Surprisingly enough, Funko has reached out to us to clarify some of the concerns regarding the NYCC Lottery. We recently shared our views about how Funko handled the supposed hacking of their lottery system. A lot of confusion is surrounding the lottery, and thankfully Funko wanted to tell us their side of the story. The Director of Communications and PR, Jessica Piha-Grafstein, explained to us their newly implemented system and their fight to combat bots through a phone-call this afternoon. Starting things off, she first told us that they "stripped down almost one million fake accounts" from the lottery system. Knowing the fanbase and the intensity of some collectors, this is not surprising, but it is nice to see that they are diligently trying to fight off bots. They believe that the on-going photo of the massive lottery winner was doctored, and with no other photos beside it, I will agree with that.
The ability to fight bots is never 100% as we dive deeper into a world of advanced technology, and she mentions that "Am I 100% sure? No, I can't say that, but what I can say is that the team we have now is working tirelessly through the weekend, through the days, and nights, to ensure the best experience. We are trying, we are trying really hard, and I just wanted to communicate that to you guys, to let you know that the team is doing everything that they can to make sure that the fans are getting the first opportunity to get the exclusives." The implementation of this new system was a hopeful answer to the SDCC shipping rate loading issue. For Funko, it was to risk another case like the previous convention or try something new and hope for the best. However, the whole NYCC debacle was never about the lottery itself, but the handing of the information with the fans. Part of the bigger issue is how no outside lottery winner will be able to take part in getting any of the FunkoShop exclusives. Of course, this is the whole reason for the lottery, but even in years past fans at least had some access to these exclusives.
As the interview continues, she did have some more answers to other questions, like the lack of communication for the sent-out lottery notifications. Not giving fans a warning was intentional as they were afraid if they had announced it, they would receive an even larger influx of fake accounts during the time of the lottery. Funko wanted to give fans the most honorable system they can, and they are continually trying to improve their site. Fans have to remember that the Virtual Con concept is very new, and Funko is going from their usual one or two new releases in a week to roughly 40+ in a single drop. From the collectors, fans, bots, and more, the traffic is already insane but was always thrilling being apart of it. Which is why they are trying to help with expanding the information about the shared retailers as well. Funko fans will try their hardest to get the Pops they need, and knowing they have multiple options to obtain them is always reassuring.
Communication Director Piha-Grafstein did go on to mention the whole 9 AM PST release time on October 9th is more COVID-related. While no specifics were mentions, it does seem like a fair estimate to give people a "one-shot" at getting their Pops this year and help eliminate larger crowds of fans in stores. Sadly, collectors will have to choose to go in-store or try for it online, but keeping collectors safe is always a priority. Without COVID-19 the Virtual Con would not be happening, so Funko is doing their due diligence to take on the current world events and the influx of growing collectors. However, I do feel that nothing was wrong with previous online releases the night before. I do understand keeping crowds down for safely, but why try to fix something that isn't broken.
It is impossible to please everyone in this world, but it is nice to know that Funko politely reached out to give us some sort of clarification and their side of the bot hunt. The NYCC Lottery is a new system, and while it is not perfect, it is still offering some lucky fans the opportunity to get the Pops they want this year. Funko will constantly be trying to update their site to make it a smoother experience but there are always obstacles in the way. Just like many others, I was not accepted into the lottery system, so the hut will be on this weekend for that Danny Phantom and Zombie Daredevil. Make sure to tune into Funko's Social Media for updates and events throughout the week for the NYCC Virtual Con 4.0. Exclusives will drop in-store and online on October 9th, so stay vigilant for links or stay safe hunting.