5 Winners & 5 Losers from San Diego Comic-Con 2017

San Diego Comic-Con 2017 is now behind us — but don’t worry, we’ll be doing some wrap-up this week (and maybe into next week) before we sleep the Odin sleep for offseason.

In our personal opinions, the good far outweighed the bad this year — but there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement (especially since you keep having the same issues every single year, CCI!). So let’s take a look at the top five winners and the top five losers that emerged from San Diego Comic-Con 2017.

5 Winners of San Diego Comic-Con 2017

Programming

We don’t say this lightly – but we truly think this was the strongest panel programming schedule in years. Sure, over on the movie side things were a bit light, but there were plenty of new offerings (Netflix! Freefrom’s Shadowhunters and StitchersDuckTalesTwin Peaks! Westworld!) to keep things interesting. So often the schedule can feel like it’s the same panels, in the same panel rooms, year after year – but 2017 offered so many amazing things that you probably had a really tough time making decisions on what to see and what to skip.

Convention Center Upgrades

For all the talk about convention center expansion – the real truth is that the convention center as it stands now has been badly in need of some upgrades for several years. Luckily, they’re currently undergoing a large expansion project, which includes everything from new flooring in Sails Pavilion, cooling tower replacement, new Hall H chairs, and even free, expanded Wi-Fi in the lobby areas.

While it wasn’t quite as toasty outside this year as it was last year – the convention center was noticeably cooler in 2017. I actually had to go buy a hoodie on Thursday to keep from freezing in Ballroom 20, which was definitely not the case last year. The exhibit floor was still a bit too warm, but when you cram that many bodies into such a tight space, there may not be much to be done there.

Elsewhere, we noticed lots of other upgrades and improvements paying off. The Wi-Fi actually worked (which is huge!), and the new Hall H chairs made sitting there all day long just a little more comfortable. There’s still more work to be done on the convention center, but we were really impressed by the progress.

Syfy/USA Network

We’ve been saying for years that the NBCUniversal networks — Syfy and USA — understand Comic-Con attendees the best, and that’s never been more obvious than in 2017.

Because really, is there any network that brought it bigger and better than Syfy? Not only are they partially responsible for us getting Nerd HQ in some form, they also had the single most entertaining panel of the week with Syfy’s The Great Debate (and if you weren’t in Ballroom 20 for that panel, you seriously missed out). As if all of that wasn’t enough, they also hosted a slew of other interesting, amazing panels (the Battlestar Galactica reunion, the Sharknado panel, Con Man, and so many more). They brought all the swag (Bags! Pins! Fanny packs! Fans!). They did cool, unique offsites (A cosplay wedding chapel! A drumline with Orlando Jones! Karaoke buses!). The convention was wall-to-wall Syfy, and it was amazing. We (almost) didn’t even miss Syfy Cafe.

Over on the USA side, things were much lighter, but the Mr. Robot offsite which included free swag not just at the offsite but all around the Gaslamp, as well as a secret room, was a great way to keep the series represented even without cast. The Psych reunion for the upcoming Christmas movie had a ton of energy, and it was the homecoming the series deserved.

Basically: Syfy and USA Network get Comic-Con. They really get it. Everyone else should just follow their lead.

Netflix

After Syfy/USA, the network we were most excited about in 2017? Netflix. Because not only did they attend (!), they attended in a big way. Their offsite, which was one of the best in San Diego this year (maybe third after Westworld and Blade Runner 2049), consistently gave out some of the best swag all week and offered one of the most solid experiences to attendees. They brought Stranger Things and The Defenders to Hall H, something we never thought we’d see happen.

And while movies in general were light at Comic-Con this year, the fact that Netflix is even attempting to fill some of that void is huge. Attendees were treated to a screening of the upcoming film Death Note, as well as David Ayer’s Bright, with stars Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, and Edgar Ramirez. That’s an awesome line-up on its own, but it feels even more epic because this was Netflix’s first real year at the convention (as we’re still not counting Marvel’s Luke Cage).

If we have one complaint, it might be that their booth wasn’t quite as show-stopping as it could have been – but there’s plenty of room for improvement when they come back next year. Because you are coming back next year, Netflix. Right? Right?

Good Attendees

It may sound cliche, but year after year, the thing that makes San Diego Comic-Con truly great is the people. Catching up with old friends, making new ones, bonding with strangers in line – those are the memories that will last a lot longer than some Hall H footage (though don’t get us wrong, we love that stuff too).

