Early in 2014, Otakon announced it would be setting a cap on its attendance, allowing a discount to those that registered early. It turned out that the cap was a necessary change to the convention as it nearly hit it's numbers several days before the convention. Going into the weekend, less then 2,000 registrations remained available out of a possible 35,000. Unfortuantely, the weekend did not go off as smoothly as they would have hoped. Nearly 20,000 people were in line to pick up their badges on Thursday night, and only half of that would end up going back to their hotels with badge in hand. Some people were in line for over five hours as they weaved around the convention center on the outside, and then back around it on the inside. The line started forming early in the day as registration was announced to open around 3PM on Thursday. It wouldn't take long for Otakon staff to realize there was some major technical difficulties that would slow their progress down. Having originally projected to check in at least 15,000 people on Thursday, the slow computer system and convention rules forced them to shut the doors at 11 PM, forcing thousands who had been in line to try again in the morning.
Some convention attendees camped out through the night to ensure they would be one of the first to get their badges the next day. Some people had been inside the convention when the staff was forced to shut down, so even though they had seen the light at the end of the tunnel, they still were unable to reach it. One good point was that they were given passes to by-pass the line the next morning and get their badges first. By 6AM on Friday, the line already stretched around the convention center in its entirety. Trying to make up for the shortcomings of the night before, registration was opened a half an hour early and at 9AM the line was moving at a steady pace.
Even despite the fact that the line moved at a good pace throughout the day, there was still a stretch of people that could be seen from anywhere inside the convention center through most of Friday. As the number of registrations dwindled, so did the line finally. The line became a hot topic throughout the weekend, as just about everyone had experienced what it was like to stand in the line for several hours, and in some cases had to stand in it twice.
There was even lines that stretched around the building on Sunday, but this was for a completely different reason. Yoshiki of X Japan was performing a classical concert and people were lined up to get in to see him perform. Hoping for a good seat near the stage, some people sat in line for hours ahead of the start of the event, wanting to be up close to enjoy the performance. Others were forced outside and into the heat of the mid afternoon sun as they waited over an hour for seating to begin. The actual seating process moved quickly once it was started but it was a good half an hour late from when it was supposed to start.
The concert itself was a beautiful mix of some X Japan classics and some newer compositions as Yoshiki spoke about fallen band mates and the joy of being able to perform. This was his third time at Otakon, joking that he has been there every four years and will return again in another four years, like the Olympics. One lucky fan at the concert was chosen to attend the X Japan concert at Madison Square Garden in October for free, including airfare and hotel. After the concert was over, tickets were a hot item as people lined up to get a chance to see the legendary band perform in a couple months.
Otakon had its ups and downs and there was more talk about the lines then there was about the actual convention. It was a big Sailor Moon weekend with lots of events and guests celebrating the anime that has been enjoying a reboot this summer. But all these things seemed dampened by the technical difficulties the convention faced. Dates for next year have already been announced and at the feedback session on Sunday there was talk of potentially mailing badges out to attendees in the future. Sometimes hardships can spark change and convention goers were certainly asking for it this weekend.
Next year the convention will return to the Baltimore Convention Center on July 24-26. For more information on Otakon, check out their website at http://www.otakon.com