Comic-Con Ticket Sales: Systematizing Randomness

San Diego Comic-Con 2013

Comic-Con International (CCI) yesterday announced its new plan to “level the playing field” in the mad dash to obtain tickets to San Diego Comic-Con.

Rather than a “first come, first served” distribution scheme, this year’s online system for Comic-Con tickets will be randomized. As explained in CCI’s official blog:

During 2014 badge preregistration, prospective attendees will be given a time frame in which they can log in to the EPIC waiting room prior to the badge sale. Once the badge sale begins, everyone who is inside the waiting room will be randomly assigned to a registration session. Your assigned registration session is not tied to the time you entered the waiting room. There is no advantage in arriving early.

CCI hopes this scheme will reduce the panic and confusion caused by thousands of prospective attendees feverishly clicking in hopes of landing at the front of the line to purchase tickets.

The announcement was met with the expected range of responses, from relief to outrage.

“I feel like stress is gone now. It seems like fairest possible solution to me,” @Anjosie tweeted. “Seems pointless to me. Everyone is still going to log in at the bell assuming the randomizer will run its course quickly,” predicted @athletics68. “I’m not a fan,” tweeted @N3rdlink “If u were prepared u most likely got badges. Now it’s random. I don’t think I’m going to like this.”

San Diego Comic-Con 2013: Talkback Session
Comic-Con 2013 Talkback session.

One person in favor of this approach, however, is John Rogers, president of Comic-Con International board of directors. At the conclusion of each Con, Rogers holds a “Talkback” session to solicit feedback, suggestions, and complaints about what worked, and what didn’t, at that year’s Con.

Access to tickets was a commonly voiced concern at last year’s Talkback session. One person with what she characterized as a “fast” computer system said she was placed at slot 24,000 in the online waiting room while her friends who logged in “at the same time” got 4-day passes. “I don’t understand why some people were able to get in and others didn’t,” she stated.

Rogers admitted that he and his team were also baffled by the mysterious way in which slots in the queue were allocated. “There are so many people hitting the system at the same time that, in fact, it is random,” Rogers stated. Given this, Rogers’ belief is that the queue system should be explicitly randomized.

And so it will be this year. Time will tell how well this approach works, but one can easily predict the response at next year’s Talkback session: those who receive tickets will love the new scheme while those who don’t will be outraged.

 

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