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SDCC 2023 Returning Registration: Rough Start, Smooth Finish

by Transmute Jun

For the first time in 3 years, San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) held a badge sale for returning registration (formerly known as pre-registration). On October 15, 2022, fans participated in a badge sale for the 2023 show (to be held July 19-23). During this multi-year time gap, Comic Con International (CCI) changed the online system for badge purchases. This new system was accessed through Member ID accounts and used Queue-It software to let people into the badge purchase screen.  While the system was used successfully for both Comic Con Special Edition (held November 2021) and WonderCon (held March 2022), it had never been subjected to the rigors of a SDCC badge sale.

With CCI, fans have come to expect technological issues for SDCC badge sales. Ultimately, CCI does not seem to understand the overwhelming demand for badges, nor the enthusiasm with which people will work to obtain badges. Whenever a new system is introduced, it tends to crash under excessive demand. October 15 was no exception. The waiting room for the returning registration badge sale was supposed to open at 8:00 am Pacific time, and it crashed immediately. Attendees were told to refresh their pages, yet their screens hung, and they eventually began getting error messages of varying types.

After some time, CCI tweeted that the system was having issues and asked fans to be patient. Eventually, they had to admit that the sale would not take place at 9:00 am, but that an announcement would be made at 9:30 am. Many attendees, including FoCC Blog, were convinced that the sale would have to be rescheduled to a different day.

Fortunately, CCI was able to cobble together a solution so that the sale could happen only an hour later than planned. The waiting room was opened at 9:30 am, and fans were able to enter, with the sale taking place at 10:00 am. Unfortunately, since the fix had to be made quickly, many of the protective measures were not present. Fans were able to enter the waiting room without logging into their Member ID accounts, and when they reached the front of the queue, they were able to log in with ineligible Member ID accounts to purchase badges. Fortunately, it does seem that only eligible accounts could have a badge purchased for them.

While the 90 minutes between 8:00 and 9:30 am were stressful, once attendees got into the buying screen, the process worked smoothly. Fans were able to purchase the badges they desired, and move to checkout. Confirmation emails were sent almost immediately, both to the purchaser and the attendee for whom they had purchased. In the end, there were numerous happy attendees who came away with their desired badges for SDCC 2023.

Regarding the sale itself, the process went more slowly this year, as CCI had forewarned. Preview Night sold out at 10:39 am, with some attendees being placed on a waitlist for the Wednesday night early access (new this year). Other days took longer to sell out:

  • Preview Night – 10:39 am
  • Saturday – 11:11 am
  • Friday – 11:21 am
  • Sunday – 11:35 am
  • Thursday – 11:36 am

When a new system is introduced, issues are expected, however it seemed as if CCI did insufficient testing for the kind of loads that SDCC would generate. Special Edition and WonderCon have nowhere near the demand of SDCC, so the claim that the system was ‘tested’ on these events is laughable. However, FoCC Blog has to give CCI credit for being able to adjust and get the sale running, allowing fans to purchase their badges without rescheduling to a different day. Hopefully, CCI will take the next few weeks to do some proper load testing to determine how to deal with open registration, which will have exponentially higher demand (since many more people are eligible for that sale).

What was your experience with SDCC 2023 returning registration? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!


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.

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