Especially in a year where it felt like a few bad apples spoiled some things for the rest (and see below for more) – we wanted to give an especially loud shout out to the 99% of you who rock. Comic-Con has always felt more like a community, where we look out for each other and have each other’s back. It’s an inspiring thing, and one we hope never changes.

5 Losers of San Diego Comic-Con 2017

Bad Attendees

The flip side of that, though, is the 1% of “bad” attendees. While it’s not officially confirmed yet, everything we have heard indicates that fake Hall H wristbands were created for Saturday’s panels – which left about 400 or so wristbanded attendees who had been camping out for hours stranded under the tents when Warner Bros. kicked things off that morning. Comic-Con International worked quickly to make this right (by giving those wristbanded attendees who didn’t make it in for the first panel four day with Preview Night badges for 2018, no less!) – but it’s a situation that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. If you don’t want to put in the time, then you don’t deserve the perks.

Limited Tickets Process

In that same vein, if you snuck up the back stairs of the convention center (or walked up, because Comic-Con security didn’t understand the process) to get in line for one of the limited ticket offerings (autographs and exclusives in Sails Pavilion) – then you took the spot of someone who followed the rules and waited for hours. And you suck.

It’s not entirely on attendees, though. This has been a problem for years, and Comic-Con International continues to do nothing to alleviate the problem. We saw hundreds reporting that each morning, there were suddenly more people in front of them (especially for Funko) by the time they got to Sails than there had been in the tents. The current system of telling people that you can’t enter originally from the bottom of the stairs, but still having the line wind down the stairs, is incredibly confusing.

If CCI truly wanted to fix the problem, then they should just have designated lines for each line at the bottom of the stairs behind the convention center. Then in the morning, calmly walk each line up to their starting point to draw a ticket/wristband/etc. Then you can’t have multiple people coming from multiple sides, and everyone gets a fair shot. Or, you know, online lotteries. But just do something to fix this, CCI. It is indeed your problem.

Line Management

Ballroom 20 was so empty much of Thursday morning in part because no one could get into the convention center.

If you tried to enter the convention center on Thursday morning after about 6AM, you probably noticed something: You weren’t moving very fast. Line management this year was at an all-time low, and that was never more evident than Thursday morning. The line to get inside the convention center at all wrapped all the way down the marina, even an hour or two after they opened doors. We heard repeated complaints that security was merging lines because they were confused (for instance, accidentally merging the LEGO line with the Hall H line), there were large gaps in the line and no one there to direct anyone.

It took someone on our team almost three hours just to make it inside after doors opened on Thursday, and that’s not acceptable. Comic-Con has been running this event for long enough that those are the kinds of things that shouldn’t still be happening. You can do better, CCI.

Lack of Offsites with Panels

While the programming inside the convention center was on-point this year, there was one thing we really missed: Programming outside the convention center. 2017 was likely the best year ever for offsites, but we still missed Conival interviews, Nerd HQ Conversations for a Cause, Comic-Con HQ, and other offsite panels held in the surrounding areas. The alternative programming offers what is usually a stress-free experience of seeing some of your favorite actors and talent, and also helps to alleviate some congestion from the show floor and other panel rooms. It’s a win/win situation for both attendees and the convention.

Those panels didn’t happen this year for a multitude of reasons – but we’re hopeful that in 2018, we’ll get some of them back.

Offsite Lines

Speaking of offsites, though – the lines for them have never been as bad as they were this year. We knew it was going to be a truly rough year for offsites when on Tuesday, around 200 people were already lined up for the Funko Pop! Up Shop which didn’t open its doors until Thursday. That trend continued all weekend, with the usually two-hour wait for Game of Thrones stretching all the way to 11 hours (seriously). Other offsites, like Netflix, Blade Runner 2049Legion, and others consistently had 3-5 hour waits as well.

I’m not sure there’s an easy solution to this, though. Part of the problem this year was that many of the offsites created more immersive experiences, which took longer or were more elite. Westworld, for instance, only funneled through about 12 people an hour – which is an insanely small amount, but for those lucky few who got to attend, it was the best experience of the convention. Others, like Legion and Blade Runner 2049, were slowed down by VR. It can lead to a unique experience, but eventually you have to question the time commitment versus the reward.

Even with lower capacities, or maybe because of it, lines started to form earlier and earlier. We would love to see Tuesday lines go away entirely, but that’s not the direction we appear to be moving in. Which is too bad, because the lines were already long enough and early enough as it stood.

