Well, it was that time of year again… Tickets for Comic-Con International went on sale Saturday morning at 9 AM Pacific Time, and sold out within hours, if not less than an hour. The official announcement was posted just before 1 PM:
Comic-Con 2016 badges have sold out! We thank all of your for your patronage and support! #SDCCOR
— San Diego Comic-Con (@Comic_Con) February 20, 2016
[Click on the link to read the comments and reactions…]
The system is random… The online waiting room opened at 8 AM, and attendees were chosen randomly to purchase tickets. Servers didn’t crash, people weren’t kept in “time out” limbo.
Of course, with a finite amount of tickets, and a growing demand, the number of dissatisfied individuals continues to grow.
So… how to fix this? You can’t, really. It can be improved, but even if the following suggestions were implemented, people would still feel anger and disappointment.
The best solution:
Implement the Japanese Ticket Lottery model:
In most instances, applying for tickets during the pre-order period will not automatically entitle you to buy the tickets. Rather, is like taking part in a lottery in which you can win the right to buy the them.
The good part is: you don’t have to queue or take a day off just to get your tickets. There is a certain pre-order period during which you can apply anytime without decreasing your chances. The lucky buyers will be drawn a few days after the application period has ended and are notified by email. You will then have a certain amount of time to pay the tickets. If you miss the payment deadline, they will be thrown back into the pot again and you might decrease your chances to win the next time. Thus, it is best only to apply if you are really willing to buy the tickets.
The downside to pre-order in general is, that you have to pay an additional fee of 500 to 1000 Yen, and that you might have to wait a long time until you can actually print the tickets or receive them by mail – sometimes much later than if you bought them through normal sale. This is not a big problem, but imagine you realize half way through that you cannot attend the concert (pre-order sometimes takes place ages before a concert, so who knows!). It might be difficult to resell a ticket you don’t have in hand, yet.
The long wait? Not a concern, when most events sell tickets to conventions months/seasons in advance. (San Diego: five months.) What’s ¥1000 cost? About $9. Considering that most tickets already carry a facility surcharge (Madison Square Garden: $5) and that TicketMaster adds additional fees, this isn’t a big concern.
The best reason to do this, is that Comic-Con doesn’t need to rent servers, and people don’t have to babysit a web browser to get a ticket. Instead, CCI could run the lottery draw at 3 AM on a Tuesday, and then send out emails to the lucky individuals later in the day. If there’s a glitch, then it gets fixed, without anyone noticing and/or complaining. People then get a week to purchase tickets, at which point another draw can be run until all tickets are distributed. They could even split the lottery over different days for different tickets, spreading out server demand.
Don’t think this would work for a comic con? The D23 Expo instituted this system at the Japanese D23 Expo last November.
Reduce the number of multi-day tickets.
Make almost all tickets single-day, and limit each purchase to one day if a person is buying multiple tickets. More people can attend, which means more eyeballs for exhibitors, and better sales. (If you’re only there for one day, you can’t procrastinate your purchase to another day.) This also spreads out the crowds. If you only have one day, do you spend half of it waiting to get into Hall H? Or do you spend it on the show floor? At another panel?
Sure, this causes grumbling, since scheduling isn’t announced until much later. But that’s the situation now, anyway. Single-day ticket holders have no idea who or what will be announced.
Take the Preview Night, and turn it into a fund raiser for a non-profit like the Hero Initiative or CBLDF. Sell the tickets separately, at a premium, perhaps $75 or $100 (not a burden for those reselling the exclusives on eBay).
Increase the cost of tickets.
BADGE TYPE Adult Junior** U.S. Military / Senior** Preview Night $40.00 $20.00 $20.00 Thursday $55.00 $27.00 $27.00 Friday $55.00 $27.00 $27.00 Saturday $55.00 $27.00 $27.00 Sunday $40.00 $20.00 $20.00
**Children 12 and under are free with a paying adult. Juniors 13 -17 pay junior prices. Seniors 60 years or older pay the Military/Senior reduced price. Active Military with ID pay the Military/Senior price. This deal does not extend to dependents.
The cheapest seat at the Super Bowl costs $500. While Comic-Con doesn’t need to go that high, perhaps they should raise the cost each year by 20% until demand stabilizes. (A $50 ticket would cost $250 ten years later.) But that probably won’t happen if the current capacity is capped.
Use a different ticket lottery.
Perhaps a variation on the “second price auction” model would help.
Attendees would name their price for each ticket variation via sealed bids. The large number of bidders would diminish collusion, although the Internet could collate the annual data to determine minimum prices paid.
Comic-Con would then close the bidding, and sell tickets from highest valuation down to the lowest at their leisure.
There would be some grumbling (“I bid $200 for Saturday, and didn’t get a ticket.”) but it would be more … fair? Comic-Con could mitigate criticism by offering more events open to the public. Perhaps they could kill two birds by using the extra revenue by expanding Artist Alley to a larger space in the Hyatt (continuing to offer free tables while also selling space) and making attendance to AA free (to encourage people to spend more at tables, instead of at the door).
Add more days.
Not gonna happen. Sure, a ten-day Comic-Con would be epic, but the exhibitors would not be able to afford the cost. Even less so the creators, many of whom can barely afford the cost now (and the production time lost).
But let’s be honest. Comic-Con International doesn’t have to change anything. They’re making a surplus each year, and banking that for a rainy-day. Exhibitors are happy, the same complaints are heard each year, but it doesn’t hurt the brand, even when attendees reenact a comic book trope.
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!