MAGFest 2018


Have anyone who wants to go to the con send in their verified income tax records. Then charge everyone Iron Monkey style. Homeless? PAX is free for you. Bill Gates? Your pax tickets are a billion dollars… each day.


Hello my name is Billionaire McRealestate, I actually am a super rich dude and live a super rich lifestyle but because taxes nonsense I actually made -$3,500,000 last year. You should honestly be paying me to attend.


Would note that Magfest hasn’t actually sold out yet. So their ticket buying policy has been geared towards prior years. As they commented in their twitter feed they are selling tickets at some extremely increased rate this year.

That being said, The convention I help run has time periods for discounts on tickets. The reason you want to encourage people to buy early is it gives you a better idea what your overall budget/staffing/cap needs. Magfest is still operating with this model because they don’t sell out. If they sell out this year, you’ll see them change their behavior to a universal price.


Frankly, the only reason I think they don’t sell out is the lack of adequate hotel space.


That’s also the reason Zenkaikon hasn’t sold out yet, such limited Hotel space.


I honestly don’t understand how the Gaylord can possibly not have enough hotel space. I mean, I have seen with my own eyes that it doesn’t but why does it not?

Do you know what the Gaylord’s business model is?

Con after con after con every week all year. Just talk to the lovely people behind the desk at the hotel or the guy at the cvs or literally anyone who actually works there. Week after week they pull in thousands of people to hang out in the biodome :tm: and do whatever con they were planning. MAG for the gaylord is probably like, an average or slightly above average attendance con.

I mean the RNC was there this year. It hosts the Scripps national spelling bee every year. Probably countless business cons that cost a fortune for things like doctors, and coders in specific languages and, leaders in certain industries.

How is it that a place who’s entire business model is grab a bunch of people for a weekend, give them a big room to play in and give them places to sleep has failed on 50% of the things it was literally built for the express purpose of.

I mean, does Vegas have this problem? I know they kinda do the same thing, sorta anyway? Anyone who’s been to Vegas con. Do the guys who run defcon have issues with ticket pricing related to lack of hotel space?


The attendance of those other cons is way less than geek cons.


See I used to think that too but (and this is by no means definitive) when I was speaking to the staff of the con and the people at the local businesses. I was commenting about how much bigger MAG must be than all the other stuff that happens here and overwhelmingly they seemed unimpressed.

They all just basically said “It doesn’t matter what con it is, place always filled up. You should see the politics cons” I take them at their word until I get a formal numbers comparison, (which I’ve looked for but have had little luck actually compiling)


Politics cons don’t need hotel space. It’s near DC. People just go home.


The entire city of Boston doesn’t have enough hotels for PAX East. The Gaylord doesn’t even have that many rooms. Count attendees, divide by four, and you get a fermi number on the number of hotel rooms you’ll need. It’s a much bigger number than you might think.

Be built with subsidies and cater to a year-round family spa vacation crowd, bolstered by the occasional large event? Most events there are probably a couple orders of magnitude smaller than MAGFest. It’s rarely completely utilized, and even more rarely by one event.

Events like that are people showing up at the center for a full day of whatever, and then retiring back to hotels elsewhere in the city. Normal people at normal non-nerd conventions don’t need hotels close to the convention center.

No facility on earth is built to handle what nerd conventions are like. Nerd cons are entirely different from normal events. MAGFest/PAX/Anime Cons are even more different, compared to “comic cons” (which are more like proper expos).

The Gaylord also probably wouldn’t exist without heavy subsidy.


I have a hard time in general buying that MAG is somehow special. I’m using occam’s razor here. Which is more likely? That MAG is the only con on the east coast with it’s kinda demand that has these problems or that it’s not special at all?

I’m kinda inclined to believe the latter.

The city of Boston wasn’t built for the express purpose of hosting a PAX. The Gaylord and everything else on that little “island” (the highway seems to be the only way in or out) pretty much was built (subsidized or otherwise) for the express purpose of hosting cons.

If my two assumptions are correct, (that MAG isn’t special and that the Gaylord was basically built for non special cons) then they’ve failed spectacularly.


Politics people exist outside DC.


PAX has literally the same problem, as does almost every large anime con.

These nerd cons, together, are very VERY different from basically every other kind of event. Even down to little things. Notice how often escalators break down at nerd cons? They literally weren’t designed for this kind of con. They work fundamentally differently.

The RNC? Most of the crowd shows up like a sporting event, maybe goes out to breakout rooms, and then returns.

Nerd con? People constantly moving everywhere all the time.

Normal cons have people show up in the morning and leave in the evening. They move a few, set number of times between different rooms within their event. They don’t care if it’s a 20+ minute trip to the event space. They usually have breakfast and lunch catered, and leave to eat dinner spread out accross the hosting city itself.

Nerd cons are unique.


The Gaylord has 2000 rooms. Assuming a generous average of 4 people per room, it has the capacity to house 8000 people. The reality is certainly much less than that.

The attendance of MAGFest 2016 was over 20,000 unique people. A greater percentage of those people need hotel rooms than for other cons. A greater percentage of those who do need hotel rooms greatly prefer to use hotel rooms that are within walking distance. MAGFest is 24/7 for four straight days. Being far away such that you have to drive in/out, pay for parking, lose precious MAGFest time, etc. is extremely inconvenient.

