One of the most noticeable effects of the on-going pandemic for those in fandoms has been the cancelation of conventions. FanimeCon, Japan Expo, Anime North, Sakura-Con. All have been canceled and even more cancellations are no doubt on the way. Those not canceled have been postponed indefinitely.

Emerald City Comic-Con. One of the largest comic conventions put on hold until further notice

Now it is looking like even the biggest conventions of Anime Expo, Comic-Con, and E3 could be on the chopping block. As the lockdown continues and conventions continue to be canceled or put on hiatus it leaves a very important question. Are con’s outdated?

The New Virtual Con Circuit

Virtual Cons. In a hypothetical scenario where cons are moved entirely online one must ask, how would that even work? One really needs to only to look video games for the answer.

E3 is one of the biggest video game conventions in the world but the majority of it is watched online. Both Nintendo and now Sony have stepped away from having a physical presence at E3 in favor of fully online presentations. The Nintendo Treehouse gives us an idea of what online panels would look like. Taking place via live feed as those on the panels are given questions via the chat. Youtube offers an even clearer picture. Many Youtubers now host live roundtable discussions where they talk with guests live and chat questions from live patrons.

What about the artist ally and vendor hall. Where people are able to browse and buy swag from various small and big venders and artists. Likely the cons would simply install and online marketplace onto the side. Allowing con-goers to browse and order at their leisure. Even exclusive swag could simply be mailed to the address on the credit card used to purchase the ticket.

Virtual Con Winners

The main winners to cons going online would main be the consumers and the big businesses. As said earlier Nintendo has largely forgone cons since as early as 2013. Switching to a digital press conference and slowly phasing out their presence at E3 altogether. Now both Sony and Microsoft are following suit. Showing that bing name brand companies can show off all their upcoming titles and merchandise without physically appearing. Something that will likely save them thousands of dollars, and hundreds of hours of work and organizing when it comes to setting up such large and extravagant booths.

Another major winner of online conventions would be the customers. Between ticket prices, hotel prices, and plane tickets it can cost up to thousands of dollars to attend a convention. To say nothing of the price of overpriced food, drinks, and parking. An online convention would eliminate most of these coasts. This would open conventions up to be attended by thousands more and allow those who to spend that kind of money to attend multiple cons a year.

Virtual Con Losers

With winners, there must also be losers. The losers in the case would be the indie creators and freelancers. Many creators in the entertainment industry, writers, artists, voice actors, are classified as freelancers. Meaning they do not technically count as employees of the big companies they do work for. As a result, many make a sizable chunk of their income making appearances as cons. Charging in order to meet fans, sign merchandise, and take in-person photos. While they can still appear as guests and the income generated from autographs and pictures would suddenly vanish.

Line for Rob Liefeld at the Hotflips booth New York Comic Con booth 1B3, 2018

Other Casualties Of Losing In-Person Events

The same is true for indie artists who flood the artist’s ally. Many depend on cons to make large amounts of extra cash via customers who happen buy and are smitten by their work. As speculated earlier an online marketplace for these people would be easy to set up. But how would that be any different from the deviant art page many of these artists already have their work available for purchase?

Con Artist making sales at AnimeExpo ArtistAlley

Artists ally serves not just as a way for artist and creators to sell their merch. But a way to make connections. Twitter can only nab a person so much fam and attention from higher-ups in the industry. Many artists and writers have gotten their big break due to making connections or having their work seen and reviewed by a professional at a con. Something that is not as easily replaced. Paid one on one live chats could serve as somewhat of a replacement. But it would at the very least be a tightening of an avenue into many people’s dream jobs.

Professional cos-players would likely take a hit as well. While online cosplay shows could easily be done much of the fame cos-players gain comes from being photoed on the convention floor and having those photos shared in mass. How fun would cosplay even be without the ability to share your work in person?

Most Likely Outcome

Cons have to change this year. There is no getting around that. For many cons to even take place this year they must go online. The question is will the change be permanent? Once moved online, will cons ever return to being in-person events? E3 seems to suggest not. Ultimately it will up to the consumer and their desires that dictate the future of conventions.

One thing is for certain. Once a major change like this is made, it’s hard to go back.

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