What Are The Odds Of Getting A San Diego Comic-Con Badge?

Comic Con BadgesUnfortunately, every year in Open Registration, people walk away empty-handed. Why? It’s not lack of planning. The real problem is very simple: There is much more demand for badges at Comic-Con than there are available badges.

One of the questions that we get asked around badge sale time, time and again, is what are the odds of being able to score entry into the convention as a general attendee?

Although Comic-Con International doesn’t break down their attendance numbers, we can at least estimate to get a general idea of just how tough the biggest, baddest pop culture convention really is to get into.

San Diego Comic-Con hosts at least 130,000 attendees every year (it says so, right on CCI’s About page). We’re assuming that not all of those are general attendees — and that those numbers also include membership groups that have their own badge sales and badge registration processes, which include things like Creative and Trade Professionals, Press, Exhibitors, Volunteers, Panelists, Children (who can register free on-site), Staff, and more. So for our purposes, let’s estimate on probably the lower end, and say that all of those groups combined only take up 20,000 badges.

That still leaves 110,000 badges in play for general attendees to try for. Although we don’t know the exact number of badges split between Preregistration and Open Registration (the two Comic-Con badge sales), as they both took roughly the same time to sell out this year (they were within five minutes of each other, if you take into account that PreReg’s “sorting hat” finished its job five minutes earlier), let’s just assume that it’s 50/50. That would mean each badge sale has 55,000 badges up for grabs — and for our purposes, and because we are not statisticians, we’re also assuming that “one badge” is equal to all four days, even though attendees can choose to buy badges for any combination of single days.

But how many people are trying to get those 55,000 badges each time? Well, that’s a pretty easy number to figure for Preregistration. 110,000 general attendees who attended in 2014 would be trying for 55,000 general attendee badges in 2015 — so each person has a 50% chance of getting a badge in that sale. Great odds!

But what if you aren’t so lucky, and either can’t participate in Preregistration, or didn’t get what you wanted in the sale? Well, Open Registration is an entirely different ballgame.

Web Performance, a tech company that works on the back-end of EPIC Registration’s system, released a press release last year that said “as many as 900,000 visitors [compete] for a limited number of tickets at the exact same time” in Comic-Con’s sale.

900,000 people. 55,000 badges.

The odds don’t look so good this time, do they? And they’re not terrible, but they’re far from great — it’s actually roughly a 1:16 chance now, or 6.11% chance of being able to score a badge. You have a higher chance of getting cancer than you do of grabbing a Comic-Con badge, but at least you have better odds than being audited by the IRS?


These numbers are very basic, though. Obviously, there are a million factors we’re not taking into consideration — the fact that some of those 900,000 people will leave after Preview Night or Saturday sells out, the fact that some people only want one day badge, the fact that you wore your hair up instead of down and it angered the Comic-Con Gods, and anything else we’re not taking into account.

But what these numbers do show is one important thing: It is far from guaranteed to walk away with a Comic-Con badge, which is exactly what CCI has been saying all along. And also why working in groups to secure badges is still the best way to snag one. If you have two people in your group, your odds suddenly go up to 1 in 8. Three people in your group? Even better.

For those of you that did score a badge on Saturday, give yourselves a pat on the back for being one of the lucky ones. And for those of you who didn’t — you only have to try fifteen more times, and the odds say you’ll get in at least once?

Are you surprised by these numbers? 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.
  • Buzz Aldrin

    No problem with it at all; it’s the rule of supply and demand. You can try to increase supply by sending it to a larger convention center, but you’ve gotta be thinking that the demand is going to proportionally increase now that the large LA market basically has the convention in its backyard. There’s always going to be demand, and there’s always going to be disappointed people. I’ve personally seen a lot of people in the past few years get to go to Comic Con for the first time ever, and have had a great time. I don’t think Comic Con should be an exclusive club to where longtime attendees should get guaranteed attendance; how else are you going to get new people to share the experience?

  • Todd Alexander

    This year sucked.

    2013 was our first year going – we got 3 badges using two computers/registration codes in the old open registration format.

    2014 – same two computer set up and got all thee badges, plus preview night, in the pre-registration.

    2015 – same two computer setup. 0 badges in pre-registration and 0 badges in open registration. Seriously?!?!

    Yes, I know there are a lot of people that want to go. But why is it fair that people who want to return can’t? Not sure if I want to put my family through two bug disappointments again next year…

  • Why is it fair for half of the badges to go to people who want to return when other people can’t even go once? Pre-Reg needs to go the way of the dodo.

  • The convention won’t work outside of San Diego and would be immediately replaced by Reed or Wizard if it left the venue.

