Tuesday, January 14, 2014

San Diego Comic Con Drops Weekend Passes, Raises Prices

Ah, San Diego Comic Con.  A veritable heaven to all nerds, geeks, cosplayers, and entertainment enthusiasts.  Every year, fanboys and fangirls from all walks of life gather for five days of celebrating everything pop culture.  Comic books, movies, video games, you name it, you can probably find it at Comic Con.  The preparations for one of the greatest entertainment expos on Earth (and other planets as well) should be bursting with feelings of excitement, not riddled with stress and confusion.  Comic Con decided to change that, and a lot of other things as well.  It was recently announced that SDCC would not only be raising the prices for their tickets, but will also no longer be offering weekend passes to the event.

For the record, SDCC is one of the hardest conventions to get tickets to.  How hard, you may ask?  For last year's show, tickets sold out completely in approximately an hour and a half.  Yeah.  Tickets were sold out before some of us even knew they were on sale.  The theory behind removing weekend passes is to get more tickets out there to more fans who may otherwise not be able to go to the show due to the speed in which tickets sell out.  Certainly a noble enough goal, but my question is this: is it even worth it?

Let's start by looking at the logistics of the scenario for someone like me.  See, I'm just some average Joe living in the Midwest who, like anyone desiring to traverse across the country to SDCC, loves comics, movies and everything else offered at the convention.  I would love to go!  In fact, I've already been to a few conventions.  The biggest is C2E2, which is an enormous show.  So big, that after three days I still left Chicago feeling like I just scratched the surface of what C2E2 had to offer.

I once had a chat with a well known, professional comic book artist.  I'd rather not mention his name for fear of coming across like a pretentious name dropper, and he may not want to be associated with a blathering buffoon such as myself.  Anyway, we discussed the size and scope of some of the more popular conventions.  According to the artist, SDCC is like ten C2E2s.  Just hearing him say that made me feel overwhelmed.  If SDCC is ten times larger than C2E2, and only has an additional day and half to experience the whole show... Hell, an entire weekend isn't enough, let alone one day!  

It's almost more like a teaser than anything.  Imagine going to the premiere restaurant in town.  You wait in line for several hours, pay thousands of dollars, and are only permitted to eat an appetizer.  You don't just want an appetizer after all that!  You want the whole meal!  For a guy like me, Mr. Average Joe, aka The Blathering Buffoon, spending almost $1,000 just ain't worth one day.  I would definitely consider that for a whole weekend, because if I'm spending that kind of money, I want to get the most out of my experience.    

It is true that SDCC is not prohibiting fans from going an entire weekend.  Technically, you can purchase tickets for each individual day of the show.  The problem is that weekend passes would be sold at a cheaper price point than buying each individual daily ticket.  You would save about $10-15, generally speaking.  Not only that, but holding a weekend pass also granted you access to the preview night.

Preview Night is a long held comic book convention tradition that gives VIP, and Weekend Pass ticket holders access to the show before anyone else.  It's a smaller, quieter look at the show floor, and has always been granted as a reward for fans who want to see the whole show.

Technically, Preview Night is still around, but with strings attached.  You see, to get access to Preview Night, you need to purchase individual tickets for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the increased prices, and no discounted cost for purchasing the now extinct weekend pass.  Only then do attendees have the opportunity to purchase the Preview Night ticket.  Yes, even more money out of your wallet.

Odds are, you're already spending close to $1,000 on travel, hotel and food.  Tickets for the whole show, including Preview Night will come to $200.  That's a $20 price increase total.  That might not sound so bad, but for a lot people, $20 can go a long way.  Of course, I have never been to SDCC, so all of this is based on the traditional practices of other comic book conventions.  I have heard that folks have always needed to pay extra for Preview Night at SDCC, but seeing as how I have never been, I really wouldn't know for sure.

According to SDCC, the cancellation of the weekend pass is because it is, "repetitive and often lead to people purchasing a 4-day badge despite not needing to attend everyday."  So... people do not need four days to see everything Comic Con has to offer?  Riiiiiight.  So why does SDCC go on for four days then?  How come I can see everything I need to in four days at SDCC, but the much smaller C2E2, I miss 40% of the show, and I have three days.  That is a load of bull crap of the stinkiest kind.  You mean to tell me that there is someone who purchases a weekend pass, walks in one day and says, "Man I wish I didn't get a weekend pass.  There is nothing to do at SDCC today!"  I suppose it's true that people don't need to go for every day, but then again, they don't need to go to San Diego Comic Con at all, do they?  Are you guys going to cancel the show?  Didn't think so.
I sincerely question the motivations behind SDCC's move here.  On paper, it might seem like they are trying to benefit more fans by getting them into SDCC, but in reality, the only people they are truly benefiting here is themselves.  Increased prices with no way of cutting costs for attendees, and not offering weekend passes to ensure they get the most bang for their buck... It just feels like yet another business succumbing to the seduction of greed, because that $20 price raise translates to 2.6 million dollars of increased revenue to SDCC.  They will get that money too, because so many people want to go to the convention, it doesn't matter if you decide its not worth the trip, someone will take your place, and maybe that guy feels like he got screwed in the end.

I predict people will spend more money they can afford just to go to San Diego Comic Con for one day, only to be denied the experience they deserve, and walk away disappointed, maybe even enraged.  Meanwhile, the figureheads behind Comic Con International will be soaking in the couple extra millions they just made off of a bunch of suckers.  The worst part is, SDCC is so big, and attendance to the show is so coveted, they will get away with it, and potentially set a new standard for other conventions as well.  This could be the first step in the death of the weekend pass as we know it.  Which sucks, because big conventions like SDCC and even C2E2 need a whole weekend to let us enjoy all the fun and spectacle that these great conventions have to offer.

So what do you guys think?  Do you agree or disagree with my perspective on SDCC and their decision to remove the weekend pass?  Or am I just a blathering buffoon?  Leave comments below and let me know what you think!

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