In two weeks, a Wizard World-branded convention descends on my hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. Last week, all of of my Facebook friends had a simultaneous squee of joy when David Tennant was added to the guest list. If I had a dollar for every person who asked if I was going now, I’d be kept in Starbucks for the rest of the month. But no, I’m still not going. I have no interest in any Wizard World events.
First, let’s just look at this from a rational point of view. Admission for the three-day event is $75 in advance or $85 at the door. Or you can choose a “VIP Experience” with the aforementioned Tennant for $400 or with William Shatner for $275 or $500, depending on just how VI you want your experience to be. What does that extra $225 get you? A Shatner lithograph instead of a trading card and a photo pre-signed by Leonard Nimoy. (These prices were set and this post written before Nimoy’s death yesterday.)
I can’t tell you what the programming will be since, 12 days out, they’re still accepting suggestions. But having looked at other Wizard World schedules in the past, there are usually 15-20 programming panels/sessions over the course of the weekend. Total. Not per day. Not per room. Total.
In the end, you’re paying $75 minimum to get in the door, largely for the opportunity to spend more money on autographs ($25 to $150) or photos with celebrities ($40-$110). That’s not what the con experience is about for me.
To compare, for $95, you could buy an advanced membership to Dragon Con for a much larger guest list with a similar caliber of names and four days of constant programming that adds up to more than 3500 hours, not 15. And if you want to go get an autograph and a photo in a spare moment, you can do that, too. And a lot of other stuff. So much other stuff.
Or for $5, you could go to the Oak City Comic and Toy Show today, only a week before Wizard World, also in Raleigh. (Free to the first 200 in costume!) In fact, Wizard Worlds have a bit of a reputation for moving into town within weeks of another show. First by scheduling their Big Apple Comic Con during the same weekend as New York Comic Con in 2010. Then in Toronto, Seattle/Portland, and in Minneapolis. Sometimes they just straight up buy the local con, like in Ohio, where they then increased the cost of an artist’s table from $125 to $200 (on top of a buying a pass to attend at only a 26% discount). A vendor described how, post-purchase by Wizard, the cost of a 10’x10′ booth went from $50 to $1,245. “By the end of the day I was noting vendors who’d been present for years posting signs reading ‘RIP Mid-Ohio Con,'” he says. These are hardly isolated incidents. Read tales from Wizard World experiences in Philadelphia and New Orleans.
Wizard World has also started charging $600 for fan tables, something offered for free by many cons, including Dragon Con, San Diego Comic-Con, and New York Comic Con. As a result, jilted fans have gathered through the Facebook page “Boycott Wizard World,” where they share tales of assorted bad experiences with Wizard Worlds. In Philadelphia, reports of those hundreds of high-priced photos being thrown on a table for retrieval by their owners. In New Orleans, a band providing music for free wasn’t even given comped badges—they were effectively asked to pay to perform. A winner of their online cosplay contest was told that Wizard World had no idea what he was talking about when he tried to collect the promised prize.
This fan-excluding money-grab isn’t the type of fandom I’m interested. In fact, I’m not sure you can call what Wizard World does “fandom” at all. “Fan exploitation,” perhaps. It’s not the type of show I want to support, and I suggest you don’t either.