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Answerman - Why Did Otakon's Attendance Shrink?


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jsevakis
ANN Director of New Media


Joined: 28 Jul 2003
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 3:07 pm Reply with quote
Aresef wrote:
False. The protests did go through the harbor area. I was at the Orioles game when they said nobody would be allowed to leave for a bit (the game went into extras anyway and it was nbd), but that was more due to crowd control. There were isolated incidents like a cop car getting smashed up. The more intense violence started in northwest Baltimore at Mondawmin Mall and stretched to Pennsylvania and North avenues two days later. I highly doubt, Justin, you recognized that CVS that was set ablaze.

You might be right, but I'd be more willing to capitulate if you weren't twisting my words a bit. I wrote that I recognized a convenience store being looted, not a drug store being burned. Regardless, my greater point stands.
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Erowin



Joined: 12 Apr 2015
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 3:34 pm Reply with quote
Incidentally, I would check your reasoning. I was just at Bronycon in Baltimore this past weekend and as the attendance numbers stand, it was the most-attended con in fandom history and was up by 10% from last year.
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tasogarenootome



Joined: 24 Feb 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:09 pm Reply with quote
I definitely think the protests in Baltimore AND the issues with registration influenced attendance this year. It definitely felt like less people, but those numbers are quite surprising.
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Lactobacillus yogurti



Joined: 17 Aug 2011
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:27 pm Reply with quote
I hadn't gone to Otakon in six years, but I did feel there was less people than back then. Or it was more subdued, perhaps?Either way, my only complaint was the whole scheduling horror, but up to where I know that's the usual.

And for those who say they can't go to Otakon because they're too far away... I live in spoiler[South America] and I went anyway, with my own money. If I could, you can Smile.
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ManaKnight



Joined: 22 Dec 2011
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:32 pm Reply with quote
As someone who lives in Maryland, goes to Otakon every year for the last 6 years, I will explain all that goes on.

For one, Otakon's attendance drop had to do w/ the following reasons:
-All the incidents in Baltimore putting a bad reception on the city, even if most all of it took place in the bad sides of town (west side of city) which is no where near the convention center.
-Price increase for badge.
-Not enough big guests to intrigue people to go.
-Some just waiting for the con to move to DC since they already know the BCC is overcrowded for Otakon.
-Some not being too happy w/ what happened w/ pre-reg in 2014.

The price increase had to happen whether anyone liked it or not. Renting out the convention center + Hilton + Royal Farms Arena is very pricey. Facility costs (at a sold out Otakon at the badge rates) accounted for 40% of the costs. Now since they had to cap the convention (along w/ increase in cost of living, property taxes, and cost of wages of employees.....if you live in MD like me, you are aware that us and DC have the HIGHEST cost of living costs in the US and they keep rising at a rapid rate), they had no choice but to increase the cost since the con operates not making much money in the end anyway. When you are capped at 35k max as well, it also makes it less appealing to bring in bigger guests.

Now the pre-reg thing is exactly why Otakon is leaving Baltimore (on top of space). Otakon IDs all the badges w/ everyone's information on them by scanning membership barcode, badge barcode, then links them together on a server using the convention center internet. The problem is the convention center's internet (provided by the city of Baltimore) is terribly outdated, needs the whole infrastructure updated, and just cannot handle processing all the badges at once for the number of members Otakon has pre-regs. Its why after the big rush is done, pre-reg goes super fast on Friday because it takes seconds to link badges/membership compared to 5-45 minutes per person. The city of Baltimore has major issues w/ money and have no plans on upgrading the network anyway since they are hoping to redo the whole convention center anyway. Proof of this is when Otakon used the Hilton internet when the convention center closed, they were able to process badges in seconds without any issues. They don't use the Hilton internet because they charge an arm and a leg for it (and would result it even higher badge costs).

