SDCC Open Badge Registration: Recap and Next Steps

4 day pass comic con badgeAfter months of nail-biting anticipation, the march toward San Diego Comic-Con 2014 took a big step forward earlier this morning with the annual open online registration event.

And it’s been a long road thus far. Attendee hopefuls have had to weather several delays of badge sales due to the revamped registration system, put in place to handle the stress of the hundreds of thousands of geeks worldwide hoping to score that Golden Ticket to San Diego each year. The first real test of the new system was last month with preregistration, allowing those who attended the convention last year a chance to make a repeat appearance in 2014. And despite a few technical glitches, expected when handling such a high volume of users, preregistration was a smooth, albeit slow, process.

However, it’s the annual open registration event which generally attracts the majority of the attention. Open registration is when SDCC badges are sold to the general public – that is, anyone who wishes to attend the convention. It also serves as a second chance for those who participated in preregistration to catch those elusive Preview Night badges or to fill out their schedule with the day or two they had previously missed.

Armed with the information and analysis from the previous badge sale, we and tens if not hundreds of thousands were anxiously awaiting answers to the many questions we had. How will the new system handle the additional load of open registration? Will it be another two and a half hour process from start to finish? How many badges would be available, and how long would they last?

And at long last, now we know.

The Road To Sellout

The process worked much like preregistration did last month. Those who qualified for open registration, mainly those with a valid Member ID, were sent a single-use registration code they used to gain access into the waiting room, greeted by a menacing, spinning blue circle that our own Shawn Marshall lamented, “It’s humbling to think that even the devourer [sic] of worlds stares at a swirling blue ball of hope.” Once inside the system, they would wait until shortly after 9AM PT, 12 Noon ET, for the randomization process to occur, which would determine the order in which everyone would be allowed to purchase badges.

Eight minutes later, at 9:12am PT, the system had completed sorting and ready to start allowing users through the checkout process.

40 minutes later, users received their first inventory warning for Preview Night badges, and almost immediately afterwards for Saturday badges.

Two minutes later, an inventory warning for Friday badges as well.

Before users were even able to react to the news, it was revealed at 9:56am PT that Preview Night badges were no longer available.

Two minutes later, at 9:58am PT, Friday and Saturday badges were also sold out.

That’s 44 minutes from sorting to sellout for Preview Night in open registration. By comparison, it took a mere 20 minutes for Preview Night to sell out during preregistration. Conversely, it was an hour and 19 minutes for Friday and Saturday badges to sell out during preregistration, but today it took just 46 minutes.

Two days were left at this point, Thursday and Sunday. It was at 10:18am PT when we received notification that Thursday badge inventory was running low.

And it only took two minutes for the announcement that Thursday badges were sold out, at 10:20am PT.

At 10:22am PT, a message went out to those in the waiting room that Sunday inventory was running low.

And two minutes later, at 10:24am PT, Sunday badges were sold out, drawing a close to the open registration sale.

That made it one hour and eight minutes for Thursday badges and one hour and 12 minutes for Sunday badges to sell out during this morning’s open registration. In comparison, it took one hour and 42 minutes for Thursday badges and two hours and 26 minutes for Sunday badges to sell out during preregistration.

Why the quicker sellout? It could be for a couple of reasons, both of which we are just speculating. One, it could mean that the time between preregistration and open registration allowed EPIC and CCI to further improve the new system, allowing more users to checkout at once. It could also mean that CCI sold the majority of the available badges during preregistration, and therefore a lower inventory of badges were available during today’s sale.

Errors and Issues

It seemed the number of users experiencing issues was also reduced, although we did receive a few mentions on Twitter asking for advice on assorted error messages and blank screens.

The brisk pace of today’s sales could have also been a factor in suppressing any limited system issues as well, but from our vantage point today’s sale seemed more like a full launch rather than the beta test that was preregistration. And as we’ve always instructed our readers and followers, screenshots when things like this happen are your best friend in communicating and resolving problems with EPIC and CCI.

What’s Next?

The most glaring takeaway from today’s open registration sale was that not everyone who wants to go to San Diego Comic-Con will get the chance to, and the speed in which badges sold out left many hopefuls watching the spinning blue ball in the waiting room at 10:24am PT empty-handed and bitter.

