Are Virtual Cons The Future of Comic Cons?

Wizard World started its Virtual Experiences with the cast of “Supernatural” on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, and the cast of “Once Upon An Time” on Saturday, April 4, 2020. Each person appeared in their own window during the livestream on Facebook, Twitch TV and YouTube. It’s almost like attending a panel session in person. Tickets were available for one-on-one video chat, recorded video message, and/or an autographed picture from one of the guests. Prices ranged from $50 USD to $200 USD. With many in-person events cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic, are virtual cons the future of comic cons?

With people out of work and staying at home during the pandemic, videoconferencing is very popular on the Internet. Since no one can physically attend a comic con, why not have a virtual con that people can watch from home. This is where Wizard World comes in with its Virtual Experiences to bring together the cast members of a popular TV series for a free one-hour livestream.

Everyone on the livestream remoted in from their own home to maintain proper social distancing.

  • Mike Gregorak, a regular panel moderator and host for Wizard World Comic Cons all over the US, moderated the livestreams.
  • The “Supernatural” livestream had Mark Sheppard, Ruth Connell, Emily Swallow, Sebastian Roche, and Timothy Omundson. Up to 1,250 people watched the livestream.
  • The “Once Upon A Time” livestream had Jared Gilmore, Andrew J. West, Sean Maguire and Lee Arenberg. That livestream had up to 350 people watching.

Several ticket options available for each guest with a general price range of $50 USD to $200 USD.

  • A private one-on-one video chat. For the “Supernatural” livestream, the video chat had a one-minute time limit. Mark Sheppard was the most expensive one-minute chat at $200 USD. For the “Once Upon A Time” livestream, the video chat had a two-minute time limit.
  • A video recorded message. I’m not sure what this was for. The website didn’t explain it. Maybe have a guest sing for you?
  • An autographed picture. If this was an in-person event, the ticket prices might be too high. With the organizers, guests and viewers in different parts of the country, the higher prices cover shipping and handling between the various parties.

Why are these ticket items important for a virtual con?

Unlike a regular comic con, the organizers can’t charge an upfront price for someone to physically come through the door. The livestream must be free to attract viewers. A small percentage of those viewers will buy something. If enough of those paying viewers make it worthwhile for the organizers and the guests, the virtual cons will go on.

What’s the downside of a comic con becoming a virtual con?

A lot of people go to comic cons not for the celebrities and the panels, but for the dealer rooms. Attendees buy unique items from small vendors that they can’t find anywhere else. The dealer rooms are sometimes the only marketplace available for small vendors. Without a comic con to attend in real life, it’s harder to make a buck.

Wizard World’s next Virtual Experiences is the cast of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and  “Angel” on Saturday, April 11, 2020 at 12:00PM Pacific time. If they stick to a Saturday afternoon schedule, Virtual Experiences might be something to look forward to every weekend.

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