 

What did you think was good and bad about San Diego Comic-Con 2017? 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.
  • dianora2

    They need to bulk up the programming more on Sunday to alleviate the exhibit hall chaos. B20 is closed on Sunday which is a lot of it.

  • dianora2

    I was in the Everything Else line Friday morning, headed to Ballroom 20, and as soon as we got inside the convention center and passed near Sails a whole bunch of people joined the line. They definitely need to figure that out.

  • Diane S

    Dianora2 What do they say… no such thing as bad press? I think they like the lines or would get rid of them. SDCC is responsible for all policies, at one time I thought this was not so as who would want to encourage this kind of thing. Yes I get the ADA sticker. Age and just taking too much damage over the years. Does not help getting an auto immune reaction pretty much has made me deal with the fact that a cane is necessary. It’s funny that endurance is all fine and well. If SDCC sold assigned seats it would be considered unfair. I’d like them come to middle ground and stop the secondary line for draws at 6am. They only started that a couple of years ago. The camping has developed many years ago.

  • VikingNation

    Judging by the sheer number of comments on this blog post, I think we all agree that the line management is a dumpster fire, and like many others have posted, CCI has just about zero incentive to change anything to improve the horrid line conditions due to the incessant heavy demand for badges each year for the show.

    Some thoughts:

    –It’s clear CCI just is selling more and more badges each year. On any of the given days as you walked around outside of the convention center, there were thousands not in the convention center. If everyone decided to go into the convention, it would be sheer gridlock and the fire marshals would have shut it down. CCI is no doubt relying upon the odds of people waiting in the massive lines, not going in, walking outside to enjoy the lines at the off sites, etc.

    –Regardless if I want to go again or not (granted via the lottery), when is CCI going to do the 2018 badge sales? Wait until March 2018 or actually do it in early fall 2017 so all attendees know about their plans be it going or not going? Related, can CCI actually do the returning attendee badge sale, followed by the open sale, followed by the hotel block sale all in a month’s time instead of the insulting manner of spreading this stuff out over the entire year? (Hotel sale in early May 2017 when the con is in July? Completely bonkers.)

    –Why aren’t there popular panels in Indigo and Ballroom 20 on Sunday? This would help stem the gridlock on the show floor on Sunday. That’s 6000 people that could be enjoying panels…

    –Lines: Right now, the big picture is that there is unlimited demand on a ‘micro’ level for Hall H, Ballroom 20, Indigo, etc. If you get in, you can stay in. There’s no decision a person has to make other than trying to get in or not get in.

    –The key solution is forcing a decision upon people on what to see — and if this involves selling a ticket to panels (like 1 week before the show, and via a lottery system, and is applied to your RFID badge), wristband per panel (like the NYCC system where you can wait in line for one panel, and get one wristband, and then if you want another panel, you go wait for another wristband), or a lottery type of system for choosing panels prior to SDCC arrival, etc., then it means CLEARING the rooms to let other people have a shot at attending the panels.

    –Clearing the rooms can be managed quickly — but it requires some real engineering work by CCI (which is a stretch of course) — the point is that something new must be tried to improve the experience. (It isn’t really fair to your fellow con-goers if you’re camping in a room all day for that ‘one’ special panel you want while others can’t get in to see other panels you don’t care about….)

    –In addition, if the panel is heavy in demand (Marvel Studios, etc.), then it stands to reason it could be priced higher to attend it. Price could be used to manage the demand.

    –Graphical/color-based indicators around the convention center on where to line up for what — that’s part of the real issue. Which line is what? Where do I go? CCI needs to have actual lines/arrows/information labeled on the grounds so if you want Hall H — you line up along the ‘blue arrow’ on the side walk, etc. Blue line is Hall H. Orange line is show floor, Purple line is for autographs, Green line is for exclusives, and so on. Part of the massive problem is that there is no actual reference of what is where for the lines.

    –No saving spots in lines — you mean people abused the one person in line can hold spots for 5 more? You don’t say! C’mon! One person for one spot only — no exceptions.

    –Lines beget lines: Maybe get rid of the wristbands for Hall H and just go back to lining up for Hall H on Thursday for Thursday’s panel, etc. It would at least remove the 12+ hour line for silly wristbands.

    I do enjoy SDCC but I don’t see any real attempt by CCI to address the serious line problems…but my enjoyment is tempered of course by knowing I can’t even have a shot at some of the larger panels.

    San Diego is just out of capacity to host this convention — even if the convention center had been expanded years ago, there aren’t nearly enough hotel rooms for the influx of attendees, workers, exhibitors, and so forth.

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