isn’t confirmed to be the way it’s going to be, but it’s likely how it’s going to go, since panel schedules usually come out fairly late in the process), which means you have to register for every day you can so you can make that one panel you really, desperately want to attend.

That’s not great for anybody, really. For the Arrow super-fan who wants to do just one big thing, it’s a waste of money. For the comics die-hard who feels insulted by a TV or movie fan taking up a spot on what they think of as a show that’s rightfully theirs (an issue that’s too big to tackle in an aside here, but a real phenomenon, no doubt), it’s an occupied spot.

I think those are problems that can be solved, though. You can stagger sales of badges for particular days so they don’t sell out (music festivals have figured out a sort-of workable way to deal with this). You can figure out a way to schedule at least some of the bigger panels earlier.

I do think the Comic-Con organizers genuinely want a bigger variety of people to visit the show this year, and that’s admirable. The thinking behind giving people an option other than buying a four-day pass when they don’t really need it is couched in a good idea. They’re attempting to fix a system that’s been broken for years. In my years of being a person on the comics Internet, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one person express that they believe the current Comic-Con registration system worked just fine. I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands, of complaints.

Will there be problems with this year’s registration? Of course. Will people not get the badges they want? Absolutely. It’s going to take time to fix a broken system. And maybe selling only single-day passes won’t be the solution. But the organizers are trying, and that’s more than they’ve done in a long, long time.

 

San Diego Comic-Con Selling Only Single-Day Passes For 2014

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