And you thought SDCC was expensive

14 AUGUST 2015

Today kicks off D23 Expo, the famed Disney celebration that has caught the nerd world's eye this year for its inclusion of Star Wars and Marvel doings. I almost went; today's press has convinced me it would have been a fool's errand, that I would have been hopelessly outclassed by Disney veterans who understand all the tricks that a noob like me is hopelessly ignorant about. What time/day to get in line. What kind of membership is needed to ensure success. How to buy specific collectibles. How to get into certain panels. You know, like San Diego Comic-Con.

Except NOT, because of this: "At 9 a.m., the VIP Sorcerer members, those who paid $2,000 for primary access and shopping opportunities, were let onto the showroom floor. The room was buzzing with excitement and a sense of anxiety as guests wondered if their long hours of waiting would get them the limited items."

Wait, what? $2,000 for "primary access and shopping?" Comic conventions look like the Family Dollar Store in comparison. That's incredible. Even VIP Con packages tend to range from $300-500.

But attendees think it's worth it; Sorcerer members got early access to buy exclusives, front-row access to any panel, exhibit tours, snacks and a 20-minute massage voucher. One guy even put it in SDCC terms: "I'm a San Diego native, so I know how Comic-Cons get crazy. But Disney provides a hassle-free way of dealing with the lines and crowd. It's a better deal."

Better except for the people who can't pony up 2K, of course. Anyway, if you have your eye on the next Expo in 2017 - and who knows, Disney could own 2/3 of Hollywood by then - the Sorcerer's package has been bumped up $500 each convention and there are supposedly about 300 memberships available. So save your pennies or skip your next 10 Comic Cons.

Otherwise D23 looks a lot like your typical Con:
  • Some attendees "are frustrated knowing some people are only buying souvenirs to scalp later."
  • But others felt like their line BFFs made the weekend more magical. "She said it was the relationships she has formed in line with people she had never met before that are making it worth it."
  • Rumors and possible misinformation fuel everyone's agenda: "We don't know if we'll get the dolls, it's rumored 50 or 100 dolls will be given out today."
  • Which in turns fuels odd hours and sacrificed sleep: "I'm going to be here at 4 a.m. tomorrow morning to make sure I get those dolls." 
  • There was an "exclusive preview sale Thursday night." 
  • And of course people were camped out with blankets and coolers a day in advance - the non-Sorcerers, I'm guessing. One difference: at 10 p.m. they were allowed to go in and sleep on the floor of the convention center. How generous. 

Fandom: why is it so intense? Is it because religious people and sports fans get to go to services and games on a regular basis, while we mostly bottle up our passions with just 1 or 2 outlets a year? I don't know. But it does seem that people like not just convention content but the pursuit of it - the drama, the determination, the conquest. Or as an SDCC first-timer said to me this summer, "We want to do Hall H next year. Camping out looks fun."

As someone who will (almost) always choose a hotel bed over a sleeping bag, I don't understand that attitude at all - but it's possible soft attendees like me are being winnowed out of the Con game, a Darwinian selection where only the hardest of hardcore fans succeed at these events. It'll be interesting to see if the next Expo involves longer lines and higher-priced memberships. Maybe it won't. But it's clear that given the demands these events place on attendees, you have to be a very serious fan indeed to make it worth it.


  1. FWIW, those $2,000 Sorcerer's memberships sell out almost instantly.

    Front row access to all panels though... think about it. What would that be worth in San Diego? What would people pay for that? Enough of them would pay thousands of dollars a person to fill those front rows. Guaranteed.

    1. People would pay for it, I'm sure. Which brings up another debate: should CCI introduced tiered pricing? If so, for which benefits? I like that idea within reason (I have been aching for some type of fast pass or VIP badge) but I would hate to see people of average means priced out of an enjoyable Con experience. I suppose as long as the top dogs are small in number, it shouldn't impact everyone else too much.

    2. Hi Valerie. I'm guessing that D23 has taken a tip from ReedPop and Wizard World and how they offer tiered tickets/badges for their cons. Since its every two years, I can see how the hard core Disney fan would be willing to shell out two grand for a sorcerer membership. As for SDCC, you know that there will be people who will pay extra to avoid the hassle of the lines and crowds if that becomes an option.

    3. No doubt. The question is, should it become an option? For what rewards at what price point?

      We'd also need a cool name that could compete with "Sorcerer."

    4. You know, Sorcerer is something that I would expect at Dragon Con. For me, I hope a VIP option doesn't become a reality at SDCC. What's scary about the $2K Sorcerer badge is that CCI could charge this for a VIP badge and they would sell out instantly like Transmute Jun said below.

  2. I don't think CCI will ever have tiered pricing, at least, not as you're suggesting. That would create an 'elite class', which is completely against their mission. They have held badge prices low for years, in order to make it affordable for everyone. They're a non-profit, so they're not going to charge more just because they *can*. And if I'm wrong about this, then they should have increased badge prices ages ago. The fact that they haven't shows you their state of mind.

    Also, even if they were a for profit corporation and wanted to maximize income, they could never have enough VIP badges to meet demand. No matter what price they charged, those VIP badges would sell out instantly and there would be people complaining that they didn't get them. it's just the way this con works.

    1. I see what you're saying, and your point is well taken. I appreciate how CCI has tried to keep badges affordable. However, SDCC badges aren't cheap in comparison to other cons. Just look at NYCC and what they charged for a 4 day pass this year. I would submit to you that there already is an elite class at SDCC--the exhibitors. Many of them have their exhibitor's and regular attendee badges. So they can get onto the exhibit floor before regular attendees, switch to the regular badge, score the desired exclusive, and then sell them at jacked-up prices whether at their booths or on ebay.

      As for your point about non-profits, please know that they are not all altruistic. The non-profit status, usually the 501(c)(3) exemption, is for tax-exempt status. It has nothing to do with doing good. Just look at TV political attack ads. They're funded by political groups who use the non-profit façade.

      I agree with you that there would never be enough VIP badges to satisfy demand. But it's that exclusivity that drives future demand. My friends went to SW Celebration this year. They didn't get the top VIP badges that they really wanted. Guess what? They're even more determined to score them for the SW Celebration in London.

  3. Interested in getting your opinion in the the ability that D23 has to draw Hollywood stars to the event as opposed to the other Cons. Thinking that this may be a viable alternative to SDCC if the ticket sales don't go my way.

    1. Well, this event only happens every other year so you'll have to wait for 2017. But yes, the Disney starpower is obviously immense and so they can offer some Hollywood people that wouldn't necessarily be at another Con, like Susan Lucci and Ellen DeGeneres. But I think most of the bigger Cons do a decent job of bringing in comparable talent.

      On the whole, the offerings at the Expo were differentiated from SDCC enough that it just depends on your interests. If you're interested in the concerts, Pixar features and merchandise as well as Marvel and Star Wars, for instance, this is definitely a great destination.