When you think of the Outhouse, you usually don’t think of news stories related to Anime or Anime Conventions, but when the 2nd biggest Anime Convention announces something that makes the waves it did, it’s not something we can ignore. After enjoying their biggest membership growth (from 30,785 in 2012 to 34,211 in 2013 which registers as 11.1 in percentage points according to Otakon), anticipation to sign up for the next edition is as high as I can remember it. However, when Otakon announced its’ pre-registration plans last Thursday, anticipation was replaced with apprehension.
For starters, Otakon publically reinstated a cap on memberships, this time limiting the number of attendee memberships to 35,000. Despite putting a limit on its’ growth, this allows the Convention to stay in line with the BCC’s (Baltimore Convention Center’s) capacity of 37,000, which the event will be close to when you add staff, vendors, media/press, guests and miscellaneous badges to that number. When most probable attendees learned that Otakon was attracting enough people for safety to become an issue, the cap was accepted much better than the other two pieces of news.
In that same press release, Otakon would also announce a change in how pre-registration discounts would be handled. Instead of having them tied of a specific date, the 2014 edition of the event would be tied to a specific amount, which is perfectly explained in this quote, which can also be found in the previous link.
“We are not raising our rates this year. We will once again be offering a limited amount of memberships at the discounted rate of $70 with full price memberships being $80. Unlike previous years where we have used a date cut-off for the discounted rate, we are instead limiting the number of discounted memberships to 10,000.”
Admittedly, such a policy change is pretty much uncharted territory in the Anime Convention Scene, but Otakon is factually correct in saying that it hasn’t raised its’ prices. The $70 and $80 tiers have been in force since 2012, and are in line with the 2-tier pricing structure that has continued per annuimn since 2006. The biggest effect of this change is that it virtually guarantees that Otakon will see an increase in revenue from selling memberships.
The second and most wide sweeping change is how Otakorp (the name of the parent company that runs Otakon) will be handling panelist badges at this year’s event. In order for panelists receive compensation for their services they must turn in an IRS W9 form. The explanation for such a policy change can be found here, but also in this quote.
“The reason for the W9 is that for tax purposes the IRS requires all non-profits to record money that is sent to all individuals and corporations. This includes membership reimbursements for first time panelists.
By requesting that former presenters complete a W9, we are essentially covering our bases. If you do not wish to receive a membership reimbursement or compensated membership you do not have to fill out and submit the form. We apologize for the inconvenience levied upon all of us by our dear old Uncle Sam.”
Without going too much into hypotheticals, the most direct and immediate effect of this policy change is that prospective panelists are now opting to pay Otakon for their badge. This also effectively ends the status of Otakon’s Panelist Badge not having a monetary value, even if first time panelists didn’t receive compensation till after the event.
Whatever affects these changes will have on the fortunes of the convention remains to be seen, but with a high profile move to Washington DC happening in 2017, this will not be the last time Otakon makes news.