Blizzcon 2008 and Conventions in General

Let me start out by saying that in the end I know Blizzard cares about it’s fan/player base. The issues I bring up here are just some oversights that if considered could help to make Blizzcon better in the future.

Problems:

  1. Too damn secretive about information pertaining to Blizzcon.
  2. Need larger exhibition space.
  3. Need to consider traffic/herd flow.
  4. Need to have more things happening at the same time.
  5. Less Lines or faster throughput.
  6. Better Use of Blizzard Staff

Let me start by saying that when I look at a convention I compare any of them to one of the 3 times I went to Otakon – 2000, 2001 and 2004. Otakon for those that do not know is an Anime convention on the East Coast usually in Baltimore, it may have moved as I have not gone in a few years.

Now the first time to Otakon there were several SNAFUs with lines into the dealers room and delays with general organization. Some things did not start anywhere near on time and that would screw up the schedule for that room for the rest of the day. I had some fun saw Gundam Wing Endless waltz on a 40’+ screen as a pre-release showing.

It is a funny thing that I go to conventions. By in large I don’t like crowds, or just masses of people in one place at one time. That may be why I am overly critical about traffic issues in an area. I like being able to get from Point A to Point B in as little time as possible and having to dodge/dance around a bunch of milling people just gets annoying after a while. This is made worse when you have 1000+ people lines just causing traffic problems.

Ok back to the problems.

Too damn secretive about information pertaining to Blizzcon.

What I mean by too damn secretive is that it was not until the day before tickets were being sold that we were told a time ticket sales were going to start. If the start is dependent on when a group of people are going to be in for work then say so and give an actual time. If the supervisor can’t give a time then at least say we will know when we hear from “insert job title here”. The second part of this equation is we don’t know how many tickets were for sale on the 15th. We know that several thousand people made it through the queue. If we average 3.5 tickets per person that puts us at about 7-9000 tickets sold. Is lets say 8000 tickets, .4, .5, .6 of the total amount of tickets being sold.

This type of information helps the player base evaluate whether it is worth even trying to get tickets on the 30th. This same issue is a problem with the in game auction house. If you give the players perfect information you allow us to make risk versus reward versus time evaluations. I am almost of the opinion that it is not worth it going to Blizzcon, with air fare + stress of getting the bloody tickets + travel time + standing in line for untold hours, just to get to see a few things in person. The networking and social events almost make it worth it but we shall see. I would not expect .5 of the tickets being sold since the 15th was a test of the queuing system.

Need larger exhibition space.
Need to consider traffic/herd flow.
Need to have more things happening at the same time.
Less Lines or faster throughput.

These issues are all interconnected and rather than try to isolate each I will just lump them all together.

From the Anaheim convention center website floor plan section found here you can see the layout of the Convention Center.

Now for the most part 99% of Blizzcon was in Halls A,B and C. Yes that is right that is almost all of the spaced used for the event. If Hall D would have been used that would have opened up about 40% more floor space. Now this might get a few flames but for the most part Hall A was used mostly for the Arena Tournament and other competitions. This was a huge amount of floor space wasted for a small number of attendees to use. I hope in the future they rent the stadium seating Arena adjacent and part of the convention center for these events. There is 28k square feet for floor space in the arena which should be plenty of room to house the competitions. And for the spectators there is the stadium seating available. If the Arena is a definite no go then Hall E should be used to house the competitions. Most of the people who are interested in the competitions usually are less interested in other events. Putting all of the E-Sport stuff in one place is away from everything else will keep it focused and allow those that have not interest in it from having to interact with it while trying to get to some other location. The spectator to participant ratio is very high there.

With as large of a fan base Blizzard has there is no reason that they do not rent out the entire convention hall. Even if most of the small rooms are used just by Blizzard staff as a place to escape the madness every now and then. The Ballroom on the top floor should be used for other non-Blizzard panels, like The Guild panel and some of the animation or scripting panels.

Main events was in hall C last year which given the layout was actually a decent location. Hall D is larger but has a strange Geometry. However Hall D is perfect for 1 of 2 different uses. Hall D should either become the “Dealers” room where all of the various Booths including the Blizzcon store should go. The other type of event that this is good for would be the “Demo” room put all of the large network clusters for Trials of new games in this section, rather than in the middle of everything like it was when in hall B. So yes you have in the front of Hall B the demos and the back half the dealers room last year. This was a traffic nightmare.

Hall B would be better set up as the school room or banquet configuration as described from the convention center website. This would have several hundred tables in it as a server meeting place. This would allow at least 1 table per server, with some room left over for just random tables were people can sit at just to take a load off or sit and eat as most of the eateries were located in the area. Since conventions are a social gather as much as anything else a large area dedicated to people being able to relax an not be in theater seating would be nice. Hey since this is a computer based game people may even be able to set up their own laptops here if done right.

So what to do with Hall A if the E-Sport has been moved to either E or the Arena. Well this then opens up the ability to have to large panels running at the same time. Or additionally have 2 stages to split opening and closing ceremonies between. Since they are different ends of the center this even spreads out your convention goers a bit.

So Where does this leave us.

Room/Hall 2008 Suggestion
A E-Sport, Competition Large Panel 2
B Dealers/Demos/Food Meeting Space + Food + Some Booths
C Main Events Large Panel 1
D Not used Demos + Some Booths
E Not used E-Sport Option 2
Ballroom Not used Aux Panels
2nd Floor Non Blizz or small panels Extra
Arena Not used E-Sport Option 1

Better Use of Blizzard Staff

What do I mean by better use of Blizzard staff, well everyone involved with the running of the convention at every level were all Blizzard employees. Don’t get me wrong it is great that so many were willing to help out but it would be better for Blizzard in the long run to off load some of the non-critical duties to well Gofers or con goers. In exchange for either a discount on blizzard store items, help with hotel space as in Blizzard reserves some hotel space for gofers, or hell some other special perk available only to Gofers at the end of the convention. Like a tour of Blizzard HQ on Sunday. From Otakon’s website I copied their list of what Gofers do.

What Do Gofers Do?
There are tons of things to do as a gofer. Listing them all would just be silly but I will list a few:
Hand out badges at Registration
Work at the T-shirt table
Assist Staff in everything from Workshops and Panels to Cosplay and Video Gaming
Run projectors, VCRs, DVD players in Video Rooms

A few things you WILL NOT do as a Gofer:

Handle money
Act as Security
Deal with Otakon VIPs, guests, or BCC security

Over all the convention was a convention, I think very soon Blizzard needs to start having a dedicated event staff if it does not already. But there should be several full time people whose sole job is to design these types of events. If they do have a few dedicated people already then they should hire more so that there can be more conventions around the US and around the world. At least 4 preferably 6. As I mentioned on Lissanna’s blog .25% to .35% of the player base being able to attend the one and only Convention in the US is well pathetic. Either a site needs to be picked that can handle at least 100-125K people or there needs to be several conventions totaling at least 150K total attendance to hit the 1.5% mark. If it could hit the 3-5% mark world wide then I would say they are successful in hosting conventions. Now this is only using the entire WoW player-base and does not count the Starcraft, Diablo and other Warcraft products whose player-base do not overlap WoW.

Well enough ranting and rambling for now.

Posted in Blizzcon, World of Warcraft

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