The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life in so many ways that we're still coming to terms with everything this has changed. While the vaccine is rolling out to essential workers and politicians [some of which have spent the last nine months downplaying said pandemic], there is some light on the horizon for 2021 and beyond. However, for 2020, the world had to adapt in many different ways. Many people started working from home for the first time and learned how to make that massive adjustment. People had to learn to wear masks and keep away from others in public. On the entertainment side of things, theatrical releases kept getting pushed back while some new films made the jump to streaming. Many thought this would be over by the summer, but conventions still had to adapt as well. As July 2020 rolled around, we saw the birth of the virtual convention.
The Rise of the Virtual Convention
Comic-Con @ Home was the first major virtual convention out of the gate but was something of a misfire. Most of the major reasons that people go to Comic-Con, the massive movie panels in Hall H, were not a part of virtual San Diego Comicon in 2020. It was soon apparent that two of the biggest players had their own plans in the cards, but that's for later in this article. We spoke about the difference between Comic-Con @ Home and DC FanDome in a previous article, but Comic-Con @ Home was generally considered a letdown. The panels didn't feel like anything worth watching, and nothing about it felt like an event.
On the other hand, DC FanDome, a month later, very much did feel like an event. It dominated the conversation for eight full hours. The simple notion of adding plain grey backgrounds for the panelists instead of showing videos of people's homes made them feel more professional. When the dust settled, DC FanDome brought in 22 million viewers in 220 countries and territories. The gauntlet was thrown, and it was time to see if anyone else could live up.
But it turns out that even DC FanDome couldn't live up to DC FanDome. The second half of the event mostly focused on the TV part of DC, and Warner Bros. properties came a few weeks later in September and weren't much of a thing. All of the panels dropped at once instead of an ongoing schedule like the previous event. The a-la-carte way of setting up your own schedule just didn't work, and the news sputtered out within hours. The event was barely talked about, which was an extreme change from the previous event.
Next, it was time to see what New York Comic Con could bring to the virtual convention table. It turned out they couldn't bring much. Despite the fact that Comic-Con @ Home flopped pretty hard, New York Comic Con and MCM Comic Con's Metaverse seemingly learned nothing from the mistakes of Comic-Con @ Home. The virtual New York Comic Con didn't feel like an event, and everyone pretty much forgot that it happened.
That felt like the end of the virtual convention season, but then CCXP Worlds decided to step up to the plate. The Brazilian convention is always massive, and they too went virtual this year. However, CCXP made serious missteps when it came to the biggest players exhibiting there. There was a six-hour block of Warner Bros. properties, but they didn't say when certain movies were going to appear. So you were stuck watching things you weren't interested in, waiting for things to happen that you were interested in.
CCXP had a chat feature and watching people get angrier and angrier as the hours went by and Warner Bros. didn't show any of their biggest projects. It took nearly five hours for Warner Bros. TV to show up and five and a half for the movies to turn up, and even then, very little information was given. The chat feature was fascinating to watch as fans more or less virtually rioted against this virtual convention that offered little more on the movie side than some new pictures from The Suicide Squad, some fluff questions, and a new Wonder Woman 1984 teaser. Not listing their schedule was a massive problem because six hours was too long to ask people to wait and see when their favorite movie was going to come on.
The final entry into the virtual convention entries of 2020 was not even a virtual convention, but a virtual event. After DC FanDome pulled in massive numbers, everyone wondered when Disney was going to do their own version. Well, they did, but they decided to combine it with their investor day — an event during which they inform stockholders about how things have been going for the company and what's coming up. While they also had a massive content block with no real schedule, it was smaller at two and a half hours. It started off a little rocky as they didn't show footage of certain things on the stream, but once the ball got rolling, it didn't stop.
Marvel, Lucasfilm, Disney Animation, Pixar, and more made announcement after announcement to the point that several Bleeding Cool writers thought they were going to fall over. While it was an investor event, and the first part of it was investor heavy, that two and a half hour content drop felt more fan-oriented overall. We got our Hall H and Star Wars Celebration announcements, plus a lot more. These weren't panels but heads of studios delivering presentations while on greenscreens. Much like FanDome, it felt more professional and like an event [because it was, at the end of the day, an event for investors that we happened to have access to]. And also, like FanDome before it, the #DisneyInvestorDay dominated the conversation for hours.
That's the end of part one. In part two, we're going to look at whether conventions are still worth it and where we go from here, which will be linked below as soon as it is up.
This post is part of a multi-part series: A Post-Mortem on Virtual Conventions and Events.
- A Post-Mortem on Virtual Conventions and Events: Part 1
- A Post-Mortem on Virtual Conventions and Events: Part 2