Frequent readers of the Semico Spin know that I am a fan of ComicCon and attend it in San Diego during my family vacation. This is the eighth year in a row we have attended. And as I say every year, there were more nerds than you can shake a light saber at.
For those unfamiliar with ComicCon, it is the largest convention for comic books in the world. Science fiction and fantasy TV and movies are also heavily represented. These are usually tied in with comics and animation, and there is a strong tie-in with video games. For the fourth straight year, ComicCon was sold out for all four days, with attendance of 125,000 each day. It is the largest convention throughout the year for the city of San Diego.
The show began 43 years ago as a small sci-fi fan convention focused on comics and literature. It has ballooned into a huge media event attracting TV and movie producers looking to promote their work. These productions usually have a tie-in with comics and sci-fi, but ComicCon has expanded to pull in other pop culture media.
Content is king! Without enough material, there is little incentive to buy the hardware. What consumers want to see and how they want to interact with it drives the development of the electronics. It is not surprising that many attendees are technically savvy early adopters.
At ComicCon, one sees the rich source material for new entertainment. This is very important for the video game market. The fans of the sci-fi/comic genre, who represent a key segment of the video game market, want cutting-edge graphics and special effects. ComicCon is a venue for previewing many upcoming games for the holiday season.
Many new games were being demoed for all of the video consoles, along with the handheld and PC platforms. These have ever-increasing levels of graphics, explosions, and interaction. Several panels let attendees listen to and ask questions of the game developers.
The gaming has outgrown the convention center. There were demos in the exhibit hall, but many companies had larger off-site showcases. Nintendo of America Inc. and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) used these venues to show off the latest games for the Wii and Kinect. These drew large crowds.
It was perplexing that Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) had no alternate venue outside the convention center. In fact, the only games being demoed for Sony were for the PlayStation 3. There were no demos for PlayStation 3 Move, the motion-sensing technology Sony showed off at last year’s ComicCon. This does not look promising, considering the audience at ComicCon wants to see what will be available during the holiday season.
The PC gaming area was smaller than it had been in prior years. And there were no contests or other types of participatory activity this time. The real action was off site.
As there was last year, there were a few 3D gaming demos, but nothing for 3D TV. Sony, a major exhibitor at ComicCon, can tap into its broad product spectrum from movies and TV content to consumer electronics. It appears there is little marketing effort for 3D TV. There is not enough content yet, and I do not expect a big push for it this holiday season.
How will comics fare in a changing world? This industry is still producing print content while presenting futuristic themes. Longtime comic book writers featured on one panel admitted they will be going digital. A vision of this future was on display at the DC Comics booth, where the company was showing off its comics on iPads.
ComicCon International is a whirlwind of activity. It can be an overwhelming flood of visual and audio stimuli. One sees Harry Potter reading a Kindle, a Star Wars stormtrooper checking the schedule on his iPhone, and attendees Tweeting or posting to Facebook to win a prize. I find this event provides insight into how our popular activities and electronics become intertwined.