    There are other ways to fix the supply/demand side of this equation without moving:

    1) grow the convention outside of the convention center more
    2) charge separately for Hall H and make it an additional part of the convention. This satisfies those who come for that reason alone and allows those who come for the other stuff easier access. It also clears way for those who are there to get into the hall and spend money versus camping for Hall H panels for four days.
    3) expand the show to more days; possible two weekends (the increased revenue from this would have to go to knocking down booth and table costs for vendors to stay longer)
    4) increase the price of badges—–A LOT. In addition to an exclusive Hall H badge (I’d suggest $100-150 per day for these), I would increase the badge prices to at least $250 per day and offer a four day badge for $1000. Preview night should be eliminated in favor of another full convention day at this point. The demand is there and the vendors are there anyway.

  • fetts

    I wasn’t able to get through in the 2013 Pre-Registrations and have since never been able to get through the waiting room for open registration in 2013, 2014, or 2015. At least tons of other Comic-Cons are now reaping the benefits of SDCC’s inadequacies.

  • oreodogvomit

    How are they inadequate? They sell out every year. As this article clearly points out, the problem is that nearly a million people (a conservative estimate) want to go.

  • MediaSavant

    It’s always been my understanding that because CCI is a non-profit organization, they can’t increase badge prices beyond what their costs are. But, I also think they might have a problem with the idea of turning it into a luxury convention.

    I do think the idea of a seperate Hall H badge is an interesting one. I don’t know how much it would allow for an increase in total badges sold, though. And there’s the question of how many would be sold. Would it be the capacity of Hall H or would it be a mulitple of the capacity. I doubt anyone would want to buy one if they weren’t guaranteed entry to any panel they wanted to get into.

  • Amanda

    I understand the desire of everyone to go… but at the same time conventions only become sustainable based on a loyal fan base. The San Diego community grew this puppy over 45 years, so if anything it’s a bummer that locals are being edged out of their own con (we do get all the outside events without having to get a hotel, so there’s that!). SDCC used to give attendees first crack at the following year’s badges, no restrictions, till it started selling out. Limiting prior attendees to half of the available badges is how they are straddling the line between rewarding loyalty and giving new folks a chance to join in.

  • Investigatind Detective

    Still not a fan of the randomization as I don’t see it being any more fair than first come first served (and I say this as someone who’s been able to get through). People will be disappointed either way so there’s really no way to make everyone happy.

  • SaburoDaimando

    Yeah. I remember that back in 2011. Prior to that, I always bought my next year badge one year in advance.

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  • Ace Lord

    getting the odds really,sometimes odds is not enough.but hey thers new york comic con this october wish me luck for that event

  • eliter1

    I say they should go back to selling a small amount of badges at the Convention Center. I already stand in line for everything else, why not stand in line for a badge? I only got 3 out of 6 badges this year and this is my 6th year going. I hate the randomizer, sure it’s good for people that haven’t gone before but most people are returning fans and they have the same chance as someone who sometimes only wants to go for a day or even just a few hours

  • I didn’t get anything during pre-reg, with 3 other people trying as well. Didn’t get anything during gen-reg either, with about 10 other people trying (since SDCC is on my bday this year). Finally, I got guest badges as a guest of a pro but I really don’t think the pre-reg odds are accurate. There were many people who didn’t get badges in pre-reg.

  • It’s great that the other cons can get benefits, but it isn’t SDCC’s fault about the limited number of badges. If they could sell more, they would.

  • jimbo

    End the practice of pre-sale and give every one an equal opportunity buy badges. If you are eligible to buy badges in the presale you are given second chance in the open registration. A second chance? Is that fair?

  • jm5150

    people in “pre-sale” will find “pre-sale” fair .. people not in pre-sale will always find it unfair. If you ever get the chance to go, youre then eligible for pre-sale and im sure youd say the exact opposite of what youre saying now. Youd be grateful youre “part of the club” ……unfortunately, you have to get in first

  • jm5150

    -$1000 for a 4 day badge? that’s laughable and ridiculous

    -dont charge separately for Hall H.. Move Hall H panels to Petco park and charge for Petco Park. Then either move Ballroom 20 panels to Hall H and use Ballroom 20 for other panels that are in hotels. OR make Hall H an overfill for Petco, you just have to watch everything on the monitors. no fee for Hall H but a $25 fee per day for the live Petco park panels. (mind you EVERYONE will fit in Petco, so there will be no overfill, except people that burn easy, and dont mind watching it on monitors and saving $25)

    -agreed on preview night.. just make it a full day, why not

  • $1000 is comparable and actually a bit less than a lot of comparable trade shows

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  • Desiree Byrd

    Exactly this. People go to see the celebrities….charge out the nose for it, and you might give the rest of a chance to get in to the actual con.

  • Desiree Byrd

    They could find a better solution, and sell more. They just don’t want to.

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  • Grace

    Each city has it’s own comic con, so sorry to say that this is San Diegos comic con. Some of us have been attending YEARS before it became such a large event. The non-profit itself doesn’t want to move anywhere else.

