SDCC Is Still Relevant, But Not For the Same Reasons

For well over a decade now, SDCC has been more than a nerd Mecca, in which geeks gathered to share their passions for various projects and meet creators.  It’s been a tool for studios to promote and introduce their upcoming film slates to eager audiences.  For fans, it’s a treat to get a look at what’s coming, and for those who can’t attend, it’s equally exciting to get official news on things that are happening.  

Joker

In the last few years, however, things have shifted.  More and more studios have opted out of the event (though not the same ones every year) and the advent of new social media has brought about an era of leaks and reveals that were supposed to be “exclusive” to those in attendance.  This year in particular brought about a new culprit with Periscope live-streaming, despite the many warnings not to do so.  These new advances in technology have brought about genuine concerns from movie studios about the ability to ‘protect’ their footage.  Just look at the Suicide Squad trailer leak, which has now prompted WB to release the footage online officially.  

To combat this, some studios went ahead and released their footage and reveals online immediately following their panel presentation.  This has only made the discussion about the show’s relevance for these big time movie reveals all the more prevalent.  By now, you’ve likely seen a number of articles talking about whether or not SDCC is the same as it was, or still worth it anymore.  The simple answer here, is YES.  

Suicide Squad Hall H

The truth is, Comic-Con shouldn’t be about the big reveals and announcements.  That’s what it turned into over the years, but that’s not what it should be about.  This isn’t E3.  E3 is a company driven event designed specifically as a showcase for new games and hardware, not only for gamers but for investors.  That’s been the purpose of the Electronic Entertainment Expo since its inception.  SDCC wasn’t built that way.  It’s a fan event, for the fans and to give them a one of a kind experience.  

If you keep that in mind, it’s easy to see that SDCC is succeeding in that regard.  Just about anyone who attends the event has a blast and will tell you it was a worthwhile experience, even if they were only there for a little bit.  Being surrounded by so many like-minded fans and immersing yourself into that culture is an experience in and of itself, that’s difficult to describe, and has absolutely NOTHING to do with what a movie studio brings as an ‘exclusive.’  

While I missed out on this year’s SDCC, much to my sorrow, I can tell you from attending this year’s Star Wars Celebration in April that seeing something exclusively wasn’t all that big of a deal.  The exciting part was sharing the experience with other fans.  I cannot begin to describe the feeling of watching the new The Force Awakens trailer in that packed hall with thousands of fans.  It was amazing.  Even having watched the trailer countless times now online, nothing compares to how it felt witnessing it with everyone else live as it happened.  Not once did I feel “jipped” or “cheated” that the trailer was put online immediately afterward for everyone to enjoy, because I knew it wasn’t the same.  Those watching it at home for the first time on the computer screen couldn’t experience it in the same way those of us had.  THAT is what makes these kind of events special.  

Fox Hall H

So yes, SDCC is still relevant based on that fact alone.  The problem now, comes from the studios who’ve been shifting our focus onto something else (the reveals and exclusive footage), now backing down due to technological advancement and leaks.  Not to mention the fact that many major studios have seen oodles of success hosting their own fan events for announcements (like Marvel’s last year where the Phase 3 slate was announced).  

Because so many of us have become accustomed to huge Earth-shattering news announcements, this year’s decline in such things have made it seem like SDCC is losing its way.  Even so, I think SDCC can still be a great event for studios to showcase things, but the focus needs to shift a little bit.  

I’ve argued for years now, that if movie companies want to treat SDCC as a platform in the same manner as E3 is for games, they need to go about it in a similar way.  E3 THRIVES off of it’s live streaming panels and events.  Rather than being exclusive and hiding away their big moments, the game developers open it up for gamers around the world, and in so doing, has seen more interest and growth for the event than ever before.  Rather than make E3 less relevant, it made it more popular than ever.  The same could be said for SDCC.  

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If studios would open up their panels for more inclusion (via live-streaming, sharing their material online, etc.), I think they’d see a bigger response from fans around the world, and less bootlegs running around.  If you want to keep something hidden, reserve those for closed door showings with media professionals (much like E3).  Basically, don’t make SDCC into an event all about the reveals and announcements.  Keep Comic-Con what it was always designed to be: a fan experience.  

This fear of pissing off attendees and taking something special away from them with live-streaming panels, is a silly notion.  For them, the joy is experiencing the event live with other fans and not a computer screen.  So, yes, San Diego Comic-Con is just as relevant as it ever was, what’s changed is our perception of what it is/should be.  Perhaps, what’s needed is a change in how studios approach the event in the upcoming years.  

Or perhaps I’m talking crazy.  What do you guys think?  Were you happy with SDCC this year, or disappointed in how it all went down? 

-Jordan