Lucky for them, there’s still hope. Every year CCI has put for sale badges which have been returned or cancelled, generally in May or June. Quantities are limited, and CCI has stated that it’s not even a guarantee it will happen, but history says it should. The SDCC 2014 badge refund deadline is May 23, so expect a sale date shortly afterwards based on the remaining inventory of badges. We recommend everyone getting just one day if at all, so that they can qualify for 2015 preregistration if they so desire to return – sage advice for those who walked away without a badge in today’s open registration.

There’s also plenty to do outside of the convention center, as evident by our yearly Offsite Events guide. Participating in offsite events or wandering the Gaslamp Quarter could fill an entire schedule, and still allow those to experience the Comic-Con carnival atmosphere. Bonus – you would probably get more sleep to boot, not having to camp out in that famous Hall H line for the big panels.

Lastly, and very timely, there’s Nerd HQ, the annual geek event and convention organized by Chuck star Zachary Levi. It’s been a fan-favorite, and one of ours as well, for the past three years, but Levi has organized a crowdfunding campaign to help bring it back to San Diego during SDCC. Levi talked to us about the huge cost in organizing the event, much of which has come out of his own pocket, and accepting contributions from the fans might be the only way it returns this year. The Nerd HQ schedule is filled with the same big-time guests that grace the stages of Hall H and Ballroom 20, albeit in a smaller, more intimate setting – and with assigned seating to boot – which makes for a more convenient way to share the same experiences of your Comic-Con brethren. It’s an option we recommend that everyone – including those who have all four days of badges – check out.

What were your experiences in today’s open registration sale? Share them in the comments below with us and your fellow readers.



About Jeremy Rutz

  • Almost Sober

    We had three computers logged in. We had two more passes to buy having gotten four of our group’s passes in prereg. During prereg I got through in the preregistration sale without waiting in line, today my friend got through without waiting. We now have 6 four day passes with Preview Night.

    I have been shut out of the old system before, compared to that, this was way better. I never had it crash either time. The old system, you could never tell if it was working or not or if you should F5 or not. So ultimately I think they are making a massive improvement. Still, too much demand, too little supply. I was extremely lucky this year.

  • JellyBeanRainbow

    I watched the blue circle spinning until the end and got nothing. My friend’s group was 6 people/6 codes and only one came through and bought badges for 2 persons and then everything was sold out.
    But I like the new system, it means that living in another continent and being a second late to click the link isn’t the deciding factor for getting or not getting the badges.

  • mganai

    Didn’t work for me. Got all four days the last couple years (I even got in while Preview Night was still available last year). This year? All I have to show for my trouble is Sunday.

    I WILL get the rest of the days (save Preview Night; don’t really care for that) when tickets reopen.

  • Eric Armstrong

    I was fortunate to get into the pre-sale and pick up a 4 day (w/o Preview). Today worked pretty close to the same. What was different this time is I had somewhere to be and was on my tablet. Logged into the waiting room around 8:30 AM. I followed the directions and got into the spinning blue circle. i did get one page error that was listed above. I clicked the button and it put me back in the spinning room again. I was hoping to pick up preview night and a badge for my daughter. From my tablet I did NOT get a chance to buy passes. But after the initial hiccup I had no problems. I really like this new process. They give plenty of communication. I finally turned off my tablet a little after 10 AM because I had to get to an event.

    A buddy of mine also tried to get tickets and logged in around the same time but he did it from his phone. He was given a chance to buy tickets at about 9:48 AM. He was able to get 4 day plus preview (and because he can be cool sometimes he was able to get my preview night and 4 day plus preview for my daughter. He said getting the preview night added for me was simple). Right after he let me know everything was confirmed my tablet refreshed and said that both Saturday and Preview were sold out. So he just made it in.

    So it worked as it did on pre sale day. Definitely some randomness associated. No benefit logging in at 7 or right before 9. I love that after 2 extremely frustrating years where I didn’t know if it was working or not or at times never getting into the system they have a system that let’s you know that it is working.

