New York Comic Con: New Main Stage Wristband Policy Draws Both Fans & Critics

Outside-NYCCAs we reported last week, New York Comic Con implemented a whole new system this year for the Main Stage, NYCC’s version of Hall H (though even that is only about half the size of Hall H — the Main Stage only holds 3,000, compared to Hall H’s 6,130 capacity). Our readers had a lot of thoughts about the new system, which involved room clearing, queueing for a wristband for guaranteed admittance to the panel corresponding to the wristband, and returning later to attend the panel.

New York Comic Con ended yesterday, with many sites reporting that NYCC’s attendace size bloomed to over 151,000 attendees, though there’s some discrepancy of whether that number is 155,000 unique attendees as some sites like Comic Book Resources are reporting, or 151,000 tickets as sites like the New York Times are reporting. If the first number is correct, that would officially make it the largest pop culture convention in North America, surpassing San Diego’s 133,000-ish attendee size. If that number is only tickets sold, there’s no telling how many actual attendees attended, but that number would be several thousand less than 151,000.

Either way, with that many attendees, how did the new policy work out?

Pretty well, judging from most comments on Twitter, though the system was not without its flaws. When the con kicked off on Thursday, there seemed to be much confusion in the Queue Hall, with miscommunication happening between staff and attendees about just how the wristband hand-out would work.

Of course, New York Comic Con had never promised in their official rules that wristbands would be handed out at a certain time. Instead, they stated that they would either be handed out prior to the panel — which could be at any point — or when the line reached capacity. However, it seems clear that either most attendees didn’t understand this rule, or staff on hand were giving different directions. By the end of the day, though, things started to move more smoothly.

And by day two, attendees seemed much happier with the experience.

The new system still didn’t please everyone, though. Several attendees reported that they didn’t know about the wristband system, and that by the time they went to line up for popular panels like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., all wristbands were already gone around six hours before the panel started.

Friday’s lines were still nothing compared to Saturday’s, though. The biggest panel of the weekend was arguably The Walking Dead, and much like at San Diego Comic-Con, the new wristband system didn’t deter attendees from camping out to ensure they got to attend the panel. Several attendees camped out from as early as 3 or 5 in the morning (yes, we know, San Diego Comic-Con attendees are laughing at those times), and within minutes of the doors opening at New York Comic-Con, all wristbands were already gone.

This meant two things. The first, of course, is what we’ve always presumed — that even if you make a system where attendees don’t necessarily have to spend their entire day lining up, if they want something bad enough, they’re still willing to put in the time. Those who planned on showing up an hour before doors and strolling in to the biggest panel of the day were always going to be out of luck.

The possibly more important lesson here, though, is that just because the majority of attendees were out of luck for The Walking Dead, they weren’t necessarily out of luck for the rest of that day’s panels. Because the new wristband system involved clearing rooms between panels, attendees could see the signage informing them that The Walking Dead was full, and hop into another line for a wristband, like for Marvel’s Daredevil.

We spoke to @bliss116 on Twitter about the experience, and why she thought the system was an improvement. “Well, first of all, it means everyone in every panel wants to be there. And if you do want to do an afternoon panel, you can do other things in the morning not sit in the room all day. We don’t wait in line with no guarantee of getting in, so less stress,” she said. “[We] got here today at 10 and will definitely get into the Daredevil panel this afternoon. Also got great seats only waiting in line for the panel itself for 40 minutes.”

For those that were willing to put in the time for up-close seats, once attendees were given a wristband, they could join another line to await their turn to enter the hall. However, no one was required to do this once they had a wristband, and could return around 30 minutes prior to their panel to walk right in. This freed up the day for those who merely wanted to get in, and cut down on competition for good seats for those who wanted to line camp all day, as they weren’t fighting for seats with fans of other properties.

There’s still some kinks in the system. Bleeding Cool reported that a staff member was trying to sell wristbands to both The Walking Dead and Daredevil, and we heard lots of reports of chaotic wristband hand-out procedures, with staff starting at different points in the line rather than going straight down.

But most of these problems can be solved with time and experience (and New York Comic Con has already taken action against the staff member), meaning that this new wristband system could become a staple for NYCC for years to come.

