It didn’t take that long for tickets to this year’s San Diego Comic-Con to sell out after they went on sale yesterday — but it did seem like an eternity for those who spent four+ hours hitting the F5 key in hopes of getting through.
The ticket site — run by indie ticketseller TicketLeap — went live at 9 am PST and immediately slowed to an excruciating halt — it never technically crashed. Those who persevered through fail screens eventually got tickets — by about 6 pm EST, 3 pm PST, all tickets were gone. We’ve already reported some of the bitter reports on Twitter, but this really does seem to have been a year of massive frustration. The TicketLeap site took more than 35,000,000 hits during the ticket buying process…allowing for 100,000 tickets sold (let’s say), that’s 350 refreshes per person, but who knows how many actually TRIED to get on. No wonder that Isotope responded with the “FailFrog:”
TicketLeap CEO Chris Stanchak has posted more metrics and some suggestions for those still hoping for a ticket:
In 2009, it sold out after 6 months. In 2010, it sold out in 2 months. On Saturday, Comic-Con International 2011 sold out in 7 HOURS (200x faster than last year if you’re keeping track). Needless to say, the demand was unbelievable, reaching a peak of 403,000 page requests per minute (6,700 a sec!) and a total of more than 35 million total page requests throughout the day. But while the event sold out in record time and the system never actually went down, things didn’t go as smoothly as we hoped. We are sorry for the frustration our system issues caused on Saturday and we are working hard to answer all of your inquiries. Here you will find the answers to the most common questions regarding ticket sales for Comic-Con International, and we are working with Amazon Web Services to release a more detailed technical analysis later this week for those who are interested.
This is only a bit earlier on the calendar than tickets sold out last year, but obviously the schedule this year was highly…compressed. Various comic-con fan sites are already filled with plans from those who did get tickets to march straight to the ticket office at this year’s show to get 2012 tickets — where presumably you can line up for hours the old fashioned away instead of the modern way of sitting in front of a computer all day.
The saddest tweets to read were those from people who have been going for years…and got shut out this year. It’s the hotel thing on a far larger scale — it used to be your playground but no more. While we’re not ready to “blame Twilight” as so many did, to state the massively obvious, the ticket demand is not from comics fans but from pop culture consumers who want to be able to attend the equivalent of the Oscars/Super Bowl/Cannes/Sundance. Nerditry has little to do with it.
There were also out and out meltdowns, like this:
WHAT THE EFF COMIC-CON?! I HATE YOU AND YOUR EFF’D UP REGISTRATION PROCESS! I WAS FINALLY GONNA GO AND YOU F**K UP! THANKS TO YOU, I THIN I’LL STAY A COMIC-CON VIRGIN. . .
Yes, yes you will.
As for What Should Be Done, everyone has an idea. Long time attendee Tom Galloway suggests embracing the lottery nature of things…
First, admit 1) above and make the process an actual lottery. While the idea of passing out scratch tickets in every comic store or putting Wonkaesque “Golden Tickets” in random comics (although that does open up revenue opportunities via sponsorship deals; “Five thousand Comic-Con tickets can be found in this month’s issues from TYG Comics!”) is fun, what makes more sense is to do a modified version of how Travel Planners tried to do last year’s hotel registration. Namely, people submit their basic information, and at a certain time a program randomly selects a certain number of winners, either for con or hotel registration. It emails the winners, and they have a day or two to respond at a site, using a sent password, with credit card information and the like. Repeat until out of registrations/hotel rooms. Ration out winners at a rate the system can handle.
it isn’t clear how ANY website can handle the inundation of 33 million hits in one afternoon, but clearly the Con needs to look at the way other big-box events are handled. Our own Matthew Fabb observed in the comments here:
TicketLeap was using Amazon’s EC2 system, which as a web developer I’ve had some experience with. You can easily set up additional servers for a day and then take them down. However, the more servers that they use, the more expensive it gets for TicketLeap even if they take them down the next day. They obviously did not set up enough servers and despite all the previous tries still continued to underestimate the size of the crowd. They should have went with their biggest estimates and then added additional buffer to that. Unfortunately, going too big means cutting into their profit margin.
I’ve seen many fans on Twitter and online say that they don’t care about paying additional service charges to go through TicketMaster, they rather do that than have to deal with the chaos seen today, taking many hours of refreshing to get through and get tickets.
The Ticketmaster option does seem anathema to the egalitarian nature of Comic-Con, and we would never endorse putting more money into their mercenary hands, but sitting in front of a computer for four hours just to give up in tears isn’t the best way to handle things either.
Unmentioned in the massive media coverage of all of this: what does it mean for the COMICS. While dedicated comics bloggers stick by their story of having a great COMIC-con with Gillian Tamaki and Milo Manara last year — something that will doubtless be possible this year as well if you ignore all the Other Stuff — the fact is that they — AND The Beat — are coming from a rarified place. Not to be a dick, but we already have our press passes. We can afford to be relaxed about just getting in.
But what about the casual comics fan? Is there any point in even trying any more? If you want to see Cameron Stewart or Eric Drooker (to pick just two names from the fantastic guest list) wouldn’t it be easier to go to Wonder-Con or TCAF? If you want to see these incredible once in a lifetime movie panels, SDCC is your only shot — there are a dozen amazing shows filled with wonderful cartoonists. While SDCC is dedicated to the comics part of its mission, the people who want that once in a lifetime experience watching Zack Snyder make jokes on a Superman panel are going to be more motivated to sit in front of a computer than the reader who wants to meet Jamal Igle. (No offense to Jamal Igle who we love talking to.)
Getting into Comic-Con is a daunting process. But it’s perhaps fitting that the tickets went on sale the day before the world’s biggest single-day media event, The Super Bowl. How do those tickets ever get sold, anyway?
Those still smarting from getting shut out of a Comic-Con badge can take comfort, perhaps in reading the comments of, say, Australian Justin Bieber fans:
# candy kaveberg says today i tried so hard to get the justin bieber tickets because he is my idol and is amazing.i got my mum to call all day and me and my friends would try and call during lunch and recess to try get tickets. i was so upset that i couldnt get them, because i am crazy about him! it would be my dream to meet him, i was just wondering if you guys were giving away any more tickets? because it would be my dream to go his concert.
# ozge says OMG, I LOVE JUSTIN BIEBER SOOO MUCH, SUCH A HUGE FAN OF HIS, I LITTERALLY CRIED WHEN I HEARD THE NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!! LIKE OMG. i want V.I.P TIXXXXX
# bridget mcmullen says
the general public tickets come out on the same day ive slept 6 months on the floor for justin! best day ever, is the 13th of december
i started sleeping on the floor on the 13th of june, that day all i thought is what is something i can do for justin so i have now been on the floor for nearly 6 months and i have to do this until i meet him so im hoping theres a way i can do that i dont know how to get backstage passes or VIP :(
someone please help?
# ashlee blight says
it would be sooooo amazing to meeet justin bieber. you have no idea. so many girls say they love him, but they dont know him properly. you cant just love someone without meeting them, you love his talent. i really really like justibn and if i ever got to meet himm. or just hang out for one day, omg<3
Okay, feel better now?
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.