Convention Impossible: MegaCon 2016

MegaCon 2016 Review: The Beginning of Something Truly Mega

Hello there Shiquers! My name is Kristen G. Rosario (AKA Mr. Nerdy Shirts himself) and I’m here to give you my take on what I thought of this year’s MegaCon. Of course you’re asking yourself, “Where’s Mari?”, “Why isn’t she doing this review?” and “Why do I have to care about what Nerdy Shirts says?”. Those are all valid points, but unfortunately Mari was unable to attend this year’s MegaCon due to other priorities.

She has entrusted me to do this review because I was able to go this year, and also for the fact that we’ve been good friends for quite a few years now, so she knows I’m going to be quite honest with my take on the convention. Now that we have that out of the way let’s get started with this review.

To begin with, this was my tenth year going to MegaCon as my family has made it a tradition to go to MegaCon on the Saturday when it’s in town. Over the years and with the addition of many friends during my time in MegaCon, I started to enjoy this convention more and more. MegaCon is the first big convention I’ve ever been to. This is only my second time doing this, but I decided to get a full weekend pass for this year’s event. I have been doing it with other conventions I’ve gone to (like Holiday Matsuri, CEO, and Omni) so I’ve been trying to make it a habit of doing it more often with Mega.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well I want you to know that this review is coming from the perspective of someone who knows how MegaCon should be. Over the course of the ten years I’ve been going to this convention, I can easily tell you that it’s not perfect and it hasn’t been for quite some time.

This year is different though, as Fan Expo (a company that makes money through conventions) bought out this family-run business early last year and decided big changes were in store. The first big change was the amount of days MegaCon was around, now moving it to a full four days instead of three. The second change moved the convention, which was typically a Spring convention (usually held between February and April) into a Summer one as now Mega was going to be held at the end of May.

There was even an event last November called MegaCon Fan Days that was only two days, but a sample at the kind of convention Fan Expo was offering. Overall though, I was curious to see where they would go with this as I was kind of 50/50 on this since bigger companies buying or even partnering with smaller companies has never really worked out that well. There are other smaller changes that occurred that I will get into throughout my full review.

Speaking of my review. I’ll be breaking my review up into a few categories, with overall thoughts at the end.

Getting a Ticket:
Within the last few years, MegaCon has seriously hiked up the prices for all the kinds of passes that they offer. When tickets went on sale for MegaCon 2015, nobody was happy by the amount they were asking for all of these passes and the company that ran MegaCon were forced to drop some of the prices due to fan backlash. They were still a bit high, but the prices on the passes were now a bit more reasonable.

The passes for this year’s convention were about the same, but offering more for those willing to pay. For instance, this year when you ordered your tickets in advance, you would now get the option for the actual pass to be sent to your home, thus eliminating the need to get in line to pick up your ticket. The VIP and new “Premium” passes even got a sweet bonus (besides the usual swag) that’ll let you use them to get into the next big MegaCon event (which I’ll get into that later). For the general admission passes though, the biggest problem was the limited kind of passes they had to offer.

They had a 4-Day Pass (Deluxe), Individual Day Passes, and a Child Pass. That’s it. They weren’t offering any three-day passes, Thursday & Friday, Saturday & Sunday or even a two-day combo pass. I paid $100 for my Deluxe Pass (because I bought it at the convention) since I wanted/knew I could go all four days. My brother though still had to pay full, Deluxe price despite him only being able to go three of the four days. What kind of crap is that?

They seriously couldn’t figure out a pricing system? Fan Expo couldn’t make it to where there were three-day and two-day combo passes that costed at least $15 – $25 less depending on what days you were going? That just reeks of stupidity. And then there were the press passes.

Now one of the other reasons Mari was unable to go to MegaCon this year was because her press pass application was denied. Why you ask? Because according to the response email she got from them, they were mainly focused on getting press who have been to MegaCon before.

This makes sense at first, since they want veteran MegaCon press attendees to get the word out on all of the new changes Fan Expo has made. What doesn’t make any sense is them not letting about the same amount for newer press attendees for press passes attend as well. You need positive feedback on both fronts if you want more people to attend your convention.

Getting In:
This year had an entire entrance section dedicated to picking up pre-ordered passes, or purchasing ones there. Those who had to purchase said passes there were required to fill out a small paper slip with their personal info and how many tickets they wanted to buy. This was really stupid as even during their busiest day (Saturday) they still made you fill this out before going to purchase your ticket.

Then there was this policy they had where you couldn’t pick up a pre-ordered individual pass a day or so before you could use it. My brother experienced this when he was only allowed to pick up his deluxe pass and not the other two day passes he bought for the next day.