Compare that to your average con which would only last 6-8 hours per day. Then it’s closed, so you don’t lose anything by driving in and out. Even non-24/7 geek cons start early and run late (midnight). You do not want to be far away. The walking distance hotel capacity is not sufficient. Many have to get faraway hotels, and they are not happy about it.


I mean you’re definitely making some good points. It’s just… wow, really? Does everyone but us nerds go through life not wanting to go to a MAG-like con? Do like artisans or musicians, or politics people, or I dunno boating enthusiasts have no desire to go to a MAG like con focused on their hobby?

And is it really just that out west in the desert they just have better infra for their nerd cons? DEFCon 25 (2017) had ~25,000 unique visitors and to my knowledge had none of these problems. I guess Caesars Palace/Vegas is just designed for this and the Gaylord/National Harbor isn’t.

I’ve never been to DEFCon but I’m imagining it’s similar to MAG in how it operates. No catering, people moving about, etc.


Although if you like getting money if you were to do a shuttle system to and from the far hotels to the con on a regular basis you could make a killing.


Ok, let’s go through all your examples.

Musicians have conventions. It’s called a music festival. It’s outdoors and completely different from a nerd convention. They have smaller ones called concerts. The music industry also has boring trade shows to sell instruments and tech and such.

Politics people have conventions, they are called conventions. They are nothing like nerd conventions. They’re actually doing governing there. It’s one big room, and they have a specific process of conducting business.

Boating people have cons. They are called regattas. They are out on the water. Many people can stay in their boats! They don’t have enormous attendance because how many people have boats and care that much about boating? They also don’t combine different kinds of boating together. Yachting people and rowing people are basically completely separate. Also, it is only the domain of the affluent people who like boats so much. When would 20,000+ boaters gather in one place? Never. There are also boating trade shows to sell boats and boat-related products. They are quiet and boring.

DEFCon I have also not been to. I have been to other tech conferences. I know enough to say that they are all just panels. There’s no expo hall. There’s no tabletop freeplay. There are no concerts. It’s just panels and that’s it. They have a start and end time each day. They end because everyone goes to drink and socialize afterwards. The attendance of DEFCon was big-ish. 25,000. But people were able to confortably spread across every hotel in Vegas, which is plenty. You don’t need, or want, to be in the actual DEFCon hotel.


Let’s quick zero in on DEFCon then (point’s taken on the others, and I’m sure they apply equally to any topic I can come up with)

I mean I’m sure everyone at DEFCon’ doesn’t stay at Caesar’s Palace they stay around vegas and walk to the place. That’s kinda my goal for MAG. It’s also kinda sorta what already happens at MAG. There’s like 5 hotels in walking distance of the Gaylord. In Vegas it’s probably more. This seems like a theoretical easy fix. Were my original assumption true, that the Gaylord basically has a MAG-like every weekend. It seems that it really doesn’t making me sad.

Edit: While I’m pretty sure defcon has no tabletop freeplay I’m pretty sure they have hack-y style tournaments such as CTF and live social engineering challenges. Kinda like MAG has the niddhogg tourney. I’m sure if I thought about it I could come up with some more examples. That said there’s really the 24 hour vs the day event divide that really lightens the load on the con space and city.


I suspect DEFCon and the RNC are closer to nerd cons than the average, but the median-case group that convention centers are designed to cater to are academic conferences and professional expos. As Rym said,

  1. Those events are 9-5 rather than 24/7, so people don’t worry about having to miss things if they stay far from the con
  2. They often don’t use up all of either the panel space or expo space, depending on whether they’re talk- or booth- focused, so…
  3. They just don’t try to jam in as many people per square foot of event space as nerd cons do. PAX / MAG attendances are limited by fire code; Most of the time your limit is “how many people actually want to come to an event for trying to sell each other blood analyzers?”

You get big, crazy shit on the weekends, but the weekdays that pay your bills look much more boring.


One example of a hobby-specific type ‘con’ that I’ve seen which does deal with massive crowds is the major fly-in airshows of Oshkosh Air Venture and Sun N Fun in Florida. They are week-long events where an entire, massive, airport turns every square foot of available space into some variation of parking, camping, exhibition, logistics, or retail.

Air Venture this year just had 590,000 unique visitors during the week. The entire city of Oshkosh turns into, more or less, AirVenture Town. All hotels are booked solid for the event probably 4-5 months before. Many families rent out their houses for the week or month (many people show up a week early and leave a week late) every year and use the proceeds to cover a few months’ bills. Those are almost all filled. Local colleges rent out the dorms, those are full. 500 acres of farmfield become a campground. That’s full. It’s a mile walk from the middle of the campground where the shuttles park down to the camping entrance to the event. It’s a huge ordeal, and everything fills up well in advance despite having a massive airfield and the only reason it is sustainable is its been going on for many decades in the same place with the same organization that has fine-tuned every aspect.

So that’s one example of a thing that’s more crazy than MAGfest and even that event basically ‘ends’ at 5pm each day other than there’s often an evening presentation at an open air theater by various significant people, and all the camping-related goings on.

Nerd cons are so unlike the professional conventions they aren’t even really the same sort of affair. PAX is even halfway to a normal con with the exhibition hall but only so much.

I do love me a normal professional con tho. Exhibiting is quite fun for me.