As for why Otakon did not move to DC sooner? 5 or so years ago during the last contract renewal, there was still space left in Baltimore, the city had more concrete plans to expand convention center, and at the time Philly was finishing their convention center expansion, NY still needed to expand Javits, and DC convention center lacked any nearby hotels/eatery/not fully developed yet. With the city of Baltimore making no upgrades to the convention center, other convention center's being more ready to hold a larger audience...that is why Otakon is finally moving. Problem w/ DC was their Marriott Marquis hotel was not gonna be finished until mid 2014 connecting a hotel to the convention center, and the area is still being developed (I went there before).

From my experience, while the DC convention center is a newer/updated building that can handle a larger convention, its convention center isn't exactly well designed for anime cons/comicons (I went to Awesomecon there) and Otakon is going to have quite a few hurdles to overcome there (it lacks good spots for group shots, escalator going into exhibit hall is narrow, and the building is super plain/kind of ugly inside). The David L. Lawrence Convention Center would be the most ideal convention center for the con (located in Pittsburgh), but kind of further away.

I will say, any anime convention in the Baltimore/DC area is going to be pricey. Katsucon is mostly just a cosplay con now w/ very little content...its badges are $70. AnimeUSA is a tiny/under 5000 person con and badges are $65. TMODE only had like 200 or so people and badges were $60. Everything in the MD/DC area is expensive which results in our cons being higher priced than the Midwest/South/etc.

And the person who tried comparing Otakon to AX in price....keep in mind that while AX is 80 days for 4 days at the max, it does NOT include everything. Otakon's badge includes shows, events, masquerade, etc., while AX you pay separately for each...around $15-$45. I love AX to death but it gets expensive fast.
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Shiggity



Joined: 21 Sep 2008
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Location: Boston, MA
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:26 pm Reply with quote
I've been going to Otakon since 2009, and while I can agree with everyone's worries about this year's uprising of violence, I had a wonderful time with the stuff I attended and did, and I plan on going in 2016 as well to see off this great con from the great city of Baltimore. I'm also totally going in 2017 to see how it does in Wash DC, and after that I'll decide if I attend anymore on a yearly basis. I'd hate to break my legacy (7 years this year), but you do what you gotta do.

ManaKnight, I agree with all that you posted. Great post. Smile
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dragonmastr



Joined: 09 Feb 2012
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:27 pm Reply with quote
ManaKnight pretty much summed it up. Price hike, last year's pre-reg fiasco (which happened again this year), city violence, impending move to DC, and increasing frustration with the overcrowded convention halls were pretty much the biggest factors that I see in the decline.
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Shiggity



Joined: 21 Sep 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:30 pm Reply with quote
Also before I forget this part, the $100 reg rate was only at-con on Friday on. IIRC the prereg rates were as follow:

Attended at least one year prior: $80
- badge mailing +$10


^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

I paid that and it was awesome to skip the horrendous as always line.



New attendee: $90 (plus the optional mailing option for $10 more)

Anyone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong on that.
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bacondreamer



Joined: 28 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 5:40 pm Reply with quote
vangelionite88 wrote:
100 dollars is kind of steep, ontop of other costs and theres nothing special added to such. as of right now 4 day AX badge is 60 dollars. its a pretty good price.


AX's $60 badges does not include masquerade, concert(s), or maid cafe. Those are all extras, and based on this year's price for masquerade and concerts, you're easily looking at north of $100 for the weekend.

Otakon's membership price includes all of that. There are no additional charges for events. And the thursday matsuri is free.
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Raine Dragon



Joined: 10 Aug 2015
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 6:47 pm Reply with quote
Three things:
1. the cost
2. the over crowding
3. the content

People have been complaining about the price and the crowds for years. Last year people waited in PREREG lines for hours only to be told to go home because badge pickup was closed for the night.

They needed to do serious damage control because people were swearing they were never going back last year. They added badge mailing, but at a fee, with a higher ticket price.

Of course they lost attendees.

The Baltiomore riots had nothing to do with it, save for maybe keeping out a couple kids who's parents had issues with it (but somehow never knew Baltimore has a crazy high crime rate).
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invalidname
Get off my lawn!Get off my lawn!


