By Andrés Uribe, Expedition PR
For those who are not familiar, Comic-Con is THE convention for comic enthusiast, anime aficionados, and pretty much anyone interested in pop culture and seeing people dress-up as super heroes. Started in San Diego in 1970 by a Detroit-born comic fan and a team of local comic scene influencers, the inaugural Comic-Con attracted 145 attendees. Fast forward to 2013 and Comic-Con now has a presence in several major cities around the world, attracting 116,000 and 130,000+ at last year’s New York City and San Diego events respectively.
Following tradition, this year’s New York City event will take place at one of the only Manhattan venues able to accommodate such a crowd, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and Plaza. Although the Javits center occupies an impressive 5 city blocks, there have been overcrowding issues since the first New York Comic Con (NYCC) in 2006 when the fire marshals barred entry for much of the day on Saturday and ReedPOP (ComiCon organizer) suspended Sunday ticket sales. According to Pei Cobb Freed & Partners (Javits Center’s architecture team), the Javits Center has a capacity of 85,000 people, 31,000 less than last year’s attendance.
The discrepancy in capacity versus expected attendance shouldn’t be an issue though, as long as all 116,000+ expected attendees don’t plan on entering the convention at the same time. In order to ensure that this does not happen, this year’s tickets are really not tickets at all. Instead, all pass holders have been given badges with built in radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips. These RFID badges will help not only this year’s NYCC crowd control, but they will also aid in setting up next year’s exhibits for optimum crowd distribution.
With the RFID badges, ReedPOP will be able to track how many NYCC guests are in any given area. This will allow event staff to suspend traffic to specific areas of the convention, before overcrowding occurs. Additionally, equipped with this knowledge, event organizers can implement last minuet exhibitions and attractions that will be announced during the convention. These impromptu attention grabbers can serve to draw crowds to an area of the convention floor that is seeing relatively less traffic at any given moment.
Additionally, the data that will be collected from the badges will serve to improve NYCC for years to come. ReelPOP will be able to find out where people walked throughout the entire convention, how long they stayed in any given location, if they walked right or left when they entered the Javits Center, and whole host of other valuable movement patters. These movement patters, when aggregated and placed on top of an NYCC exhibitor floor plan, will create a map of movement patters that will help event organizers identify the most popular booths. When coupled with current event data such as whether or not a new Iron Man movie was released the summer of NYCC 2014, ReelPOP will be able to predict which booths will be most popular next year, and arrange the trade show floor in a way that will optimize crowd dispersion.
At least these are some of the things I hope will happen given the fact that I have so graciously opted in to allowing ReelPOP to track my whereabouts during my visit to NYCC. As of now, the only promise is that entry will be suspended to portions of the convention center that is nearing capacity. But eh, with great power comes with great responsibility, and I think ReelPOP has made a responsible first step to ensuring that the fire marshals are never again forced to suspend entry into the NYCC due to overcrowding.