It’s been a little over a week since the craziness known as San Diego Comic Con. I’d be lying if I said I’m fully recovered. I’m still tired. And while we had a really good posting streak leading up to Sunday of the event, I was too broken to post anything and took some time off. But it’s time now to get back into the swing of things so here we are.
One of the biggest changes to this year’s show was the elimination of the morning lines to get ticketed exclusives. I submitted my entries for every exclusive and walked away with nothing. It was actually quite liberating not having to deal with getting anything from LEGO this year. The downside is that I never got first-hand experience in trying to redeem my winning entry with this new system. I heard the stories about the long lines, and how on Sunday it was possible to get everything without having a ticket. I have thoughts about the process and I’ll share them at the end of this article. A friend of mine, mos_eisley, did win something, and got to experience the shenanigans personally. He takes over from here:
“Driving down to San Diego for SDCC 2018, I was the least excited I had ever been for the event. For the last 12 years I knew what I needed to do in order to get the exclusives I wanted – wait in line. More recently simply waiting in line wouldn’t guarantee you what you wanted as exhibitors such as LEGO and Funko had gone to systems that would give you a chance to win a minifig or a time slot to enter the booth to purchase exclusives. Even though I wouldn’t always personally win a time slot or minifig, enough people in my group would so that everyone who wanted one would usually leave with what they wanted.
“This year, for the first time at SDCC, the biggest exhibitors with popular exclusives went to an online raffle system. Attendees could choose the exclusives, time slots and autographs they wanted to get. SDCC then raffled the available time slots, autographs, and exclusives to those who had submitted interest in each event.
“And this brings me to the disappointment I felt as I drove to San Diego. Out of around 30 raffle entries across various exclusives, time slots, minifigs and autographs, I had won one opportunity – the LEGO Aquaman set. Out of all the same entries, my girlfriend had also won one opportunity – the LEGO Aquaman set. Don’t get me wrong, I felt fortunate to have won anything at all since I know several people who didn’t win a single thing, but I was fairly bummed expecting that I wouldn’t be able to get all of the exclusives I wanted as I had always been able to accomplish in the past.
“Proponents of the new raffle system argued that using the raffle process would allow people to spend less time in line and more time experiencing the rest of the convention. I’ll touch more on this a little later, but with regard to the LEGO experience, I do not believe the raffle system helped at all with shorter lines. On Thursday in particular, I think the line to retrieve a winning LEGO Aquaman set was worse than I have ever seen it. In the past, the line to pick up one of LEGO’s exclusive sets usually wrapped around the entire perimeter of their booth. On Thursday, the line wrapped around the entire booth, but then had a space where the line continued down one of the main aisles of the show floor. It took me 2.5 hours to retrieve the sets. This was by far the longest wait I’ve ever experienced to buy anything from the LEGO booth. The other days didn’t appear to be as bad as Thursday, but they had a steady line around the entire booth for the majority of each day.
“I’m not quite sure which line was more amazing to me – the 2.5 hour line to get the exclusive set, or the fact that the minifigure winner retrieval line was almost exactly the same length as it had been using the old system. Winners were lined up from the distrubution tables on the Sails level all the way down to the water level and almost to the Marriott. Winners had to be in line between 10am-12pm in order to get their prize. The people who showed up close to noon were not finished with the line until almost 2:30pm.
“For Sunday, I had heard that there were still a lot of minifigures and exclusive sets that hadn’t been picked up or purchased. I didn’t have a redemption for Sunday, but from what I heard, if you had a winning time slot for an exclusive set on Sunday, you were able to choose which of the 3 exclusive sets you would like to buy. The Ant-Man set was first to sell out, followed by the Aquaman set. Sometime between 2;00pm-3:00pm they opened up the exclusive sales to anyone without a ticket and no longer had a limit of 1 per person. By the end of the day they had sold out of all the exclusive sets.
“But what about those leftover minifigures? The employees weren’t exactly sure how to the distribution. Originally there was talk of having employees randomly hand them out to kids in the LEGO booth, but I think they realized that would quickly be a problem. Between 2:00pm-2:30pm, it was determined that the remaining minifigures would be handed out back up at Sails. As soon as we heard whispers of this we quickly made our way up, hoping to beat the rush that would surely happen after an official announcement was made in the LEGO booth. Fortunately, we quickly our way up to Sails and were about 20th in line. At this point they just wanted to get rid of the minifigures so there was no iPad or choosing which minifigure you wanted. The LEGO employee simply handed you a minifigure as you got to the front of the line. The line never got too long, and we were able to go through twice. The first time through we received Unikitty, and the second time we received Black Lightning. We waited around to see if anyone got Deadpool, but he was not distributed at all during this time. I’m not exactly sure how many minifigures they brought up, but there were at least 24 shipping cartons, maybe as many as 30, and each box probably contained 25-50 minifigures. They began handing out the minifigures about 2:35pm and were finished at 3:10pm. It was a fun 35 minutes and reminded me of the early days of LEGO SDCC giveaways when the line for anything at their booth wasn’t 2+ hours long.
“Overall, even with all the raffle losses, it was still a fun SDCC and we were able to get all the exclusives we wanted. It took more trading, buying and hustling than in the past, but it was fun in its own way. I assume the raffles aren’t going anywhere, so I’ll miss the days of hanging out in lines with my friends while we waited for a chance to win the exclusives we wanted. While many didn’t like the lines, it was actually a fun part of the SDCC experience for me. Now we still have the same lines to stand in if we win the raffle, but we don’t get to wait it out together anymore. Hopefully the raffle system gets adjusted a bit to make sure people are at least winning one of the exclusives or autograph experiences they’re hoping for.”
One detail that mos_eisley left out was that during redemption of the minifig, there were only two people that processed the line. One to check names against a clipboard, and the other to hand over the figure. I’ll chalk this up to growing pains since this is only the first year. There should be a better way to do the distribution to make it more efficient. The point of the raffle was to eliminate the line but that didn’t seem to happen.
The raffles themselves are problematic in that it literally requires zero effort to sign up. So everyone who signed up for any raffle signed up for them all because why not. I have no idea who’s on the Supergirl cast but I signed up for the autograph raffle anyway because why not. It was just a mouse click. It seems that this system has room for improvement. I just don’t know what that improvement is.
With the amount of leftovers on Sunday, if you were at the right place at the right time you could have theoretically walked away with all of the exclusives without having to have won any raffles. That just proves that there were a fair number of people who signed up, won, but didn’t care enough about LEGO to bother picking it up. Or they took one look at that 2.5 hour wait time and said, “Eff that business.”
Had I won anything, I’m not sure how I would have felt having to still wait in a line. I would have begrudgingly done so and probably would have complained about it here.
One notable absence in the raffles was Bandai. I discovered on Friday that they were still using the first come, first served process. Without issues. To me, that is still the best method.