FoCC Con Recap: ECCC Reinvents Itself in 2023
by Transmute Jun
Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) has had a rough past couple of years. One of the first cons to be canceled in 2020 as part of the COVID pandemic, the 2021 and 2022 shows were held at odd times of year (December and August, respectively) leading to 3 cons being hosted within 15 months. 2023 was the first time since 2019 that ECCC was held during its traditional spring timeframe (March 2-5). Attendance was up more than 10% from 2022, although not quite at 2019 levels.
In addition to returning to the spring, ECCC also moved to a new location: the newly-constructed Seattle Summit Convention Center. This was the first big convention to be held at this location, and the staff was clearly doing their best to make it work. This being said, there are always kinks in a new situation, and there were a few issues that will likely be corrected in 2024.
Like the previous convention center, the new location is tall (rather than wide), spanning 6 different levels. With the Main Stage on Level 5 and the main Exhibit Floor on Level 0, this meant a lot of time spent on escalators for the majority of attendees. The flow up and down levels was sometimes clogged, particularly on Saturday, when the convention staff inexplicably closed down escalators and stairs, seemingly at random. Additionally, many conventiongoers did not realize that there was a Level 0 (below where they entered on Level 1) and missed the main exhibit floor entirely. At the Talkback panel, ReedPop staff pledged to address these issues next year, with both improved access to escalators/stairs/elevators and additional signage.
Many attendees also complained about the lack of food options both in and around the convention center. This is another issue organizers intend to address in 2024. On the good news side, attendees were pleased with the free, high quality Wi-Fi available (a big improvement over the previous convention center) and the high tech, streamlined security process that eliminated the majority of bag checks.
ECCC is also doing much to address the interests of its attendee base, most of which comes from the Pacific Northwest. This year, the Pop Asia section was expanded, and a number of K-Pop events were held, which generated great interest. Tabletop gaming also has a significant presence at ECCC (which organizers hope to further expand in 2024) and this year saw the introduction of ‘LARPs’ (actually boffing: fighting with foam weapons). This proved to be quite popular, and approximately 14% of attendees participated in this new activity, despite its out of the way, ‘back corner’ location.
Main Stage panels improved in quality from last year, with David Tennant and Mark Ruffalo drawing large audiences. Panels for The Mandalorian, Our Flag Means Death, and cast reunions for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Scream also drew significant crowds.
The Exhibit Floor, while interesting, lacked prominent anchor points, with traditional exhibitors such as Funko, Dark Horse, Image and Skybound still missing. Con organizers explained this as staffing troubles, which have hit publishers especially hard. The bright spot on the floor was the Bandai/Studio Ghibli booths, which offered popular merchandise (including a wide selection of Nanoblocks) and photo ops. Positioned right inside the main entrance to the floor, this was a popular spot for attendees to congregate.
Overall, it felt like a fresh start for ECCC, and fans who attended the show had a great time. Most of them are already looking forward to the 2024 show, scheduled to take place February 29th though March 3rd.
Did you attend ECCC 2023? Join the conversation on the FoCC forums!