We have all done it: standing in line for an ungodly amount of time in order to score the exclusive of our dreams. We’ve done it, too, to get into the panels we refuse to miss out on. It has involved sleeping outside, getting up before the sun to wander bleary-eyed into line, and braving the elements all in the name of achieving the perfect convention experience. It is most likely one of the bigger points of contention at conventions, too. You miss out on a lot when you are standing in line for five hours to get into a single panel or to score a specific exclusive.
As the years have tumbled forward and convention attendance has skyrocketed, event planners have had to think outside of the box regarding how to tackle this problem. No one wants someone sleeping outside to get their hands on a toy. The solution so far? Lotteries. New York Comic Con introduced their pre-show lottery last year for their exclusives and their most popular panels and events and Wondercon introduced a new autographs signing portal for their latest show.
Now, it looks like San Diego Comic-Con is going to follow suit. It makes sense and puts the Wondercon portal into perspective. Since Comic Con International oversees both Wondercon and SDCC, it is likely the portal used this year at the former event was a test to see if the same system could be applied to SDCC this July. It would certainly change the game to some degree but there will most likely still be hiccups in the system.
Regardless, it sounds like it will become another hoop to jump through on the long list of SDCC hoops. First badges, then hotels, now exclusives and autograph signings. The good news is that your convention will likely be planned out and paid for long before anyone steps foot in San Diego. The bad news? It definitely takes a lot more effort over the long haul as opposed to resigning yourself to hours spent in San Diego trying to achieve the same thing.
By nature, it also makes the entire process completely random, which can be a hard pill to swallow when so much time is being invested in cultivating the best convention experience you can.
As a frequent convention goer, I will say I had mixed feelings about New York Comic Con’s use of a pre-show lottery. On the one hand, it does eliminate on-ground line-waiting, which was one of my least favorite things to do and nearly impossible for a member of the press. Most of the time I was faced with either taking an interview or getting in line for a panel, as they were scheduled closely together. The pre-show lottery alleviated that, at least to some extent.
On the other hand, it goes back to the point that it makes the entire convention experience random. New York Comic Con did leave space for line-waiters to get into some of the panels, but it is not entirely clear if San Diego will reserve the same kind of space for autograph seekers. If everything is entirely based on the lottery then if you don’t get in, you might not get in.
At New York Comic Con your pre-show lottery winnings were attached to your badge which had to be scanned upon entry, so it was not something you could pass off to friends if you decided you did not want to attend. At Wondercon, it was a wristband that you picked up on the morning of the signing after getting an email with instructions on how to do so.
With New York Comic Con’s lottery, individuals were allowed to try for multiple entries to most events and assign the extra ones to fan-verified friends. This called into play the same kind of teamwork that is necessary to even get badges at conventions these days but did give those with teams a better chance of snagging what they wanted. The only reason I was able to get into the Psych panel, for example, was because a friend of mine snagged an entry and assigned it to me.
The other concern with the online lottery system is inclusion. What autograph signings will be included, which exclusives will be a part of the online lottery, and how will it impact those that aren’t? If SDCC follows the example set by Wondercon, plenty of big-talent signings will become part of the exclusives portal, as well as all the official San Diego Comic-Con merchandise.
One concern brought up in discussions is the pressure that will be put on the excluded autograph signings and exclusives, as those who were unable to get in attempt to cut their losses and crowd lines they would not otherwise enter. It would be interesting to compare the experience this year if a lottery is introduced to lines in years past and try to see what the impact is.
In spite of the downfalls, online lottery systems seem to be the only viable solution to the line problems that conventions are seeing because of increased attendance. Line management had to happen one way or another, and the pre-show lottery systems seen at New York Comic Con and Wondercon played at least a small part in keeping people from feeling like they had to camp out overnight just to get into certain panels or snag specific exclusives.
We will be sure to keep everyone updated as the convention grows closer if this system comes into play and break down how it works. If nothing else, maybe we can finally lay to rest the infamous panel versus signing debate that we have with ourselves every year.