Of course, San Diego is a completely different beast than New York. Lines for some Hall H panels this year were capped as early as 6 or 8PM the night before the panel, let alone 5AM the morning of. The New York Comic Con wristband system will likely become a rally cry for those who have always yearned for room clearing at SDCC, and for the rest of us, well, we’ll just roll our eyes at the east coast and go right back to sleeping on the concrete at midnight.

What do you think of New York Comic Con’s wristband system? How well do you think it would work in San Diego? Let us know in the comments.

About Kerry Dixon

Kerry Dixon is Editor-in-Chief of The San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog and the site’s resident panel guru.

  • Gabriel

    Bad move NYCC. I still believe wrist bands limit panels. SDCC stacks all their best panels on Saturday. Which means fans would only be able to see 1 panel at the rate they handed them out at NY.
    Let us line up like we’ve been doing. Those that don’t want to line up don’t have to. They just won’t be able to see panels later like the fans that really want to.
    If I want to stay in the exhibition hall all day to see everything, I have that option. Why can’t you leave me with that option for Hall H?

  • NHL Counterpoint

    The comments from NYCC illustrate the problem of SDCC, which I don’t think has been analyzed, certainly not by the SDCC blog: the mere fact of having the wristband system drove people to camp out in line much, much earlier than years past. That’s why SDCC 2013, you could get into Sat Hall H if you were in line by 7am that day; SDCC 2014? It was Friday at 9pm, with people trying to line up Fri morning and even earlier. SDCC 2014’s Hall H lineup was not better or more packed than SDCC 2013 Hall H. The difference was the wristbands which induced paranoia. Whether CCI intended that (to show the studios that they should still bring programming to Hall H) or it was unintended, NYCC’s experience is validating this phenomenon because all of a sudden this year was much, much worse in terms of camping and lining up, with the big difference being wristbands.

    The bottom line is that the wristbands sounded like a good idea, but from an attendee perspective, they only served to induce a large amount of paranoia about not getting into Hall H and drove people to extremes, like camping out Friday night, or even Friday day, for Sat Hall H.

  • Mike Fleming

    Why not a 50/50 system for SDCC? Fill half the room with Hall H campers, people who plan on spending the whole day there and staying for all the panels. Fill the other half with people who just want to see specific panels. All day campers in the front, single panel people in the back. That sounds like a tidy solution to me.

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  • Gabriel

    Not a horrible idea considering there are quite a few people who leave after their one panel and Hall H does not fill up with campers.
    SDCC could also think about spreading the wealth around. Don’t stack up the good panels on the same day. They still have Thursday, Friday, and Sunday to play with.

  • Kerry

    We actually talked about it quite a bit on the podcast.

  • Gabriel

    If you’re saying that the worst bands (Yes w-o-r-s-t) made more people camp out as opposed to the year prior, I agree with you 100%. Because SDCC 2013 you could get into Hall H hours before your panel of preference. Once those worst bands came out in 2014, game over.

  • David Lee

    There is news reporting that suggests that NYCC is bigger/had more attendees than SDCC 🙂

    Sounds like fighting words to me 🙂

  • Investigatind Detective

    The wristbands need to go and SDCC needs to stop loading Saturday up with EVERYTHING. There is absolutely no reason for them to load Saturday and then trickle decent panels out on Thurs, Fri and Sun. Years ago you could at least feel comfortable that Friday and Saturday would offer a good mix (WB prior to Marvel Studios used to take Friday mornings). Now, almost without fail, you can predict SDCC’s Hall H schedule. Thursday will be smaller studios (Lionsgate) and maybe one moderate interest film. no real tent-pole films. Friday will be mostly TV with a couple of random films thrown in. Game of Thrones and Walking Dead are a lock for that day and will draw a ridiculous line starting Thursday. Saturday will be WB/DC, Fox, “Women Who Kick Ass” and Marvel (again, a few randoms thrown in). Why not divide up the big names so their not all on Saturday?

    Lastly, instead of the wristbands why not just try ticketing the panels PRIOR to the convention. It would not be difficult to throw 3000 or so tickets online at a specific time and then use your Member ID to secure them. You don’t even have to charge for them if they have a valid ID. This allows people to secure the panels they want (be it 1 or 15) and avoids having 2 mile long lines in the middle of the night. This of course assumes that EPIC can actually get something right but that may be wishful (miracle) thinking on my part.

  • STL_ben

    maybe after a couple years of NYCC showing how this can be done smoothly…..SDCC will follow suit.

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