Joined: 11 Aug 2004
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:02 pm Reply with quote
A lot of valid points here, but it's also highly plausible that the really young would-be attendees -- teens prevented from going by concerned parents -- might not be on these forums or have a history of previous years to compare against. So they're not going to be represented in this conversation, and there may be a lot of them. The magnitude and suddenness of the drop leaves me inclined to go with Justin's response of largely attributing it to current events… albeit with valid concerns from Otakon veterans about price and crowding.

ManaKnight wrote:
When you are capped at 35k max as well, it also makes it less appealing to bring in bigger guests

You've posted a lot of really good information, but this point doesn't entirely hold water, because it doesn't look like any North American anime con other than AX has ever hit 35K attendees, though Otakon came real close in 2013. Unless your point is to literally say there's a class of guests for which AX is the only possible venue, which may indeed be true (would the Hatsune Miku hologram ever make it to Anime Boston or A-Kon, for example).

(disclosure: I sent in the original question, after engaging Mike Toole and Zac on Twitter about it)
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Maidenoftheredhand



Joined: 21 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:08 pm Reply with quote
Anyone who says the riots didn't have an affect on attendance are in denial. Whether the fear was unwarranted or not (which personally I think it was) I am sure a bunch of people did not go because of the news. We actually saw a few posts about it on the Otakon board before the event.

Although I also think as others have said cost hikes and people feeling over crowded had something to do with the drop as well. Although Otakon's price is similar to other cons it's definitely on the high end.


However people who say th content/guests caused the drop are being silly. No con is going to have guests to please everyone. Personally with Romi Park this year I felt Otakon had a stronger guest than anyone last year. So based on that Otakon's attendance should have gone up. Except that reasoning only implies to me and it is the same to those who say the guest list wasn't up to par this year.
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jsevakis
ANN Director of New Media


Joined: 28 Jul 2003
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:14 pm Reply with quote
If 16 years of going to AX has taught me anything, it's that a con can screw up royally for years on end and not really have any measurable impact on attendance at all.

(Note: the AX crew has been pretty good the last few years, but damn were there some dark times.)
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Aresef



Joined: 22 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:48 pm Reply with quote
jsevakis wrote:
Aresef wrote:
False. The protests did go through the harbor area. I was at the Orioles game when they said nobody would be allowed to leave for a bit (the game went into extras anyway and it was nbd), but that was more due to crowd control. There were isolated incidents like a cop car getting smashed up. The more intense violence started in northwest Baltimore at Mondawmin Mall and stretched to Pennsylvania and North avenues two days later. I highly doubt, Justin, you recognized that CVS that was set ablaze.

You might be right, but I'd be more willing to capitulate if you weren't twisting my words a bit. I wrote that I recognized a convenience store being looted, not a drug store being burned. Regardless, my greater point stands.


Yes, there was one looted. It was a few years ago that there was a murder at Harborplace (not during the con) and attendance didn't suffer them. Generally, the violence that happened the Monday and the couple of days after that was in the northwest. Sorry. You kind of touched a nerve.

And people bringing up the cap, it didn't cause attendance to dip the previous years that have been capped.
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wmderemer
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:19 pm Reply with quote
While, as others have mentioned, AX badges are cheaper for 4 days (vs Otakon's 3) that that is because AX charges separate admission (sometimes even using Ticketmaster with their horrendous fees if the venue requires it) for their concerts, masquarade, etc., there is one other glaring reason why AX badges are cheaper...

That is because AX is an industry-subsidized con (and if I am not mistaken, run as a for-profit event, much like ReedPop does with NYCC), with the SPJA/AX making up the difference on the 'cheaper' badges through sacrificing some of their control over the con to the corporate sponsors who can just as easily yank their funding...

Otakon, on the other hand, is 100% fan-run, and except for one year when they handed out Bandai-branded badge lanyards, the convention does everything it can to avoid taking any 'sponsorship' and maintains full control over its event, allowing them more say so in content and so forth...
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