Indy PopCon 2016 - Convention Review
Attended as Press
This convention was the first Pop Culture convention that we visited and our 2nd convention in the Indianapolis area. We decided to use the convention hotel discount and stayed at The Alexander in Downtown and about 5 blocks away from the Indiana Convention Center where the convention was taking place.
The convention center Indy Popcon was taking place in was a very large facility. We arrived on the Thursday before the convention and noticed a 2nd convention was occurring at the same time and was ending Saturday. Friday’s turnout was a bit larger then even we would have imagined. Fridays for conventions tend to be light as local fans and attendees are finishing up work/school and just want to relax before taking in an event. This was not the case for this convention by any means. We would like to note that there were a set of 3 cancellations for this convention about 48 hours before the start. One of the cancellations was a big media star and headliner for the convention but due to contractual agreements she was unable to make the convention. We as press understand the reasons for the cancellation and the reason it was announced 48 hours before hand (which is more notification then most conventions), as such it will have no bearing on the review of the convention. Would like to also note that the staff and convention photographers were very helpful and made very attempt to assist or converse when they could.
Indy Popcon App – Yes you read that correctly, there was an app developed for IOS and Android devices to give you almost everything you needed right on your phone. The App allowed you to buy tickets to events, view and make a schedule, create a to-do list, view the social media feeds, find vendors/guests, get the latest news and even had a map of the convention building. This was a first for us hearing of an app for the convention and really liked the setup they did with it. The app would allow you to create your own schedule of panels you wanted to attend and would notify you when they were about to start.
Celebrity/Star Organization – In our experience, organization tends to slow or halt all together once a convention starts. That wasn’t as obvious here and this time ends up as an advantage. Friday there was an incident where one of the Internet star groups had a larger line then expected that was causing the potential for some issues and frustrated attendees as they navigated the convention floor. The convention worked with the group and eventually moved them to another booth that could better handle the demand. For Saturday they moved them again to something more fitting for the nonstop demand they were receiving. Most conventions would not be pro-active for items like this and would try and change the current setup environment to suit the need instead of moving the team/star to an area that is better suited for the demand.
Independent Game Developers – Something we didn’t expect was the number of independent game developers at the convention and they organized an area that was specifically for them. Each of the game developers almost always had someone at their booth trying out the showcase of games. The platforms these games were being played on also had a good range which gave something for everyone. There was also a small stage at the back of the main room for the game developers to show off game play, the ideas behind the creation and take questions from attendees.
Lines, Crowds and Layout – The lines to meet the guests were well thought out and while consistent the lines did not interfere with moving though the crowds in the aisle ways. The space given to maneuver around was well thought out and there were plenty of open areas to step aside to move away from the crowd gathering areas when they started to form. The idea of creating “pod” like areas based on subject was a pretty good idea minus a small issue where the popularity of one guest was underestimated but that was resolved pretty quickly.
G-Fuel Gaming Arena – Taking the e-sports gaming tournaments and giving them their own arena and stage was a great idea for this convention. While we did not visit the G-Fuel Tournament Arena ourselves, just the idea alone is a positive. Conventions have tried packing game kiosks in with the main programming and the chaos that ensues as people crowd is just amazing as you wonder how people can breathe being so close. Separating it out into another building across the street was a great idea as who knows how packed it would have been at the convention center if they kept it in the same building.
Badges/Wristbands – From what we saw over the 3 days, there were some issues with the badges/wristbands. This isn’t saying that we didn’t love our Press Badges. The lanyard badges came with a convention map showing the designation for each of the rooms. The people that came for only one day got wristbands and for some of the events/panels on Saturday and Sunday it became crowded as volunteers needed to check for wristbands or badges. People who thought they would get in and see the panels without one were sent out of the line to go back to registration and eventually by a pass. The volunteers at the doors were swamped when it came to entry on the bigger events and panels. While Initially on Friday we were leaning toward a positive on this subject, the arguments from attendees on Sunday put this as a neutral. This can be fixed in time.
Panel Rooms – While recording and attending some of the panels we started considering this for the con section but after looking at the schedule some we think this is better suited as a neutral. The scheduling of panels in the rooms seem to be a bit off. Kyle Hebert’s Voice Acting Workshop was in one of the smaller panel rooms which ended up being “Standing Room Only” by the time it got started. While panels like “Kristi Lee Uninterrupted with Drew Powell” were placed on the Main Panel room which barely had anyone in it and provided a big echo which caused recording to need a bit more audio editing then normal. The headliner star that cancelled was supposed to have a panel in the Main Stage as well and in this instance we feel it was more than enough if that panel would have happened.
Tabletop Gaming – Tables were setup in the main convention hall for tabletop gaming however there was very little tabletop gaming going on in that area unless someone bought a game and was playing it with friends. This area of interest could have been developed a bit better. We have seen in some conventions where 1 or 2 vendors come in and organize that area to where if someone wants to play a game then come up to the booth and sign out the game and go to a table and play with friends or others at the convention. This allows for a more unique social interaction. What we saw was just tables that had flyers on it about the games you could get from a vendor and nothing much more than that.
CCG’s – There were vendors at this event who had cards and packs for buy/sell/trade in relation to the Collector Card Games (Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, ect.) yet there were no tournament events or setups for this. Considering the vendors brought the goods, it would have only drawn more of a crowd if a CCG events room was setup for things like a few Magic Tournaments of different styles and what not. With an easy entry fee of say $10-20 per tournament, you would be helping the vendors out as well. This could be expanded into setup RPG games like D&D, Star Wars, Sword and Sorcery, and Heroes Unlimited. Not a major issue but I feel a missed opportunity.
For our first visit; this convention stepped outside of the standard template of specialty conventions and delivered surprisingly well. The guest list was diverse and offered plenty of moderate to big names to enjoy talking to and attend panels. The convention space was large and the layout was just right for what was needed. There were small game development groups there showing off their creations, artistic and creative vendors and even a robot arena showing off their skills and team work. The negatives are more just critiques of what we saw that can easily be fixed in time. This convention has the pull, location and with a little more effort can easily be one of the conventions you have to highlight on your calendar every year. We understand the frustrations that others had because of cancellations to the lineup but to be honest, we don’t go to a convention for only one person. It’s about the experience.