Humans are creatures of habit they say, and when the Otaku community face drastic changes, like say, moving one of the largest anime conventions elsewhere from its usual grounds, some will no doubt protest the action of fixing what wasn’t broken to them.
Such was the case with OTAKON, when the organizers of the convention decided to uproot it from its location in Baltimore, Maryland after 17 years to relocate it to Washington D.C. The main reason given was that the attendance had simply outgrown the Baltimore Convention Center space area and needed a much larger facility to accommodate its yearly patron attendees.
The move to D.C. was immediately noticeable for those said patrons who supported the decision for the anime convention to move as OTAKON took a hit from its peak attendance of 29,000+ in 2016 to 24,800+ for its first year in Washington D.C. in 2017.
The reduction in attendance was made even more apparent due to the much larger building facility of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center as the crowd of attendees could barely fill in the huge interior halls, separating each designated areas even farther apart from each other to walk to. This observation was painfully more pronounced in the Dealer’s Room, where booths of exhibitors could be seen sparsely populating the massive hall room meant for them.
But just like the Con-organizers of OTAKON who made the decision to relocate the convention, the dealers we interviewed didn’t state any regrets, and instead saw this move as a bold gambit in order to gain a brighter future for the convention.
The view from the ground however was business as usual for Con-attendees. Groups of friends who had enjoyed years of OTAKON in Baltimore had no problem carrying on and having a blast meeting up in the D.C. location. The extra distances to walk around in the larger areas of the new Convention Center became an afterthought within a few hours of getting used to OTAKON’s new home. The organizers certainly knew what to expect and cranked up the level of excitement inside by doubling down on panels to check out. While the rave was a bit underwhelming in size, the crowd was still packing a lot of energy.
2018 will certainly be the defining test whether or not the move from Baltimore, MD to Washington DC will pay out for OTAKON when the attendance for next year determines how fast (or slow) it will take the convention to regain its hit and fill up its new home space.