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Comic-Con 2013 Badge Registration Recap: The Highs and The Lows

50s3After months of waiting, preparation and general anxiety, the day finally came. The headlines read much like a ’50s sci-fi b-movie trailer: Thrills, chills, and yes, even a few spills.

Online badge registration for San Diego Comic-Con 2013 was held yesterday for the general public, and it pretty much went off as expected. That is, more demand than supply, technical glitches and more than a few unhappy people who ended the day empty-handed.

The sale started at 9AM PT, and immediately people were reporting technical issues. Server errors and blank screens were widespread as thousands of SDCC-hopefuls jammed internet bandwidth everywhere in a way only Netflix CEO Reed Hastings would appreciate. It wasn’t until 9:05 AM PT when we received our first report of someone getting into the waiting room, at nearly 10,000 full.

At 9:10 AM PT we received our first reports that the waiting room was full:

But that was only half the story. As some people were getting the message “the EPIC online waiting room has reached capacity”, others were still getting in. The waiting room numbers reached nearly 50,000 by 9:15 AM PT.

Stranger still, we started to receive reports of people getting into the waiting room from overflow, in front of those who previously reported a number.

At this time, we started to see reports of people who were in the waiting room but they were not advancing as expected. Some were refreshing their screens manually, a practice warned against in CCI’s instructional video, and getting moved forward in the queue. Others who had a place in the waiting room and refreshed got sent to the overflow.

There were users who heeded these warnings and patiently waited for their screens to refresh, but while waiting to advance in the queue, those behind them in the queue were getting checked out.

One of our followers, @TravelPumpkins, wrote a blog post documenting the refresh issues they experienced between multiple computers:

At 9:15am, I managed to get into the waiting room as #37729 with my fastest laptop using the Firefox browser. My friend also go into the wait room as a number in the 29000s. My other laptop running Chrome also got in showed #46465.

In the next 30-35 minutes, my number in the Firefox browser gradually decreased. Meanwhile, my friend remained stuck on the same number while my Chrome browser continued to read #46465. I took a screenshot and attempted to contact Comic-Con’s customer service number, only to get multiple busy signals.

After I finished paying for my last badge, my friend informed me that he was still stuck on the same number. Looking at the computer next to me, my position still reads #46465.

It appears CCI was also aware of the reports of refresh issues, and has been asking individuals to send in screenshots of their waiting room pages so they can be forwarded to EPIC registration.

The news isn’t all negative, however. Once the queue started moving, sales were brisk, and thousands of lucky individuals were able to checkout with a badge to this year’s convention.

At 9:50 AM PT, Comic-Con announced 4-Day with Preview Night badges were sold out:

Three minutes later, at 9:53 AM PT, Comic-Con announced all 4-Day badges were accounted for:

Saturday single-day badges were next to be sold out, at 10:01 AM PT:

Friday single-day badges were sold out at 10:12 AM PT:

At 10:35 AM PT, roughly 95 minutes after the sale began, Comic-Con announced badge registration was closed:

This is not surprising, as badges last year sold out in roughly the same amount of time. Consider this the new normal for Comic-Con. Interest has hit an all-time high, and supply simply cannot meet the demand. Convention organizers have done their best to expand the convention into the neighboring hotels and businesses, and these offsite events accommodate thousands each year who are unable to purchase a badge.

Artist rendering of the San Diego Convention Center proposed expansion.

San Diego has been trying to get a $520 million expansion to the convention center off the ground which would add a 80,000-square-foot ballroom facing the bay, 225,000 square feet of additional exhibit space, 101,000 square feet of meeting space and additional rooftop parking. But this is currently being held up by labor and hotel tax disputes, and the earliest construction would be completed is slated for 2016. Until then, CCI can only do so much with the space they have.

Technical glitches have been associated with EPIC Registration not just this year, but in previous years as well. CCI has stayed with EPIC as opposed to going with other ticket vendors that may be better suited handle large volumes of traffic, in order to keep the costs of badges low for all of us. We all know what Ticketmaster has done to concert ticket prices, adding nearly 25% of the ticket’s face value in fees, and that’s in addition to getting a back-end deal with the venues. We’ve also seen popular artists like Louis C.K. shun Ticketmaster to avoid passing costly fees and service charges to his audience. There might be hiccups along the way, but working with a smaller ticket vendor is in the best interest of the fans, financially. CCI has worked with EPIC to accommodate the scale of internet traffic experienced during online registration in prior years, and we have no reason to believe they won’t continue to work together to improve the badge registration experience.

Tens of thousands were able to get their badges, but not all hope is lost for the scores of others who weren’t as lucky. For them, there’s the resale for cancelled and returned badges, which gives hopefuls one last opportunity to make it to the convention. The number of badges available isn’t guaranteed, but we’ll let everyone know if and when it is announced, typically in May or June.

We’d like to close on a positive note from Chuck star and Nerd HQ organizer, Zachary Levi, who tweeted Saturday following online badge registration:

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