The exhibitors hall is the biggest draw of most big time media conventions housing all types of companies from comics to video games to anime to novels with money to burn and products to promote to the eager masses that pass their way as well as a hodgepodge of comic, anime, and merchandise dealers hocking their wares. Most attendees spend a good portion of their time trolling around this section picking up free swag, playing the latest games, and finding deals. In my early con days, I too rarely went outside of such an area. NYCC really did it up big this year and it left an impression no doubt.
You can always tell how healthy an industry is by how vibrant their booths are. With a few exceptions the companies that are flush with cash will have lavish booths with fantastic giveaways. So while the anime and manga companies mostly had simple booths with a few (if any) giveaways on the other end of the spectrum the video game companies had gargantuan affairs with giveaways galore. The NYCC reminded of my times of going to technology expos like PC Expo were the exhibitors hall is the entire convention and 80% of the reason people go is to get freebies. Theoretically the other 20% of the time you were looking for hardware and software for your home and office but the second free t-shirts came out you wonder if 20% was being generous. But if you were not in the mood to go a panel or a screening there was plenty to do in the exhibitors hall especially if you wanted to go home with a few treats.
This year’s convention felt dominated by video game companies in the industry and trade sections. And these also seemed to be the biggest draws and most crowded booths over the weekend. Right at the entrance sat a huge demo for a Michael Jackson dance game, this was poorly thought out and caused double bottlenecks all weekend long as people got up to strut their stuff. Luckily Capcom’s booth was situated in the middle giving plenty of room to those 2-hour (yes, really) lines for a chance to play Marvel VS. Capcom 3. It should come as no surprise that Marvel and DC had huge booths rivaling their video game contenders. And each were showing off some video game properties of their own. I spoke to a staffer about DC Universe online, finding out the cool tidbit that you can base your character off your favorite superhero and even make them your mentor, and was rewarded with a cool lanyard, one of my favorite goodies from the weekend. As far as actually playing any games, there was just one I had to try out: Epic Mickey. I was lucky to play some on Friday as I happened by the not yet crowded booth and practically (okay I did) shouted with elation. As I ran around the tutorial stage I found the controls easy and fun which only added to my anticipation for this fall release. Other highlights included playable Donkey Kong Country Returns and Kirby’s Epic Yarn at the Nintendo booth which drew my attention but not my patience though I did come away with a fabric patch of Kirby for taking a look.
It was fascinating to see how many different types of exhibitor were at the convention. There were video games, comics (with all varieties mainstream, independent, and international), fantasy and science fiction books, costuming goods of all kinds, stream punk accessories, and even a booth that sold nothing by Dr. Who merchandise. You also had your mandatory guy selling swords that is at every convention ever. They are forced by federal law to close your nerd convention if you don’t have the mandatory guy selling swords. The itself floor was laid out so it was split into two sections because of the construction going on in the Javits Center. The first third were all the booths up to the 1000s and then there were 2 walkways through the construction to the 2000-3000 booths. The lower the number to more prime your real estate was. You saw anyone who was anyone in comics and video games in the first half. All the anime companies were pretty high up in the numbers and all the dealers selling anime good were in the last two rows of the con aka the cheap seats. It is amusing to look at the geek social hierarchy formed by who was positioned where in the exhibit hall.
Many booths had done themselves up proper with bright and punchy signs, talkative staffers, and it seemed that standing cut-outs that you could take your picture in were a big hit this year (they were also a personal favorite of mine) as well as mascot-like characters around like Poe from Ugly Dolls. Since this is a comic convention at its heart, there were an incalculable number of publishers from major comics to children’s graphic novels and everything inbetween. I was excited to see Dark Horse with free samples of the hilarious Axe Cop and more than a little of their booth dedicated to Conan. I quickly queued up from free comics lines that started to snake around DC and Marvel, but other places you could just pop in and grab their free samples with just a little bit of elbowing needed in some cases. I ended the convention with a 3-inch stack of comics. I also got a little info about Marvel’s digital comics push and a discount code for a subscription; I had checked it out a year or so ago previous but wanted to see where it was headed. There still seems to be a 6-monthish gap between new comics hitting the shelves and when you’ll see their digital selves but their back catalog has grown immensely. And you can check out free samples on Mondays. Book publishers which included with graphic novel and manga lines weren’t as flashy but they had tones of reading material to sample and more than enough giveaways to make up for it. On Sunday I was being handed full books for free! Almost everyone had tons of stuff by the end and more than a few buttons were about. (P.S. more buttons people, I love them!)
It’s odd. I think I have perfected being a New Yorker to the point that I am adept at avoiding interaction with other humans unless utterly necessary in huge crowds of people. While this means that I get fewer people trying to sell me tickets to comedy shows it also means that I get less free items at conventions. I am actually sort of amazed that I went through the dealer’s room three times and came home with almost no swag but everyone else was loaded down with free stuff. But when people were not getting free stuff or buying merchandise they were usually playing video games. The Michael Jackson: The Experience both was always busy unless you went in early with some sort of special pass. This meant you always just had to go completely around that area to get anywhere. They seemed to have a continual game for Starcraft 2 going on as well but that almost has a section of the hall just for itself. I was tempted to try a demo of the latest expansion of Magic: The Gathering but I decided against such a time sink when I had panels to attend. Same goes for most of the video game demos. But if you were just on the hunt for something to bring home than the highlight on the exclusive items you buy had to be the model 1/60th Electromotive Style Injection Machine which Patz picked up. I myself was tempted to get these nice books of Umineko fan art in the last row but a combination of my sad finances and late night expenditures saw me leaving the con empty-handed.
There is no doubt that NYCC is becoming a huge must-see convention and the only one of it’s size on the east coast. This only spells growth for the amount and diversity of companies that will be gracing its halls. For 2011, I expect or atleast hope to see more television companies and movie studios getting everyone pumped up. October is a big time for mid-season replacement shows to promote themselves and a great time to fuel the flames of already popular series. There is always a need for movie hype, and I was surprised to see nothing at all for Red based on the graphic novel which hit theaters in October. As for the world of comics, I was sad to see manga publishers not standing alone but only within a publishers line like Yen Press with Hachette or not there at all like Tokyo-Pop and VIZ but they have always been a hard sell on east coast cons. I have a lot of hopes for the coming con and I’m certain they aren’t in vain.
Overall there was quite a bit to do and see in the exhibitors hall. I do wonder how many people never went anywhere else all three days. If I did not have so many panels I wanted to attend I surely would have spent more time browsing around and trying things out. I assume next year will only be more impressive after the turn out this year combined with the fact that they will have more space when the construction is complete. I hope the diversity of types of entertainment present grows even more vibrant and colorful next year. I would also love to see more anime and manga related booths especially since half the con was supposed to be the NYAF but that might be a long time coming considering the state of the industry. Until then I will be happy with what we got.
More NY Anime Festival and Comic Con 2010 posts:
NY Anime Festival & Comic Con 2010: Tweets
NY Anime Festival & Comic Con 2010: General Impressions
NY Anime Festival & Comic Con 2010: Anime and Manga Industry
NY Anime Festival 2010: Artist Alley – Making it Big!
NY Anime Festival & Comic Con 2010: Premieres
NY Anime Festival & Comic Con 2010: Panels
NY Anime Festival & Comic Con 2010: Minori Chihara