  • Izzy

    I tried two codes on prereg, and again two codes on general registration… and ended up with nothing. Hopefully, I can get some on resale, otherwise gonna just invest that money and go to a different convention like Anime Expo.

  • Michelle

    I think it’s always going to be a case of too many people wanting too few badges. So there will always be people who are upset, no matter what the method is. For pre-reg, we had a whopping 13 people trying for badges, and only four of us got in, which ended up being pretty good. For general sale, there were six people trying, but none of them got in. And yeah, it sucks that some people didn’t get badges this year, but everyone agrees that the system is 1000% better than in previous years.

    The only thing I can think to better the situation would be to show people what number they are in line after the random sorting. If you have 13 people in the queue, and five of them are in NZ/Australia (where it’s so early that you want to cry a little bit), it’d be nice to know if you really need to sit around for an hour or more.

    But otherwise, it’s a great system, and I’m very happy with it.

  • alanahc

    This is the first time in six years that I didn’t get all of my planned badges (got 3 in pro reg, needed 3 more in gen reg). We didn’t get a single one, yesterday. It’s disappointing, it sucks, but I had no technical issues with the system – just the bad luck to not get a good enough spot in the queue. My group had four people across country – not one got out of the waiting room. This system is definitely better managed, definitely worked, and was actually less stressful, because I was confident at all times that it was WORKING, not frozen or broken or who knows what. I’ll put in the effort for badge re-sale in June, but for now, we’re contingency planning for Nerd HQ, Heroes Brew Fest, etc.

  • Scarletcat

    Been going to SDCC since 1981. I needed passes for 3 and came away with 1- for Sunday only. 3 computers signed in to see nothing but the spinning blue wheel for over 2 hours each time. We signed in at various times and really got nothing for the effort. It would have been nice to know I was number 150986 in line and had zero chance of getting a pass.

    I will try one last time for ticket in resale, but then, we don’t have rooms. I may not be SDCC’s big demographic, but I sure am the city’s and the vendors. If I can’t get passes, I will not even attempt to go back again. It’s not worth it.

  • I think you are generalizing when you say “everyone” I for one do not like the new set up. I prefer the old slugfest to get passes. During open reg my group had about 15 people trying and the best anyone got was Thurs Fri Sunday. I got my 4-day badge during pre-reg so overall im cool with it getting my badge.
    The thing that frustrates me, is that those that barely have any idea what is going on have the same chance as those people that have the process all worked out and a plan of action in place.
    The day of the sale people were still asking if they could get a badge if they didn’t have a user ID.

  • At least try for hotels. During the hotel reservation process many places allow you to cancel without a penalty.

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  • Kinseyrei

    This is not only my first Comic-con, but my first con in general!
    And I managed to get four days with preview night! to say I’m excited is an understatement, I’m pretty aware that this is a once-in-a-lifetime badge getting.
    My friend and I both tried for them, she logged on sometime around 7:30 and I logged on at 8:45. I got into the system to purchase at around 9:30, a part of me couldn’t even believe it was happening.
    now onto hotels! …crap hahahah

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  • Debbie

    We had a technical problem with Open Registration and I’ve been
    wondering how common it was. One other person described the exact
    same symptoms on CCI’s Facebook page but that’s the only other person I’ve found so far.
    At around 9:30 we got in with a
    Chrome browser, selected our badges, filled out our contact and credit
    card information and then submitted. At that point, it seemed to
    stall. Chrome repeatedly prompted us to “Cancel” or “Wait” and, of
    course, we chose to “Wait”. After a few minutes, we were presented with
    a screen that explained that we had already completed our purchase and
    couldn’t buy more tickets. So, we thought all was well. But, we never
    received a confirmation email. My theory is that Chrome refreshed the page and our transaction was aborted.
    I wrote Comic-con on Saturday
    inquiring about this. Comic-Con redirected me to EPIC on Monday without
    an explanation. On Tuesday, EPIC redirected me back to Comic-Con
    without an explanation.
    I’m hoping that if someone else is in the
    same boat, they may have more information about what is going on, how
    many other people were affected by this and what, if anything, is being
    done about the affected members. I’ve sent 7 email messages to EPIC and Comic-Con about this so far but the only responses I’ve received have been “contact the other guy”.

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