Who gets up early on a Saturday morning anymore? Today, that was me. Only because I live in the Pacific time zone and desperately wanted the “Golden Ticket”. For those of you who follow comics and entertainment you know of Comic-Con International (a once a year event in San Diego, California) also known as SDCC and San Diego Comic-Con. You either know first hand how hard it is to get badges (tickets) or have heard someone in your inner circle or online mumbling the devastation of defeat yet again. SDCC open registration (general/public ticket sales) was this morning and it left many people happy and many others on an emotional scale of, oh well better luck next time to burn the city down angry.
It’s used to be that you could buy your badges locally in San Diego and the next years badge on site while you were attending SDCC. It shifted along with the internet age and went to online ticket sales. Up until a few years ago was basically a free for all of whoever got in the server queue first, got their badges and could buy for three other people besides themselves. In this format a single person could login from multiple devices which bettered their odds of getting to purchase tickets. In the old format, the user would get assigned a number in line, for each instance (other device) they were logged in under that would refresh every three minutes. It was completely devastating to see when you logged in exactly at 9am and were number 55,000 in line (no kidding) and knowing that people in front of you could buy for up to four people, making your spot in line even worse.
When SDCC changed their online system they went to a randomization style waiting room. Basically, everyone who has registered for an account with SDCC, known as a Member ID, gets a validation code before sales open that allows you to login from one computer in one single instance at any given time. You have to login into the their ordering system before 9:00am, at 9:00am regardless if you have a validation code or not, you are no longer allowed to login. So starting at 8:00am people start logging in so that at 9:00am they can randomly be placed into a waiting room with other users until they are placed into the purchasing queue. Still with me?
In this new organized manner it’s supposed to even the odds for all people who are in trying to buy badges so that no one has an advantage over anyone else. The new system also only allows a buyer to buy for a total of three people, this includes themselves. But, if someone else buys for you, and you happen to get into the purchase area, you can then buy for three other members that also have been validated to buy, so many people have started teaming up to get badges. As much as I personally don’t like the new system, I do believe it does a fair job of randomizing buyers who get into the purchase queue.
While users are waiting there is a yellow banner with a spinning blue circle that gets refreshed every three minutes that advises you if badge inventory is running low or if a particular day/option has sold out. Sometimes the folks at SDCC think they are being funny and slip irritating comments into the banners as well, when all we care about is what’s the inventory and when are we getting in to buy badges. You no longer have any idea what number in line you are or how long you will sit in the queue to either successfully get badges or get completely shut out after sitting there for a few hours waiting and watching that irritating blue circle spin. Now when I say a few hours, most people login exactly at 8:00am, then at 9:00 the system starts sorting buyers into random groups then around 9:10/9:15 sales start slowly going then go full speed. By around 9:50 all badges are usually sold out. I kid you not. This morning they sold out at exactly 9:56am, that’s roughly 55,000 badges sold (according to 2014 attendance numbers that were officially issued for open reg) last year they sold out around 9:50am.
Now some might say, just 55,000 badges for this convention? No, that’s just for open registration. There is a pre registration for returning con attendees that happens at the end of the prior year which from what I have heard is also roughly 55,000 badges also. This is done to keep bringing back repeat business. Those who do not get a badge in pre sale get a second change in open registration as well. So we are talking about 110,000 convention attendees buying badges each year and people have estimated as many as 900,000 trying to buy those 110,000 badges. This does not include the professionals who get badges (media and bloggers alone were 3,000 of the pros badges last year) nor the volunteers who also get badges or any badges that the organization comps to friends, family or guests and there entourages. So we are talking about a HUGE convention. Somewhere around 160-170 thousand. That’s alot of people, right?
Well it doesn’t stop there either! The convention has grown so large that it spills out into the adjoining San Diego area known as the Gaslamp district and hotel ballrooms and meeting rooms next to the convention center. This expands the number of venues available for use by SDCC. Not all of the external events require an official SDCC badge either. So this brings in many other’s from the local area and even more from outside of the local area just to take part in the five days of SDCC mayhem. There are events from media outlets, tv networks, film labels, celebrity charitable events and even concerts. People do not need a badge to take part. You only need the badge if you want inside the convention center, panels and any official SDCC events.
With that in mind, pack your patience! Traffic during SDCC is horrendous, so take the train, take one of the many shuttle buses that are on the hotel routes if you can, take a taxi or über if you must, try to avoid driving if possible. You can drive into San Diego, but even parking has become hard to find in the immediate area because ACE parking went to a lottery system last year for getting a parking pass making it harder to get parking. Of course if you are visiting the area and are staying at a hotel that offers parking, you will be able to park at your hotel, but for a fee with most of them. You should also verify with them if you need to make a reservation for parking to ensure you can park when you get there.
Speaking of hotels, next up is SDCC’s travel partner, Travel Planners, hotel sales. This occurs on April 5, 2016. It’s also fast and feverish to get the form filled out and submitted to hopefully get lucky and get a hotel room close to the convention center. This event is first come, first served basis. It’s based on the time stamp on your form as it is digitally received by Travel Planners. They reserve roughly 50,000 hotel rooms while the current convention is happening and block out rooms so most hotels won’t show any vacancies for the next year’s convention. The only way to get them is through Travel Planners. They have an early bird hotel sale before the “big” hotel sale day, but these rooms are far from the convention center in an area called “Hotel Circle” in the Mission Valley area, which is the section of Interstate 8 between Interstate 5 and Highway 163. If you look up Town and Country Resort in San Diego it will give you an idea of distance. If you plan to get a room, read up on hotel sales on Comic-Con’s website so you are informed on the EXACT process you have to follow. If you don’t do the form exactly right, you won’t get a room through the hotel sales. Count that as being warned, take it seriously if SDCC is in your plans.
Seasoned con goer’s know that you have to jump through crazy hoops to get all that you need, newbies don’t and it’s a ritual that has to be learned. I would suggest following blogs about SDCC and follow the Friends of Comic-Con page, I will add some page links at the bottom of this post to help you out. There is a ton of information to be found this way. I also highly suggest that you get on Twitter if you are not and follow the celebrities, publishing houses, networks, media, bloggers and so forth that you are in to. Many post events on their feeds that you won’t find anywhere else. This is how I won a special meet and greet with Stan Lee last year, yes I said the one and only, Stan Lee!! Facebook has a few groups, but for the most part, Twitter it is when at SDCC and you need an instant update. I say the more informed you are the better chances you have and the better experience you will get out of it.
So if you were lucky and got badges for 2016, congrats! If you did not have any success, my condolences! Been there, done that and it sucks! But, that doesn’t mean you can’t still join in on the fun! So make your travel arrangements, make plans with friends, come alone and be open to making new friends at SDCC because you will make them and most of all plan to have an extraordinary time. With so much to do, so many like-minded people in one area and such a great city to do all of this in, you can’t go wrong! So pack your bags, pack your patience, pack an at the con survival pack (get water, grab a snack so you don’t pass out), have a little cash when you can’t use your cards and don’t forget all your gadgets, chargers and portable charging packs! SDCC season is coming we’ve dropped a few shots from past years to get you amped up!
Official Comic-Con (SDCC): @Comic_Con
Bloggers to follow, linked to their blogs:
Message Board for Tips:
Friends of Comic Forum: https://friendsofcc.com/forum/index.php