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

In Other Conventions by Kerry Dixon13 Comments

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.

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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.

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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.