Somewhere Sheldon Cooper and the gang of The Big Bang Theory are hyperventilating along with millions of other nerds. San Diego Comic-Con is officially canceled for the first time in its fifty-year history. The convention will physically return again in July 2021 but will hold a “virtual con” during it’s originally scheduled 2020 slot. SDCC is by far the largest convention in the world each year. This event brings people from all over the world and crams them into ONE convention center for nearly five days. Most fans wait hours in lines smashed up next to each other to get into panels or purchase exclusive merchandise. Press agents go from celebrity to celebrity and mingle with the fans to get the scoop. Everyone is mobbed together as you try to get around. Honestly, it’s the perfect breeding ground for COVID-19.
SDCC isn’t the only convention affected by this virus though: Wonder Con, a convention owned by the same company, was canceled when California was ordered into a state-wide shelter in place order to begin in March. Emerald City Comic-Con, the first big convention of the year, rescheduled to late August, but time will only tell if that will actually happen. In general, most conventions have decided to cancel and come back in 2021. The Game of Nerds, like all other nerd outlets, basically had its entire convention schedule shut down for the year. While we miss hanging out with fans, doing interviews, and even going out with our various cosplayers. We do believe that safety and everyone’s health is more important than anything else. Thankfully, SDCC, like other conventions, has already stated on their website that anyone who wants a refund will get it or their tickets will roll over to next year. Also, all hotels will refunding deposits to help fans out.
Which brings up our next question: could SDCC go completely virtual? They’ve already announced on social media that this is their plan but offer no specific details. There are a couple of conventions that have tried to go digital already. Emerald City Comic Con did attempt a virtual version that didn’t go so well. Eventually, they decided that they would just reschedule for later in the year. Once again, we will see if they stick to that plan. Funko usually releases a huge wave of convention exclusives at ECCC, NYCC, SDCC, and other major conventions. They decided to have their own virtual convention to sell ECCC merchandise and it was okay. Fans who had gotten into the Funko booth via the ECCC ticket lottery had the first chance at getting these exclusive pops before the general public.
Wizard World Convention is the only company that has already started doing virtual panels open to the public with the option of paid video calls and autographs add ons. So far they have done panels for Supernatural, Once Upon a Time, Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel, The Magicians, Teen Wolf, and other series. All the actors are being streamed live from their own home for safety and fans can ask questions in real-time while it’s being moderated. Fans are really enjoying this setup! Wizard World’s virtual panels have shown that, in theory, these kinds of things could work.
However, it would be interesting to see how their system could handle an extreme star-studded panel like Marvel actors or a huge movie/series reunion. This is where teaming up with a hosting program like Youtube, Facebook, or Zoom would be extremely beneficial. SDCC could potentially do all panels virtually for everyone to see and ask for questions in advance. This would give the movie and television companies a bump in promoting content that has been delayed due to the COVID-19.
But this set up does leave SDCC missing out on making its usual cash load on tickets, vendor/artist table fees, merchandise, autographs, and photo ops. I have a feeling if they do attempt a virtual con it won’t be free. They will attach some kind of fee to make money and make it an “exclusive event”. This way they can also cap turn out and make sure the systems can handle that much traffic.
Unfortunately, the vendors whose livelihood depends on SDCC are now affected the worst. This is especially true for so many small nerdy businesses and comic book shops around the country. Let’s not forget the entire downtown San Diego area that is used to an uptick of business because of this huge event. We honestly hope that SDCC can provide fans and companies alike some help during these crazy times. It will be really interesting to see what they have up their sleeves.