Let me get this out of the way: I don't know when Return Registration will be.
SDCC attendees have had a tense month. After being told that Returning Registration - itself a change from the label Pre-Registration - would be held in "early 2017," we've been in suspension ever since. Your definition of early 2017 could vary but I think most of us expected it would be in the February timeframe. WonderCon is at the end of March, and a logical mind would assume CCI might want to get both badge sales out of the way before then.
As a reminder, here's the timeline ahead of us - if things go the way they always have:
- Return Registration will happen.
- Open Registration will follow.
- Early Bird Hotel Sale will open up. Usually it's open for a few weeks before shutting down for...
- Hotel Day, where we all plunge into the hellish hotel room lottery.
Based on that timeline, most of us thought Returning Reg would happen around early-mid February - this Saturday, the 25th, at the latest. So far we haven't heard a peep, and that's freaking people out because....
We know registration will be at least a little different this year.
This makes people nervous because CCI's silence signals that they are struggling to perfect the new system - and that we may be in for a new round of crashes and bizarre tech glitches that unfairly kick people out of the sale. If you're new to SDCC world, you missed the years when entire badge sales would have to be rescheduled - sometimes twice - because of site crashes.
The fact that the system is changing has led many of us to expect some kind of instructional video or other advance preparation, as CCI has done in the past. It seems unlikely they'll send out an email 2 days before the sale saying "Oh, hey, it's all different this year but you'll figure it out." So people who hoped the sale would be this weekend are already getting gloomy over the lack of an email.
(Again, I recommend investigating how WonderCon badges are being sold through the site just to give you an idea of what our sale might look like - even though it won't be identical.)
The delays are forcing people to delay buying airfare and finding hotel rooms on their own.
If you're somewhere in the lower West Coast, this may not be a big deal - but people who need to fly to San Diego or LA want to get their tickets now, before the summer vacation crowd starts buying them all up. And for those of us who are gambling on the hotel sale - a prospect that grows increasingly dire each year - we want to know as soon as possible if we need to make arrangements on our own.
People are succumbing to paranoid theories that Return Registration will be absorbed into Open Registration.
Did I say "paranoid?" That's probably unfair, given that this is a game that changes constantly and it often feels like CCI is capable of stunning us in so many ways - but they did say Returning Registration would happen. It would be a supremely unethical move to cancel it. I think if they were willing to do that, they already would have announced it.
And from a commercial standpoint, it behooves their vendors (and the whole show really) to give the edge to returning attendees. We're the superfans who buy up everything on the floor and blog/post incessantly about all the trailers we saw. First-timers can be superfans too but they're an untested commodity. Returning Reg stacks the deck with zealots, while Open Reg opens the door to fresh faces. It's a good system in my opinion.
At any rate, there's no point in losing your mind over this horrible scenario until and if it happens.
It's already the season to buy tickets and badges for other Cons - and attendees need to make decisions.
I'm always begging people to look beyond SDCC and find other Cons, because the idea that San Diego Comic-Con is the one and only is just hogwash. Lots of great Cons out there; I'm heading to one next week. In recent weeks, I've been hearing from people who've pretty much had it with SDCC and want to know what I recommend. They'll still try for a badge, but with March around the corner, they're looking at New York Comic Con, Gen Con, DragonCon, Silicon Valley, Denver, Salt Lake and others. This is a smart move.
People are frustrated by CCI's silence and lack of transparency, AGAIN.
"I'm so sick of their crap," someone said to me yesterday. He was referring to CCI, and he was referring to an ingrained pattern of failing to provide basic status updates to attendees. (Again, if you're new - this used to be so much worse.) I know you CCI loyalists will say they're working hard and they want what's best for us and we don't have a right to demand more - but pretty much every other organization values transparency and communication in the interest of good customer relationships.
When CCI launched their Toucan blog, I really hoped they would use it for dialogues (no such luck) or to at least be more candid about this kind of development. All they have to do is put up a post saying a new system is coming, it's taking longer than they thought because they want it to be perfect, and right now the sale might be in March. Instead we get... silence. And it feels like a slap.
Those of you headed to Emerald City Comicon with me next week: I think we can agree a 4 March sale is a nightmare scenario. I dread the idea of being away from my elaborate command center during a sale, but we'll make it work. See me if you need a place/computer to navigate the sale in Seattle that day, should it happen. I'll try to put something together.
And in the meantime, we'll keep waiting. Maybe we'll get an email tomorrow. Maybe next week. Tighten up your game plan, make sure your credit cards have room on them, and keep your Saturdays open. It's all we can do.