2017 Update: A lot has changed since 2014. Please see our updated SDCC Badge Guide.
So you want to go to the world famous San Diego Comic Con this summer and you’re a little confused about where to to begin? When do badges go on sale, you ask? What happens if you don’t get a badge or don’t get the type of badge that you want? What are some good local hotels to stay at? How can you get up close and personal with your favorite creators and celebrities? If you’re a bit overwhelmed by all the details floating around then read on.
This series of articles is going to break things down into segments. Our first segment is the biggest hurdle for most people; badges. We’ll follow this up with posts about hotels, off site events, and much much more. If there’s a topic you’d like to have covered drop us a line and we’ll see what we can do. Information in these articles is gathered from Comic Con International’s official website, Friends of Comic Con International forums, and personal experiences.
Buying badges is the most frustrating part of the whole Comic Con planning experience for most people. Unlike many other conventions, you can’t just casually buy them on a whim and head to the convention on the spur of the moment. You have to plan for it. You need to know the precise moment that they go on sale, be at your computer at that time, and then get in line (yes, a virtual line). At that point you just pray to the Old Gods and the New and hope that your computer doesn’t crash while you’re in the queue. If it does you might have to sit that round out and try again in resale (I’ll explain what that means a little later) or wait until next year.
Here’s what you need to know before tickets go on sale…
Member ID: Everyone needs a Member ID to register. They usually close off registration for ID’s a few days or weeks before badges go on sale so get one now. Like seriously, stop reading this article for a moment, go register for an ID, then come back and keep reading. This article isn’t going anywhere I promise.
Did you do it? Do you have an ID now? Awesome. Read on.
Pre-reg, General reg, and Re-sale: If you went last year you have the opportunity to participate in pre-registration ahead of the general crowd. As this article is geared more towards first timers, I’m going to assume most information about pre-registration doesn’t apply to you so I’ll just skip that. If you want the latest on that, check out this blog post. What you do need to know if this is your first time is that you might possibly have two opportunities to purchase badges. There will be a general sale first, then typically a resale later consisting of badges from people who refunded them for whatever reason. Maybe they couldn’t make it after all. Maybe they got a press badge or a pro badge. Maybe they had no intention of going at all and just snagged up a badge to prove that they could as some sort of nerdy display of skill. I don’t know. There are a ton of reasons for them to be returned so they can usually put a few thousand up for sale again later.
Take advantage of both if you can because if you don’t get the badges you want the first time around you might get to have a second go at it. The key word here is ‘might.’ Last year some things went wrong with general sale and the resale was held by a lottery system, so the way resale operates can vary quite a bit. There’s also no guarantee about how many badges will be on sale that day. In the past, press and pro registration were completed after the general sale so there were a ton of people willing to sell their badges back. This year with registration being so late this might not be the case.
The moral of the story is don’t rely on resale. But use it if you have a chance to do so and didn’t get what you want on your first go around. Use it as a back up.
Sale Date: This has not yet been announced as of this writing, but as long as you haven’t opted out of your emails from Comic Con International then you should get an email a few days before they go on sale letting you know what’s up. Yes, I know, it’s only a few days warning, but that’s just how Comic Con works. If your email gets sent to junk mail or you accidentally opted out of getting emails you might want to keep an eye on @Comic_con and their Facebook Page. I’d check on it at least every few days to see if there’s been an official announcement. As of this writing pre-reg hasn’t even been announced and general sale will definitely happen after pre-reg. Once pre-reg starts, get ready. It’ll be your turn soon enough.
While we might not know the exact date, we can definitely predict certain details about it. It’s usually on Saturday morning Pacific Time. It’s occurred anywhere from 8am to 11am, so be prepared for anything within that time frame. Last year it happened mid-February and the year before that it happened in March. At this point pre-reg had already occurred, though, so it could get pushed back further than that. After pre-reg happens for us returning con goers, I’d request off every Saturday morning/afternoon for a month or two if you run the risk of having to work that day. It could happen at any time and you’ll only have a few days notice. If you are good at faking the flu with your boss, though, then this might be a non-issue. Or perhaps you can just offer up your soul to a crossroads demon in exchange for the day off. Whatever works.
How Registration Works: (UPDATE: 2/6 – Pre-registration has changed a little bit! Please read our article about it here). There’s a chance that you can be in and out in 20 minutes, but I’d set aside at least an hour or two for registration. If it goes quicker than expected then you can just spend that extra time gloating on social media. Congratulations on your badges and for annoying your friends. Good luck!
The registration process changes every year so this is just a general outline of what to expect. An email could come from CCI contradicting part of this, so take this as a general guide, not an accurate instructions manual for registration for 2014.
- On the morning of registration you are usually free to hover on a “landing page.” (Update: 2/6- This year you will need your member ID to sign into the landing page)
- Once in the waiting room you are assigned a batch. Then you just wait basically. You wait and wait and wait. It could be five minutes. It could be an hour. It’s hard to tell. In the past we have been warned to not refresh this page. Some people went against this when things froze and were able to grab badges so who knows. I’d still advise you to not refresh this page. If it freezes, take a screen shot as proof. Last year this helped people who had technical difficulties and registration staff were super helpful to those people. Eventually your number is up and you are sent to the registration page to finish everything up.
- The registration page is very different from years past, so I can’t accurately describe from experience. This year four day badges are not available so you have to check each individual date. Other than that bit of info I’m hesitant to describe much more about how it works and will only provide a link to Comic Con’s write up on the matter and a screen shot.
How Fast Do They Sell Out?
Ok, you probably want more of an explanation. They sell out faster and faster every year. In 2009 all 4-day badges were sold out months in advance, but you could still buy single day at the door. In 2010 all badges were sold out by March. In 2011 badges sold out 8 hours after going on sale. In 2012 and 2013 they were sold out in 90 minutes. So 90 minutes seems to be our stabilizing point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually start selling out in under an hour. I also want to remind you that you could be waiting in line for an hour or more, so you will want to be at your computer the second badges go on sale. Don’t assume you can walk in just shy of 90 minutes and grab a badge. You will spend that time waiting in line. In fact, a lot of things involving Comic Con include waiting in line so this is some great practice.
How Much Do They Cost?
- Use a buddy system. There is usually a 3-4 badge purchase limit during general sale (there are 3 during pre-reg this year) so get some friends together and make it a group effort. Log on from different computers/devices in the comfort of your own homes, chat online, and try to buy for each other. Please note that during pre-registration only those that attended last year are eligible. That means that even if your friend is eligible, you would have to be eligible too for that friend to buy for you. Once general registration hits, though, everyone who has a Member ID can try.
- Have a stable Internet connection. If your Internet fails for even a second you can lose your spot in line. If your home Internet connection has a tendency to fail, go somewhere else. A coffee shop, perhaps. Maybe a friend’s house. Or just stand next to Sam Winchester. He seems to have Wifi wherever he goes.
- Relax. If you are upset you are more likely to mess something up so just take a deep breath and put things into perspective. We all want to go to Comic Con really badly, sure, but it will not be the end of the world if you don’t get badges. You can still head out there and do a ton of off site stuff or even take the money you would have spent and go to a different convention. WonderCon is great. So is New York City Comic Con. It’s upsetting if you don’t get a badge, but you will find something else to do. I promise.
So now you know everything that us frequent Con goers know about badge registration. You know how it works. You know when to expect it. You are armed with tips on how to best utilize the tools you have.
Good luck. May the odds be ever in your favor.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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