Panel, premieres, sneak previews, guests, and are all strong reasons to go to big time comic conventions. But the number one draw of any major comic convention is its dealers room and NYCC is no exception. All the major and most of the smaller comic publishers have booths showing off their latest titles and any animated or live action tie ins they have. There are also video game and toy companies out in full force. And then there are countless booths selling swords, costuming products, nerdy books, boardgames, card games, and anything else even slightly geeky. Also there are dozens of small shops selling everything from classic comics to every conceivable piece of Dr. Who merchandise. And most booths have something free for you can take or at least try to win alongside merchandise you can only get at a con. I did not spend a dime but I left with everything from a picture of me with the Justice League to a collection of housewares. If I had any money it would have quickly disappeared. I am not made of stone and they had many a wondrous item.
Promotional, early, and exclusive merchandise is one of the big draws to a pop culture convention such as NYCC. This is a place where companies show off, talk up, and sell you the consumer on their latest wares. This becomes a rather profitable situation for fans. Many booths aren’t actually selling anything so talking with people has less of an expectation. And anyone who is selling is so overwhelmed that you can browse without bother. In any case, you can leave the exhibitor’s hall weighed down by mountains of stuff whether you wanted to spend money or not.
The 4-day pass truly paid for itself when you went out on the Exhibitors Hall on Thursday. While there were a sea of people on the floor it was always manageable on Thursday. Certain booths always had lines especially if there were unreleased video games to play. I played a demo of Wakfu with minimal waiting and walked right up to a Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG.You were even able to try Skullsgirls or Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 without burning up most of your day waiting in line. There were still lines on games. I skipped trying to play the Star Wars: The Old Republic because of the line but that was more a sense of sticking to priorities than the line being unmanageable. I did get my picture taken on a green screen twice which would have taken a silly amount of time any other day. We did notice that some of the giveaways only started on Friday but it was the only time during the weekend where it was not a struggle to get anywhere. You could take your time and browse the aisles at your leisure and that is priceless.
The look and feel of the show floor is bold and bright with red carpet covering much of the floor. Things were nicely spread out with the exception of the “Cultyard” which housed the vinyl and designer toy booths. This really got crowded on Saturday so I hope they break it apart like the rest of the booths next time around. The most notable booth this year was Hasbro making a splash for its first year in NYC. The way they displayed toys was magical sometimes like the case featuring action figures of the X-Men battling Sentinels around a mostly destroyed Xavier Institute. This booth captured what your imagination did with toys. There were also tons of photo opportunities with giant-sized action figure boxes, huge KRE-O (their answer to LEGOs) Transformers, and a replica set from Star Wars. Photo opps seemed to be the popular thing this year with Marvel ushering you on to the Avengers, DC putting you into the Justice League, and frequent other spots throughout the convention.
As I mentioned I played a bit of Wakfu on Thursday. It seems like a bit of visual styling of a Korean MMORPG with a Western MMORPG backbone. The only think that made me raise my eyebrow was that every month the three nations on each sever choose a player to be their governor. The governor can declare war, set taxes, and play with the weather. Knowing MMORPG players I have a feeling most of the time the worst human beings are going to be the ones running for office. Just like real life. Not sure that is the best idea in the universe. But I got a neat plushy for playing the game so it was all good. Also I watched some games of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for about 10 minutes. I found it very odd that despite the fact Phoenix Wright and Nova were playable characters no one was touching them the entire time I was watching. I figured everyone would want to try the new characters but apparently they were sticking to what they already knew. Fighting game fans just puzzle me. But Carl from Ogiue Maniax went into a great deal of depth about that insanity on his blog. I did not play the Star Wars: The Old Republic or Mass Effect 3 demos because there is no conceivable scenario I could see where my roommate would not own those games the day they come out.
I can tell that NYCC is gaining momentum as the free stuff gets better each year. And I like to think I have a pretty good nose for finding goodies at the convention. But let me tell you, free starts a frenzy and it was not rare to see people grabbing handfuls of things. It got to be pure insanity on Sunday and yes there was good stuff, but it wasn’t THAT good. In any case, some highlights from my bag were a Optimus Prime KRE-O, a Cookie Monster ladies wallet, a Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword shirt, Avengers movie poster and shirt, and mounds of buttons which I am always on the prowl for. There are also lots of bookmarks, postcards, and stickers which actually do encourage me to check out new things (I have a pile sitting on my desk right now to go through). It really isn’t fair to be disappointed with any of this, but it was a bit sad to see so few actual comics being pushed. As far as exclusives went, I grabbed the Spider-Man Carnage Mini-Muggs set. I also snagged a Thor set of Minimates from SDCC happily, picked up a T-Rex t-shirt by Walt Simonson from Epic Props, and finally got my own copy of the boardgame Small World.
I did see one thing I almost bought. There was an anime-themed living card game called Tanto Cuore. Living card games are great because they have the deck construction element of CCGs but you get call the cards you need in one box so you don’t have to chase rares to play effectively. The cute anime maid theme was mega moe but it seems like a fun game. I did not have enough money on me to pick up the game but I might try picking it up in the future. It seems like a nifty thing to review for the blog, too. My favorite giveaways were oddly enough the drinkwear I got. I got a wonderful ceramic travel mug from Intel and a nifty sport bottle from the Level Up! premiere. I got a lot of sugar-free gum which I am sure was a godsend to my breath that weekend. Other than I also looted my normal assortment of free comics, posters, pins, and pens. I got a bunch of free library stuff for Caleb. The only booth that actively annoyed me was this streaming movie site that had a spin a wheel for a prize game. You could actually get nothing from it if the arrow stopped on Sorry!. It annoyed me so much I am not even giving them the free publicity of naming their site in this report. Is it SO hard to give people who come up to your booth a prize especially if they get your email address?
Artist Alley is another significant piece to the show floor. This year they set up shop in the top right with blessed large aisles. While the space itself was better, it could be tricky to get to at busy times. I’d like to see it pushed along the entire right side wall giving it easier access from the escalators. There was of course a great line up of artists if you could use your map well. I know there is a reason, but they must change the fact that artist alley tables are listed by letters. Letters that do not correspond with an artist name which is utterly confusing. Still I was able to speak with some great artists and see some original artwork that I could totally not afford to buy. Cliff Chiang was selling an awesome postcard set which I was able to snag and I was able to get quite a few signatures.
Overall I have to say as the convention has grown the exhibitor’s hall has not only gown in size but also in the quality of its wares and giveaways. I am not the worlds best person at getting free items but even I came away with a fabulous haul this year. If I had more free cash I think I would have enjoyed shopping a bit more but I had a nice time browsing the aisles. My only advice is avoid the Exhibitors Hall on Saturday if you can. Friday was busy but manageable, Sunday was almost as busy but a great time for bargain hunting. Saturday it was just a meat market. But every day it was a treasure trove if you knew where to look.
Many a time, the dealer’s room is not of special circumstance. Every convention has one and everyone usually spends some amount of time there, but they are very alike. New York Comic Con’s on the other hand is a colorful wonderland and a place once could easily spend the bulk of their convention time. It is actually a place of discovery for me. I go to booths I familiar with, but I also wander around and learn about new things from all over the geeky map.
More NY Comic Con and Anime Festival and 2011 posts:
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: Tweets
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: General Impressions
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: The App
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: Panels
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: Screenings
NY Comic Con 2011: Venture Bros.