This became a problem as now my brother had to wait in an enormous line just to pick up their pre-reserved tickets on Saturday. What didn’t help was that they only had about four ticket booths each to support the pre-ordered tickets section and purchase said tickets section. They should have seriously been more prepared for this, plus they had plenty of room to add more booths in the ticket section of Mega.

Vendor Hall:
Previous Vendor Halls at MegaCon have always been hit or miss. That’s not say what they offered was any good, but the way they were organized and prepared always seemed a little off to me. They always made the vendor halls feel like they were underestimating the amount people that were to attend. This year’s MegaCon promised the biggest vendor hall in the convention’s history. Well they definitely weren’t wrong about that.

This year’s vendor hall was definitely an upgrade compared to other years. The first thing you notice after getting out of ticket section is that all of the spaces in the alleyways between the booths are much wider. This made it easier to get around the place as previous years didn’t feel like they really did that (even Saturday didn’t feel that half bad). Plus the amount of booths now was amazing because there was so much more variety in what they had to offer (though I did count at least 2-3, 3-4 of the same kind of Pop Vinyl Figure booths).

The areas for themed sections of the hall (ie. Artist Alley, Tattoo Alley, etc.) were definitely more organized and properly handled. The attractions in the halls were great and definitely offered some great photo ops.

Though one of the better improvements of the vendor halls was the Celebrity Section. Like I said previously, one of the bigger improvements was the amount of space they got for the vendor hall. This definitely helped benefit the amount of people who were there to help with autographs.

This section was very big and even on Saturday it was still easy to get through. Every celebrity had a line section dedicated to them, which really worked out to give more space to the people moving around the area. The biggest celebrities of the convention (John Cusack and Stan Lee) were both put properly on one end of the Celebrity section as to reduce the clutter throughout the autograph area.

One final thing to note is that they had an alleyway on the side of the vendor hall, near the exit to this area, dedicated to getting into any part of the hall. This helped immensely when just trying to get to one specific section of the vendor hall.

Photo Ops Section:
Now I didn’t put this section in the previous one because I kind of have a gripe with this area of the vendor hall and here’s why. About four years ago I purchased a VIP experience with Stan Lee for myself and my father. One of the perks of this package was getting to take a picture with The Man himself. Me and my father went in there, got to say hello to the legend, shake his hand, and then got to take the picture. I still consider this one the best moments of my entire life.

This year I got to do that with my brother, but it wasn’t the same experience at all. Organization wise, it was much better than previous years as they properly took care of the lines (most of the time). My biggest gripe however was how they handled the pictures. There was no chance to really say hi, no chance to shake The Man’s hand, just “click, NEXT, click, NEXT, click…” (that’s almost verbatim of what me and my brother heard inside the Photo Ops Section).

While it was nice to take a picture with Mr. Lee, it just didn’t feel the same as when I took it with my father. It felt less like taking a picture with someone, and more like taking a picture with a statue. My brother went through the same experience when getting a picture with Burt Ward and Adam West next to the ’66 Batmobile. Just click and go, click and go.

Now like I already said the lines were organized for the most part. The reason I’m saying “for the most part” is because they wouldn’t let you set up a line beforehand until around 30 minutes before the Photo Op with the celebrity began. Now anybody who’s been to enough conventions knows that even when officials say something like that, people still set up a line.

They’re saving a whole hour (or perhaps more) of their time at this convention to get in, meet the celebrity, take the photo, and go. Do not tell them they can’t wait because they will stand there like a statue and wait until there’s a makeshift line behind them.

Panels:
When it comes to any convention, the one thing I looks forward to the most is the panels. Running into friends, wandering around the vendor halls, and even seeing some amazing cosplays is great, but going to panels gives you that chance to get an exclusive experience when it comes to going to a convention. One of the big changes this year was that 98% of the panels were free to get into (unlike other years where you had to buy “exclusive access”). This meant that a huge majority of the celebrity Q&A sessions everyone had access to (though there’s still the issue of lines).

To deal with the issue of a majority of people having access to these panels now, they put some of the bigger celebrity ones in the Chapin Theater. This was a giant auditorium area that I had no idea the Convention Center had. To even deal with the line into this theater, they had an entire separate room across from the auditorium dedicated to handling the lines. There were only two panels I went into when it came to the Chapin Theater, but the experience was still great. A great move by Fan Expo as it gave a lot of people a chance to get into the bigger panels.

My biggest gripe though with this was that not all of the celebrities got a nicely sized panel room. While some celebrities like Billie Piper, Michelle Gomez, Jason Isaacs, Carlos Valdes (Cisco from The Flash), and John Barrowman got nicely sized rooms, others didn’t. Actors like Vivica A. Fox, Elden Hansen, and David Hayter got much smaller rooms.

