What to Expect From New York Comic Con’s First Online Convention

Photo: Knightmare6, Shutterstock
Photo: Knightmare6, Shutterstock

We knew it was coming, but it hurts all the same: New York Comic Con’s 2020 convention is officially cancelled in its physical form and moving to a digital experience. Much like DC’s new FanDome, NYCC hopes to capture as much magic as possible in an online setting, but for a significantly wider audience. For anyone who’s been to NYCC before — or any major convention, really — this is a tall order. The wonder of NYCC lies in interacting with other enthusiasts in person, seeing their cosplays as they walk by, sitting on the floor with your new merchandise, and discovering new artists as you wander through the Javits Centre’s 78,039 sq km of convention space.

From Lance Fensterman, President of ReedPop, the company that puts on the convention each year:

We are thoroughly disappointed that we can’t gather together, in-person for the New York Comic Con we love to build and our fans love to revel in. We look forward to this weekend all year long, just like you, and with this being our 15th edition, we were particularly excited. I will miss walking up and down artist alley and seeing friends that I’ve made since we were in the basement at the Javits Centre. While this year will definitely be a different experience, we are going to look to bring the best and most engaging event to our fans, exhibitors, and studios through our partnership with YouTube.

Without the in-person experience, a pop culture convention is almost, well, just another day on the internet for most nerds. ReedPop is hoping to change that, and they’re partnering with YouTube to try and make it happen. Here’s what you can expect:

A lower cost and higher accessibility

The good news? Forget about the typically $80 day pass or upwards of $300 for a weekend badge — a digital convention will be largely free. This means broader accessibility for a convention that was largely inaccessible in its in-person format, whether by location, cost, or other challenges of leaving your home to join a jam-packed convention centre in Manhattan. There will likely be opportunities for exclusive paid experiences, but most programming will be live online and available afterwards on-demand.

Learning your way around the Metaverse

According to their press release, ReedPop is offering a new “online portal dedicated to delivering pop culture experiences” through what they’re calling the Metaverse. Dates will run as planned — October 8 through 11 — with digital versions of three of the pillars you’d expect from the con: artist alley, panel rooms, and the exhibition floor.

The online layout offers a new challenge to the conventional skills that artists and exhibitors honed to lure would-be fans to their tables, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens and how effectively the Metaverse notifies fans that artists are available. Livestream panels should have less of a challenge by fans being familiar with tuning in for a specific time and duration, similar to the Zoom streams and Hangouts we’ve all grown accustomed to the past many months.

The convention’s official YouTube channel will air the most popular panels and announcements from the biggest names and studios (or those with the deepest pockets), and fans will be able to comment on YouTube’s live chat feature. Speaking of announcements…

The same big studio announcements

If the heart of a convention is fan enthusiasm, its soul (and blood, and bones) is made of money. New York Comic Con evolved from being a “comic” convention to a full pop culture juggernaut spanning far beyond what most people would consider “niche” or particularly nerdy. Expect big announcements from PlayStation and Xbox, Marvel and DC, and every army in the Streaming Wars — Netflix, Hulu, HBOMax, AppleTV+, CBS All-Access, Peacock, Quibi, and more — vying for your attention. But while big companies make up the face of New York Comic Con these days, let’s not forget the heart…

New ways to discover new artists and fandoms

The loss of conventions this year deals a blow to major studios, sure, but the brunt of the devastation lands on the most vulnerable artists and vendors — the small businesses that strive on earning much of their living from conventions as you stumble across their table and fall in love with their work. Look for ways to support them and adapt your walking-around-the-convention discovery style to a digital one.

Expect endless places to shop smaller retailers and indie publishers. To add a sense of urgency, we can expect to be incentivized by convention-only merchandise and deals for convention-goers over the long weekend. If you’ve been wanting to buy a new graphic novel, toy, or fancy new accessory, consider holding off on that nerdy purchase until October when you can browse all your favourite small vendors in one place.

An easier path to building an online community

Making new friends at a convention isn’t uncommon. It often looks like exchanging phone numbers and social media handles, and then hopefully remembering to reconnect when the weekend is over and you’ve recovered from your post-convention flu. That connection will be faster now, with building an online community almost built into the process of attending the convention. Meet someone new? Find a new artist? Love a cosplayer’s work? Find them on your social media of choice and follow them almost instantly. The post-convention crash will be a more gradual one, and although you’re seeing far fewer people in person, your online community is ready to absorb the bump.

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