Offsites Upped the Ante at SDCC 2017

by Transmute Jun

Netflix Offsite

This year I attended my tenth San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). I’m really starting to feel like a veteran. And yet, anytime I think that way, the con throws a curveball at me. SDCC changes every year, and the curse of the veteran is to feel like you know everything. But you don’t. It’s easy to get caught in traps and think that just because something was one way last year that it would be the same this year. That’s probably not the case.

So what was different this year? For me, the big thing was that the offsites went off the rails. Yes, offsites have become more and more popular over the years, and last year saw long lines for many of them, but 2017 passed a serious watermark: people began overnight camping for offsites. And I’m not just talking about a few people desperate for Conan standby tickets.

In my opinion, there were two big things that were the catalyst for this trend. The first was the Westworld offsite. Promoted heavily by HBO, the people running the event clearly underestimated demand. Having a capacity of only 100 people per day (plus 20 – 30 standbys) created a frenzy for those who wanted in, and this resulted in the Hilton Bayfront dealing with their first ever overnight lines in their lobby. There are reports of Hilton security waking people up to prevent them from sleeping in the lobby and an all-around nasty experience with line-cutting. Attendees were desperate to get into this event, and it showed.

Staying out overnight to get into the Game of Thrones offsite.

The other factor was that the Game of Thrones (GoT) offsite announced that not only would they be giving out Funko Pops, they would be exclusive Funko Pops. As soon as the word ‘exclusive’ hit the air, Funko fans and flippers alike knew what they wanted to do. The lines for the GoT offsite have always been long, but manageable if you arrived early enough in the day. This year, a 10-12 hour lineup was required, no matter when you went. Both the GoT and Westworld staff were wristbanding people, and it was a good thing that they did. With the increase in line craziness, the line cutters were out in full force. While many like to blame Twilight for the start of overnight camping for Hall H, by the same logic, HBO would be to blame for the start of overnight camping for offsites.

Fortunately, while HBO was making it more difficult to get into their offsites, two companies were actually making it easier. Laika (creator of stop-motion movies such as Coraline and ParaNorman) had a terrific exhibit in the heart of the Gaslamp, and opened their doors almost a week before the con began, allowing local San Diegans and early-arriving attendees to experience the offsite before the convention began. Kudos to Laika for so easily solving a problem that has plagued the convention! I hope to see more offsites following this trend in the future.

Another trend I would like to see continue is online access to offsites. USA’s Mr. Robot had an offsite event where attendees could sign up for E-Coin and use their pre-loaded cards to obtain free food in the Gaslamp, at a number of different locations. Yet while the lines to sign up in person were long, there was also an online sign-up option available. My group was able to sign up online while sitting in a line, and then after we were finished with our event we were able to take our mobile devices throughout the Gaslamp to score free food. While we didn’t get the lanyard and card that came with signing up in person, we were still able to participate and enjoy ourselves. The merchants who participated in this promotion were also very pleased with the business coming their way (and yes, they were being paid by USA for each item attendees obtained through E-Coin).

Outlanders strut their stuff in the Gaslamp

Not new this year, but welcomed, were the traveling offsites. Groups of bare-chested ‘Scotsman’ from Starz’ Outlander roamed the Gaslamp with a bagpipe band, wooing the ladies and passing out swag, holding impromptu events when there was a free moment. Attendees sitting in lines on the street or simply passing nearby were drawn into these spur-of-the-moment happenings. Representatives from Amazon’s The Tick passed out con survival gear such as bandaids, deodorant, sunscreen and tissues. Other shows handed out free sodas and candy to people passing through the Gaslamp. Despite all of this, I missed the Sharknado people (who were present for the past couple of years). Where were the roaming bands of Sharknados?

Overall, offsites continue to be an important part of the SDCC experience, and I look forward to seeing more of them in 2018.

Did you attend any offsites at SDCC 2017? Join the conversation on FoCC!

Transmute Jun

Transmute Jun has an addiction to pop culture conventions, and attends as many as she can each year. When she's not traveling, she likes to stay at home reading a good book, playing a video game, or binge-watching a TV show. She can be bribed with pizza, Coke Zero and Belgian milk chocolate.