So, apparently, this past Friday was the day to be online if you wanted to go to the 2015 edition of Gallifrey One, a major Doctor Who convention that takes place here in the Los Angeles area every year.
I will not be going to Gallifrey One in 2015. Or ever, very probably.
Before I get into the "why," I should mention that, being a fan of Doctor Who, I've had a passing awareness of Gallifrey One for many years now. But whenever I've looked into the page (only once in a blue moon) to see whether it might be worth my putting the money into attending, I invariably soon learn that the reservations for the upcoming convention are already sold out.
For the convention set to happen in February, 2015, nearly a full year away, pre-registration opened this past Friday at 10:00 am PDT... and sold out all 3200 slots in just 75 minutes! I had no idea that pre-registration was going to be that day, and only stumbled upon the fact later that evening (that is, almost half-a-day later) quite by accident.
Now, let me be clear. I'm not complaining about this fact. I understand the reasons for "limiting" admission to a certain number of people, and 3200 is actually a pretty large number. If there are so many fans who are willing to hover by their computers to make sure they can get in, more power to them. The fact is, as much as I enjoy Doctor Who, and might even enjoy the convention, I really don't care enough about it to set aside the time (and money!) to do what these 3200 people (to say nothing of those who tried, but didn't get in!) have done. That's not the fault of those who volunteer their time to run the convention. If I want to go, it is my responsibility to abide by the rules the convention organizers set up.
Of course, my main convention-going interest for the past decade or so has been with BotCon, and so although there is some inevitable apples-to-oranges in attempting to compare Gallifrey One — a convention dedicated to an enormously-popular science fiction franchise that just celebrated its 50th anniversary — to BotCon's admittedly more niche market, I still find some attempt at such a comparison interesting. Gallifrey One strikes me at being at the pinnacle of doing exactly what they want to do. Whatever else might be said for or against BotCon, I do not get the same impression of them. BotCon's organizers would prefer to continue to expand from where they currently are. Because of the differences in convention-model and franchise popularity, I do not know just how much the folks at BotCon can learn from Gallifrey One's success, but I can't help but feel that there may be some lessons to be learned somewhere in there.
In one sense, it's pretty impressive that Gallifrey One can pre-register such a large number of attendees so quickly. 3200 is roughly a thousand people more than BotCon's entire pre-registration limit*, which has never been completely sold out in less than 6 or 7 days (and that includes non-attendee box sets!), and sometimes hasn't sold out before the convention at all. Granted, pre-registration for Gallifrey One is a good couple-of-hundred dollars cheaper. But then, Gallifrey One pre-registration doesn't offer any cool exclusive toys, to the best of my awareness. Even still, Gallifrey One's quick result is especially amazing given that practically no information has yet been released regarding special guests or events for the 2015 convention. It has built up such a strong reputation over the past 25 years of previous conventions that people trust that it will be a great time even without any of that information. I think it's safe to say that the same cannot currently be said of BotCon.
On the other hand, Gallifrey One does not allow walk-in attendees, which BotCon does, making it all-but certain that BotCon is actually a larger convention (at least some years). I'm definitely a fan of the walk-in model, as it allows people (especially younger fans) to be able to attend without so much of commitment of their time or their money. That said, one of Gallifrey One's stated reasons for not increasing the pre-registration limit or allowing walk-ins (and there are several) is that, being a volunteer effort, they're really at the upper limit of how many people they can handle. BotCon, being more of a profit-driven venture, is how some of the folks behind it earn their living, and thus they have more incentive to expand, and to hire additional help when and where necessary to ensure that the larger convention is successful.
At a guess, Gallifrey One has become successful by focusing their efforts on doing just a few things, and doing them extremely well. It may be that BotCon's struggles (of which I've not really commented here, but there's plenty of that on other blog entries, to say nothing of other parts of the web) stem from trying to do too much, and thereby not being able to do as well at any of them. I hesitate to make that as an accusation, but intend it more as a question to ponder. Having never actually made it to Gallifrey One, the most I can really do is raise questions. I'm not in a position to supply definitive answers.
I'm curious to hear other people's thoughts on the subject, however.
*I'm thinking specifically box-set packages here, noting that exact numbers are not yet available — if indeed they ever will be — for BotCon 2014, but based on past precedent, a thousand more from Gallifrey One's 3200 is going to be pretty close.