  • Diane S

    Hi Guys,
    I have been lucky the last few years. Yes, we do the group trying a pre reg. We would try open reg if didn’t score badges before hand. We have a list of if we do get in who to buy for first. Our group is also aware that we might come away empty handed. Moving does not make sense as San Diego has a wonderful environment for comic-con. Many hotels and the whole of the Gas Lamp quarter to play in. The supply will always be disproportional to the demand.No way to fix that. Moving and making a bigger convention won’t cure any of the problems, but make a slew of new ones. Supply vs demand is just part of life. You take the same chance in the epic waiting room be it pre reg or open reg. Your odds may be higher if you went last year, but it’s still odds. Think of it this way, at least you didn’t have to buy a chocolate bar for your chance at the golden ticket…. then again you don’t get the chocolate bar either. 😉

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  • Comic_Con_Kook

  • jpcguy89

    There are so many people nationally, and globally who want to attend, and never have before attended Comic-Con, and yet they still give a massive priority to those who have ALREADY ATTENDED. This is absolutely infuriating. I would do absolutely anything to go to Comic-Con. It’s my dream. But it will never, ever happen. Thanks for creating a system that discriminates. A lottery would be a MUCH MUCH better way to do this. EVERYONE gets an equal fair chance to get into the con. It’s just up to the numbers who actually is selected.

  • jpcguy89

    The people who have gone, have gotten to go. There are still those of us who have never gone, don’t live near San Diego, but would like to go ONCE.

  • freeSanDiego1

    Extend Comic Con another day or two, or better yet just make it a full week so more people can attend. I agree w the post below as well move the biggest Hall H panels to Petco Park and move Ballroom 20 panels to Hall H.

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  • Blue_newt

    Is it a good idea to open multiple browsers for others in my group account.

  • Krys Scott

    Well, my husband and I went 7 years in a row. It was the vacation we looked forward to every year. We couldn’t get past the “waiting room” for the last 3 years. Very upsetting.

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  • RandomDesign

    I thought it was 40% sold at pre-reg and 60% at open sale. I’m pretty sure they said that in the talkback panel.

  • You remember which year during Talkback?

  • Are the others in your group not trying on their own? You can use multiple codes if you open different browsers, but you can’t use the same code more than once.

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  • The randomizer is perfectly fair, and this is coming from someone who hasn’t made it through because of it, and I still find it fair. If my computer’s internet isn’t as fast as someone else’s how is that fair that they overclock their computer and/or can afford faster equipment than I can? First come first served is just made for people who have better computers than others.

  • Tim

    Or the Fire Marshall doesn’t want too, but who needs facts?

  • Ari

    Just some numbers that I thought people would find interesting:

    Last year, my father and I entered open registration. I managed to get us both four-day badges, to our immense excitement. Come summer, however, we found ourselves unable to leave the state to attend the con– my mother had developed breast cancer (which, as stated by the article, was much more likely than my father and I getting tickets in the first place) and we had to stay with her as she underwent a number of painful surgeries.

    Flash forward several months. My mother has finished chemotherapy, everyone is feeling good, and it’s time for open registration again. My father and I enter, not expecting much of anything. Miraculously, I manage to get us both three-day badges.

    Of course, I had to run the numbers on this.

    The odds of either me or my father getting tickets clock in at about 12.22%. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll assume that probability for both years. The odds of my mother developing any sort of cancer, according to the statistics on cancer.org, are 37.81%.

    The odds of my family receiving tickets, my mother developing cancer, and my family receiving tickets again in the next year are 0.5646% (rounded to the correct number of significant figures, of course).

    Let’s take this a step farther. My account was the only one to yield tickets, meaning that we can take my father’s likelihood out of the picture. That drops our yearly likelihood of receiving badges down to 6.11% and our total probability down to 0.1412%.

    0.1412%. See you in San Diego, everyone.

  • disqus_mbkF20E77K

    Isn’t it with most trade shows a company pays for it instead of using personal funds?

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  • rogerrramjet

    WHEN did the Comic Con become a trade show? When I first went back in the early 80s it was actually a comic book show and sale with a few other programs going on.

    And living in Vegas with a friend who works in the conventions here which are pretty much year round, no one has tickets that high or no one would attend. THAT is what trade shows are all about.

    FEW are open to the public as well.

    So a grand for a ticket is only for die-hards. The show was more fun in the early days before Hollywood took over.

    And non profit? Oh Puhleeze

    They simply have to make sure there is nothing left over…THUS BONUS’ all around. No more profit left laying around.

  • rogerrramjet

    Yep as most if not all trade shows are NOT open to the public but only those involved in the business being shown.

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  • Kelly A

    At least you were able to go as often as you did!