The panels I did get into where fun and a real treat. I sadly didn’t go to the Barrowman panel (which I’ve heard is always a good time), but I did have a great time going to the ones I did. Conroy panel was great, Valdes panel was better than I expected, the Cosplay Contest was awesome as well (this year had more individual awards given out, along with honorary mentions from the judges).

I had a few problems with the panels that I did go to though. For one thing, most of the moderators for the Q&A panels talked for TOO LONG. Some of them wasted about half of the panel with their own questions. I heard from other people in line that it was worse though when it came to any of the Q&A panels held in the Chapin Theater. Then there were some of the lines.

While the most of the panels I went to you could easily tell where the end of the line was, the others you couldn’t. Anybody going into the second biggest panel room of the show had a tough time figuring out where the end of the line was since they would wrap a majority of the line around a small section next to the panel room. I know I’ve only seen this once, but there could’ve easily been somebody holding an “END OF LINE” sign to make things easier.

The most minor gripe I had was with the goddamn TMNT2 trailer they showed before some of the bigger panels. While they were a great indicator that the panel was about to start, it was the first trailer of the movie from last December that they showed. This bugged me because there was a trailer that they released earlier in May for this movie that they could’ve used! What made it worse was the tacked on Stephen Amell promotion before the trailer started because you can tell it was one of those half-assed, “insert convention here” promos.

Quick Minor Gripes:
-The booklet’s this year were in full-color, but limited as the first day I went, I actually had to ask a random volunteer booth for one.

-Returning general admission convention goers showing up in the first hall of the convention had to take a long, winding path just to get to the vendor hall area again. You weren’t allowed to cut through doors that led directly to that section. That was only meant for VIP, Premium, Celebrities, and Vendors. Easy fix though because you could easily go to the third floor and take the doors through there to get into the main con area.

-Sadly didn’t get to go to the Jay and Silent Bob panel as that was part of the 2% of panels that required an additional exclusive pass.

-I was unable to find one of my favorite sections of any convention, the video gaming area, though one of my friends said there was one.
-Be wary of the Box of Mystery booth’s if they’re at a convention you go to (the ones that have SMB coin boxes) because they are less 50/50 and more 75/25 when it comes to what they offer on the inside. The box that I got only had a couple of items that I generally liked. The rest was seriously meh. The only time you’re going to get something worthwhile from those boxes is if you purchase the $100 one.
-A schedule for the voice actor’s time for autographs would’ve been nice. Same goes for some of the celebrities.

Overall:
While there is stuff that this convention still needs to work on (their ticket system and their Photo Op area for instance) I still had one of the most amazing times at MegaCon in quite a while. The variety of vendor booths, all the panels I got to visit, the celebrities I got to see and even the cosplays were great. I didn’t bring this up in my section on the panels, but the official MegaCon app was even really useful this year for getting around to the panels and it kept me notified on any changes or cancellations throughout my time at the convention.

There is confirmation that there MegaCon will now be a bi-annual event as the next Mega will be held this October in Tampa. It’ll be interesting to see how that one plays out. In the end though, if they can fix some of the problems that they have (especially in time for MegaCon Tampa), then this convention has the potential to be truly Mega.

If you guys want to see more of my work, then be sure to check me out at the link’s below!

Zelda Informer:
http://www.zeldainformer.com/member/20055
Super Reaction Bros:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOEvKiZ9cgn_pN-QXPZQ8YQ

*Note from Mari: Thank you to Nerdy Shirts, aka Fox Warrior, for giving this review.

Another thing I want to add which he allow me to add to this: I think the press form would be greatly improved the most because it felt pretty vague in what MegaCon was looking for which could help out anyone who has been running a blog or a YouTube Channel like we have been running, which I seen some conventions mention “Are you a media outlet?” also put “Check all that applies” to the section to show what outlet they’re posting on because not all blogs, Instagrams, and everything is the same.

Another thing to improve the form is adding “Do you want to interview our many guests?” section because I had to send a separate email to show a list but this would be a lot easier because we wanted to interview a lot of people and that included the Star Trek crew and Companions from Dector Who as examples. It would give a nice variety of who would sign up for this convention since not every online media outlet does this and if you seen our videos, we do it and have fun!

Now, we are aiming for press for Tampa MegaCon which can help us branch out more and get us back to Tampa, so seeing how that will go! You can follow that brance on Facebook in case if you’re interested!

My Final Thoughts: It looks like Mega does need to improve with the new group running it from what Nerdy SHirts said and hoping it becomes better since people do have to get used to the craziness that goes on during these events. Let’s see what happens next year! Again, thank you Nerdy Shirts for this review!

Also, in case you’re wondering: He gives it a CONVENTION ACCOMPLISHED!

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