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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.



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